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North of E. 161st Street, the stadium gleamed. The fans screamed. A band played rock and roll. South of E. 161st Street, on a temporary turf field, a group of Bronx residents and “green” activists refused to sing along.
“Over there is the ‘House That Ruth Built,’” said Geoffrey Croft, a parks advocate, pointing to the old Yankee Stadium. “Over here is the ‘House That Greed Built.’”
The Bronx Bombers fell 10-2 on opening day. The average ticket sold for $73. According to Croft, the Yankees have broken a number of promises. In 2005, the club won space for a new stadium – 22 acres of city parkland. Bronxites waved goodbye to handball, tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields, a track and a muddy soccer field. The Yankees agreed to build a handful of replacement parks – on top of a new parking garage, on the Harlem River and on the site of the old Yankee Stadium. But the old Yankee Stadium is still standing, the new Yankee Stadium is open and the replacement parks are hardly complete. A number of school teams – soccer, baseball, track – remain displaced, Bronx resident and parks advocate Joyce Hogi said. Some teams travel to Pelham Bay Park and Staten Island for “home” games.
The Yankees have built a temporary turf field on Jerome Avenue, but that field is crowded and will be torn down soon to make way for a parking garage. Adbul Bello and Sebastian Sackui spent opening day at the field with a soccer ball.
“It’s not safe to play here,” Bello, 17, who lives on E. 168th Street off Jerome Avenue, said. “A few days ago, a soccer player got hit in the head with a baseball, twice.”
The temporary field is better for soccer, Sackui, 16, said. He prefers turf. But Community Board 4 member Greg Bell lamented the loss of nearly 400 mature trees. Trees work against asthma, Bell said. The south Bronx is often referred to as “asthma alley.” Outside the stadium, a different mood prevailed. Karim Simmons of Norwood showed up ticket-less, his face painted Yankee blue.
“I’m here to support the new stadium and check out the Hard Rock Café,” Simmons said. “The Hard Rock Café is pretty neat.”
Robert Casellas of Castle Hill snagged opening day tickets.
“I’m excited,” Casellas said. “The new stadium is state-of-the-art. But my son plays little league. Fields are a necessity.”
Edwin Salguero, 14, was on the temporary field on opening day, bat in hand. Salguero will be sad to see the temporary field go and will hold the Bronx Bombers accountable.
“If the Yankees win, I won’t be angry,” he said. “If they lose, I hope they make it up to us fans in the Bronx.”
According to Parks spokeswoman Jesslyn Moser, a portion of the rooftop replacement park will open later this month.
“NYC is providing the south Bronx with state-of-the-art recreational facilities and keeping its promise to replace every inch of lost parkland,” Moser said. “Despite rising construction costs due to project expansion, additional site and safety precautions, unforeseen but necessary environmental remediation and region-wide increases in construction costs.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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