For the better part of 2009, I’ve covered the grassroots movement by a group of preservationists and Yankee fans to save Gate 2 and incorporate it into the plans for Heritage Field. While the city officials say the plan is cost-prohibitive, the group claims Gate 2 could be saved for around $1 million. Now, with the Parks Department set to gain preliminary approval for its Heritage Field plans, the Gate 2 movement may be nearing a conclusion, but early reports indicate that Gate 2 will not be a part of the Heritage Field plans.
Benjamin Peim, writing for the Daily News, has more on this development:
The city Parks Department plans to seek preliminary approval next week for plans to commemorate the stadium at Heritage Field – the future park after the House That Ruth Built meets the wrecking ball. Gate 2 is not in the plans. “If it gets approved, I think we’re through,” said John Trush, one of the fans fighting to save the gate.
The Parks Department presented its plans last May to the Design Commission, which approves all permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed on or over city property. It granted preliminary approval, with the caveat they make revisions to better incorporate the stadium’s history.
At next week’s meeting, with Gate 2 crusaders making their pitch, the commission will decide the department’s revised plans for the old Yankee Stadium. A Parks spokesman said the revised design will have some of the old stadium’s frieze, historical plaques and markers, and one of the baseball diamonds will follow the same alignment as the old infield.
At the heart of this debate is the city’s tendency to disregard its history. As I wrote in August, early Heritage Field plans basically ignored Yankee Stadium. Although a few plaques would commemorate the spot, no aspect of Yankee Stadium would have remained, and even the replacement fields would not align with the old Yankee Stadium infield.
For the city, this disregard for history is nothing new. Lower Manhattan contains few remnants of its 400-year-old history, and even newer landmarks — Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds — are nothing but memories we recognize from sepia-toned photographs. The Save the Gate 2 movement wanted to preserve an original part of old Yankee Stadium before it was too late. As Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan has repeated said, the preserved gate “would serve the same function for future generations as the Roman forums serve in Rome today.”
Now though, it is the proverbial bottom of the ninth. I’ll reserve judgment on the Parks Department’s final plans until they are released. The early word is somewhat promising but also a bit hypocritical. Although the Deparment claims that saving Gate 2 would be futile because the substantial parts of the gate date only to the 1970s renovation, most of the new plans seem to preserve Yankee Stadium II memories while glossing over the original stadium configuration. “The [Parks Department] argument falls down when you take a look at the [revised] plans for the site,” Ultan said. “Most of what they’re saving is from the 1970s structure.”
We might have to eulogize Gate 2 next week and tip our caps to those trying to save it. If the effort fails, it was a valiant one. Hopefully, the city won’t come to rue a mistake if it tears down the entire stadium while just giving a perfunctory nod to history. The House that Ruth Built deserves better.