Return to Main Street: 161st Street

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Photos by Ailsa Chang

Photos by Ailsa Chang

The Yankees will play their first World Series in their new stadium this week . In the third installment of our Main Street series, WNYC returns to the shopkeepers on 161st Street in the Bronx, where many businesses have suffered in the shadow of the new stadium.

The playoffs didn’t improve matters much. Although these shops expected to do better with the new stadium, examples from around the country show new stadiums don’t help neighborhood economies much.

Ailsa Chang has this report:


Mike Hong runs D&J Variety Store, which sells Yankee souvenirs at a discount. Hong says his business was down at the beginning of the season because the police kept directing foot traffic directly into the stadium, preventing fans from strolling down 161st Street before games.


Manager Abdul Traore of Jeans Plus, a shop that sells Yankee clothing and memorabilia at prices 20-to-40 percent lower than inside the new stadium, says business picked up a little during the playoffs, but on the whole is still down.


Yankee Tavern has been around since 1923. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and several other legendary Hall of Famers once frequented the bar. But despite its historical status, the tavern is seeing smaller crowds this baseball season.


Joe Bastone has owned Yankee Tavern for 25 years. He says business was down 75 percent on opening day and is now down by 20 percent.


Peter Katsihtis is manager of the Crown Donuts Diner and says he and other restaurant owners expected to see bigger crowds and new faces with the new stadium, but has instead relied on a steady stream of regulars. The diner did see a slight uptick in business during the playoffs, but the staff says business is still substantially lower compared to previous baseball seasons.


The new Yankee Stadium has 125 concession stands, 56 souvenir shops and a handful of high-end bars and restaurants, such as the Hard Rock Café and NYY Steak. The food offered at concession stands inside the new stadium are mostly from large chains, such as Nathan’s Famous hotdogs and Famous Famiglia Pizzeria.

The new stadium also has 4,000 fewer seats than the old stadium. Store owners on 161st Street say the stadium’s smaller capacity means less foot traffic on their street.


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Comments [8]

In the shadow of the new house, local business suf

[...] the new stadium had a negative impact on local businesses. As The Times, the Associated Press and WNYC all explored during the playoffs, sports stores and other businesses lining River Ave. have seen [...]

Nov. 16 2009 04:41 PM
Jay Herrera

I also live near Yankee Stadium, but on the Grand Concourse, not Highbridge. My feelings are much different from Sameold's. I don't know what new playgrounds he's referring to -- all we've gotten so far is some artificial turf on top of a parking garage.

The quality of my life was many times better when I could walk down to the parks with my kids, or look out our window and see trees instead of that massive stadium, with its dirt, noise and traffic.

It should be no wonder that shops haven't benefited from the billion-dollar stadium or the garages --they weren't meant to benefit the area. They were for white suburbanites who are afraid of our neighborhood. (One that count, I do agree with Sameold.) Our neighborhood was already improving, property values were rising, and crime was going down. The parks made this area very special. But the nice neighborhood feel of my community has been ruined by the Yankees.

Nov. 06 2009 01:15 PM

Excuse me, that should've said "Yankees fans who do not live in the Bronx, or who are caucasian", not "or who are not caucasian". Sorry for any confusion.

Oct. 30 2009 05:29 PM

So many people who comment about the south Bronx/Yankee Stadium redevelopment either live nowhere near the Bronx, have never seen anything of the Bronx EXCEPT the new or old Yankee stadiums, or have never been there at all. I live 10 blocks from the Stadium, in Highbridge, and can offer a more accurate depiction of what the neighborhood is currently like and rapidly becoming.

From a quality-of-life viewpoint, it has been wonderful. Playgrounds have been built or improved, existing parks and gardens improved, overall security and police presence enhanced, and (for the most part) sanitation improved.

Yes, some local businesses and souvenir shops have been negatively impacted. Many of these are on 161st Street, and River Avenue, which runs under the subway line. Here's the fact, stated bluntly: Yankees fans who do NOT live in the Bronx, or who are not caucasian, simply do not feel safe straying very far from the stadium (BTW, I myself am caucasian, and married mom of a 4 year old, who chose to move to Highbridge from suburban Connecticut about 2.5 years ago).

The south Bronx has a terrible, left-over and undeserved reputation with roots in the "Bronx is burning" era. Today, it has its problems, just like any neighborhood, but it is full of young, two-career families like mine, and is a vibrant, friendly and (key point) affordable place to live. No, not many residents are caucasian, but that works fine for us (we couldn't care less).

But I have a very strong impression that, until the River Avenue portion of the redevelopment is completed (which, incidentally, will knock down most/all of the buildings right up against the train tracks, push new construction back much further to let in light, and construct new residential and commercial buildings) I don't predict many white folks will venture beyond Yankee property.

I see these fans. They look downright nervous when they're walking on, say, Jerome Avenue. The other day an obviously lost white man by himself sort of barked at me and my son "which way to the stadium?". I courteously replied, and he went away without thanks. People clearly have the attitude of "get in safely, get out quickly" and they are not spending their money here. We have a superb Dominican restaurant literally beside the 167th street subway stop, just bkocks away. There are great pizza joints (Giovanni's on the Grand concourse, just a few blocks away), bakeries, juice bars, even good old chains like Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins. But most non-Bronx Yanbkees fans will never know because they're too scared to explorer the area.

No amount of redevelopment will fix long-held racist views. Hopefully, though, a few nice parks will lure a few more people awayt from the stadium and into our neighborhood.

The lack of active commerce in the Bronx, whether on 161st street or elsewhere, has a lot more to do with the terrible economy, decreased consumer spending, and racism than it does with the revitalization of our neighborhood. Thi reconstruction has been a blessing--a long-term hasle at times, and dirty--but VERY welcome to us. It has made our property values rise at a rate unequalled elsewhere in the coty, and it has made our neighborhood cleaner, safer, and more attractive. I would suggest that those who abhor the redevelopment might harbor a little prejudice against those of us who live here.

Oct. 30 2009 05:22 PM
Dr. Cary Goodman

I found this article both inaccurate and insensitive.

Walk past the sports bars and restaurants around the ballpark on any game day; they are packed.

The 'kids' in t-shirts are Youth Ambassadors doing community service.

Oct. 29 2009 11:33 AM
j doe

yaaeyy - corporate welfare built that redundant stadium so that our local small businesses can suffer! wooo hooo. way to go Bloomberg, way-to-go!

Oct. 29 2009 12:59 AM

so many people get this story emailed and are scared to comment, weird

Oct. 28 2009 09:29 PM

one more reason I won't be voting for bloomberg

Oct. 28 2009 09:28 PM

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