Is Yankee Stadium’s Rough Start Bad Karma?

Today’s Wall Street Journal takes an intense look at the new Yankee Stadium with an article entitled, “Yankee Stadium’s Ugly Start : Cheap Home Runs, Empty Seats and Lopsided Losses Have Some Asking, ‘Can a Stadium Fail?‘” It’s a well done piece which looks closely at what (overall) make a stadium succeed. However, the article does not mention the destruction of one and a half Parks in the green-space challenged South Bronx or the axing of the 400 trees in the creation of the new Yankee Stadium. Or the fact that the team could have just played elsewhere for a year and then rebuilt on the site of the former Stadium (as had been done in the past) but that would not happen in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York because corporations are not supposed to encounter any difficulty or inconvenience. Just every day people.

From the article:

The new Yankee Stadium has seemed cursed from the beginning, as if Babe Ruth disapproved of the abandonment of the house he built. That it opened during a recession, with a major-league-high $72.97 average price for a nonpremium ticket (up 76% over 2008, according to Team Marketing Report) has created contempt among fans who otherwise love the team. “They don’t have a good enough team to charge those prices,” says 35-year-old fan Jeff Burrows of Brooklyn, who toured the park recently with his father. “They’ve made almost every mistake you can make,” says Roger Noll, a professor of economics emeritus at Stanford. “There’s nothing that’s been as unpopular as this.”

And then… who pops up at the end of the article? NYU President John Sexton, no stranger to destruction of old, charming and neighborhood-oriented New York.

Some Yankee fans are optimistic. John Sexton, president of New York University and a longtime season-ticket holder, says the park isn’t perfect — he wishes Monument Park weren’t so hidden from view. Still, he says, “In five years we may be looking back on this and saying we’re glad we did it.”

Previous WSP Blog Entry: Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed Two Bronx Parks

In the News: “Green Thievery in the South Bronx”

the sign for the former macombs dam parkIt continues to astound me that New York City and the Yankees Corporation got away with destroying TWO parks in the South Bronx to construct a new Yankee stadium.

Imagine Yankees management years ago looking across the way from the current stadium at those pesky parks, Macombs Dam and John Mullaly. These two parks comprised 20 acres, including 377 trees, grass, tracks, a pool and fields – all in the way of a new stadium.

Envision that call being placed to someone in the Giuliani administration(when the idea was first floated). Yankees official states: “Hey the Yankees corporation needs a new stadium and we’ve found a perfect location which will enable us to play in the old stadium and then move into the new one seamlessly.” The city official asks where? Yankee management says, “Those two parks across the street.”

It’s hard to imagine someone not just laughing at this notion. Alas, they did not and this proposal was pushed through under the tenuous idea that the Bronx would get more parkland. And then there was the destruction of the trees. We know how important trees are in a city, particularly mature trees. They help clean the air. Trees provide homes for wildlife and are an important part of the ecosystem.

Isn’t our Parks Department supposed to be stewards for the existing trees and parkland?

Do Parks Commissioners take any kind of oath or is Commissioner Benepe really just a privatizing businessman under Mayor Bloomberg?

The New York Times reported on the status of that parkland in a weekend Editorial, “Green Thievery in the South Bronx:”

“Many promises were made two years ago when the New York Yankees grabbed prime parkland in the South Bronx to build a new stadium. …

The Yankees took more than 20 acres of contiguous parkland – from Macombs Dam and John Mullaly Parks – to build a 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. … the city, which is paying for the new green spaces, is moving too slowly.”

That the Yankees “took” the Parks isn’t quite accurate. They were given this space. The city is paying for the replacement parkland, NOT the team. They are also getting “hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies” and are asking for more.

The article relays that while the Yankees are ready to open their new stadium on schedule next year; the parks are delayed and will open two years later than promised. The New York Times, always ready to laud Mayor Bloomberg, leaves his name out of this critical piece, as well as any mention of Parks Commissioner Benepe, referring to those responsible for the delay under the vague title “the city.”

As the editorial continues, “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.”

You think? They should have never have “been taken away” to begin with.

Previous entries on this here.

Play Ball: How New York City destroyed two Bronx parks


hawk, squirrel & tree-Wash Sq Pk

Baseball season starts today!
(Or, so I’ve been told.)

I thought I’d take a look at Yankee Stadium and what happened there when New York City’s government paved the way (literally) for 400 40 year-old trees to be cut down and sliced away TWO parks in the Bronx to accommodate a private corporation.

At Washington Square Park, what transpired over the last few years is definitely complex. I’ve been busy researching the maneuvers the city employed to get its redesign “plan” approved — via lack of transparency or outright lies. However, the taking of two parks in the Bronx, which has “some of the highest rates of asthma and obesity in the city, yet the lowest ratios of parkland to 1,000 residents,” also strikes me as particularly outrageous. (Gotham Gazette, “Yankee Stadium Parkland Swap,” March 21st, 2006)

It is also yet another lesson in how the Bloomberg administration uses maneuvers, manipulations, lack of community input/awareness, and the New York City Council’s bad decisions, lack of oversight and/or looking the other way to put forth its agenda.

As Anne Schwartz outlined in the Gotham Gazette:

What if the city decided to put a stadium in the middle of your local park?

Don’t worry though. The city would rebuild most of the displaced athletic facilities in several other places.

But instead of being set inside a large, green space surrounded by hundreds of mature trees, the fields would be scattered on separate parcels, including the tops of parking garages. The new recreational spaces would be closer to the highway and train tracks and an additional five-minute to half-hour walk from where people live. Most of the trees would be cut down. The new stadium would go smack in the middle of the community’s current park, next to a residential area.

Seems hard to even imagine, doesn’t it? Yet it all happened to accommodate the Yankee’s “vision” for their new stadium.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe stated proudly before the City Council that he had 8000 trees lined up for planting in the Bronx to “mitigate” the loss of the 400 mature trees destroyed to build Yankee Stadium.

Mayor Bloomberg’s “Million Trees” initiative is “greenwashing” at its most manipulative. A true tree boosting initiative would work to save existing trees, not just haphazardly plant new ones.

And where do the wildlife live once their territory is destroyed? Wouldn’t a true “Parks” Department be advocating for wildlife, trees and open space? Shouldn’t paving over a city park and cutting down mature trees be the very very VERY last resort or – I’d argue – something we don’t even contemplate? This should be territory non grata for a private corporation.

I understand the Yankees opening game today (their last at the old Stadium) is delayed because of rain.

Update : Yankees Opening Day game postponed until tomorrow.