Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Neighbor for Yankees? Soccer Stadium Moves to Bronx

A Major League Soccer franchise, whose plans to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows Park were met by community opposition has a new site in mind: just south of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  If the latest proposal is successful, the New York City Football Club would build a 30,000-seat stadium that offers connections to subways and rail lines, as well as Yankee Stadium and the Gateway Center retail complex near the Harlem River. Any stadium built would not be completed until 2016. In the meantime, Yankee Stadium is the likely site for the team to begin play in 2015.

The franchise, a partnership of Manchester City Football Club of England’s Premier League and the Yankees, are negotiating with the owners of a nine-acre parcel between the Major Deegan Expressway and East 153rd Street.

“We’ve had preliminary discussions,” Randy Levine, the president of the Yankees, said, “but we’re a long way from any decision. We’re also considering sites in Queens and Brooklyn.”

The deal would not involve any parkland. The team, which would not play on the same day the Yankees had a home game, has sought a site that is near public transportation and communities where soccer is especially popular.

In May, elected officials, community groups and park advocates objected to the soccer club’s original plan to build a stadium on 10 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, an area that already has a baseball stadium and a tennis complex.

Despite support from Mayor Bloomberg, the team backed away from the Queens site, saying it would explore other possible locations. But that, team officials said, does not necessarily eliminate Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as a potential site.

In July, Mr. Bloomberg appeared to indicate that the club would indeed play its home games in the Bronx, saying in his weekly radio address that “Yankee Stadium will become the home of the New York City Football Club.” A few days later, the mayor’s office said Mr. Bloomberg had misspoken.

Rubén Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said he would gauge the reaction of local residents in the coming weeks to building a second stadium on the site before coming to a final decision. He said he would oppose any use of parkland.

It will not be easy for the club to put the Bronx site together. Sitting on the parcel under consideration is a parking garage for Yankee Stadium that is run by a troubled nonprofit, the Bronx Parking Development Company. In April, the company defaulted on a $237 million civic bond.

The soccer club would have to strike a deal with the parking company that would compensate it for the garage and put it on more solid financial footing.

The club would also have to acquire the land currently occupied by a highway ramp and a 100,000-square-foot factory, GAL Manufacturing Corporation, which makes elevator components and employs 225 people. Bronx officials do not want to lose a major employer. The soccer club has reportedly offered to build GAL a new factory elsewhere in the Bronx.
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