09.20.08

Gonzalez : Enough About Yankee Stadium, Spare A Thought For The South Bronx

Posted in Baseball, New York, New York, Ugly New Stadiums at 8:51 pm by

(photo taken from Poet In The Bronx. Presumably out of the camera’s view, Freddy “Sez”)

A two-out, RBI single in the last of the 9th by the oft-criticized Robinson Cano gave the Yankees a 1-0 win over Baltimore in Yankee Stadium’s penultimate game.  On the eve of the venue’s farewell, the New York Times’ David Gonzales departs from the nostalgia fest to declare, “the park that looms so large in the minds of the fans has been but a backdrop for me ” imposing from afar, but up close about as real as a theatrical prop.”

It™s just that too often, no one much respected the neighborhood outside its walls, including Yankee executives. That™s what makes for my melancholy heart.

Over the years there was griping about how the area was unsafe ” this despite scores of police officers assigned to games and the presence of two pretty well-fortified courthouses and a transit police station a couple of blocks away. And there were arguments about whether the Yankees could develop a fan base in the Bronx ” a borough that is home to legions of baseball-mad Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.

On one level, you could dismiss it as just posturing, a bargaining ploy over the years meant to wrest something new from the city ” tax breaks or a stadium. But for a track man at Cardinal Hayes High School who ran past the stadium every day, it could feel like an entire community™s recent history had been reduced to a negotiating tactic.

Whatever indifference I felt toward the stadium turned to something like active dislike in 1977. That was the year that Howard Cosell famously declared to a national audience, œThe Bronx is burning, while calling a game there. Those few words felt like a body blow.

While no one would argue the South Bronx was a paradise, I never found the area by the stadium to be threatening, especially on game days. For a while in the early 1990s, my office was across the street from Macombs. I parked my car on the street and not once had it broken into. My biggest fear was being locked in the building by a security guard who liked to sneak off and smoke pot with his friends.

Yet the slights continued. An executive called neighborhood kids œmonkeys in 1994. He was in charge of community relations. Judging by the reaction of local schools and youth groups at the time, community relations was close to an oxymoron. Whatever requests they made of the team ” for money, tickets or speakers ” went unanswered, they said.

Although it took almost two years, local groups are getting grants from the community benefits agreement that was part of the stadium deal. More is promised. Local activists are waiting for the replacement parks they were promised, too.

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