18, No. 25
Jan. 11, 2006
In the Public Interest
Stadium Foes Squeezed Out
As many as 500 people showed up
for a Dec. 12 public hearing on the proposal to build a new Yankee Stadium,
but about 150, including members of Community Board 4, were shut out because
the meeting space was filled to capacity.
On Dec. 22, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión formally recommended that
the project be approved and has now forwarded it to the City Planning
Commission. As part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the commission
will hold a public hearing on Jan. 11 and must complete its review and vote
on the proposal within 60 days.
Then, the proposal goes to the City Council, which has 60 days to review and
vote on it. Finally, the mayor has five days to study the plan before
approving or denying it. The City Council can override the mayor’s
determination with a two-thirds majority vote. In November, Community Board
4 voted 16-8 against the proposal.
Those who were shut out of the Dec. 12 public hearing in the rotunda of the
County Building were primarily opposed to the stadium, leading many to
believe their exclusion was deliberate. The borough president’s office
denied the allegation and said that by 7:15 p.m. everyone who had been
waiting outside had gotten in. But once inside they could not sign up to
speak because the list of speakers had been closed by 6 p.m., residents
A crowd that had gotten into the court building, but not past the guards,
chanted, “Let us in!” Their anger boiled over whenever the door to the
“Tell your boss [Carrión] that when he runs for mayor, he’s finished!”
shouted one local resident when Wilhelm Ronda, the borough president’s
director of policy and planning, came out. “He’s a traitor!”
In the rotunda itself, Pasquale Canale, president of the 161st Street
Merchants Association, drew cheers when he referred in his remarks to
problems at the door.
“You’ve stacked the deck,” Canale said. “Our people are sitting outside in
the cold. No one’s letting them in. This is what has happened all through
Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo also criticized the hearing.
“It should have been done in a way that it would give equal access to all,”
The borough president’s office did not respond to calls or e-mails seeking
Echoing the arguments favoring the construction of the filtration plant in
Van Cortlandt Park, a large contingent of union members urged approval of
the plan in order to create construction jobs.
“Do you want [construction jobs] to leave the city?” said Frank Schiavone, a
union representative. “Without construction you cannot build a society.
Union members live in the Bronx and [the community] is getting five more
acres of parks.”
Opponents of the plan said the new stadium would unnecessarily destroy two
large and well-used local parks — Macombs Dam and Mulally — significantly
threaten the health of residents, particularly children, and lead to
Carrión took notes as each person spoke.
Yankees President Randy Levine stood hands on hips throughout the session,
off to one side, accompanied by other Yankees officials.
He dismissed the opposition.
“It’s a small group of outside protesters,” Levine said, repeating an
assertion he has made previously.
Of the 38 people who spoke, 27 supported it and 11 opposed it, according to
“This is what happens when you have an organization that can spend millions
of dollars on a PR campaign going against residents who are working people,”
said Lukas Herbert, a member of Community Board 4 and an urban planner. “You
can pack the house with people who support you while hardworking folks are
outside screaming to get in.”
But Herbert and other parks advocates said the borough president’s decision
would hardly discourage them.
“The opposition will only get louder,” Herbert said. “We’ve got nothing to
lose. They’re destroying our neighborhood.”
The City Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the stadium
proposal for Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. at Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street in lower
— Joe Lamport
Ed. note: This article is adapted from a longer story written by
Lamport for the Highbridge Horizon, a community newspaper the Norwood News
frequently collaborates with on issues of mutual interest. For more coverage
of the Yankee Stadium debate, go to
. A blog written by stadium opponents is at
BJ’s Spreads the Wealth
BJ’s Wholesale Club may be a discount store, but they haven’t spared any
expense in lavishing their corporate riches on Bronx politicians. Council
members Maria Baez and Joel Rivera, along with the borough president, have
raked in thousands of dollars over the past year from those pushing to
develop the big box giant in Throggs Neck.
“They’ve gotten immense money,” said Matt Lipsky of the Neighborhood Retail
Alliance, an advocacy organization lobbying against BJ’s bid.
This is the second attempt by the retail giant to establish a store on Brush
Avenue in the east Bronx. BJ’s withdrew its original proposal earlier this
year before the City Council voted on it, as officials were ready to
deep-six the plan due to issues with wages and labor treatment. The store’s
potential impact on local businesses and traffic were also concerns.
BJ’s came back to Bronx Council leaders with another proposal in September,
five Bronx Council members are still wary, Maria Arroyo, Baez and Rivera all
reversed their opposition. “We were wondering why the sudden change of
heart,” Lipsky said, implying that money may have something to do with it.
Baez received $16,000 on a single day last June from the Related Companies,
which is overseeing the development, along with architects, engineers and
consultants associated with the project. That’s almost a fifth of Baez’
total contributions last year, according to city Campaign Finance records.
Baez was elected as chair of the City Council’s Bronx delegation during the
past year, granting her additional influence. Baez faced no primary
challenger and was easily reelected. She did not return calls for comment.
Rivera also benefited from over $4,000 from Related and other interests.
Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión received $11,000 from the company,
which is also overseeing the Bronx Terminal Market redevelopment.
Council Member Oliver Koppell, who did not benefit from the spending spree,
disapproves of Related’s lobbying tactics. “It’s unfortunate that so much
money has been introduced into the equation,” he said last week.
Carrión told the Daily News that he supports the project because of its job
creation potential and the revisions to the proposal. Rivera echoed those
sentiments. “They are going to bring 300 jobs,” he said in an interview
earlier this month. “We want to keep that revenue in the Bronx.”
BJ’s current proposal includes an assessment on the store’s traffic
implications, and guarantees to hire local employees and improve
Rivera thinks the current proposal is on the right track. “What they
presented before was horrible,” he said. “They’ve made modifications. But
I’m not 100 percent sold. Wages are still an issue.”
The labor guarantees and traffic study, in Lipsky’s opinion, are
insufficient. “A developer-sponsored traffic study is not worth the paper
it’s written on,” he said. Council Member-elect James Vacca, whose district
will include the site, is also an outspoken critic, especially concerning
the impact on local businesses.
Koppell is concerned, but seems more amenable to compromise and is trying to
broker a meeting between union groups and BJ’s executives. “I’m sympathetic
to the labor point of view on this,” he said. “If management won’t meet with
them, then I won’t support the project. If they will, I’ll have to evaluate
their relative positions.”
— Heather Haddon
Koppell on Term Limits
Current members of the City Council are overwhelmingly in favor of amending
the city’s term limits law to allow members to serve three consecutive
four-year terms instead of the current two.
Editorial boards and New Yorkers say the decision should go back to the
voters in a referendum, which was the method by which term limits for
Council members and citywide officeholders were established in the first
Council Member Oliver Koppell, who supports the move to three terms, is of
two minds about a referendum. In general, he opposes the practice. “I don’t
believe in government by referendum,” he said in a press briefing at his
Riverdale office two weeks ago. “Our government is a representative
democracy,” not a town hall type of democracy.
That said, he thinks that, from a public relations perspective, a referendum
might be the way to go – if it could get on the ballot. A complicating
factor is that if the mayor, who opposes a term limits extension, appoints a
Charter Revision Commission, that clears the table of any referenda.
“If it comes to an up or down vote [in the Council], I will vote for it,”
said Koppell, who believes that the way to get the public behind the idea is
to personalize it. “The way to campaign against term limits is, ‘Do you want
your ability to have Oliver Koppell as your councilperson [taken away]?’” he
said. “Citizens don’t like politicians but they like their own
So what about having the new three-term rule apply to future Council members
so the move would appear less self-serving? Koppell doesn’t think that’s a
way to garner public support for extending or ending term limits.
“What makes people care is you’re eliminating their representative,” he
said, not some future politician you don’t even know.
The new Council will probably take up the matter soon after a new speaker is
elected in early January.
— Jordan Moss
The mayor signed legislation earlier this month to improve fire safety in
public spaces, mandate energy conserving appliances for buildings receiving
certain city subsidies, and require that the owners of vacant lots keep
their spaces clean of debris. Council Member Oliver Koppell was the prime
sponsor of the fire safety legislation and all local Council members
supported the three bills.
— Heather Haddon
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