Now’s the time for real park equity | A Look Back: When Michael Bloomberg, the Yankees Destroyed Two Bronx Parks

Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx, before the Yankees swooped in

In a New York Daily News opinion piece this week, The Trust for Public Land’s Carter Strickland stresses the devastating impact of the gutting of the city’s Parks Department budget over the last sixty years, from 1.5% of the annual budget in the 1960s to .52% in 2000. Due to coronavirus and budget cuts, last year, the agency’s budget was cut harshly. Yet, parks in NYC comprise “14 percent of all city land.”

In “Now’s the time for real park equity,” Strickland writes, “Dedicating just 1% of the city budget to parks would bring us closer to the more generous — and forward-thinking — funding levels of decades past.”

Parks should not have to struggle to be maintained nor be reliant on private money with back room deals and strings attached

Our city parks and public spaces are significant. These open spaces, which impact our well-being, offer places of respite, connection and creativity, should not have to struggle to stay afloat nor should they be reliant on private money which comes with tangible public costs.

Strickland noted that a Trust for Public Land Analysis “shows that in neighborhoods that skew low income, residents have access to 21% less park space within a 10-minute walk than those in high-income areas. The imbalance is more striking along racial lines; residents in communities of color have walkable access to 33% less park space than people in mostly white areas.”

Michael Bloomberg, the Yankees, and the Destruction of Two Bronx Parks

Remember when Mayor Mike Bloomberg destroyed two Bronx parks so that the Yankees could have a new stadium? He didn’t want the team to be ‘inconvenienced’ by having to play elsewhere for a spell while the old stadium was demolished and rebuilt, as had traditionally been done. That leads to inequity. At the time, there was barely any notice in or push back from the media about this. The parks were technically ‘rebuilt’ but not the same, as outlined below.

From Anne Schwartz in 2006 in the Gotham Gazette:

What if the city decided to put a stadium in the middle of your local park?

Don’t worry though. The city would rebuild most of the displaced athletic facilities in several other places.

But instead of being set inside a large, green space surrounded by hundreds of mature trees, the fields would be scattered on separate parcels, including the tops of parking garages. The new recreational spaces would be closer to the highway and train tracks and an additional five-minute to half-hour walk from where people live. Most of the trees would be cut down. The new stadium would go smack in the middle of the community’s current park, next to a residential area.

Here at WSP Blog in June 2008:

Imagine Yankees management years ago looking across the way from the current stadium at those pesky parks, Macombs Dam and John Mullaly. These two parks comprised 20 acres, including 377 trees, grass, tracks, a pool and fields – all in the way of a new stadium.

Envision that call being placed to someone in the Giuliani administration(when the idea was first floated). Yankees official states: “Hey the Yankees corporation needs a new stadium and we’ve found a perfect location which will enable us to play in the old stadium and then move into the new one seamlessly.” The city official asks where? Yankee management says, “Those two parks across the street.”

It’s hard to imagine someone not just laughing at this notion. Alas, they did not and this proposal was pushed through under the tenuous idea that the Bronx would get more parkland. And then there was the destruction of the trees. We know how important trees are in a city, particularly mature trees. They help clean the air. Trees provide homes for wildlife and are an important part of the ecosystem.

Excerpt via New York Daily News:

First, let’s make sure everyone lives within a 10-minute walk of a park. There are 75,000 New Yorkers, spread across 70 neighborhoods, who do not enjoy such access. Many park-starved neighborhoods are in areas that have endured decades of air pollution, hazardous waste and other environmental injustices.

Second, New York parks need more amenities like playgrounds, recreational centers and bathrooms to catch up to other cities….

Third, let’s add new park space, starting with those neighborhoods with the most crowded parks. Our study of 188 communities across the city reveals that 10 neighborhoods in South and East Brooklyn, eight in Central and Eastern Queens, five in the Bronx, and four in Manhattan have more than 5,000 residents per acre of parkland — more than 10 times the citywide average of 480 people per acre. This overcrowding is unjust and potentially unsafe in the COVID era. By identifying locations for new public parkland — such as underused open space on public-housing campuses or traffic triangles — we can provide more places for playing, exercising, socializing outside, and more spaces to absorb rain and provide shade. A prime example is the QueensWay, a vision for a 3.5-mile linear park on an abandoned elevated railway that runs through Central Queens that could provide a safe pedestrian and cycling route to schools, parks, and subways. …

Now is the time for the next mayor to develop a bold blueprint for shovel-ready park projects. Such a plan would ensure not only that New York City remains an appealing place to raise a family and pursue a career. It would create construction jobs with federal funding, much as our predecessors did during the Great Depression.

Strickland also notes that “perhaps it’s no surprise that New York City’s park system lags behind.”

Well, I think that IS a surprise. We’re in New York City. We should be setting an example. THE example.

* *. *

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Play Ball: How New York City Destroyed two Bronx Parks March 31, 2008

In the News: “Green Thievery in the South Bronx” June 16, 2008

Privatized Stadium in Public Parks – On Yankee Stadium, the Bloomberg Administration and that Luxury Suite December 1, 2008

Related Reading:

“Now’s the time for real park equity,” New York Daily News, September 21, 2021

It’s Time for NYC to Reinvest in Open Space City Limits, March 12, 2021

NYC Parks Get a Funding Boost Following Covid-Related Cuts City Limits, July 7, 2021

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