It may be the field of dreams for the owners of the New York Yankees but not for the kids in the neighborhood.
For, in building the new Yankee Stadium, several ball fields were destroyed and they still haven't been replaced.
I relate to those neighborhood kids because I grew up in this neighborhood. I remember how much we enjoyed Macombs Dam Park -- and the spirit of competition among the sandlot teams that played there. I wasn't much of an athlete but I was a faithful onlooker and it seemed appropriate somehow that, while the DiMaggios and Gehrigs played serious baseball in the big stadium across the street, neighborhood kids were playing serious baseball in the park.
I remember, too, the controversy that erupted a few years ago over what was going to happen to Macombs Dam Park. Yes, the Yankees and city officials assured us, Macombs Dam would be the site of a new, improved stadium but the young people in that neighorhood would benefit too.
Now, Corey Kilgannon in The New York Times has written a progress report on the stadium and the neighborhood and, clearly, promises have been broken. The city took five ball fields away from the neighborhood and, by the time the long-delayed project is completed, they will replace them with just three diamonds.
What a deal! It may be good for the Yankees but not for this neighborhood, one of the city's poorest. The Yankees and the city, which has subsidized the organization, came up two ball fields short. But, by next year, it's estimated, the team will have raked in 1.5 billion since the new stadium was opened in 2009.
The Yankee organization got free land an, tax breaks from City Hall and, on top of that, the Yankees benefited by construction of a new Metro North station that cost 92 million dollars.
If you think about it, the Yankees have taken over our land, they have benefited from our tax dollars. They've had better than a good deal. From a business perspective, it's a dream deal!
"This is a story of highway robbery and broken promises," Geoffrey Croft of New York City Parks Advocates told me.
Councilwoman Helen Foster says: "I guarantee you if this was another neighborhood, this project would have been fast-tracked."
Sean Sullivan, the principal of all Hollows High School, and coach of their baseball team, is upset. "We've gone five years now with no ball fields," he told the Times. "They took the parks away from my kids, and now our team is a bunch of gypsies."
A new season has begun at the new, 1.5 billion dollar Yankee Stadium. Under the regime that negotiated the sweetheart deal with the city, prices for ticket are pretty high -- astronomical for a fan with limited means. It costs several hundred dollars for a family of four to go to the stadium for an outing, complete with food. A far cry from the days when middle class New Yorkers could go to the stadium without breaking the bank.
The new Heritage Field, a 10-acre park on the site of the old Yankee Stadium with replacement ball fields, was supposed to be completed by last year. Now, the scheduled groundbreaking is set for the fall of 2011. Not in time for the kids to have a full baseball season.
All Hollows Coach Sullivan sums up the situation mournfully in the Times: "I hoped the Yankees could have thrown the kids some tickets and and made them feel important during all this. I guess we're just little fish in the big ocean."