Field of Schemes
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August 16, 2006

No dog, no pony, no service

The New York Yankees held their stadium party today in what until this week was Macombs Dam Park, with a big stage and loudspeakers and a fake grass lawn and more elected officials than you can shake a stick at. George Steinbrenner said the $1.3 billion project was for "you people," and MLB commissioner Bud Selig called the soon-to-be-demolished Yankee Stadium to be "one of the most revered, the most famous arena in the country if not the world," and invited guests cheered as schoolchildren waved Yankees flags.

And you can read about all that in tomorrow's Times or wherever, As for me, my subconscious cleverly left my press ID at home, so I was left outside with the unwashed, catching only an occasional snippet of Yankees broadcaster Michael "baseball tradition is like the Holocaust" Kay welcoming various and sundry dignitaries. ("...Yogi Berra! Billy Crystal!...") Behind the police barricades that lined all of River Avenue, local residents and curious Yankee fans drawn by the hoopla strained futilely to catch a glimpse of the festivities, while several dozen protestors from Save Our Parks were swiftly herded into pens on the next block. One demonstrator pointed out that the Macombs Dam Park trees that will soon be cut down for the new stadium had been supplied with fresh mulch for the occasion; cleaning crews pulled down Save Our Parks flyers before supplying a fresh coat of paint to lampposts. A passerby on River Avenue complained to his neighbor: "These kids [at the groundbreaking] aren't from the neighborhood. They brought them in from Kips Bay in Manhattan. The real kids are up there" - pointing to the northern end of Mullaly Park, which remains open to the public - "playing football in the dirt."

The protest received plenty of media attention, as did the official ceremonies inside, and probably anyone who made the mistake of wandering too close to a camera crew outside the Court Deli on 161st Street. The coverage that's resulted so far has ranged from sloppy (Karen Matthews of the Associated Press saying that the Yankees will "offset the loss of the parks by building new parkland including three ballfields at the site of the current Yankee Stadium," when in fact city taxpayers who will foot the bill for this) to excellent (Newsday's Wallace Matthews, no relation, running down the reasons why "this deal as as dirty as anything ever found in a puddle of black water in the subway"), but that's almost beside the point. Where the media dropped the ball here was in waiting to report the story until there was a press release telling them it was time to - if even half the news crews that swarmed Macombs Dam Park today had showed up in the Bronx last summer, maybe this project could have been subjected to some public debate instead of being rushed through in back-room deals.

At least one report has the bulldozers starting in earnest on demolishing Macombs Dam Park tomorrow, which should make for an interesting backdrop for Yankee games the rest of the season. Bronx residents say they'll battle on, with state and possibly federal lawsuits, but barring a dramatic come-from-behind rally, both Yankee Stadium and the parks that have been its neighbors for 80 years look destined to join Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds as New York city landmarks lost to the insatiable maw of Progress.


Funny, how every elected official supports this project, yet there is all this talk of community opposition.

Posted by OJ on August 16, 2006 04:18 PM

Funny how the Yankees spent millions lobbying for a new ballpark and steamrolled this project through without Community input....Maybe your not aware that lobbyist and bribery are synonmous....

In other words, The Yankees paid off politicians all over New York to steamroll this project pass legal hurdles and opposition.


Posted by Anonymous on August 16, 2006 04:31 PM


You are quite the conspiracy theorist. So, the Yankees bribed Bloomberg, Pataki, Carrion, Justice Cahn, et al. Hope you have some evidence of that. (Village Voice opinion pieces do not count, btw.) If community opposition were truly significant, then all of those local officials (e.g., state assemblymen, city council members), will be voted out of office next time around, correct? Care to wager on that?

Also, funny how these alleged "community" groups filed suit in Manhattan, when the local courthouse is only a block away.

Plus, even George Steinbrenner does not have enough money to bribe Bloomberg.

Posted by OJ on August 16, 2006 04:39 PM

It's not an issue of "bribery." The Yankees spent more than a million dollars over the last several years hiring lobbyists to meet with state and city officials on the stadium project. The state legislature then approved the alienation of Bronx parkland for the stadium in a record eight days. If there's no connection, then George Steinbrenner deserves to get his money back.

(Except, of course, that he billed his lobbyist costs to New York City, so he already got his money back.)

In any case, there's no contradiction between elected officials supporting the project (mostly - one Bronx councilmember, Helen Diane Foster, does oppose the plan) and the community opposing it, both of which are true. If you don't believe it, go ask random people on River Avenue what they think of the stadium plan - that's what I did yesterday, and sentiment was overwhelmingly (90%, maybe) opposed.

Posted by Neil on August 16, 2006 04:53 PM

Of course, the lobbying helped, but it was not "bribery" as our resident conspiracy theorist alleged.

Boss George sure has some smart people working for him. Who wouldn't have the city pay for lobbying costs, assuming you can get away with it?

We'll see if the Stadium issue has any traction the next time those who support the plan come up for re-election (or seek higher office). If it's really such a big deal to the community, then someone will pay the price, or at least face a real challenge on that basis. Of course, with a lot of these things, the naysayers are often the loud ones, making their numbers appear larger than they really are. I guess until we see some hard evidence of community sentiment, there's no way to tell for sure what the community (however that is defined) really thinks.

Posted by OJ on August 16, 2006 05:10 PM

Which fantasy world do you live in? Electoral politics doesn't work that way in the real world, and particularly not in New York State politics, where money and the machines (whether its the Democrats in the Bronx or the Republicans in Nassau County) talk first and last.

Posted by CB on August 16, 2006 07:35 PM

So let me see. Tax dollars build the parking garages, and stadiums, but the people can't go during half the summer. That makes sense. Oh wait! I forgot they get the Psychic Benefit of hosting a Major League team. What an HONOR! NYC's really made it. Wopp-dee-doo

Posted by Adam Schepp on August 16, 2006 07:52 PM

The politicians were bought off and they sold out the community, especially the children and we're paying for it in more ways than one. I'll tell you one thing if any of the Yankees families lived here they wouldn't have given up the parkland so readily. This is one of the poorest neighborhoods in America, the children are asthmatic and diabetic, but renovating the stadium will just not do for these Yankees, they have to have their own stadium while a new one is being built for them so they have no problem STEALING parkland from children with our tax dollars. Forget about ensuring that children can go to the park I mean what's a few years to a child, right? These swine couldn't even let the children play through their last couple of weeks of vacation and finish out their little league season. The Yankees are nothing more than thieves. Watch out moms and dads both Georgie's, a Mike and an Adolfo are now looking to steal candy from a baby.

Posted by Mary on August 17, 2006 10:33 AM

The Yankees have had many happy moments in their years. This is, quite possibly, the saddest day in Yankee history. When I read The Power Broker, the recurring thought through my mind was, How could this happen? Was the city asleep? Why did every news outlet tout every horrible thing Robert Moses did?

This is what happens when you live in a plutocracy--and we can all thank ourselves for that. I guess this project certifies that we've come full circle in terms of our land-use review process. The Yankees played by the rules only in a technical sense. By getting preapproval from every pertinent political body before making their plans public, the Yankees turned the land-review process into a mere formality. Which means that, for all intents and purposes, it no longer exists. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you!

I keep wondering how I'm ever going to attend another game. Not in the new stadium--I won't be able to afford that anyway. Do NARAL members buy Domino's pizza? Does anybody with a conscience drink Coors? Considering my car still requires gasoline and my body requires (well, not often) pharmaceutical products, it's tough to lead a silent protest these days.

Sheesh. At least in Joni Mitchell's world, the trees that were torn down were taken to a tree museum.

Posted by MIB on August 17, 2006 01:35 PM

"Of course, the lobbying helped, but it was not "bribery" as our resident conspiracy theorist alleged."

You must be a comedian....Maybe you should have been in attendance for the groundWRECKING Ceremony instead of Billy Crytal!

"We'll see if the Stadium issue has any traction the next time those who support the plan come up for re-election (or seek higher office). If it's really such a big deal to the community, then someone will pay the price, or at least face a real challenge on that basis."

Some have already paid the price....Just ask Community Board 4! And lets see how far Adolfo Carrion goes in his run for Mayor. I'm sure the Bronx Community won't forget how he sold out his Community.

Posted by Anonymous...RCT on August 17, 2006 09:29 PM

So, $0.7 billion for the Nats in DC, $0.5 billion MSP, and now $1.3 billion for the Yankees in NYC. That's 2.5 extra large, basically a grand apiece for every man, woman and child in the country, in just six months. And for a game most of us left behind with recess and milk money.

Notwithstanding all the high-minded commentary, it would seem the horse is out of the barn.

Posted by mjb on August 17, 2006 10:48 PM

>>We'll see if the Stadium issue has any traction the next time those who support the plan come up for re-election.

Actually, we won't. The Yankees got preapproval from Jose Rivera and his henchmen (Roberto Ramirez, the Arroyo family, the Serrano family, et. al.). They determine who gets on the ballot, more or less, just as Bronx Democratic machines of the past did. It's extremely difficult to win without the backing of the party bosses, which the Yankees seemingly have become. Maybe Bronx politics wil become part of the incestuous love fest on the YES Network.

What happened to Fernando Ferrer? Is he still alive? It's amazing how quiet people get when they're not running for anything.

Posted by mIB on August 18, 2006 09:21 AM

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