In a letter to the editors of Crain’s, Michael J Gill, one of the founders of the South Bronx Overall Economic Corporation and former chairman of the little loved SoBro, is proposing that the Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner, along with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, consider moving the legendary Madison Square Garden to The Bronx.
Gill, who is currently a partner at the Bronx-based GillWright consulting firm, says in the letter that, “What is now known as the Yankee Stadium area could become New York City’s year-round Sports Village USA. Restaurants, other establishments, condos and hotels further propelling the already well-advanced revivification of the South Bronx won’t be far behind. Before long the next generation of young professionals will want to live there or nearby.”
But what about current, existing residents?
Does Gill not recall that two years ago area residents successfully thwarted a Soccer Stadium in the same area which would have cost taxpayers over $500 million in tax breaks, grants, loans, and rent breaks?
Besides area residents not wanting to foot another bill for a sports complex, one of the primary concerns was the extra traffic it would bring and the soccer stadium would have only hosted a little over a dozen games a year.
He talks about the “revivification” of the South Bronx yet such sports complexes and projects have proven not to have such positive economic impacts in neighborhoods.
An article in The Atlantic last year say sport stadiums don’t deliver on economic promises:, “The basic idea is that sports stadiums typically aren’t a good tool for economic development,” said Victor Matheson, an economist at Holy Cross who has studied the economic impact of stadium construction for decades. When cities cite studies (often produced by parties with an interest in building the stadium) touting the impact of such projects, there is a simple rule for determining the actual return on investment, Matheson said: “Take whatever number the sports promoter says, take it and move the decimal one place to the left. Divide it by ten, and that’s a pretty good estimate of the actual economic impact.”
Gill goes on to talk about the impact of traffic the arena would have on the neighborhood and says, “Getting to Yankee Stadium is an easy and fun ride on the subway or Metro-North—an instant-camaraderie experience for fans. Plus, it’s time to take advantage of the close-by, easy-walking-distance of the Harlem River. Imagine the fun and the visual splendor of arriving for a game by ferry.
“For fans who prefer to drive, the area has plenty of parking. Moreover, the highways and streets won’t be as jammed for a 20,000-fan basketball or hockey game as for a 50,000-fan baseball game.”
Easy and fun ride on the subway? Has he ever been on a regularly packed rush hour 4 train? Has he ever taken a ride on the 4 train during rush hour AND there’s a game going on?
Vehicular traffic is already pretty abysmal given the courts in the area and when the Yankees are playing residents and local employees are forced to find alternate routes to the Major Deegan as 161st Street us closed off from Sheridan all the way west towards the stadium.
Gill also conveniently leaves out that it’s not just sporting events that take place but concerts and and the circus take place year round. Imagine the nightmare of say 80,000 people or more descending at the same time in the area.
As nice as this idea may sound for creating a major sports complex in The Bronx, we should, instead of fantasizing and having our heads in the clouds, learn from history and the mistakes of the past and think of true economic development that will uplift our residents not displace them further.
Let’s hope Ruben Diaz Jr is smart enough not to even touch this one as with his miserably failed attempt and then backtracking his support for the soccer stadium.