Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Green Thievery in the South Bronx" NY Times 6/14/8

Green Thievery in the South Bronx

Published: June 14, 2008
Many promises were made two years ago when the New York Yankees grabbed prime parkland in the South Bronx to build a new stadium. One of them, made by the city, was that residents would have better parks, soccer fields, tracks and ball courts to replace what was taken away. That has not yet happened — and it must.

The Yankees took more than 20 acres of contiguous parkland — from Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Parks — to build a new stadium adjacent to the original one. Hundreds of mature trees were felled, and even though thousands of new ones have been planted, the area feels like the construction zone it is. State and federal law requires creation of equal or similar amounts of parkland when acres are given up for nonpublic purpose. But the city, which is paying for the new green spaces, is moving too slowly.

Residents have every right to be annoyed over the swap. Replacement facilities would be spread out over smaller plots of land, even over a parking garage. And instead of the natural turf that was taken away, the surface of choice is artificial and less appealing.

Tennis courts that had been in the center of Macombs Dam Park, across the street from residential buildings, will increase in number, but along the waterfront. Attractive as that may sound, it is too far and requires crossing too many busy roadways to be practical for those who live in the area.

In explaining the delays, the city says costs have risen from $95.5 million in 2006 to $174 million. The Yankees are also paying substantially more than first estimated, about 60 percent more, for their new digs. But they are being helped along by hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and may be heading back to the public trough for more. The team is on schedule to play in their new home next spring. Completing the parks for residents, meanwhile, may take another two years.

The Yankees are the richest team in baseball. Their neighbors are among the poorest in the nation. The city should move faster to provide substitutes for the healthy green spaces that have been taken away.


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