Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Yankees Go (Stay) Home

In a raucous community meeting last week in the Bronx, over 275 community residents came out to a forum at the Bronx HS of Law, Government and Justice. The outpouring of concern was over the Yankee Stadium redevelopment plan that would, among other things, eliminate most of McCombs Dam and Mullaly Parks. In essence, to accommodate the new stadium current neighborhood green space would be eliminated and replaced with smaller, divided parcels farther away (some even on top of parking garages).

What the meeting demonstrated was that there is a wide gap between the elected officials and the impacted neighborhood. Both BP Carrion and Yankee president Randy Levine were jeered by the assemblage and it was suggested to the Yankee president that he build his new stadium in Central Park (or in his own neighborhood).

The actions of elected officials confirm our sense that the Southwest Bronx community is severely disenfranchised. Now this phenomenon is not always the exclusive fault of an area's elected officials. It is often the case that endemic apathy and disillusionment in a locality gives the representatives carte blanche to make decisions without concern for the repercussions. It is also why an area's community board cannot always be confused with the real wishes of a neighborhood.

The Bronx is famous for this but we saw the same thing in Southeast Queens. There hundreds of homeowners were ignored as the area's electeds rushed to make side-deals with the Port Authority in exchange for supporting an Air Train project that went right through the community. Years of getting away with not having to consult with citizens becomes habitual and decisions are made unilaterally.

This is precisely what happened when all of the Bronx elected officials quietly agreed to sponsor legislation to alienate the Yankee Stadium parkland. In a parallel example, Queens electeds knew first contact their community and therefore floated the Jets to Flushing Meadows plan as a trial balloon. When the surrounding residents became outraged, the plan quickly lost steam. The Bronx neighborhoods around Yankee Stadium weren't as fortunate.