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March 31, 2011

In Shadow of Yankee Stadium, 3 Unfinished Ball Fields

The New York Times
by Corey Kilgannon

Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino called the Yankees the "evil empire" a few years back. Which makes their enablers in New York City government Darth Vader.

On Thursday, the New York Yankees begin their regular season at Yankee Stadium, a gleaming $1.5 billion behemoth that opened in the Bronx in 2009 as the new home of one of the richest franchises in sports.

But next to the stadium is a lingering eyesore – a protracted construction project that was supposed to have been transformed into three public ball fields months ahead of opening day. Instead, some coaches and neighborhood residents say, it remains a joyless Mudville.

Just as the new stadium was enveloped in controversy, from its financing to its ticket prices, the construction of the three fields has also prompted debate.

The city promised to build the fields, which are starting to take shape directly across 161st Street to the south of the stadium, to replace others that were bulldozed in 2006 to make way for the stadium.

The razed fields, in Macombs Dam Park, were the only regulation baseball diamonds nearby, and were home to neighborhood pickup games and youth leagues, and to teams from schools like All Hallows High School, a parochial institution several blocks away.

“We’ve gone five years now with no ball fields here,” said Sean Sullivan, 55, the principal of All Hallows and a coach of its baseball team, which has spent five years scouring the city for home fields. “They took the parks away from my kids, and now our team is a bunch of gypsies.”

The team, which played part of its 2009 season in Staten Island, is still searching for a site for its league opener on April 7.

The fields were originally to be completed late last year, as the centerpiece of Heritage Field, a 10-acre park where the former Yankee Stadium stood. But the groundbreaking was delayed until last June, and city officials now say the fields will not open until fall 2011.

“They built the new stadium in record time, but building replacement parkland for the community is literally dragging,” said Helen Foster, who represents the neighborhood on the City Council.
...

Ms. Foster accused the Yankees of doing little to help local residents in one of the poorest parts of the country. “There’s this perception in this area that the Yankees’ needs come before everyone else’s,” she said.

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Posted by eric at March 31, 2011 11:14 AM