By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
It was April 15—income tax day—and organizers decided to capitalize on the coincidence. "We marched across 161st past the stadium and into the park, where we mounted a stage," recalls Cary Goodman, then leader of a group called Sports for the People. "We had everyone doing calisthenics, exercising by touching their toes. We were shouting in time to the exercises, 'Tax the Yanks! Tax the banks! Keep our parks open!' Then everyone did a victory lap around the running track."
The rally caught the eye of Walter Cronkite, who was there to cover the Opening Day festivities. To the city's and the Yankees' dismay, Cronkite brought his CBS camera crew across the street to film the protest.
"There we are on national TV, telling how the city and the Yankees wanted to take away this park, the only one in the neighborhood," says Goodman. Standing beside him were his fellow organizers, Father John Flynn from Crotona, and Reverend John Luce, pastor of St. Ann's in Mott Haven. Also leading the protest were Gil Gerena-Valentin, who was soon elected city councilman, and a community and labor activist named José Rivera, also destined to become a Bronx political force.
It took another 30 years, but in 2006, Macombs Dam was finally plowed under after Rivera, then the leader of the Bronx Democratic party, reached an agreement with Bloomberg and the Yankees on the new stadium. In exchange, the team generously agreed to pay $800,000 annually to Bronx civic causes. This comes to about $175,000 less than the weekly paycheck of the Yankees' new star first baseman, Mark Teixeira. Such are the fiscal lessons of the Age of Bloomberg.