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.

NY Times: Time and Cost Rise for Yankee Stadium Parks (in the Bronx)

Today’s New York Times has an article by Timothy Williams which covers the delay and increase in cost in rebuilding parkland that was sacrificed for the Yankees’ new stadium in the Bronx.

The Bronx lost part of John Mullaly Park (18.5 acres) and ALL of Macombs Dam Park(28.4 acres). Yes. ALL. of. this. park. (and part of another) was given away in the Bronx so that the Yankees, a private corporation, could build their new stadium there. It tells you something about the climate in our city under CEO Mayor Bloomberg that this idea was initiated – and achieved.

As the article notes, “The stadium is being financed by the Yankees with city subsidies, while the eight new parks for the South Bronx, which range in size from .24 acre to 8.9 acres, are being paid for by the city.” (We give away 2 parks to a private corporation and the City pays to rebuild them.) The cost is now projected to be $174 million; the original estimate was $95.5 million.

Williams writes: “Some residents have been critical of the trade-off. While Macombs Dam and Mullaly Parks were almost contiguous stretches of grass and trees amid the concrete topography of the South Bronx, the replacement parks are small parcels scattered around the area. The sites include sports fields atop a planned stadium parking garage and a park along the Harlem River, which is on the opposite side of the Major Deegan Expressway.”

The original parks housed tennis and basketball courts, a running track, baseball and soccer fields as well as 400 trees – all eliminated for the Yankees Corporation. Yankee Stadium is scheduled to open on time in April 2009. The parks, which were supposed to be up and accessible at the same time, will not be ready for close to a year later.

Bronx resident Anita Antonetty told the Times, “We’ve lost our biggest park, and what we’ve been reduced to is this parking lot. … We’ve lost hundreds of trees that were 80 years old, and now there’s this monstrosity of cement across the street from where people live.”

NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was not available for comment for the Times’ article.

NYU and Yankee Stadium: Perfect Together for all Future Graduation Ceremonies (Skip Washington Sq Park as Venue for Next 32 Years)

Washington Square Park Set up for NYU Graduation Venue in Previous YearsWednesday’s (5/14) NYU graduation ceremony attracted widespread media attention because of graduating student William Lopez’s attempt to run all the bases at the venue, Yankee Stadium.

The Daily News somewhat mildly cites “ongoing construction” as the reason NYU had to switch to Yankee Stadium after 32 years of graduation ceremonies at Washington Square Park.

The photo above shows Washington Square Park set up for NYU’s graduation ceremony in 2006 — before the trees were cut down, the fountain dismantled, the Arch was behind gates.

I have no attachment to NYU utilizing Washington Square Park for their graduation. The University uses the Arch, the Park, Washington Square when it suits them, as p.r. and in all their advertising, while they crush every other historic Village building in their path to erect more dorms and monstrous structures. There are many theories linking NYU and the “renovation” (read: redesign) of Washington Square Park. Some assert that the “ongoing construction” is very much about making the Park more “picture perfect” for … NYU’s graduation ceremony.

The University clearly has no sense of humor or spontaneity — they barred Lopez from attending a post-graduation event at Madison Square Garden.

I’d like to propose that NYU continues using Yankee Stadium as their graduation ceremony venue for the next 32 years. Since Yankee Stadium owners (also with the complicity of New York City government) crushed two parks in the Bronx for their own “reconstruction,” it would be much more fitting that these two corporate behemoths utilize one another.

In the News… NYU Student goes for home run at graduation at Yankee Stadium — First time in 32 years graduation not held at Washington Sq Pk

Yesterday, for the first time in 32 years, NYU Students NYU Student at Yankee Stadium Graduation May 14, 08graduated somewhere other than Washington Square Park, and one ambitious student, William Lopez, decided to try for a home run at replacement graduation site, Yankee Stadium. He got to third base before he was tackled by a security guard. (Seriously, he got that far. They couldn’t have let him score a home run?)

As the Daily News reported, “NYU held the ceremony at the Stadium because of ongoing construction at Washington Square Park, where previous graduation ceremonies had been held.”

Lopez is on the cover of many of the papers (Daily News, Metro) and was cheered on by fellow NYU graduates for his pants-less act.

For a picture of it, see the cover of Metro in which Patrick Arden also has an alarming cover story, “City gives a pass to Toxic Turf Ballfields: Shrugs off data indicating heat would release gases from rubber base.”

In the News… Parks in Bronx…NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe: artificial turf is “safe”

Metro NY reporter Patrick Arden’s consistent reporting on the NYC Parks Department is a welcome presence.

In today’s edition of Metro, Arden reports that there’s some news about the Yankee Stadium “replacement parkland” in the Bronx.

On Friday, the Bloomberg administration opened a new artificial-turf ballfield on an old schoolyard here and billed it as “the first Yankee redevelopment park.”

The city had promised to create replacement parks in the South Bronx to make up for the 25 acres of parkland lost to the new Yankee Stadium project.

Unfortunately, as Arden reports, the new Park is one mile away from the previous parks (Macombs and Mullaly Parks) and in a another neighborhood.

(Didn’t Mayor Bloomberg announce as part of “PlaNYC 2030” that everyone in New York City should be within ten minutes of a park? … Unless, I gather, they want to build a corporate ballpark there.)

It seems artificial turf is questionable to everyone except for Parks Commissioner Benepe. The Metro article also states:

Last week, two artificial turf fields were closed by New Jersey health officials after detecting high levels of lead. Lead can cause brain damage and other illnesses.

While the concerns arose from surface coloring and airborne dust, many turf fields use crumbled tire rubber, which has also been found to contain lead.

The city’s Health Department is currently compiling its own report.

“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s safe,” said Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

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To read more, previous entries covered the Yankee Stadium situation in the Bronx (“Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed Two Bronx Parks”) and also the City Council initiative to end use of artificial turf in our city Parks.

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.

“Crimes Against Nature:” The NYC Parks Department

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Another story appeared over the weekend in the New York Times(3/22) “In a City Park, a Crime Against Nature” about the killing of 35 cedar trees in Inwood Hill Park.

I’m amazed at the ability of the Parks Department to spin things.

Forestry worker Katerli Bounds, who discovered the “ruined cedars,” told the Times, “It’s kind of disheartening.”

Well, yeah. It was kind of disheartening when the Parks Department slaughtered 11 old trees at Washington Square Park for the misguided decision to “align” the fountain with the Arch. It was kind of disheartening when the Bronx lost 300 to 400 trees at two parks for building of a new Yankee Stadium. It was kind of disheartening when Parks Department destroyed 105 trees at East River Park during its “reconstruction.” It was kind of disheartening to learn that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wants to cut down 14 majestic trees at Union Square Park to make room for Danny Meyer, who is also on the board of the Union Square Partnership – the local BID(business improvement district), to have a restaurant there in the historic pavilion.

Disheartening?

If the 35 trees slaughtered at Inwood Hill Park are deemed arborcide, then I’d say that Parks Commissioner Benepe has quite a record on his hands.

How is it against the law for a stranger to kill 35 trees on City Parks land and yet for the Parks Department — in the interest of privatization of our Parks — to ax multiple numbers (tens. hundreds. thousands.) of healthy trees, that is just fine?

How does one qualify as arborcide with a fine and jail time and the other doesn’t?

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In other Parks news, Metro reported on March 20th, that the cost for building replacement parkland “as part of the controversial Yankee Stadium project has jumped 122 percent since 2006 — and 280 percent since the team first proposed taking Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks in 2004.”

(At Washington Square Park, budget for Phase I alone has jumped from $6 million to $13 million. Original total budget for two phases of this unwanted “plan”: $16 million.)

Commissioner Benepe stated at the City Council hearing on Wednesday 3/19 that the Parks Department is “committed to replacing parkland” with tree replacement of 8000 trees “to mitigate the ones cut” in the Bronx for the Stadium.

Benepe stated, “It’s going to be hard to find room to plant all the trees we plan to plant.”

(That sounds like responsible policy, doesn’t it?)

At Washington Square Park, in Phase I alone, they stated up to 16 trees are up for chopping (11 thus far) but there would be up to 39 REPLACEMENT trees. That’s 23 additional trees. So it’s all good — according to the Parks Department and the City Council. Except it’s not.

Parks Department Commissioner Benepe’s spin is clever and it’s manipulative. He cannot cavalierly advocate for the destruction of our city trees — and for the destruction of our city, via endless privatization and homogenization of public space — and then state that it’s magically okay because there will be “new trees planted.” The Parks Department is supposed to act as STEWARDS for the trees, NOT — as per Mayor Bloomberg’s directive — for Danny Meyer and the Tisch Family and NYU.

When will this end? And how do we get this to stop?

Who determines who is a tree killing “madman?”

New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe is responsible for the felling of eleven 50-to-100 year old trees at Washington Square Park thus far.

(The prominent tree in the center of this picture was axed by the Parks Department, as were all the wonderful trees that lined the fountain area.)

300-400 trees were destroyed from two Bronx Parks to create the new Yankee Stadium. Benepe has proposed killing 14 trees at Union Square Park to make additional room for an upscale restaurant. Yesterday, at the City Council hearings on the Parks Department budget, I discovered that he wants “thousands” of trees to hit the chopping block — according to activists in Queens — to put in the controversial and potentially dangerous artificial turf that he is such a fan of at Ridgewood Reservoir/Highland Park.

It makes me wonder — who determines who is a tree killing “madman?”

If one gives the order, yet doesn’t hold the ax, isn’t it the same?

See following story.

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From the New York Daily News on March 16th…

Tree Killing ‘madman’ axes Inwood

Police and parks officials are hunting for a “madman” who chopped down 30 young red-cedar trees in Inwood Hill Park with an ax last week.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said this is the second case of arborcide in the upper Manhattan park.

“I have no idea why somebody would do it,” said Benepe. “It appears to be a serial tree killer. It’s a crime against nature.”

The trees were planted in 1996 as part of a plan to reestablish woodlands in the 196-acre park. Parks workers found the small trees, between 4 and 8 feet tall, on their sides Thursday.

“It’s really discouraging that a madman with an ax would deliberately kill trees,” Benepe said.

“It’s crushing,” said Jennifer Hoppa, administrator of Northern Manhattan Parks.

Police are investigating, and parks officials are posting flyers and offering a $500 reward.

Under the city’s “arborcide law,” anyone who damages, destroys or otherwise harms a street tree or park tree faces a $15,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Anyone with information should call the 34th Precinct stationhouse at (212) 927-2640.

“But if you see somebody with an ax or a saw, call 911,” Benepe said.

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