Friday, November 27, 2009

Volunteer brigade fighting time to save Yankee Stadium Gate 2

The New Haven Register (, Serving New Haven, CT


BEACH: Volunteer brigade fighting time to save Yankee Stadium Gate 2
Friday, November 27, 2009

By Randall Beach

A call has gone out for volunteers who want to help save the endangered gate at the original Yankee Stadium.

There is precious little time to make this happen and overcome the New York City bureaucrats as well as the uncooperative Yankees ownership.

Since I wrote about the effort in this space last June, citizens from many states have joined in the Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium. Although virtually all of the old stadium is doomed to be demolished, these activists still hope to preserve the original Gate 2.

Their plan is to maintain the gate as part of Heritage Field, which will replace the stadium with three ballfields. Those fields are needed because the new Yankee Stadium was built on existing baseball diamonds and other park land.

New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the city intends to knock down the entire old stadium. “Preserving the facade would make it difficult to maximize the park space,” he said.

Moreover, a spokesman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeated other city officials’ claims that restoring the gate would cost $15 million.

But the Save the Gate brigade, including Tim Reid and Mark Costello, believe it can be done for $1 million or less, especially with all of the volunteers stepping up to the plate. They also proposed raising funds through a commemorative brick drive that would place bricks at plazas around the stadium.

Reid recently e-mailed me the announcement of a “Save the Gate volunteer worker program.” It’s designed to eliminate all labor costs associated with saving Gate 2.

“Join with other architects, engineers, construction foremen and laborers, iron workers, cost estimators, lawyers, historians, preservationists, painters, masons, waterproofers, safety and security professionals, insurance and contracts experts, among others, all helping to save this irreplaceable treasure,” said the announcement.

“The more volunteers, the better!” it added.

Anybody who wants to help is asked to contact the Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium by going to If you do this, state your skill or trade and the number of days you can volunteer.

One of those volunteers is historic architect Jeffrey Bianco of Middletown.

Although Bianco told me this week that he has sometimes felt like “a voice crying out in the wilderness,” he now thinks the gate-savers are making solid progress.

“The New York City landmarks officials (the Design Commission) have heard us and agreed they’d like to see a new Parks and Recreation plan that we hope incorporates what we’ve proposed,” Bianco said.

“Knocking it all down is disturbing,” Bianco told me, and I certainly didn’t give him any argument about that. “It cuts against my grain as a Yankee fan and a Bronx native.”

Indeed, Bianco’s first job was selling peanuts at the Stadium “in the (Mickey) Mantle era.”

He said saving the gate “makes complete sense. It’s there already; it’s tremendously important culturally as a landmark.”

Bianco concluded, “The dream is for kids to walk through this gate and feel like Yankees.”

But ideas that make sense don’t always get acted upon by city officials. When the gate savers proposed their volunteer program, Benepe wouldn’t let Bianco and another architect make an on-site visit to evaluate the gate project.

In a follow-up letter to Benepe and other officials, Reid noted the volunteers would “save the city huge time and money.”

Reid has called the original Yankee Stadium “the most historic sports site in American history” and it’s tough to argue with that assessment. Reid wonders why Benepe is “dead-set on destroying all of the old Stadium, no matter what evidence and opportunities compel its preservation and commemoration.”

Reid noted Gate 2 is not scheduled for demolition for more than a month, so there is still time for the on-site visit and putting into gear the volunteer program.

But let’s face it, a month or so isn’t much breathing room when you’re dealing with bureaucrats.

That’s why Reid concluded in his appeal letter: “Time is of the essence.”

Randall Beach can be reached at, or 203-789-5766 203-789-5766.

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