“House that Ruth built” to get new home

82-year-old Yankee Stadium and nearby public parks to be replaced by new stadium, park space and public parking. On April 5, 2006, City Council approved 11 Parks applications related to development of a new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, including disposition of three parcels of land to the Economic Development Corporation.

The new stadium site on East 161st Street is immediately north of Yankee Stadium’s current site. The proposal included 15.82 acres of new public park space and four new parking garages. The plan required map amendments to designate new parkland and eliminate portions of surrounding streets, as well as an action by the State legislature to eliminate 162nd Street. The plan also required two special permits for parking garages, a concession for new tennis facilities, and City acquisition of a leasehold interest in the new stadium to facilitate the financing of the project. The Yankees will fund the entire cost of the new stadium, spending over $800 million, while the City and State will provide $160 million and $70 million respectively on nearby infrastructure and additional improvements.

Yankee Stadium, built in 1923 and remodeled in 1976, is outdated and lacks modern space for seating, press, food service, shops, restrooms and player training. The new stadium will accommodate 54,000 spectators, 2,298 fewer than the current stadium, but will allow for more spacious circulation, food service, media and security as well as a team store and Yankees history museum. The stadium will also have 60 suite boxes, up from 18 in the current stadium. The new stadium’s facade will be reminiscent of the original 1923 stadium, which lost much of its original material during the 1976 renovation.

In its initial proposal, the Yankees proposed to maintain the existing stadium as a “heritage field” where little leagues and other groups could play by appointment. The Yankees revised the plan, however, and will demolish the existing stadium to accommodate new City parks that will replace two existing public parks eliminated by the new stadium. The revised plan will create 15.82 acres of parks on the site of the current Yankee Stadium, along the Harlem River waterfront and on River Avenue, 5.91 more acres of parkland than currently exists. On the site of the existing Yankee Stadium, Parks will construct three softball fields for use without an appointment. The waterfront park will include an esplanade, a comfort station and a 16-court tennis facility. The River Avenue park will include facilities for soccer, track, baseball and basketball.

Four new garages with a total of 4,769 spaces are planned, including a four-level, 1,300-space garage to the southwest along the Macomb’s Dam Bridge entrance; a three-level, 949-space garage five blocks to the south with retail space along River Avenue; a 920-space garage to the north, a majority of which would be reserved for Yankee players and staff; and a two-level, below-ground, 1,600-space garage with a park above to the south.

At a March 28, 2006 hearing of the Council’s Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Subcommittee, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe urged approval, saying that the plan would provide jobs, reinvigorate the area’s parks, and secure the Yankees’ presence in the Bronx for another 40 years. The Yankees have agreed to pay for all stadium maintenance. Currently the City pays to maintain portions of Yankee Stadium and projects that the current stadium will become unprofitable for the City within the next ten years.

In response to concerns raised by Subcommittee Chair Dan Garodnick, Assistant Parks Commissioner Joshua Laird noted that the plan would take measures to minimize construction time and provide temporary parks and parking until the project was complete.

The Council’s Bronx delegation, including Maria Baez, Helen D. Foster, and Maria del Carmen Arroyo, opposed the plan, criticizing nearly all aspects of the proposal and highlighting the Yankees’ reputation as a poor neighbor in the Bronx. Council Member Foster, a lifelong Bronx resident, said that she was adamantly opposed to the proposal and described herself as “a Yankee fan, but not a fan of the Yankees organization.” Council Members Thomas White and Charles Barron joined the Bronx delegation, questioning what benefit the plan would bring to the community.

Yankees Corporate President Randy Levine and Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson touted the jobs and financial investment the project would bring to the Bronx. Levine also expressed a desire to develop a binding community benefits agreement in which the Yankees would provide support for Bronx parks, education, and other community needs. Jackson admitted that the Yankees have not always been good neighbors, but urged the community to use the current opportunity to get the attention of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Council Member Foster commented that she would not sign a community benefits agreement.

When questioned about alternate plans, the Yankees argued that nearby Macombs Dam Park and John Mullaly Park provided the only feasible site in the Bronx for a new stadium, and that the footprint of the current site could not accommodate a modern stadium.

Other speakers in support included Bronx Borough President Aldofo Carrion Jr., union representatives, residents, and the local Chamber of Commerce, who argued that the plan would create jobs, improve parks, and build a neighborhood that, in conjunction with the nearby Bronx Terminal Market plan, would become a destination for tourists and other New Yorkers. Opponents to the plan came from Community Board 4, parks advocates, and residents, who criticized the construction timetable, scattered nature of the park replacement plan, and traffic impacts.

The Dispositions Subcommittee voted unanimously on April 5 to approve the proposal. That same day the Land Use Committee approved by a 22-1 vote with Council Member Barron voting against it. Later that day the full Council approved the plan by a vote of 45-2-2 with Council Members Barron and Foster voting against, and Council Members Letitia James and Rosie Mendez abstaining. Council Members Baez and Arroyo voted in favor of the plan after reaching a signed community benefits agreement in which the Yankees agreed to provide $2.3 million in job training, education and other community support to the Bronx. Arroyo also announced that her support was influenced by a pledge from Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki to build a new Metro North railway station as part of the new development.

The Council’s Finance Committee scheduled a hearing for April 10, 2006 to allow comment on the plan’s PILOTs and tax-free bonds. Full Council review on the PILOTS and bonds is pending.

ULURP Process: Parks, as lead agency, issued a final EIS on February 10, 2006, which proposed environmental impact mitigation measures. Community Board 4 disapproved all 11 applications by a vote of 16-8-5. Borough President Aldofo Carrion Jr. approved on several conditions, including acceleration of the construction schedule and that the plans include a hotel, a sports industry high school, and a Metro- North station. Following a public hearing with 28 speakers in favor and 32 opposed, the Planning Commission approved with 12 votes. Commissioner Irwin G. Cantor recused himself.

Council: Yankee Stadium (April 6, 2006); CPC: Yankee Stadium (C 060056 MMX – map amendment; parkland); (C 060057 MMX – map amendment, parkland); (C 060058 MMX – map amendment; parkland); (C 060059 MMX – map amendment, streets and parkland); (C 060144 PQX – acquisition of interest); (C 060145 PPX – disposition of property); (C 060146 PPX – disposition of property); (C 060147 PPX – disposition of property); (C 060148(A) MCX – concession, tennis courts); (C 060149 ZSX – special permit, garage); (C 060150 ZSX – special permit, garage) (February 22, 2006). CITYADMIN

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