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BP lobbies for BX soccer stadium

Bronx Times

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. may want a soccer stadium for the Bronx, but forget about sacrificing any parkland for it.

“I do not think that using public parkland is such a good idea,” said Diaz, who would still love to see an arena built in the borough for the NYC Football Club, a Major League Soccer franchise still vying for a home in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

But talks have stalled between Queens officials and NYCFC brass, with the BP and Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. lobbying to find a home for a stadium similar to the 13 acre, 25,000-seat arena proposed there.

BOEDC head Marlene Cintron said NYCFC is vetting space “with access to highways and also access to public transportation.”

But with 25% of the Bronx composed of greenspace, the BP has put himself in a position that narrows the already squeezed playing field.

Longtime Bronx-based commercial real estate broker Kathy Zamechansky said options are fairly limited in the borough for a stadium needing that much acreage, though she pointed to a possible site in the north Bronx.

“There’s a Request for Proposals out by the MTA for it’s unused bus facility on E. Gun Hill Road,” she said.

The site sits across from Co-op City, near the I-95 Interstate and less than a half mile from the subway. “I’m sure a developer could discuss having a stadium there as part of their plan,” she noted.

In ruling out parkland, the BP sidesteps a hurdle that former Borough President Adolfo Carrion faced when he secured land for the new Yankee Stadium in 2007. The plan tore up three acres of parks, angering advocates and Community Board 4, which voted down the proposal.

This time around, NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft backed the deal so long as Diaz keeps to his word. “That can be an exciting thing for the borough,” said Croft.

Getting The Ball Rolling

The BP penned a letter to MLS stating soccer matches temporarily held at Yankee Stadium can draw “tens of thousands of visitors.”

“While here, these soccer fans spent money in local businesses and restaurants,” wrote Diaz “Bringing tremendous economic activity to the 161st Street corridor.”

The New York Yankees is part owner of NYCFC, investing $100 million into the franchise.

But NYCFC is still keeping its options open. Queens park advocates groups are particularly concerned the $340 million project would uproot 13 acres of parkland at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“NYCFC is looking for a home, not simply a place to play,” said NYCFC spokeswoman Risa Heller. She dismissed a claim by Diaz that NYCFC “walked away” from talks with Queens officials.

“As we said from the start, we will continue to pursue Flushing Meadows while we also review other sites around the city.”

For now, the team will keep hosting home games at Yankee Stadium until 2015, when it’s expected to have found a permanent place.

But even if the Bronx were to succeed in luring NYCFC to a House that Ruth (Re)Built, building the stadium is still years in the pipeline, with NYCFC forced to go back to the drawing board, redesigning a stadium envisioned primarily for Queens.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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