In the not so distant past the New York Yankees embodied everything good about baseball and America. Slowly that faded. Yankee lore officially died on August 19, 2006—ground breaking day of New Yankee Stadium.
This is a story about corporate greed, political cronyism, and arrogant negligence to the neighborhood where the ghosts of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Thurman Munson occasionally pitch tent and drink beers with ghost fans of those "Bronx Bombers".
The new and the old Yankee Stadiums both stand in New York state's 16th Congressional District. Outside of the beltway, it is more commonly known as the South Bronx.
New York's 16th Congressional District is 98 percent Hispanic and black.
According to the 2000 census, it is the most impoverished of the 435 districts in the country. How can this be? Aren't the Yankees the wealthiest team in baseball?
The year 2000 was a pivotal one for the older white men who wear expensive suits to the ballpark. The team's owner, George Steinbrenner, hired Randy Levine as Yankees' president.
Levine's Wikipedia bio states interesting facts:
—"Levine served as principal associate deputy attorney general and principal deputy associate attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration."
—"(Levine) negotiated the 1996 MLB labor agreement."
—Under Rudy Giuliani, Levine worked as "New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Planning and Administration from 1997 to 2000. In January 2000, he announced his resignation...he was named president of the Yankees the next day."
—"Levine was a 'bundler' for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, and raised between $100,000 and $250,000 for McCain in 2008.
In the 2008 Presidential Election, Barack Obama won the 16th Congressional District of New York with 95 percent of the vote to McCain's five percent—the largest margin of all 435 districts in the country.
So to say that Randy Levine represents residents of the South Bronx is like saying 90-year-old kooky cat lady across the street would make a swell Miss America.
While it may never be proven, to think Levine did not use his political clout, greased some palms, and stuffed the pockets of state, city, and Bronx Borough politicians is kindly called naive.
Not so kindly called, [insert tactless insult to mental capacity].
This New York Daily News article makes clear good Mayor Bloomberg took it upon himself and, "rushed a bill through the Legislature to give 22-acres of Macombs Dam Park and part of John Mullaly Park as sites for the new stadium and its parking garages."
Yes, the Yankees—whoops, the taxpayers are suppose to eventually replace the acreage.
Wait a second. How do you replace fully grown trees in a microcosm of concrete? Go ahead laugh. It actually turned out to be just over 25-acres with trees as old as 80 years. Say it. Tree hugger.
[Inserting crude and tactless insult to mental capacity]
On those 25-plus acres there used to be 377 fully grown trees. To put it in better perspective, 70 percent of the trees in the area.
The New Yankee Stadium and their "up yours Bronx" bosses stole 70 percent of the mature trees.
This in the South Bronx, an area with already breathtaking rates of asthma. And take a guess where the highest rates of asthma are located in the South Bronx. Ready?
Near Yankee stadium, and all the trees that were plowed for construction of the $1.5 billion playpen.
Quick biology refresher: Humans breath oxygen. They exhale carbon dioxide. Plant life (the bigger the better) takes in the human's exhaled carbon dioxide and turns it back into fresh oxygen.
This is just a guess. But lowball, it's safe to say 50% of breathable air has disappeared from a community.
Little league baseball fields, tennis courts, handball, football—all plowed down.
Aside from the stolen physical fitness, it's just lovely to see these recreationally displaced kids grow up with loads of free time in a neighborhood where they risk big trouble with only one poor choice of a so-called friend.
The Yankees, though, they're nice guys. After all the club did pay for the stadium.
Well...sort of. While the Yankees did pay for the stadium itself, they left residents of the state, and worse, residents of the city who live in the state with an ever growing deficit that currently stands at about $550 million.
About $180 million to replace the parks (sans trees), $25 million to demolish the existing stadium.
And, oh yeah, the Yankees no longer have to pay rent (as they did in old Yankee stadium). So go ahead and tack on about another $150 million. Foregone property tax revenue? Chump change, $44 million.
Good gosh! Forgotten was the one positive for the South Bronx community. The jobs. Indeed, step right up and mustard down the wiener for minimum wage, 20 hours a week, for seven months.
Hey now, wait, what happened to the old Yankee Stadium's wiener slingers?
So who is to blame for this monumental boondoggle?
Remember how much mom paid for that snappy "official MLB merchandise" Yankee jersey? What was it? Like $175? Take a look at the tag.
Ever even heard of Macau?
This article would never have been written if it weren't for my friend, and life long Bronx resident, Goon, and some of his insightful commentary in defense of my article that criticized a dark day in Yankee history... 74 years ago.
When I told him my idea, Goon was especially helpful providing links and a "go get 'em boy" attitude. If I never read his passionate comments, your eyes would not be here.
Here are a few that made me so irate I had to research and write this:
"All you have to do is take a look at the Yankee Stadium crowd to know that NONE of those people live in the neighborhood. They are all from Manhattan, the more exclusive areas of Brooklyn, the suburbs of upstate NY, and from the suburbs of New Jersey."
"They (Yankees) attract a fan base that...lacks any sense of social justice and fair play in the world."
And finally, this almost served as an outline.
"The Yankee organization does nothing for their local community except for displace residents, knock little leaguers out of the borough by bulldozing their long time parks and playing fields to build parking lots for Yankee games, cause massive traffic jams by blocking streets and major roads with an overabundance of police presence and use up all our local police force man power (which further costs Bronx area residents valuable tax dollars that could be spend for more community oriented projects such as health care, child aid, transportation, waste removal, etc.)
"Who isn't readily willing to admit that the Yankees hurt a lot of people involved with the game of baseball and also those who have nothing to do with it."