Yanks Tear Up Outfield -- and Not Just By Releasing Bobby Abreu

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photo (cc) Shelley Panzarella

The long wait in the Bronx may be close to an ending: A WCBS radio news helicopter flew over Yankee Stadium (the real one) yesterday and snapped photos of the outfield turf starting to be peeled off and removed. Will an actual wrecking ball be soon to follow?

If so, it will be sad news for fans of baseball history — Yankee Stadium currently ranks as the 3rd oldest ballpark in existence, and is 7th oldest even if you count from its 1976 reconstruction — but good news for Bronx residents, who have been waiting impatiently for the new parks that are supposed to replace the stadium once it comes down.

Not that Bronx neighborhood activists are holding their breath just yet. "If the stadium was truly being dismantled, one would think scaffolding would be built," says Joyce Hogi, a stadium critic who serves on the parks committee of Community Board 4. "There's a lot of attention being given to the fact that that stadium is still up. Maybe they're trying to deflect criticism."

If Hogi and her neighbors sound bitter, it's no doubt because the timetable for the new parks has continually slipped: The stadium demolition was originally supposed to be complete this year, but has since been pushed back to late 2010, meaning new ballfields on the site — to replace those in Macombs Dam Park, now buried underneath a mountain of video screens and martini bars — wouldn't open until 2011 at the earliest. A temporary running track and soccer field is supposed to open atop one of the Yanks' new parking garages next month, but Hogi isn't hopeful: "We were told at the last parks committee meeting that I attended that it did not look good for summer activities but we should have something definitive in a couple of months. The budget, you know." (The Parks Department tells the Voice the garage-top park is slated to open in "late April.")

Mayor's office spokesperson Andrew Brent says he expects stadium demolition to begin in a "matter of weeks," but says that a demolition contract hasn't yet been finalized. There's also the little matter of who actually owns all the stadium pieces: While the Mets and the city have long since started selling off all the discarded bits of Shea Stadium (though plenty of good circuit boards are still available), the Yanks have yet to come to an agreement with the city on memorabilia sales — leading to rampant rumors that the demolition is being delayed while Bloomberg and the Steinbrenners haggle over who owns what.

Brent acknowledges that demolition can't begin until an agreement is reached on salvage rights. "Part of the demolition process involves removing the seats," he says. "And obviously if you're going to sell the seats, you're going to remove them in a different way than if you're demolishing them."

As for the Turf That Ruth Trod On, it's undisputedly Yankees property, and is being excavated by team workers. Once it's removed from its formerly hallowed ground, its ultimate destination is unknown — maybe Adolfo Carrion needs a new lawn.


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