Sunday, August 28, 2005

Residents Rally on Yankee Stadium and the BTM

On a beautiful Saturday morning neighborhood residents and BTM merchants held their community forum in Mullaly Park in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. The forum focused its attention on the two mega-projects being planned for the area and the general tone of the gathering was anger at the lack of local participation in the development plans and the fears that, separately and in combination, the two projects will have a major negative impact on the community.

The gathering was graced by the unexpected presence of Maria del Carmen Arroyo, one of the two local council members who represents the impacted areas. Arroyo, to her credit, withstood withering criticism from some of the residents who feel abandoned by their elected officials. This heated exchange, entitled, "Vecinos Confrontan a Concejal" in El Diario, prompted the councilmember to suggest that the community work with her to mitigate the project's neighborhood impacts rather than simply attack her.

In regards to the Yankee Stadium deal, however, the local sentiment seemed to be that the proposed taking of neighborhood parkland could not be mitigated. In fact David Gratt, a local resident and leader of the group Friends of Yankee Stadium, went on to criticize community benefits agreements by pointing out that if a project is without any good for an area than it makes no sense to craft any CBA for the development.

As far as the BTM/Gateway project is concerned, Arroyo publicly pledged that she wanted to insure the survival of the merchants as a collective. In response, merchant leader Stanley Mayer thanked the councilmember for "saying publicly for the first time" that the market needed to be preserved.

Another interesting sidenote was the response El Diario reported from the Ferrer camp on the whole controversy. The paper reported that Ferrer supported the project at the BTM but felt that "greater transparency and openness was needed in the process." It will be interesting to see if the issue heats up as part of the stretch run in the Democratic primary campaign.

The Saturday event, which ended with a march on the Stadium, was well covered. Channel 4 did a very nice story as did NY 1, Hoy, Bronx 12 and Univision(Channel 41).