With the start of the season upon us, news and analysis about Yankee Stadium is flowing fast and furious. The stories focus on the last gaps of the old stadium and the ongoing construction efforts across 161st St. to the north. While historical retrospects tinged with nostalgia fill the pages of the city’s papers, not all the news is so rosy as the new Stadium goes up.
Much like efforts to save the old stadium, stories about the Yankee Stadium construction’s impact on the surrounding South Bronx neighborhoods haven’t gained much traction. Neil deMause has spent the last few years beating that drum on his own website and in the pages of the Village Voice, but a movement to force more responsibility from the Yankees hasn’t materialized.
Two stories this week shed some more light on how construction is adversely impacting life around the former Macombs Dam Park. Harvey Aarton in The Times noted how the community was never really against the development of new stadium. Rather, they were and remain against irresponsible development. They did not want their park destroyed and feel they are getting a raw deal from the city and the Yankees:
The Yankees got what they had long lobbied for. The city said it would replace every park acre, roughly 24, and would actually add space. This all sounded perfectly reasonable to the outsider, but the fine print diluted the promise. On a miniature scale, this was Central Park being broken up, spread among the boroughs.
“The story was always about the fragmentation of the park,” said Geoffrey Croft, the president and founder of the NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit group. “And when I started looking at the replacement scheme, it never added up.”
These advocates believe the Yanks could have spent two years in Shea as they did in the mid-1970s and rebuilt Yankee Stadium on the site of the old ballpark. Of course, then the team would have sacrificed the increase in parking lots surrounding the new area. Maybe these neighborhood activists are onto something after all.
An article in yesterday’s Metro tells a similar story.
Also on Tuesday was a Clyde Haberman column about merchants cashing in on the final years of Shea and Yankee Stadiums. Of course, merchants will cash in, and fans — like me — will buy Final Season memorabilia. Interestingly, the merchants are awaiting the big guns: They want to be able to sell bits and pieces of the old stadiums. With lockers potentially fetching $10,000 and bricks going for $300, there’s real money to be made here.
As the season progresses, we’ll hear a lot about stadiums and history, about construction and community. I think it’s interesting to see how the various pieces of business and culture and neighborhood politics mesh and clash in small area tinged with baseball history in the South Bronx.