"A Late Rush to Tidy Up the Yankees’ New Home" NY Times 4/3/9
A Late Rush to Tidy Up the Yankees’ New Home
By MATHEW R. WARREN
Published: April 3, 2009
In the days before the Yankees play their first game in their new stadium — an exhibition against the Chicago Cubs on Friday — an extensive beautification effort has been under way around the perimeter and in the neighborhood.
Inside the stadium, workers cleaned and polished metal railings. Outside, landscapers planted bushes and trees. City park workers picked up trash, painted benches and spread grass seed in nearby parks. Power washers were sent out to remove graffiti from neighboring buildings. Workers put down lines of fresh white paint on the crosswalks, and even a nearby McDonald’s was undergoing renovation.
Angel Dejesus, 59, a city parks worker who was picking up trash in Macombs Dam Park and lives in the area, said the neighborhood was regularly maintained, but he conceded that the pace of maintenance had been increased for the stadium’s opening.
“We’re really supposed to have this cleaned up before they play,” Mr. Dejesus said. “I guess we want people to come to the Bronx and say, ‘Everything is clean and nice.’ Of course, we clean regularly no matter if the Yankees play or not, but right now we are paying more attention because of all the activity around the stadium.”
He added that he thought the new stadium was unnecessary. “It’s nice, but I think they spent money for nothing,” he said. “They have the old one, which was still good.”
Jose Valle, 34, an employee of Harder Landscape Contractors who lives in Hempstead, N.Y., was planting juniper bushes. “I’ve been working on this for more than a month,” he said. First, we put in the dirt, then the trees, and now we are planting the bushes. By Friday, we have to be done with everything.”
Anthony Robinson, 50, a graffiti remover, was power-washing a building at 161st Street and River Avenue. “We’re doing a lot more right now in this area,” he said, adding that his company was usually called in when the Sanitation Department asked for them or in response to calls to the city’s 311 hot line.
Mr. Robinson took note of the effort to beautify the neighborhood, but said the effect would be limited. “At night it’s still going to look like the South Bronx,” he said.
Dortricia Grant, 54, a supermarket cashier from the area, said she was astounded to see renovations being done outside the McDonald’s eating area on 161st Street and River Avenue. “McDonald’s never had that much work on it the whole time they’ve been in the area.”
Wally Jimenez, 27, an audio engineer who grew up in the neighborhood, said the work was not primarily for the community’s benefit.
“They want to turn this into a commercial area, but they don’t think about the consequences for the people around here who don’t have the resources to get a new place when rents go up,” he said. “They are trying to push the community out.”
Mr. Jimenez said of the cleaning efforts, “I’ve never seen something like this, and I was born and raised in this area.” He added, “It’s good that they are cleaning up, but they are definitely not doing this for the community.”
Adrian Benepe, the city parks commissioner, said of the cleaning operations, “It’s sort of like cleaning your living room when you’re having people over.”
He added: “Without going too crazy, we’re going to spruce things up. Particularly this year, it’s going to get a lot of attention.”
Mr. Benepe said that the cleanup before a first game at Yankee Stadium was nothing new, but that this year there was an emphasis on putting finishing touches on new parkland and planting new trees.
“There were a few hundred large trees lost because of the new stadium,” he said. “We’re planting 8,000 new trees. About half of them have been planted so far.”