At 9:30 tomorrow morning, the New York Yankees will hold the official groundbreaking for their $1.3 billion project to replace Yankee Stadium with a new edifice across the street. On a giant stage hastily assembled in one corner of Macombs Dam Park, city officials and Yankee execs will gather before a thicket of cameras and microphones to declare the long-planned project to be underway. Almost certainly, someone will overturn a shovelful of ceremonial sod.
That’s the TV show. (The event is set to air live on the team’s YES Network.) In reality, the demolition of Macombs Dam Park and the southern reach of neighboring Mullaly Park began last Friday, when cement mixers moved in to pour a driveway that would convert the handball courts on 164th Street and River Avenue into temporary parking for the adjacent tennis courts; the existing lot, and half the courts, were about to become a construction zone. On Sunday night, as the Bronx community group Save Our Parks awaited word on a requested court injunction to stop construction—it was ultimately rejected this afternoon—workers moved in and fenced off all the park entrances, sealing it off from the public.
Under today’s soggy skies, few locals were looking to enter the park, whose track was puddled with rainwater and traversed by a miniature bulldozer that busily scraped at the dirt to no obvious end. Yellow-shirted Burns security guards patrolled every shuttered park entrance, and laconically eyeballed the passersby who stopped to gape through the fence at the construction crews.
The overriding sentiment on the street matched the gloomy weather. “For the Bronx economy, it will be good,” said local resident Ramirez Narciso. “But baseball is a profitable business. When the state takes money for the people, for health, education, it’s better, no?”
“I live on Jerome Avenue, and we’re all wondering what’s going to happen to the building,” worried a woman who gave her name only as “Davis.” She had been unable to attend meetings about the coming stadium thanks to her husband’s illness; now, they were looking at having a multi-level parking garage outside their window.
“I can’t come here to run no more,” remarked Alyson Patrick sadly as she waited for the bus. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now. It don’t make no sense.”
Scott Daly, who runs the New York Junior Tennis League’s program in the soon-to-be-obliterated Mullaly Park courts, insisted he was resigned to the march of progress and not bitter at the Yankees or the city. “Sometimes things look real good on paper, and then when you implement it, it doesn’t quite work out,” he mused, watching his charges practice volleys. “There’s a Joni Mitchell song, you take paradise and put up a parking lot. That’s what it is. This is going to be a parking lot.”
Once tomorrow’s festivities are complete, the first trees to meet the chainsaws, it is rumored, will be in the park’s southwest corner, near the large rock that has overlooked the ballfield there for nearly a century. Nearby on 161st Street, a Burns guard was detailing her long day ahead—after guarding the new stadium site throughout the day, she would cross the street and work tonight’s Yanks-Orioles game—when she was interrupted by a confused onlooker.
“Excuse me, what’s going on here?”
“Bloomberg,” she replied.
“Oh, Bloomberg. Eeeuch.”