Sat, Jun 11, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Yankees quietly out to build new stadium in Bronx


In the coming weeks, the Yankees will call a news conference to unveil plans to build a ballpark in the Bronx that they will finance without public money for construction or discourtesy to egos and agendas in the state Legislature.

The US$800 million stadium plan has been nurtured for years without any public fulminations from the team's principal owner, George Steinbrenner, who spent time in decades past threatening to move to Manhattan or New Jersey.

The stadium will rise on parkland that is far from the vitriolic political debate between developing the Far West Side of Manhattan and redeveloping post-Sept. 11 Lower Manhattan -- a trap that has ensnared advocates of the proposed US$2.2 billion Jets/Olympic stadium over the West Side rail yards.

In many ways, the process of creating the new Yankees ballpark will be the antithesis of the Jets' project -- suddenly moribund after being spurned Monday by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a vote of a potent state panel -- which was the centerpiece of New York City's now close-to-impossible quest to be host to the 2012 Summer Games.

The Yankees' project has no urgent deadline (like July 6, when the International Olympic Committee is to make its host-city decision), no land dispute over Macomb's Dam Park, no need to build atop a concrete platform (which the Jets' plan called for); no lengthy history of endemic opposition (like Westway), no semantic tap-dancing over whether it is a stadium or a convention center (which the Jets perpetuated), and no reason for Cablevision to vehemently campaign against it (as it did to the Jets' stadium).

It's clear that the Yankees read and reacted to the trends in stadium financing against huge public subsidies that offer little in return to municipalities with better things to spend their money on. There will be about US$300 million in government aid, much of it from the state to build garages, but the state will get the parking revenue.

The Yankees' project is being led by the team president, Randy Levine, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph W. Giuliani, who briefed Albany lawmakers, including Silver, about the project on Wednesday.

Charles Carrier, Silver's spokesman, said: "There were no indications of any problems. They're paying for the stadium, and the discussion was good."

Levine said, "We're working very hard to pull all the final pieces together. We expect to announce in a few weeks."

It was not long ago that the Yankees were looking to build exactly where the Jets want to be. Mario M. Cuomo, governor at the time and a former minor-league ballplayer, proposed the site, and in 1993, the state unveiled a plan to build a US$319 million West Side stadium. That plan went nowhere. Five years later, Giuliani waged a successful political and legal fight to block a referendum that would have let voters decide whether to use public money for a Yankees ballpark in Manhattan.

During a City Council debate on the referendum in 1998, Andrew S. Eristoff, then a Republican representing Manhattan, sounded prescient about that project or any other sports palace. He told the New York Post, "There is not going to be a new stadium in Manhattan." Then he added, "The outcome here is known to all of us."

But others sounded as if they could envision the Jets' stadium plight. Cuomo said in 1998 that to build a stadium on the West Side, "You must convince the people of New York that it's a good idea."

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