Streams

After 5-Year Wait, Ballfields Near Yankee Stadium Finally Open

Monday, April 09, 2012 - 03:01 PM

MaCombs Dam Field sits in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Jessie Wright-Mendoza)

(New York, NY - WNYC) It's been a long wait for a South Bronx neighborhood that heard promise after promise about how parkland that became parking garages would one day be replaced. That day is now here.

Five years after the city of New York allowed a heavily used set of baseball diamonds to be paved over for a parking lot serving the new Yankee Stadium, a set of replacement fields has opened--a year behind schedule. In the meantime, those garages have remained mostly empty on Yankee game days and, as TN has reported, the company that owns them is on the verge of default.

The field, which was also known as Heritage Field and is actually a set of three fields, saw its first action last week with a game between Cardinal Hayes and All Hallows high school varsity baseball teams. For years, the teams have been playing "home" games on opponents' fields while waiting for the new fields to open.

Neighborhood residents had to wait until Saturday to get their first access to the 10.8 acres of Kentucky bluegrass, installed where the old Yankee Stadium once stood. Standing outside the new Heritage Field, South Bronx resident Carlos Juarez said his neighbors have gone through a range of emotions as they waited for the former parkland to be replaced.

"In the beginning, people refused to support this construction," he said. "They took down the old Yankee Stadium and people were like, 'What are they going to do?' But when they saw the result, they just loved it."

Similarly, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe stressed the end result rather than the lengthy and sometimes rancorous process that delivered it.

"When you talk to people in the neighborhood about the old MaCombs Dam Park, they knew they were not particularly great," Benepe said. "The old MaCombs Dam ballfield was sort of in a pit surrounded by elevated roadways."

The new MaCombs Dam Field will be open from 10 a.m. to dusk and will give priority to teams with permits from the city. But when those teams aren't playing, the public will be free to step on turf where Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio once plied their trade. Blue polymer fiber stitched into the sod marks where home plate once stood. Anyone can straddle it and, in their minds eye, knock a long ball out of the park.

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Comments [1]

James

I see this article migrated from another spot on the website, but it didn't take the comments from me and others. We would like to be heard. Thank you.

Bettina Damiani, Good Jobs New York

It’s disingenuous for Parks Commissioner Benepe to whitewash the Yankee Stadium project as something to be proud of when in fact it cost hundreds of millions of public dollars, was void of any meaningful democratic decision making processes and replaced natural parkland with Astroturf and parking garages.

There WAS broad debate despite a desperate attempt to drown the voices of residents; the Yankees were given use of the park land after an emergency vote in a dead-of-night legislative session. (The Mets, which also benefit greatly from subsidies, opted to build its new stadium in existing parking facilities, not nearby parks.) Was the Commissioner not in attendance at the numerous hearings and meetings where Bronxites passionately defended the parks, urging for upgrading, not razing them? It’s bitterly ironic that Park officials prioritized – and continue to defend – the use of excessive public funds for a project that destroyed parks simply because the Yankees asked them to.
Apr. 10 2012 01:01 PM

Lukas Herbert from Yonkers

I served on Community Board 4 at the time of the Yankee Statdium review...and I can tell you that it was bona fide community opposition. I don't know what Adrian Benepe is talking about. He is probably trying to re-write the history of the project, because the whole thing was such an embarrassment to his agency at the time it was happening.

For anyone who thinks this park is so much better than the old park...here is a fact for you. As soon as my wife found out she was pregnant, we moved to Yonkers. Why? So many of the kids in the community have ashtma, and we didn't want to condemn our son to the same fate. When that stadium was constructed, over 300 mature trees were chopped down. How will the air quality improve under those circumstances? Even though the park is new, don't tell me that air quality improves when you chop down huge trees to build parking garages with artificial turf on top. Despite all the bells and whistles of the new parks, I'd take the old parks over the new in a second for the sake of those trees and the air quality benefits they provided. They never would have done a project like this in Central Park.
Apr. 09 2012 10:09 AM

James Jospeh from Morrisania

Adrian Benepe has obviously forgotten that Community Board 4 rejected the stadium plan in a two-to-one vote. That had nothing to do with a "self-styled park advocate" -- whoever that is -- but rather with a neighborhood that wanted to keep a natural park with 377 mature trees. Macombs Dam Park was in bad shape, but it was in the middle of the community. It was not surrounded by elevated roadways but by apartment buildings. (I don't know where he gets that description from -- it's as if he didn't remember the park at all. I live across Jerome Avenue.) Now a stadium sits in the middle of my neighborhood, and our new parks are treeless lots next to the Deegan Expressway. Half of them are on top of a parking garage two stories off the ground. The tennis courts moved a mile away on the other side of the Deegan and now charge fees of up to $80 an hour -- in the South Bronx!!! The city didn't even bother to replace a three-acre lot at 161st and Macombs Dam Bridge -- they just put up a five-story parking garage on it. Two of the "replacement" ballfields are not even in the neighborhood -- one is in a different community board. We knew this plan had nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Yankees. News reports have documented the failure of the massive parking garages dumped in my neighborhood and the harm the stadium has caused to the small businesses on 161st Street. Well, I guess all of that is fine now that it's over -- we'll just take city officials at their word and let them rewrite history. Thanks a lot, Benepe.
Apr. 08 2012 07:52 PM

Apr. 10 2012 01:37 PM

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