Federal court rejects challenge to Yankee Stadium

Bronx locals’ second attempt to halt Yankee Stadium claimed bias and ineptitude on the part of the National Parks Service. As part of the needed approvals for the Yankee Stadium development, the National Park Service approved the plan to privatize a 10.67-acre portion of the Macomb’s Dam Park and replace the lost park space with 16.44 acres on three separate parcels, including the old Yankee Stadium site, to be developed with baseball and softball fields, a track, walkways and benches. Because of a 1979 federal park construction grant, the plan required NPS approval. When completed, the Yankee Stadium project would utilize 22.42 acres of existing parkland and create 24.56 acres of replacement park space. The 10.67- acre portion, protected by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, contained a running track, softball field, and two baseball fields, built with $312,914 of federal funding.

Local watchdog group, Save Our Parks, challenged the NPS approval under federal law after it failed to halt the Yankee Stadium development through a challenge to the City’s approval. 3 CityLand 128 (Sept. 15, 2006). According to Save Our Parks, NPS’ decision was arbitrary and capricious since it failed to act independently, unduly relied on state and local project assessments, failed to explore reasonable alternatives, and expressed bias in favor of stadium development. Save Our Parks also claimed that the replacement parkland was not of equivalent value, usefulness or location to the old parkland, as required by federal law. As part of its claim of bias, Save Our Parks pointed out that NPS became involved in the project’s environmental review over a year before it received the application to privatize the park space, and NPS staff sent an email to the City noting that it would ensure it met its needs without “preventing the proposed project from being developed.”

Southern District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald denied Save Our Parks’ challenge, finding that the law encourages the federal government to streamline its review by coordinating with state and local government, NPS looked at alternatives and the planned replacement parks only had to equal the value of the federal government’s initial investment of $312,914.

Judge Buchwald detailed the extensive public and environmental reviews the Yankee Stadium project endured under ULURP and City, state and federal environmental review laws, noting that Save Our Parks was afforded nine public hearings and that the final plan reflected significant public comment. Judge Buchwald also gave an extensive description of the final project plan, noting that it offered an increase in park space located relatively close to the old parks and improved the park facilities.

Save Our Parks v. Kempthorne, U.S. Dist. 2006 WL 3378703, Nov. 15, 2006 (S.D.N.Y.) (Reice, J.).

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