Sunday, October 11, 2009

As Stadium Rises, Neighbors Wait for Replacement Parks

As Stadium Rises, Neighbors Wait for Replacement Parks
February 2, 2009
Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative. It was written by Jose De Jesus, 18, a student at Cardinal Hayes High School.

Macombs Dam Park and most of Mullaly Park, are gone. In their place, stands the nearly completed Yankee Stadium. And although baseball fans are excited about the upcoming season, many Bronx residents wonder when the city will complete the new parks it promised to build in place of the ones it and the Yankees destroyed.
The Harlem River waterfront is one place the city plans to create new parkland. However, construction for the project — originally slated for completion in 2008 — was delayed due to the discovery of a number of oil drums buried under the construction site.
Though a New York Times story on June 25 indicated that the park would be completed in April, the project is now scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009, according to Parks Department spokesperson Jesslyn Moser.
Helen Foster, the only Bronx member of the City Council to vote against the project, is critical of the Parks Department’s performance in finishing the replacement parks (there are eight total).
“Why can’t you build a park as fast as a stadium?” said a Foster spokesperson. Sentiments like this are echoed throughout the Highbridge community surrounding the stadium.
“I like the Yankees just as much as the next guy,” said Sebastian Bernard, a high school senior who lives four blocks away from the site of the new stadium. “But I didn’t want to lose the parks I grew up playing in just so they can get a new stadium.”
Despite the delays, the Harlem River Waterfront Park will bring many recreational opportunities to the community for the first time. ”The park will include 16 tennis courts (12 beneath a bubble during the colder months)… an outdoor classroom, a beach area, barbecue area, passive recreational space, scenic overlooks, and an esplanade to unite the site,” Moser wrote in an e-mail. “[Also] a concessionaire is being sought to operate/manage the bubbled tennis courts, [and there will be] an indoor/outdoor café, and an ice rink.”
Assuming there are no more delays, Bronx residents will have to wait at least another year to practice their backswings or grill burgers at the new park.
Meanwhile, construction for the new stadium is ahead of schedule, with the expected completion date being Feb. 4.
“How is it that they can build a stadium almost overnight, but they can’t finish the parks they promised us without huge delays?” says Blanca Morales, a 42-year-old mother of three who lives in the area. “When it’s something to bring in money from outside the Bronx, it gets completed in a heartbeat, but when it’s a park for the people who live and work in the Bronx, why are delays almost always expected?”
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