Saturday, April 24, 2010
EMERGENCY PETITION FOR PUBLIC REVIEW & HEARING REGARDING PRESERVATION OF OLD YANKEE STADIUM BALCONIES
HONORABLE MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
April 23, 2010
COMMITTEE TO COMMEMORATE OLD YANKEE STADIUM, Petitioners
EMERGENCY PETITION FOR
PUBLIC REVIEW & HEARING
REGARDING PRESERVATION OF
OLD YANKEE STADIUM BALCONIES
On February 22, 2010, the Parks & Recreation Department of New York City ("Parks & Recreation") proposed at Public Hearing before a partial assembly of the Public Design Commission of New York ("Design Commission") the complete destruction of original Old Yankee Stadium (1923-1973), including historic Left Field Gate 2, leaving NOTHING from the original Stadium for the People of New York.
Despite numerous, long-standing, and exhaustively evidenced filings to the City of New York - including to Parks & Recreation, as well as to the Design Commission - proving beyond any doubt the Gate's preeminent historical importance, the Parks proposal to destroy it was approved. Moreover, dramatic, and dramatically-flawed, design changes to the design of "Old Yankee Stadium Park" (formerly referred to as "Heritage Field") were also approved, though they had never been revealed to the public for review and comment. These design change proposals were deliberately held from the public, until hearing when they were very briefly, unexpectedly, and incompletely, revealed.
The City thoroughly disregarded overwhelming evidence proving the importance and originality of Gate 2 and other parts of the stadium, some of it attached hereto. As a consequence, the Parks Department attempted to destroy all of the stadium.
Fortunately, representatives of our Committee received inside intelligence and evidence that parts of the stadium - potentially worth millions of dollars - were in actuality being preserved and stolen, for unlawful personal acquisition and sale - by people and parties officially connected with the demolition, some with likely organized crime connections. Learning and documenting this, the Committee contacted the City, requesting immediate NYPD and FBI intervention and investigation. The FBI was requested because of first hand, photographic, and video, evidence showing the involvement of parties from New Jersey, including some connected to Turner Corporation, and others, who are known to be taking valuable historic material from the stadium.
Thanks to our Committee's surveillance, investigation, and intervention, three (3) historic balconies have been saved from the destruction and dumping they were officially scheduled for. Other historic items from the Stadium - also being stolen (officially dumped) - were also saved. This account of facts has been partially reported, by Larry McShane, in the Daily News, as well as around in many other media venues, around the city, state, nation, and world.
Please see: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/04/10/2010-04-10_3_yankees_balconies_saved_for_park.html
The saving of these historic balconies has rightfully received TREMENDOUS public support and acclamation.
Now that these balconies have been saved, they should be included in Old Yankee Stadium Park, as they easily can be. However, in a shocking decision announced JUST THIS AFTERNOON, the Parks Department - without any explanation or evidence whatsoever - that they will NOT be including these balconies in the park!!! Moreover, they are planning to seek approval of excluding all these balconies - and other original stadium items saved through Committee identification and effort - THIS MONDAY MORNING, WITHOUT A PUBLIC HEARING!!!!!!!!
Because all previous evaluations, meetings and hearings held by City officials were based TOTALLY on the COMPLETELY FALSE CITY PROPOSALS & ARGUMENT that NOTHING from the original stadium could be saved, there MUST - under the letter & spirit of City law, rules & procedure - be a public hearing to determine what can and should now be kept in Old Yankee Stadium Park.
Pivotal parts of the Parks Department proposals were and still are fatally flawed, in that they were and still are based on the false
We, the Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium - consisting of and representing Yankee Stadium experts, fans, and citizens throughout the City, State, Nation, and World - hereby petition for the immediate intervention of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to TEMPORARILY STAY the destruction of Yankee Gate 2, and the implementation of the Parks Department's proposed plan for Old Yankee Stadium Park, until such time that all of the following twenty-six (26) facts, arguments and supporting evidence, are thoroughly and properly admitted, evaluated and adjudicated by the City of New York. [The Design Commission failed and refused to consider all these facts, ruling that their review was and is limited to "aesthetics only" - disregarding therefore the vast majority of facts, evidence, and reasons, compelling preservation of the Gate]:
(1) Original Yankee Stadium is the most historically significant stadium in American history. Indeed, it was widely and expertly regarded the most culturally and architecturally important stadium in the history of the New World and the Western Hemisphere. Not since the Roman Coliseum - on which it was architecturally modeled - has there been a more important or popular stadium. [The Stadium's history is documented by thousands of articles, books, documentaries, films, and video accounts. For a very quick and readily accessible visual overviews, see the Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium's videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZn1qCwMqLQ & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAN7LfBtckw]
(2) Old Yankee Stadium is a New York, national, and international icon. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg prominently attested to the fact that, based on his extensive travels and experience, it is one of New York's top three icons around the world, rivaled only by the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. [See, e.g., Yankee Stadium: The Official Retrospective, 2008]
(3) Old Yankee Stadium was the most important sports venue in American history. It is frequently referred to as a "shrine" and "cathedral" because of its sublime significance in the history of Baseball, most particularly during Baseball's "Golden Age" (1923-1964) - when the New York Yankees were the greatest sports dynasty in world history.
(4) When the City of New York announced the granting of land and funding for building of a new stadium for the Yankee franchise, they promised the People of New York that they would NOT destroy all of Old Yankee Stadium. In fact, they promised to save a vast majority of the original outer "shell" and lower seating area. The Mayor, Parks Department, Economic Development Council - as well as George Steinbrenner and Yankee management - all publicly backed this plan and promise. Attached are two images of the City's original plan
(5) Reneging on their promise, the City of New York abandoned the plan to preserve ANY part of the shell or interior of the original Stadium, instead deciding to allow it to be "deconstructed" and sold off (by the Yankees and Steiner Corporation) to private bidders, leaving NOTHING from the Original Stadium on the historic site, nor anything from it for the People of New York.
(6) Simultaneously, the City showered the Yankee franchise with nearly 2 Billion dollars, claiming it had no money whatsoever to save any part of the original Stadium. [See, e.g., http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/oconnor/2006-08-16-oconnor-yankee-stadium_x.htm]
(7) When challenged on this stunning reversal by the City, they claimed - largely through Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe - expressly and quite erroneously claimed that nothing from the Original Stadium survived the 1970's renovation - only "some steel ... and some of the bricks (sic)."
(9) Commissioner Benepe was immediately and emphatically criticized for his erroneous conclusions leading to his deision to destroy all of the Original Stadium. [See, e.g.,
(10) In order to help preserve part of the Original Stadium, expert, fans, and citizens from around the city, state, and nation, provided overwhelming evidence to Commissioner Benepe that his understanding and decision to destroy all of the Original Stadium was fatally flawed by a mis/dis evaluation of the Stadium's architectural history. He has received hundreds of communications attesting to this fact, but has disregarded them all, obdurately insisting that nothing was original, and nothing original would be saved.
(11) Many of the expert communications and evidential submissions Mr. Benepe has received - from architects, historians, public advocacy groups included - attested to the overwhelming originality of Gate 2, and its perfect location for preservation within the proposed new park, now known as "Old Yankee Stadium Park." The Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium has been one of those groups. See, e.g.,
(11) To support this incorrect argument and position, against the overwhelming weight of expert findings and evidence, the Commissioner then falsely claimed that the City's Landmark Preservation Commission (the "LPC") had already investigated and ruled that Gate 2 was not original or worthy of preservation. Despite repeated requests for the records on which Mr. Benepe based his decision to tear down the gate, the Parks Department has not (and can not) produce any such LPC findings or rulings. Multiple members of our Committee HAVE reviewed the entire LPC case file, and there are NO records whatsoever regarding Gate 2.
(12) Thus, the basis of the Parks Department's decision to tear down Gate 2 is thoroughly erroneous, as proved over and over. In truth, Gate 2 is dramatically original, up to 95% so, including its recently revealed foundation and interior, with only a small portion of its upper face renovated in the 1970's (IN COMPLETE ARCHITECTURAL COMPORT WITH THE ORIGINAL 1920's DESIGN & APPEARANCE.)
(13) Gate 2 is so original in design and appearance, in fact, that it is the only existing model for the Official Logo of Old Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees' commemorative sleeve emblem, attached hereto.
(14) Official Bronx County Historian has also repeatedly advised Mr. Benepe and the Parks Department (along with numerous top Yankee Stadium historians and historical architects) that the Gate is original and should be reserved. He, too - along with numerous other top Yankee Stadium historians and historic architects - was completely disregarded. See, e.g.,
(15) In addition to calling for the preservation of the Gate, Professor Ultan was also critical of Parks' "historically-disconnected" proposal for the new park, sagely observing "What's missing from the park plan is the architecture of the stadium itself." Prominent architectural critic and National Trust for Historic Preservation Board Member, Paul Goldberger, American Institute of Architect New York President Rick Bell, former LPC Chairperson Sherida Bell, and other experts, panned the plan as well. See,
(16) Past President of the Connecticut AIA, a former Bronx resident and expert on Yankee Stadium, Jeffrey Bianco, also criticized the plan, and called for preservation of the Gate, as have Baseball, Yankee and Yankee Stadium historians and authors, Paul Doherty, Bill Jenkinson, Mike Wagner, Mark Healey, and Harry Swanson, among many others. Listen, e.g., to:
See, also, the endorsements of Paul Doherty, Michael Wagner, and Brad Turnow, HistoryOfTheYankees.com - all on file with the Design Commission.
(17) The Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium successfully presented our case to the Design Commission for preserving Gate 2 on October 26, leading the Commission also to recognize and reject the profound flaws in the Parks Department's preliminary plan. Our written submission, with extensive evidential references, is below, followed by a news account of the Commission's rejection.
(18) At this Hearing the Parks Department claimed saving the Gate would cost $10 Million dollars, because - still wrongly claiming - it was "not original." After we revealed a Legacy Bricks plan that could raise such funds - not withstanding emphatic and well-evidenced proof that such an estimate was extravagantly high ("by an order of magnitude or two") - the Department than increased its estimate to over $15 Million, again without any evidence or explanation whatsoever.
Notably, the estimate does not include any savings that would result from not having to demolish and remove the gate from the site where it presently stands.
(19) Subsequently, after extensive Freedom of Information (FOIL) requests (on file with Parks Department), our Committee learned that parks was basing this amount on an unsigned, unattributed, "summary cost estimate." When we pressed for further records to explain what every expert (architects, certified construction cost estimator, government contract experts, construction foremen, iron workers, et al) unanimously found an outrageous, totally unfounded, and even "laughable" estimate, we were told by Parks lawyers that there were none - no date, no drawings, no data - not even the name, title, experience, or credentials of who performed the alleged estimate, nothing. None were provided to the Design Commission, either.
(20) To help resolve the order of magnitude(s) difference between the Parks Departments cost estimate and those from all of our experts, we repeatedly requested (more than a dozen times) to perform a free-of-charge architectural, structural, and cost, evaluation, of the Gate, by top experts, all experienced and bonded for construction site work. [See Parks Department and City records] Each and every time our requests were either totally ignored, or totally rejected, falsely claiming security and safety prohibitions - while unbonded construction worker girlfriends, baseball players, celebrities, film crews, reporters, etc., visited every part of the construction site.
In contrast, our experts, all bonded and extensively experienced for work on construction sites were all denied access - to the most safe and secure area of the stadium site, indeed one that could even be visited from its outside sidewalk entrance.
(21) As one example of this outrageous obstruction, please see the attached correspondence and speech of architect and Yankee Stadium historian, Philip J. Reina, who our Committee presented to the Parks Department as a free-of-charge independent Gate evaluator.
The Parks Department denied Mr. Reina access for an independent review, and even just the drawings used to conduct the City's so-called cost estimate, because, according to them, IT WOULD POSE A TERRORIST THREAT to the City of New York, if were to do so! [Official reason given directly to Mr. Reina by high ranking Parks Official Frank McCue, on Feb 18, 2010, for withholding stadium drawings.] (Notwithstanding that the Stadium is utterly empty and slated for complete destruction within a month's time - by the City itself - not terrorists.)
This is how absurdly far the Parks Department has gone to deny an independent cost evaluation for preserving Gate 2.
(22) To further address the alleged cost concern, our Committee, along with HistoryOfTheYankees.com, voluntarily consulted with leading "legacy brick" authorities, most notably the company which did the extremely financially and aesthetically successful and well-received commemorative brick plazas and walkways at Citifield, and many other major sports venues around the country. See, e.g.: http://ccoys.blogspot.com/2009/11/save-gate-commemorative-brick-drive.html. This program could raise over $10 Million dollars, simultaneously enhancing the park's appeal and tourism, and consequently much-needed, year-round revenue for the Yankee Stadium neighborhood. We offered our full and free-of-charge help to make this "SAVE THE GATE COMMEMORATIVE BRICK DRIVE" a major success. Additionally, we put the company who did "Fanwalk" for the Mets directly in touch with the Parks Department.
(21) Despite this aesthetically beautiful, widely-praised and very lucrative, funding opportunity, Parks rejected it because - contrary to all well-established practices and experience at many hundreds of similar sites around the world - "the bricks will wear down" and people will inscribe the bricks with " 'I Hate the Yankees' and things like that." [Parks Deputy Chief of Staff Rebecca Smith, speaking officially for Commissioner Benepe,, at Parks Headquarters, on behalf of the Department on February 1, at a meeting with our Committee.]
(21) Another of our Committee's other cost-saving proposal - the SAVE THE GATE VOLUNTEER WORKER PROGRAM - was unceremoniously shot down by Parks, at that same meeting [February 1, 2010, at the Arsenal, in Central Park] Parks officials informed us that "the unions will never allow us to use volunteer workers." This unattributed charge against the union was not evidenced. In fact, FOIL requests of Parks for any evidence for such a claim reveal that it can not be backed up. It's erroneous and derogatory speculation. Moreover, "the unions" will not "lose" or "gain" any work if the City tears down the Gate. Indeed, many relevant union workers - as well as professionals - are active supporters of all our efforts, including the Volunteer Worker Program, which would eliminate virtually all labor costs associated with gate Preservation.
Further, this "reason" for rejecting such a beneficial program flies right in the face of City volunteer philosophies and programs:
There would be no shortage of volunteers for saving the Gate.
(22) Revealing further error and bullheadedness behind the Department's decision to destroy the Gate (no matter what facts, evidence and reasoning compel its preservation), they also argued that our proposed design "would be an eyesore." This against all independent expert and objective evidence, including universal popular acclaim for the magnificent aesthetics of our proposed Gate monument. See, e.g., the images of the proposal linked below, as well as our 3d video of it - WHICH WE WERE NOT PERMITTED TO SHOW AT THE DESIGN COMMISSION' PUBLIC HEARING - thereby depriving the Commission of a major piece of aesthetic evidence.
(23) Parks also argues that preserving the Gate would take too long. This argument, at best, stems from a severely poor and inaccurate estimate of the Gate's well-documented originality - as well as from the above-cited half-page cost-estimate which wrongly implies the need for far more extensive work than truly necessary, as also does their erroneous argument that huge trusses and pilings are required to preserve the Gate - another claim emphatically rejected by independent construction experts. Furthermore, it completely disregard the fact that the new park will not be opening for almost two years, and all independent experts estimate only a couple of months work, at very most, to save the Gate.
(24) Likewise, the argument that the gate will take up too much space is completely wrong. It will take up only less than 1% of the new park's square footage, in a location where it will not interfere whatsoever with park activities or design.
(25) At Parks Headquarters, Parks officials said their decision was also based on their beliefs that the Gate would "cast big shadows" and "suck up air." No evidence was presented or can be presented for such wild conclusions. First of all the fact that New Yankee Stadium is east of the gate obviates any concerns of morning "shadows", and its location on the extreme east side of the new park eliminates afternoon shadows. In between obviously creates no deleterious shadows, either.
As for "sucking up air", that's unsubstantiated nonsense also.
These headstrong arguments also ignore the fact that the original City plan include 360 degrees of buildings around the park. See attached image of plan with outer shell and extensive seating.
(26) Finally, after publicly making it so well known how closely they've worked the Yankees on all matters pertaining to the new park, the Parks Department have repeatedly indicated that they were motivated to destroy all of Original Yankee Stadium because "the Yankees don't want to save any part of it, so why should we." [Deputy Director Rebecca Smith, February 1, 2010, at The Arsenal meeting to members of the Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium and HistoryOfTheYankees.com]
Equally outrageous and destructive was the very public pronouncement shocking by Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte, at the Community Board 4 Meeting on February 18, that "the Yankees want you to go across the street to the new Stadium, they don't want to save anything from the Old Stadium ... The Gate will be gone." He also dramatically (mis/dis)informed the audience of mostly local Bronx residents that Gate 2 was ruled non-original [by the LPC.] with complete certitude that Gate 2 was not original and the (LPC) - thereby fomenting ill-informed local opposition to saving it.
The Design Commission also expressed their belief that the Yankees were against saving any part of the Old Stadium. [For example, at the Public Hearing of October 26, 2010.]
These beliefs, motivations, and pronouncements have made it impossible to get a fair hearing to save a treasure that rightfully belongs to the People of New York, not the Yankees, who already have been generously given a new stadium, and rights to sell treasures of the Old Stadium, at very great expense to the People of New York. If the Steinbrenner-owned Yankees truly don't want to save any part of the Original (pre-Steinbrenner) Stadium, as it appears from their lack of visible support, public reports by the Parks Department, that should have had absolutely no bearing or influence on the City's decision.
Please also see the Written Submission and Speech of the Committee to Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium, to the Design Commission, dated and submitted, respectively, on February 18 and 22, 2010.
On the basis of these twenty-six (26) facts, reasons, and supporting evidence - separately and collectively - the Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium requests an immediate
A FULL PUBLIC REVIEW AND HEARING, INCLUDING
A FULL REVIEW BY PUBLIC DESIGN COMMISSION OF NEW YORK
TO PRESERVE THE THREE (3) HISTORIC BALCONIES FROM
OLD YANKEE STADIUM
AS WELL AS MAYORAL PROTECTION AGAINST THE SALE OR DESTRUCTION OF THESE BALCONIES AND OTHER PRESERVED ITEMS (INCLUDING THE "OLD PLAYERS' ENTRANCE", AND ARCHED VENTS) FROM any sale, theft, distribution, deconstruction, demolition, or structural compromise, until all of the above is fully and properly heard, investigated, and adjudicated, in the setting of a PUBLIC HEARING!
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE.
Respectfully submitted to the Honorable Mayor Michael Bloomberg, via Mayoral Attorney William Heinzen, the Public Design Commission, and the Parks Department, with the request that the Mayor's Office and Mayor be forwarded this EMERGENCY PETITION immediately upon its receipt:
Tim Reid, on behalf of
The Committee to Commemorate Old Yankee Stadium