Proposed Stadium for New York FC Discussed at Bronx Town Hall Meeting

Howard Goldin

Bronx, NY---On Wednesday night, several hundred interested individuals filled a large room at 900 Grand Concourse to discuss the proposal of the New York FC, owned by Manchester City FC and 20% by the New York Yankees, for the construction of a 28,000 seat open-air stadium to serve as the team’s home. The large building in which the meeting was held is currently includes the home to the 161st Street Business Improvement District (BID), but was the residence of many star players on the New York Yankees from the 1920’s-1960’s, when it was officially known as the Concourse Plaza Hotel.

The new stadium is proposed to be located in the space of a parking garage and the GAL Manufacturing Corp., a privately owned manufacturer of elevator parts, on 153rd Street and River Ave. It is also proposed to eliminate the entrance to the northbound Major Deegan Expressway.

The very orderly and professionally run two-hour public meeting was moderated by Dr. Cary Goodman, the Executive Director of the 161 Street BID. He stated its purpose in an invitation to the public and media, “The last time a stadium was built here [the new Yankee Stadium in 2009], no one had a chance to express themselves beforehand in an open forum. The elected officials ran the show and that left a bad taste. The Town Hall Meeting is a way to repair the breech between the community and its representatives.”

Those who wished to speak lined up in two areas to wait their turn. Approximately 50 people spoke during the meeting. The viewpoints expressed were widely divergent, yet were quite well prepared and delivered with strong emotion. The audience, regardless of their personal opinions listened with respect, so that the meeting became a learning experience for all present.

One aberration marred the decorum of the entire proceeding. A self-professed Communist speaker began using vulgar language. The moderator told him that was unacceptable. His language then worsened and he rushed toward the moderator when he realized he was going to be cut off. He was removed by security and officers of the 44th Precinct.

The first speaker, New York Yankees Senior Vice-President for Corporate/Community Relations Brian Smith, opened the door for all opinions by his words, “We value everybody’s feedback. We view the process as a vital tool to energize the community.”

A number of representatives of businesses and non-profit organizations that have enjoyed very positive experiences working with the Yankees spoke very favorably regarding the new stadium primarily because of the relationship of the Yankees with the new MLS soccer team. Included in this extremely varied list were: Mullaly Park, Madison Square Boys’ & Girls’ Club, Rock and Wrap it Up, Harlem RBI, Roberto Clemente State Park, New York Urban League, Bronx Chamber of Commerce and the principal of the public school of Law and Government.

An example of the strongest worded faith in the project, due solely to the involvement of the Yankees, came from a young female business owner who said, “I support anything the Yankees touch.” Another was stated by a Bronx clergyman, Bishop Dr. Timothy Burkett, “The Yankees have always kept their promises to the church. If the Yankees are part of it, the church will support it.”

The stadium was opposed by a variety of residents of the area. They raised a large number of objections. An attorney, Ramon Jimenez, commented, “We have enough corporate welfare in the Bronx.” Reynaldo Panzalan remarked, “I’m tired of the Bronx being raped by corporations.” Greg Bell, a combat veteran, wisely advised his neighbors, “We should leverage the stadium to get what the neighborhood needs.”

Several residents questioned the need for the multi-billionaire owner of Manchester City FC, Sheikh Mansor bin Zayed al-Nahyan, receiving government support to construct the stadium. Javier Lopez, a representative of Rep. Jose Serrano, said the Congressman, “Will not support a new stadium that is not fully transparent and has any tax subsidies.”

 

A questionnaire given to each attendee lists both positive and negative points that each respondent was able to check before departing. The issues listed are worthy of thought before one decides upon a positive or negative view of constructing the new edifice.

Positive possibilities-bring in more business, make neighborhood safer, improve the neighborhood’s image, improve sanitation, and create more jobs.

Negative possibilities-increase pollution, increase traffic problems, decrease small business, decrease funds for housing, and increase noise.

Thus, it is understandable that both views of the stadium have logical underpinnings. The meeting, organized by the 161 Street BID, was helpful to those on both sides of the issue as it gave a public hearing to their points of view and reasoning. Perhaps, it can lead to compromise that will be acceptable to most.