Monday, June 16, 2008

NY Times' Memory Hole on Yankee Stadium

On Saturday the NY Times editorialized on "green thievery," the loss of neighborhood parkland as a result of the Yankee Stadium redevelopment: "Many promises were made two years ago when the New York Yankees grabbed prime parkland in the South Bronx to build a new stadium. One of them, made by the city, was that residents would have better parks, soccer fields, tracks and ball courts to replace what was taken away. That has not yet happened — and it must."

Anyone who has used Mullaly Park and returns today to see what remains, will be devastated by what they see-but there were many who saw this coming, even though the Times had blinders on when the decisions were being made. Here is what it said two years ago: "The Yankees worked hard to win over Bronx officials with a community benefits agreement. Some of it is the stuff of bread and circuses: 15,000 free tickets for distribution every season (hopefully not just to the well-connected). And some of it is real, including $1 million for job training and hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual community grants...

The Yankees also promise to spend $8 million on improving local parks, which should partly compensate for the green space the stadium will take away. On the whole, the agreement is a good start toward restitution for the many years in which the team, the richest sports franchise in the land, largely ignored residents of the disadvantaged South Bronx."

And we have a bridge that these folks can buy. Our friend Geoffrey Croft at Save Our Parks was right from the beginning on this scam, and pointed out the Bloomberg baloney in an editorial earlier this year: "Even before it seized a large swath of historic South Bronx parkland for a new Yankee Stadium, the Bloomberg administration had promised the community it would not only replace what it was taking away, but would provide even more parkland in return. Yet a close examination reveals that only 21.3 acres are actually being replaced - a net loss of nearly 4 acres."

The deal on the stadium, just like the sweetheart one at the adjacent Bronx Terminal Market (which the Times also failed to criticize) stunk from the very beginning. The question here is why didn't the people who should know better speak up? Croft gets the last word on this: "Of course, for the tens of thousands of poor people who depended on Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks, none of this comes as a surprise. Before the City Council vote, I accompanied neighborhood residents to many meetings with elected officials, where we laid out these issues very clearly.
One by one, the Council members repeated the same thing: "They're telling us you're getting more parkland than they're taking away." Everyone said it would be better. For the elected officials who supported this deal, better meant destroying 400 trees, splitting a neighborhood by building a 54,000-seat stadium, replacing lost parkland with inferior features spread miles apart, and - to add injury to insult - installing artificial turf on top of a parking garage.
All of this in a community that suffers from an asthma hospitalization rate 2.5 times greater than the city average."

All of this is part of the Bloomberg legacy. That the mayor would, after the BTM and Yankee Stadium fleecing of the South Bronx, emerge with a grand congestion scheme to, at least partially, address the asthma rates in the Bronx, has to rate extremely high on the historic hypocrisy scales in the city's political history. Bloomberg should pony up a hundred million and build the new Bloomberg Park next to the stadium. It's the least he can do to make up for the "green thievery" he sponsored.