Yanks Party While Bleachers Fall


While the World Champion Yankees are fighting their way through lower Manhattan traffic this morning, a more somber ceremony is taking place in the Bronx, where the demolition of old Yankee Stadium has now begun in earnest. WCBS Radio helicopter pilot Tom Kaminski snapped a photo of a backhoe tearing into the left-field bleachers on Wednesday, and another yesterday that shows the center-field bleachers (aka “the black”) partly collapsed into debris.

David Lombino, a spokesperson for the city Economic Development Corporation, which is handling the demolition, confirms that “the dismantling work began this week,” and indicates that those of you without news choppers will be able to see for yourselves shortly: “Major pieces of the stadium, which will be visible from outside the stadium, will begin to be dismantled next month.”

Though the images are likely to be a punch in the gut to many Yankee fans, Bronx residents are mostly wondering why this has taken so long. Shea Stadium, after all, was completely razed over the offseason last winter (demolition porn here), and locals are waiting impatiently for the new “Heritage Field” park that will finally enable schoolkids to stop playing their home baseball games in New Rochelle. (The “heritage” part will come in the form of one field aligned with the old Yankee Stadium infield, plus, according to Lombino, a walking path that “will outline the perimeter of the old Yankee Stadium with plaques and markers that commemorate its place in New York City baseball history.”) What happened? Let’s follow the bouncing wrecking ball:

  • February 2006: The city issues an environmental impact report that promises demolition of the House That Ruth Built would be complete by “the third quarter of 2009,” with Heritage Field open by December 2010.
  • August 2006: Following a failed court challenge by Bronx groups, the Yankees fence off what had been Macombs Dam Park and begin chainsawing trees and tearing up its ballfields to make way for their new stadium.
  • May 2008: The parks department reveals that the opening has been pushed back until fall 2011, citing “unforeseen site conditions and new design aspects.”
  • June 2008: Parks deputy commissioner Liam Kavanagh gripes to the city council that “the stadium is anything but a typical structure and its proximity to two major subway lines makes the project even more complex.”
  • March 2009: The mayor’s office declares that demolition will begin in “a matter of weeks,” but admits that a demolition contract hasn’t been signed yet, and can’t be until the city and Yanks agree on how to divvy up the proceeds from selling off bits of the old stadium as souvenirs.
  • May 2009: Work crews begin carefully removing the old stadium’s seats for auction (though apparently not all that carefully).
  • August 2009: Lombino tells the Voice that “soft demolition” is underway, and that “the majority [of demolition] should start within 2 months.”
  • November 2009: Major demolition begins.

The current plan, according to the Parks Department’s official timetable, is for “deconstruction” to be complete by next summer, with Heritage Field complete by fall of 2011. Lombino, however, now says that the new park will take “a year and a half” to build, while still maintaining that it will open “on schedule.” Of course, there’s opening, and then there’s opening. Photo (cc) Shelley Panzarella.