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Broken Promises



Broken Promises:

The City’s Replacement Park Scheme For

The New Yankee Stadium Project



A Report By:




Broken Promises:


The City’s Replacement Park Scheme For

The New Yankee Stadium Project


A Report By:

NYC Park Advocates



Author/Editor                                                             Co – Author

Geoffrey Croft, President                                           Lukas Herbert, AICP

NYC Park Advocates                                                 Former member of Bronx Community Board 4




Cover Pictures:


(Top) Macombs Dam Park (August 16, 2006) Employees from Bartlett Tree Experts destroy the first of hundreds of mature trees in this asthma ridden community.  The company would go on to kill 70 percent of the neighborhood's mature trees, a very different mission than the claim on its Website: "Bartlett Tree Experts protects the health, beauty, and value of one of the most important natural resources on earth, your trees."


(Bottom) Macombs Dam Park (November 2, 2007) Last licks. Eleven-year-old Lamont Ray from Highbridge takes his cuts on the day the city officially closed the last of the park's 110-year-old active recreation parkland. The city is building a two-story parking garage in its place for the new Yankee Stadium (construction cranes working on the new ballpark can be seen in the background). "If I had enough money, I would buy it from them so they wouldn't do it," said Lamont. When asked what was the saddest part of the park being taken away, he replied, "All the memories that's in it."



Passages from Issues And Concerns On The Proposed Parkland Conversion For the Yankee Stadium Project As it Applies To the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act Of 1965 And the National Environmental Policy Act (August 14, 2006) by Lukas Herbert, Geoffrey Croft, and Jeffery S. Baker.


NYCPA would like to thank Matthew Washington, Eric John Faltraco, Gerry Kelly, Patrick Arden. This report is dedicated to the community around Yankee stadium and to all the people this irresponsible plan affects.  No community should ever have to endure this.


NYC Park Advocates, Inc., is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks, restoring public funding, increasing public recreation programs, expanding open space and accessibility, and achieving the equitable distribution of these vital services in New York City. We are the only advocacy group dedicated to City, State and Federal parkland in New York City. For more information, please visit us at





©2008 NYC Park Advocates/All Rights Reserved



"Parks - Are we losing important green space including parks and playgrounds? NO. The new stadium project will actually create more acres of parkland than currently exist including a new six-acre park on the Harlem River, a track, tennis courts, racquetball courts, basketball courts, a soccer field and an ice skating  rink." 


Excerpt from a mailer paid for by the New York Yankees community relations department and sent to neighborhood residents in the Bronx during the "public review" period of the Yankee Stadium ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application to construct the new Yankee Stadium on public parkland.




In June 2005, without a single public hearing and over the course of just eight days, City and State elected officials alienated 25.3 acres of historic South Bronx parkland to allow the New York Yankees to build a new stadium. As part of this action, the Bloomberg and Pataki administrations and the Yankees organization repeatedly promised the community that not only would the parks be replaced but even more parkland would be provided in return.  However, a close examination reveals that just 21.78 of the 25.3 acres are actually being replaced, resulting in a net loss of nearly 4 acres. Whenever this deficiently has been exposed,  the City's Department of Parks and Recreation has constantly altered the numbers to create a false impression.   Of the replacement park acreage the city now claims, 58% (12.5 acres) already existed as either mapped parkland or, in one case, as a school yard. Also lost is the long promised dedicated funding desperately needed to maintain the replacement parks. And that's only the beginning of the broken promises.  


Various State and Federal laws pertaining to the alienation and conversion of municipal parkland to non-park uses require that new parkland acting as a replacement must be of equivalent or greater value. For a variety of reasons, the local community has long argued that the replacement parks fail to meet the criteria, and that they fail to provide a similar level of usefulness or location. The city has attempted to pass off a disparate collection of parcels as "replacements," including building replacement parkland on top of existing parkland.  Many of these concerns can be summarized as follows:


  • The plan calls for replacing large linear parks that provided active recreation with smaller park features spread out in many areas and over wider distances – up to 1.4 miles away – some on top of parking garages. 
  • More than half of the replacement parkland the City is relying on to meet its obligation has existed as mapped parkland that the public has used for decades. 
  • Former park amenities such as a heavily used natural turf ballfield and an asphalt ballfield are not being replaced with similar active recreation facilities. In the case of the asphalt ballfield, the City has simply refused to acknowledge its recreational use.
  • Parkland acreage previously used for active recreation is being replaced, in part, by a concrete pedestrian walkway. Some of the replacement acreage is also passive park acreage from other projects that were either promised under other park plans or previously unrelated to the stadium project.  
  • The replacement plan substitutes parkland that was free and open to the public with a significantly larger pay-to-play tennis concession  –  in a flood zone.


The replacement parkland plan also carries significant environmental and public health impacts. The project destroyed 70% of the community's mature trees, and aims to convert much of the previous parkland's natural features such as grass into artificial and impervious surfaces. The health benefits provided from the previous natural park features were numerous and critical to the well-being and safety of a community that suffers from the highest asthma rates in the country. As noted in the project's environmental impact statement (EIS), the health benefits from the replacement trees alone won't be realized for decades, if ever.




“Respondents contend that there is no irreparable harm, because the loss of the parkland is only temporary, there will be a net gain of 2.14 acres of unencumbered parkland…” (Judge Cahn’s decision, p. 17, August 15, 2006)


The new Yankee Stadium project involved the taking of 25.3 acres of public parkland in John Mullaly and Macombs Dam parks to allow the project to proceed as proposed by both the New York Yankees and the City of New York.  The alienated parkland was part of a linear park system located in the poorest Congressional district in the nation. Most of this parkland had been heavily used for active recreation, including baseball and soccer fields, basketball, tennis and handball courts – some for more than 109 years.


Throughout the public review of the project, the City of New York/Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the lead agency conducting the review, went to great lengths to present the parkland alienation and replacement scheme in a way that made it appear as if there would be a net increase in parkland for the affected community. The DPR did this by attempting to confuse the public by comparing parkland to “recreational facilities.”  While the environmental impact statement (EIS) showed that the new stadium and three new garages would occupy 25.3 acres of existing parkland, the documents went on to say that 2.89 acres did not have any existing recreational facilities.  Therefore, a figure of 22.4 acres of “recreational facilities” was used to compare against replacement “recreational facilities,” not all of which was to be parkland.  If the analysis had instead been done as a comparison of usable parkland to usable parkland, or if it had accurately described the uses of the 2.89 acre parkland, a nearly 4 acre deficiency would have been the result.  This is what the local community is facing today – a nearly 4 acre loss of parkland, which was not considered in the environmental review, and is continuing to be ignored today. This is particularly abhorrent considering the location, the South Bronx.


The recreational uses of the 2.89-acre parcel that the DPR chose to omit from the environmental review is the largest piece of the puzzle created by an environmental review process meant to deceive the public. This DPR property was an asphalt baseball field that the DPR had also allowed to be used for stadium parking a few hours a day during the baseball season.  In order to get its replacement scheme to add up, the City ignored its chain-link backstop, painted bases, foul-lines and decades of both passive and active recreational uses by the community, including neighborhood children. (One of the authors of this report hit his first punch-ball grand slam there when he was 8 years old). The City removed it from their parkland replacement analysis, claiming that it was not a “recreational facility.”  However, the fact that the site was built and used as baseball field – and was also used for skating, bicycle riding and cook-outs for decades, among many other uses - indicates otherwise.


“Its disgraceful. They lie up and down, ” said Anita Antonetty, a Highbridge resident for 39 years and the former Secretary of  Bronx Community Board 4. “All kinds of ball games were played in there, soccer, football, whoever needed a space, it was used as its original intention was, as a park, not a parking lot. The backstop was there forever. It was a neighborhood baseball field. In the city’s mind its primary purpose was parking for the Yankees. They never came to the neighborhood to even see, bothered to see, how we were using the space, or how we were using any of the spaces. They thought that because they abandoned Macombs Dam Park and not done any maintenance that it wasn’t being used, but it was, every inch of it was being used. They never replaced it anywhere else.” 







In Spring 2010, this site will become parking lot C, a 5 story, 994 space parking garage.  While the original Yankee Stadium proposal showed tennis courts on the roof of this new garage (which would then be mapped as parkland), the proposal was revised in the final EIS “in response to comments on the draft EIS indicating a desire for more ballfields and contiguous park area.” Remarkably, the parking garage lost its proposed rooftop recreational facilities as part of this ironic project revision that was supposed to be addressing community outrage.  Many in the community speculated this to be a punishment for the local Community Board overwhelmingly rejecting the proposed Yankee Stadium project and the campaign by local residents to save the parks from destruction. A rooftop ice skating rink was also proposed and even highlighted in NY Yankee promotional materials.  In the end,  the Bloomberg administration simply decided this poor community was not worth spending the extra money on. The lack of political will required to hold the city accountable for this 2.89 acres and other lost recreation space assured that the city did not have to make up for what was taken way.



The environmental review documentation also presented 2 parcels of land totaling 1.01 acres as replacement “recreational facilities” that were not to be mapped as parkland.  This is probably because the parcels included 0.3 acres of landscaping around a 5-story parking structure and 0.71 acres of “esplanade” winding through a parking lot, a portion of which would be adjacent to the Harlem River. The fact that these parcels would not be mapped as parkland is indicative of their limited usefulness as recreational facilities, yet they were counted as replacements anyway.

Taking the above two factors into account, NYC Park Advocates (NYCPA) calculated the parkland impact on the local community as shown in the table below.  This table shows the impact after the recreation space atop the proposed Parking Garage C was removed from the proposal.








Park facility






Macombs Dam Park (northern portion)


Track, soccer field, ballfield

Macombs Dam Park (southern portion)


Ballfields, basketball, handball

Macombs Dam Park (southeast portion)


Asphalt ballfield/parking

John Mullaly Park

(southern portion)


Tennis courts, handball













Replacement parks






"Park" on top of "Parking Garage A"


Track, soccer field, basketball, handball, playground

Ruppert Plaza


Landscaped pedestrian concrete walkway



"Heritage Field"


3 Ballfields




"Passive Park #1" on 157th St


Skate Park



"Passive Park #2" on 157th St





Tennis Concession


Tennis courts











The chart above, which depicted the Yankee Stadium proposal at the end of its environmental review and its subsequent approval, indicates a net loss of 3.53 acres of parkland for the local community. As can be seen in the table above, the DPR omitted the 2.89 acre asphalt ballfield from any parkland replacement analysis, though it was mapped as parkland, because they claimed it contained no recreational facilities.  They also included a landscaped pedestrian walkway - Ruppert Plaza (1.13 acres), the exiting Ruppert Place -  towards replacement parkland.  The also included a 0.24 acre vest pocket park, which for decades has been used for baseball and basketball when it was not being used as surface parking during the baseball season.    


While NYCPA and other community leaders called out this deficiency to DPR – the lead agency responsible for the environmental review – DPR closed the review without recognizing the deficiency in its findings.  This was clearly a breach of DPR’s obligation under the State and City Environmental Quality Review procedures to take a hard and accurate look at the environmental impacts of the project. The resulting decision to allow the project to be built as proposed was an irresponsible abuse of the environmental review procedures, and cost one of the city’s poorest communities its sorely needed parkland.



Soon after the destruction of the neighborhood parks began, and NYCPA again started to publicly bring to light the fact that the City was not even matching the amount of park acres taken for the project, the DPR began to alter their numbers in a desperate attempt not only to hide the deficiency but to give the impression that the community was getting far more. For nearly two years, they have attempted to credit numerous types of replacement facilities towards the replacement parks owed to the local community by claiming projects unrelated to the Yankee Stadium project and never mentioned it its environmental review. The city has repeatedly attempted to hide these inclusions when publicly challenged.  Examples of this include the use of existing acreage at the West Bronx Recreation Center (located 1.4 miles away) and the existing school yard of P.S 29 in the Melrose section of the Bronx built in 1962 (located 1 mile away) as "replacement parks.” Combined, these two existing properties add up to 3.4 acres, enough to bring the supposed “replacement” acreage up to 27.6 acres, if you accept the DPR’s calculations, and even above the 25.3 acres of parkland the community actually lost.  


But, the replacement acreage as represented by the City has varied significantly. At various times, the numbers have been altered seemingly at will. The DPR has gone on record claiming their replacement plan consisted of increases of 2.14 acres (p. 3, 17 Judge Herman Cahn’s decision August 15, 2006); 7 acres (September 10, 2007, WNBC Gabe Pressman);  6, 2.5, and 5.16 acres (Metro, February 23, 2006, March 21, 2006, and October 29, 2007, respectively); 5.8 acres (Daily News, February 14, 2008). And the numbers continue to change. On  April 17, 2008, the purported gain was 5.58 acres (DPR  Media Advisory). The similarity with all of these varying claims. however, is that the City has seemingly adopted a strategy of claiming the building of any new parkland, park improvement, or public schoolyard improvement paid with funds from the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as "Replacement Parks" for the Yankee Stadium project - regardless of the land's proximity to the alienated park or its prior use.  The West Bronx Recreation Center and the P.S. 29 school yard projects claimed by DPR as “replacements” are actually rehabilitations of existing facilities and are not in the geographic area affected by the Yankee Stadium parkland alienation, contrary to repeated claims made by the Bloomberg administration.




A November 14, 2007, DPR media advisory headline proclaimed, "PARKS BREAKS GROUND ON A YANKEE REPLACEMENT BALLFIELD AT WEST BRONX  RECREATION CENTER." The advisory went on to state, "This project involves replacing ballfields that were displaced when construction of the new Yankee Stadium began."

"Bit by bit we are keeping the promises of building the replacement parks," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said at the groundbreaking ceremony. 






However, within hours of a NYCPA representative appearing on television ( after the ceremony to criticize the DPR’s continued attempts to inappropriately claim these  projects as Yankee "replacements," the DPR altered its spin. The media advisory was pulled from the DPR’s Web site, its headline was rewritten, and all references to this parkland being claimed as Yankee replacement parks were removed. After the NY1 broadcast aired, a DPR spokesperson tried to further cover their tracks, requesting that the TV station remove all references to replacement parks from their story as the  station’s Web site permanently archives aired stories. NY1 did not comply.


A few days later on November 20, a DPR spokeswoman told a Daily News reporter they had "made a mistake" in including this project as replacement parks for the stadium.  The DPR spokeswoman provided a revised chart to the media in which the West Bronx Recreation Center ballfield and the school yard at P.S. 29 were now listed as "Additional (not Replacement) Permanent Ballfields*  +3.14 acres" (DPR emphasis) on the DPR’s Yankee Stadium parkland replacement table.  “Neither site is counted as ‘replacement’ parkland,” the DPR ‘s Jama Adams wrote in a November 20, 2007, e-mail.


The city's newly minted brush with accuracy and honesty was short-lived.





November 14, 2007

No. 183






DATE:                       Thursday, November 15, 2007


TIME:                        10:30 a.m. (rain or shine)


LOCATION:             West Bronx Recreation Center

                                    1527 Jessup Avenue (at 172nd Street/Cross Bronx Expressway)

                                    The Bronx


EVENT &                 

PHOTO-OP:              Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Council Member Helen Diane Foster, Assembly Member Luis M. Diaz, and students from C.S. 199 and the Seventh Day Adventist School will break ground a new $2.9 million synthetic turf soccer/softball field, as well as new bleachers, a water fountain, a misting station, trees, shrubs, walkways, fencing, storage, and a roadway turnaround. 


DETAILS:                 Previously unavailable to the public, this field is funded by the City as part of the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Project, a plan to bring new jobs, alternate transportation opportunities, and new parkland to the South Bronx.  This project involves replacing ballfields that were displaced when construction of the new Yankee Stadium began.  The West Bronx Recreation field converts an underutilized outdoor space into active parkland and will be a permanent amenity for the community.  The field is expected to be completed next spring.




Contact:                      Warner Johnston / Jesslyn Tiao          



(Above) This November 14, 2007, Media Advisory issued by the DPR calls a new ballfield on existing park land at the West Bronx Recreation Center a “replacement” for the recreational facilities taken by the Yankee Stadium project.  The West Bronx Recreation Center is a park facility located 1.4 miles away from the ballfields destroyed by the new Yankee Stadium and was never mentioned in any project documents. (Below) Altered Media Advisory.  A few hours after publicly exposing this attempted scheme by the City, the DPR removed all references to the project being counted as replacement facilities for parkland lost to the Yankee stadium construction. However, this did not last. A short time later the City once again began to include them as replacement facilities.



Media Advisories  


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No. 183

Parks Breaks Ground On New Ballfield At West Bronx Recreation Center

DATE: Thursday, November 15th, 2007

TIME: 10:30 a.m. (rain or shine)

LOCATION: West Bronx Recreation Center/ 1527 Jessup Avenue (at 172nd Street/Cross Bronx Expressway)/The Bronx

EVENT & PHOTO-OP: Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Council Member Helen Diane Foster, Assembly Member Luis M. Diaz, and students from C.S. 199 and the Seventh Day Adventist School will break ground a new $2.9 million synthetic turf soccer/softball field, as well as new bleachers, a water fountain, a misting station, trees, shrubs, walkways, fencing, storage, and a roadway turnaround.

DETAILS: Previously unavailable to the public, this field is funded by the City as part of the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Project, a plan to bring new jobs, alternate transportation opportunities, and new parkland to the South Bronx. The West Bronx Recreation field converts an underutilized outdoor space into active parkland and will be a permanent amenity for the community. The field is expected to be completed next spring.

CONTACT: Warner Johnston / Jesslyn Tiao

Related Press Release:

Parks Breaks Ground On New Ballfield At West Bronx Recreation Center
































































Several weeks later in a January 29, 2008, Daily News op-ed piece, Geoffrey Croft of NYCPA highlighted the discrepancies involving this flawed parkland replacement scheme.  Two weeks later, on February 12, DPR Commissioner Adrian Benepe responded with his own column. Choosing to overlook the irrefutable evidence presented by the NYCPA op-ed, and without providing any proof  to back up his claim, Commissioner Benepe asserted that NYCPA’s "facts were wrong" and that Geoffrey Croft "incorrectly claimed" that the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Project would result in "a net loss of nearly 4 acres" of parkland.  Ignoring the loss of the 2.9-acre asphalt ballfield, he stated that the project took "22.42 acres of displaced recreational space" (instead of 25.3 acres) and was "being replaced with 24.56 acres of replacement recreational facilities.”  He then went on to resort back to including the two ballfields at  West Bronx Recreation Center and P.S 29, despite the previous statements of the DPR press office that counting those facilities as replacements was a “mistake.” When you include these two projects, Mr. Benepe wrote, the replacement parks add up to a "net increase of 5.28 acres of recreational space."  Apparently the temptation was too great.  


Unfortunately, the misrepresentations did not end there.  In March 2008, the DPR posted new project maps on their Web site associated with the Yankee development project. In six separate maps they used the phrase “Replacement Ballfields” next to the West Bronx Recreation Center and P.S. 29 school yard.



On April 17, 2008, the DPR released a Media Advisory for the ribbon cutting at P.S. 29, and the City once again included it with the Yankee project.


“Parks Cuts the Ribbon on the First Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Park,”  the headline stated. “The $2.4 million playground and ballfield renovation marks the first completed permanent project associated with the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Project.”  However, when confronted by reporters at the P.S. 29 groundbreaking, Commissioner Benepe denied they were counting these as replacements to make up for parkland lost to build the new Yankee Stadium.


“We’re not counting it as new,” Mr. Benepe told NY 1. “This is not part of the replacement. This is above and beyond. The replacement is all happening near Yankee Stadium. This is just a  bonus.”  (


The misinformation contained in the project maps remained on the agency’s Web site however until May 14, when the New York Times sent over a copy of this report to the DPR for comment. Within hours the DPR once again tried to tamper with evidence of their deceit,  by erasing these false claims from their Web site. "Replacement Ballfields" has now been substituted with the phrase "Permanent Ballfields." Only when caught does the agency tell the truth – and then only momentarily. Apparently the Bloomberg administration approves of this embarrassing behavior, as they have repeatedly condoned it.


Commissioner Benepe’s continued misstatements of the facts are extremely disingenuous to the residents of one of the poorest communities in the city – people who depended on their park facilities to function as their “back yard,” since they had no other respite from the urban environment. The facts clearly show that the community has received a net loss of parkland because of this project.  No amount of spin or outright misrepresentation of the facts will change that reality. The DPR commissioner is able to get away with this because the City’s elected officials refuse to demand accountability. 


(Left) March 2008. The Department of Parks and Recreation posted new project maps on their Web site, including the one shown here. This map demonstrates how the City has attempted to pass off existing parkland – the West Bronx Recreation Center and a schoolyard at P.S. 29 built in 1962 – as "replacement" facilities for the lost acreage at Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks. In six different maps, the words "Replacement Ballfields" were placed next to the West Bronx Recreation Center and P.S. 29 schoolyard. At the P.S. 29 groundbreaking on April 18, DPR distributed a press release headlined, "Parks cuts the ribbon on the first Yankee Stadium redevelopment park." But when confronted by reporters at the ceremony, Commissioner Adrian Benepe denied the schoolyard and rec center ballfields were being counted as replacements.


(Right) May 14, 2008. Another Act of Desperation/Rewriting History. Within hours of the New York Times sending this report to the Parks Department for comment, the DPR once again tried to tamper with evidence of their deceit, erasing false claims from their Web site. "Replacement Ballfields" has now been substituted with the phrase "Permanent Ballfields." Only when caught does the agency tell the truth – and then only momentarily. Apparently the Bloomberg administration approves of this embarrassing behavior, as they have repeatedly condoned it. Ponzi schemes are supposed to be illegal.


Source: NYCDPR  Macombs Dam Park Redevelopment Plan





(Macombs Dam Park -  July 2006)  Maintenance Funds Not Needed? Children of Mexican descent play in garbage while their parents picnic nearby a few weeks before the parks were destroyed. According to the Bronx borough president's office, the new parks to be built around Yankee Stadium didn't need the dedicated maintenance dollars set aside by the team because parks upkeep is "already getting done" by the city. Now thanks to Bronx elected officials, the funding long promised for maintenance of the replacement parks has been diverted, and all money in the Community Benefits Program can be spent in any part of the Bronx. Many local residents have labeled the CPB a "slush fund."





"Under the team's proposal, the city would build the new parks at an estimated cost of $50 million, with the team providing an annual comprehensive maintenance fund."  -  NY Times, Sept 5, 2004.


The comprehensive maintenance fund long promised for the replacement parks never materialized. As part of the original deal, the Yankees had agreed to provide dedicated maintenance funds annually through 2046 to support the new parks being built as part of the stadium project. Only $100,000, however, made it into the final draft of the Community Benefits Program (CBP), a contract  between the team and Bronx elected officials. (The pact couldn’t be called a Community Benefits Agreement – CBA – because the community did not participate in its formation.)  By the time the agreement was hastily signed on the day of the City Council vote, the politicians had removed all of the money earmarked for the parks. Remarkably these funds, as small as they were, represented the only money specifically earmarked for the impacted area, and the only money dedicated to the maintenance of these historically deprived South Bronx parks. This is especially ironic considering the entire deal was made possible only through the destruction of the parkland. 


The final agreement removed the $100,000 earmarked for the new parks and merged it with a $700,000 fund that the Bronx elected officials had set up to dole out to non-profit groups borough-wide. The politicians made sure that not one penny of the money has to be spent anywhere near the affected community.  


In September, Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrión, Jr. told reporter Bill Egbert of the NY Daily News in an unpublished interview that ongoing maintenance for the new parks would be the responsibility of the DPR and that the money originally allocated in the CBP for park maintenance would be better spent going to community non-profits. “The thinking was, if this is a city park and the City is going to take care of it, instead of putting money into that when it’s already getting done, take the money —$100,000 — and put it into the big fund for community programming, little leagues, whatever the community wants,” Carrion spokesperson Anne Fenton told Metro's Patrick Arden. (Nov 16, 2006) 


This comment is particularly disturbing considering the long history of little funding for the care of these parks and the desperate need for dedicated full-time maintenance personnel, especially in the Bronx. The deplorable conditions of Mullaly and Macombs Dam parks should come as no surprise. According to DPR records of dedicated fixed-post staffing obtained by NYCPA through a Freedom of Information Law request,  the parks’ 30 combined acres did not have a single dedicated full-time worker assigned as of October 2006. The parks did not have a single gardener, maintenance worker, climber and pruner, or a host of other skilled workers needed. Neither did the entire park district in that part of the Bronx. In fact, records revealed that the entire Park District 4 had only 11 full-time workers for more than 141 acres, including 90 properties, 75 facilities, 19 parks and playgrounds, 15 monuments and 50 Greenstreets. The majority of the workers assigned to this district were seasonal welfare-to-work JTPs (Job Training Participants).  Of the district's 19 parks and playgrounds, only two had one fixed-post full-time staff person, both supervisors. The Bronx Borough President's rationale is especially disconcerting, considering the parks were located two blocks away from his office.  


Unfortunately, this is not a shock considering the state of politics in the Bronx.  More than a year after the CBP was supposed to take effect, NYCPA discovered Bronx elected officials had yet to abide by terms of the agreement, so no benefits had been realized.  Six months later, the NY Times (January 7, 2008) found the situation hadn’t changed.  The agreement required the politicians to create a charity to distribute the $800,000 in grants, plus $450,000 in athletic equipment, free Yankee tickets, and merchandise to various Bronx non-profits. The charity was supposed to be established, "upon the commencement of the construction of the new Yankee Stadium." The construction began in August 2006. A year-and-a-half later none of the money had been distributed, the charity had not been registered, and the group responsible for administering the fund had even never met. In an auspicious start, the original application was rejected by the IRS because lawyer Michael Drezin, who is organizing the fund, mistakenly filed for non-profit status instead of the private foundation status required when funding comes from one source.  (WNYC Radio 3/19/08)





According to the final environmental impact statement (FEIS 22-30), an exercise running course was to be made available at all times during the construction. The community around Yankee Stadium was supposed to receive a 15' wide cinder surfaced running path to compensate for the loss of the heavily used running track in Macombs Dam Park which was demolished with the beginning of the Yankee Stadium construction.


Yet four months after the start of the stadium’s construction, the building of the running course had not even begun. In a November 9, 2006, letter to City Councilmember Helen Foster, Adrian Benepe stated, “Parks will be building a rubberized all weather track as the temporary replacement for the Macombs Dam Park.”  This was to be “completed by spring 2007.”  However, that’s not what the city’s lawyers represented in state court nearly four months earlier.




In August  2007, a mere two weeks before the start of the Stadium’s construction, lawyers for the City told Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Herman Cahn that an exercise running course would be available at all times during stadium construction. The judge relied on these and other inaccurate representations by the City and the Yankees in his decision to deny a community group’s motion for a temporary stay of construction in the parks. (p. 4 Judge Cahn’s decision August 15, 2006)


The judge's ruling to reject the community's concerns was based, according to his written decision, on the availability of temporary facilities to meet community needs. The possibility of building the exercise running course in order to meet the construction deadline was nonexistent considering that construction was to begin a few weeks later.  The Yankees seized Macombs Dam Park late Sunday evening, August 13, 2006, two days before the judge’s decision and with no temporary running course  in sight. 


After many weeks of complaints by residents, the community received pedestrian figures and arrows spray painted onto the sidewalks surrounding John Mullaly Park and two other area parks.  People who once used the track were now being directed to run around the block.  Arrows had been placed to make sure they didn’t get lost, along with "mile markers" telling them how far they had run (in 0.1 mile increments).  In addition, the parks department also placed motivational signs near each marker telling the public  to "keep it up" and directing them to a Web site where they could get more information about fitness.


The DPR would eventually attempt to distance themselves from this episode. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe later claimed the fitness paths were not meant to be a temporary replacement for the lost track. So where was the exercise running course that lawyers told a judge would be “available at all times during construction”?


The interim track finally opened in May 2007  – nine months after the judge ruled in the city’s favor. No lawyers were censured or disbarred for making false representations and no city officials lost their jobs.







              Lukas Herbert

“Fitness path” – September 2006.  Missing Exercise Running Course? The Yankee Stadium environmental review stated that the DPR would provide a running course to the community at all times during the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, because a popular track would be the first facility to be demolished.  When the running course did not materialize, community residents expressed outrage. The Bloomberg administration then responded by stenciling arrows on sidewalks (above) around three area parks, creating a “fitness path” where people could walk or do a “light jog” around the block.



Signs (below) offered encouragement to walkers and provided a map so people would not get lost as they enjoyed this “new facility.”  City lawyers told a State Judge that an exercise running course would be available at all times during stadium construction. Judge Herman Cahn relied on this assurance in his decision to deny a community group’s motion for a temporary stay of construction in the parks. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe would later claim the “fitness path” was not meant to be a temporary replacement for the lost track. So where was the running course the city told Cahn about?


                 Lukas Herbert






Communities must have meaningful input on significant land use decisions regarding public lands. But the State Assembly and Senate guaranteed this would never happen by holding a behind-closed doors

“emergency section” to alienate the public park land. And while the DPR claimed the community had input through the legally required public hearings that were part of the environmental review for the Yankee Stadium project, the reality is that after the State alienated the land the community’s intense opposition – including a Community Board vote against the plan  – was simply minimized or ignored. It was clear that at every stage of the process, the community’s concerns were placed last, while the concerns of the New York Yankees – a privately owned organization – were placed first when it came to the future of the parks and the surrounding neighborhood.






We continue to strongly contend that the environmental review process carried out for this project was seriously flawed, and resulted in an unfair and discriminatory decision based on findings that were factually inaccurate. Significant concerns repeatedly raised by the community were brushed aside. We strongly assert that the environmental impacts on the community were deliberately ignored or misrepresented by the applicants in order to get approvals and clear legitimate legal challenges. The misrepresentations continue today, as we have discussed in this report – the replacement parkland is inadequate.  Elected and appointed officials are allowed to continue to misrepresent the facts without being held accountable.


Only a broken system could produce such broken promises.   The entire environmental review process for the new Yankee Stadium project was set up as a means to ensure the project was approved and built – not as a way to examine the environmental impacts of the project. Public involvement, a key component of any responsible environmental review, was non-existent beyond the legally required public hearings.  Many times, comments made by the public at these hearings were not even included in the environmental review documentation. Many of the comments that did make it into the documentation were inadequately responded to, responded to with factually inaccurate information, or dismissed as matters of no concern. 


Other organizations have noticed similar abuses by the DPR in their role as lead agency in the city’s and state’s environmental review processes regarding parkland alienation throughout the city. (These reviews are performed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, and the New  York City Environmental Quality Review Act, or CEQRA.) On September 11, 2007,  New Yorkers for Parks petitioned the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for a Declaratory Ruling or Advisory Opinion.  DEC responded with an Advisory Opinion issued by Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Alison H. Crocker on November 30, 2007.


In that opinion,  DEC stated that “a municipal resolution requesting legislation to alienate parkland falls within the definition of an action under SEQRA. Further any reviews under SEQRA should be complete prior to the adoption of the resolution requiring legislation authorizing the alienation of parkland.” Having the environmental reviews completed before deciding to  alienate parkland, the opinion went on to state, ensures “that offsetting or mitigation measures for the lost parkland will be incorporated into the State legislation.”  In other words, a decision of whether or not to alienate parkland should be based on the impacts it will have on the affected community. “SEQRA’s timing policies are enhanced by having the SEQRA process completed at the municipal resolution stage,” the opinion said.


The SEQRA and CEQRA environmental reviews for the Yankee Stadium project went in the reverse order – alienation first, environmental review second.  The community’s parkland was alienated in June 2005, three months before the environmental review process began on September 26, 2005, with the certification of the project’s ULURP application.  The project’s environmental findings were issued shortly after the acceptance of the final EIS on February 10, 2006 – approximately eight months after the parkland had been alienated. The issue of parkland alienation could never be considered a part of the environmental review, since it had already been done well in advance.


By introducing this dysfunction into the environmental review process before it even began, the elected officials were able to ensure the system remained broken, and produced the results the Yankees wanted and the city wanted under the guise of so-called economic development.  By taking the question of whether to alienate parkland out of the review, the discussion then shifted purely to an analysis of how the project satisfied certain “goals and objectives” that were devised by the Yankees prior to the beginning of the environmental review.




These project objectives were formulated in part by an agreement made between elected officials and the Yankees that allowed the team to remain in their current stadium during the construction of their new facility.  In order to achieve this objective, the alienated parkland, by default, became the only choice for the new stadium location. The Yankees’ “goals and objectives” were accepted by the City’s and the State’s senior elected officials and an agreement was reached with the team that allowed it to remain in their current stadium during the construction of a new facility.  If such an agreement were not honored, the Yankees repeatedly threatened to move the team out of the city.


Just as the premature parkland alienation led to a broken environmental review process, that broken process led to further corruption at the federal level.


Federal monies from the Land & Water Conservation Fund were used to rehabilitate a portion of Macombs Dam Park in 1979. By law, any park receiving money from the LWCF must remain a park in perpetuity, unless the National Park Service decides that new replacement park land is of equal (or greater) value, usefulness and location. Proposed projects must also consider "all practical alternatives" before parks are seized.


But rather than conducting its mandated review, the National Park Service issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" based purely on the state's and the city's flawed analysis and project "goals and objectives." Before the public even learned of the Yankees' plan to claim park land – and well before any environmental reviews or replacement scheme had been formulated – a National Park Service official sent out an e-mail stating that the agency was "confident" it could "work with the city and the state to ensure that the process has been satisfied without it preventing the proposed project from being developed." (Metro, August 31, 2006)


While the feds deferred to the state and the city to conduct a formal analysis and conclusion, they couldn't resist coaching. After consulting with the National Park Service's Pat Gillespie, state parks official Tom Lyons sent an e-mail advising the city to alter its description of the existing Rupert Plaza as new park land: "Replace 'pedestrian promenade' with 'passive park.'" (Metro, August 31, 2006)
The DPR also refers to this parcel as a “passive recreational area.” (Jesslyn Tiao e-mail, February 21, 2008) For more than a year, National Park Service officials were exchanging e-mails not only with the city and the state but with the New York Yankees.


Once again, political interference prevented the required consideration of practical alternatives to the use of community parkland from being explored or seriously considered. The final decision against the community came only nine business days after the state’s petition on behalf of the Yankees was made to the National Parks Service. Typically this decision is supposed to take several weeks or months.  Volumes of testimony were submitted by the community in protest of this action.  It is doubtful that any of it was even read.


Taken to its simplest terms, this project became a blatant violation of the principles of Environmental Justice. A low-income, minority community was forced to bear the burden of the destruction of its public park land, with  all the environmental and quality-of-life impacts,  so that the richest sports franchise in the country – servicing a primarily white and upper-income clientele – was not inconvenienced for a few seasons by sharing Shea Stadium or by building their new ballpark in a nearby location to the south or east of the current stadium site.  


The lesson gained from the Yankee Stadium project is painfully obvious: Our public parks and our communities have few real protections if a developer is powerful enough, and our elected officials are unwilling to represent the needs and desires of the public. This is especially true when the parks are located in poor communities that lack the resources to fight irresponsible plans  imposed on them.


The Bloomberg administration’s continued attempts to play a shell game with the park replacement numbers is an affront, not only to this impoverished community but to all who are interested in responsible government and accountability. Only when publicly embarrassed by the acreage not adding up do they alter the numbers in a desperate attempt to appear to be complying with the promises that were made. The phony numbers return a short time later. When facilities that were promised materialize as inadequate substitutes, it is insulting to the public at large. Until elected officials are held accountable and begin to demand accountability,  the City will continue to make irresponsible claims and decisions that impact the health and quality-of-life of its citizens.


The DPR is an agency charged with the protection of green spaces for all New Yorkers. Instead, with the help of elected officials, it has been used to provide cover for a greedy corporation allowed to seize public parkland from people in the poorest Congressional district in the nation. And the cost of the replacement parks,  originally estimated at $ 50 million (9/4/04 - NY Times), is now $190 million. When you consider ancillary costs, such as tearing down the old stadium, the City’s construction tab is $288 million and climbing.  These costs, entirely preventable, are not being paid for by the wealthiest sports franchise in the nation, but instead by public tax dollars – costs for parks that never should have been allowed to be taken in the first place.





Before the City Council vote, the authors of this report accompanied neighborhood residents to many meetings with elected officials where we laid out many of the issues detailed in this report very clearly. Yet, one by one, City and State elected officials repeated the same thing: "They're telling us you're getting more parkland than they're taking away and the new parkland will be better."  Everyone said it would be better.


For the elected officials who supported this deal, better meant clear cutting 400 mature trees, some as high as 40’ tall; bifurcating a historic neighborhood by building a 138 foot high, 54,000-seat baseball stadium within yards of a residential community;  replacing lost parkland with inferior features spread many miles apart;  and replacing large expanses of natural grass with artificial turf on top of a parking garage.  "Better" also meant building approximately 3,610 new parking spaces highly subsidized by the government, inviting more cars and traffic into a community already suffering from an asthma hospitalization rate 2.5 times greater than the city average. (An additional 2,500 spaces are being built to accommodate another subsidized project, the nearby Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market.) 


For the tens of thousands of poor people who depended on Macombs Dam and Mullaly parks, none of this comes as a surprise. They were powerless to do anything about it.


One thing is certain: This never would have happened in Central Park. 













(Macombs Dam Park - August 18, 2006) The first tree is removed along 161st Street

between River Avenue and Ruppert Place. Buildings on Jerome Avenue can now

be seen in the background through the opening.

(Macombs Dam Park - August 24, 2006) Clear Cutting. Four working days later,

all the trees have been removed. Seventy percent of the area's mature trees were
destroyed in order to make way for the building of the new Yankee Stadium.




(Macombs Dam Park - July 2006) Natural Turf Ballfields. From filtering and cleaning

the air to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzopyrene. The city is replacing

natural turf grass – which produces oxygen, filters the air, helps mitigate stormwater

runoff and cools down the earth – with petroleum based artificial turf that releases

polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This in the asthma capital of America.

During the Summer of 2007, surface temperature readings taken on the adjacent

interim park's artificial turf field regularly reached greater than 140 ˚. This product

also contains numerous carcinogenic materials, and is the subject of intense public

scrutiny around the world.

(Macombs Dam Park - January 23, 2008) A Park No Longer. One Promise Kept.  The

last of the 109 year-old active recreational facilities in Macombs Dam park have been

destroyed to make way for a 2-level, 2,391 car parking lot. When the garage is completed,

plans call for the former verdant oasis (above) to be converted to an artificial turf park

on the garage’s rooftop.

(Macombs Dam Park - July 2006) A child drags a bat across a dirt field. The city attributes the "dust bowl" condition of its playing fields not to a lack of maintenance personnel but instead to "overuse." Maintenance funds promised by the New York Yankees to care for the replacement parks created by its new stadium project were diverted from the final community benefits program by Bronx elected officials.

(Macombs Dam Park - July 2006) Dangerous Fields, Municipal Neglect. Once a premier ballfield in the Bronx, Babe Ruth Field in Macombs Dam Park long lacked basic upkeep. For decades, the city has refused to allocate the proper resources to adequately maintain parks. Without dedicated maintenance funds for the new parks, these deplorable conditions will undoubtedly return to this part of the poorest Congressional district in the United States. One city, one standard?



(Macombs Dam Park - July 2006) Families use the track named after Joseph Yancey, the Olympic coach who in 1936 co-founded the New York Pioneers, an interracial track team. A few weeks after this photo was taken the entire park was destroyed. This track and its natural turf soccer field were surrounded by grass; The new soccer field is being replaced by an artificial turf field on top of a new parking garage. The natural turf created an essential barrier from the harmful particulate matter generated from the neighboring Major Deegan Expressway and other sources. Healthy environmental conditions are vital for this community that suffers from the nation's highest rates of asthma and upper respiratory illness. According to the American Lung Association, having natural air filters is especially important when exercising outdoors near high-pollution sources.


















(Macombs Dam Park - July 2006) Escaping The Heat. Families watch a little league game during the City’s second hottest month on record. For many decades park users sought shelter from oppressive temperatures under groves of Pin Oak Trees in the park. The mature tree canopy, which surrounded the parks, provided much needed protection. The tree to the left measured 9 feet and six inches in circumference, and 3 feet in Diameter at Breast Height (DBH). These trees, along with hundreds of others, were needlessly destroyed a few weeks later by Bartlett Tree Experts.


Due to the combined efforts of the City's elected officials and the wealthiest sports franchise in America, families will no longer have the option of finding shade or picnicking amongst trees for many generations. The FEIS accurately noted that replacement trees will not reach maturity for 15 to 20 years and even at that point will not equal the size of those lost. A community can not wait 20 years in order to have its air properly filtered. The trees and ground cover provided a much needed barrier from the harmful particulate matter generated from the nearby Major Deegan Expressway and other air hazards. Additionally, the city is only replacing three of the park's five natural-turf fields. The last of these fields are not scheduled to be replaced until 2011, 5 years after they were destroyed.















Alberta Hunter


1925 - 2007





Angel Franco/The New York Times ©2006 The New York Times Company


Alberta Hunter says she has been walking through Macombs Dam Park in the Highbridge section of the Bronx for more than a quarter-century. A new Yankee Stadium is scheduled to be built on the parkland. - NY Times Jan. 7th, 2006































George Steinbrenner kicks children out of Macombs Dam & Mullaly parks in the South Bronx (2006). The image appeared on a community group's postcard addressed to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who ended up supporting the Yankees' land grab. Thousands of residents sent these cards imploring Quinn to save the parks.