Does the Yankees' Park Deal Cheat the Bronx?

yankeeslogo.jpgReaders of today's New York Daily News (the Bronx edition, anyway) saw a lovely 1960s-vintage photo of a park near Yankee Stadium, accompanied by a report that the image had "reignited questions about whether the city is actually replacing all of the recreational parkland taken for the Bombers' new arena."

This question been simmering in the background of the Yanks' stadium controversy for at least a year now, stirred mostly by NYC Park Advocates principal Geoffrey Croft. In a report earlier this year titled "Broken Promises," Croft charged that while the city claimed it was replacing all the park space obliterated by the Yanks' new home -- mostly by building new ballfields on the site of the House That Ruth Built, but via other scattered parks as well -- the Bronx will actually come out at a loss, with 25.3 acres displaced and just 23.2 acres created.

The city's figures for new parkland are a smidge higher (thanks to counting such items as a fringe of green space around the Yanks' new players-and-VIPs parking garage), but the main dispute is over the site in that photo, known in city documents as the "Garage C" site. The land in question, located just north of the Macombs Dam Bridge overpass, has since the mid-'70s been paved with asphalt and used as a Yankees parking lot during the baseball season.

Parks spokesperson Jama Adams says that the city is under no obligation to build new parks to replace something that hasn't been a ballfield for 30 years; Croft disagrees, saying, "You can't pretend that a baseball field, complete with a backstop and painted lines, isn't a baseball field."

If the city had gone through the usual step of "demapping" the parkland that's being turned over to the Yankees for development, things would be different: State law requires a one-for-one replacement of all demapped parks, whether they're covered with trees or with concrete. (The city's Coney Island rezoning plan, for instance, needs to come up with eight acres of new mapped parkland to replace what's being demapped, even though the latter consists entirely of the Brooklyn Cyclones' parking lot.)

But in the Bronx deal, the city is only leasing the erstwhile parkland to the Yankees -- when you munch your Joe Perry's "Rock Your World" Quesadilla at the Yankees Hard Rock Cafe, you'll technically be in a public park.

Thanks to this sleight-of-land, the city has to meet only the less stringent standard of replacing "recreational facilities" -- meaning the argument comes down to whether the disputed site spent the last three decades as an asphalt ballfield that Yankee fans sometimes parked their cars in, or as a Yankee parking lot that local kids sometimes played ball in.

Ironically, the parcel is currently a temporary park, built by the city to give locals somewhere to play until it can begin the two-year-long process of demolishing Yankee Stadium and building new green space there. After that, "Garage C" will go up there, plunking down a 900-space parking structure to supplement the other garages going up around the new stadium -- though if the local kids are clever enough, they can still use it for recreation.


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