For a two-block radius of empty parking lots, wire mesh fences and a smattering of deserted delis in the South Bronx, two developers have envisioned a commercial complex that might house New York City F.C.’s new home, minutes away from Yankee Stadium.
While most residents and businesses, acquainted with the chaos of existing near Yankee stadium, welcomed new investment into the neighborhood, they also stressed the importance of offering community benefits and allaying concerns before embarking on such a large project.
Joy Construction Corp. and Maddd Equities have partnered to propose a mixture of affordable housing apartments, a hotel, park, office space and conference center to accompany the stadium, to be built in place of an existing elevator-parts manufacturing factory off the Major Deegan Expressway, the New York Times reported. The complex would sit between Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Terminal Market, according to the report.
While there has been no formal proposal submitted by the developers, initial talks to house the city’s soccer team in several different locations in the city, including the Bronx and Queens, are being discussed, according to a spokeswoman from the mayor’s office.
An NYCFC spokeswoman confirmed that the team is working with the developers in the Bronx, in addition to exploring several other options.
“I look forward to working with community leaders, elected officials and other stakeholders to examine the pros and cons of this proposal and to ensure that any potential development works for the people of my borough,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in an emailed statement.
Here’s what you need to know about this particular proposal and how neighborhood residents perceive it:
The Times reports that there is a “binding agreement” between the developers and an elevator manufacturing factory, GAL Manufacturing, located off East 153rd Street and River Avenue. Developers told the Times that the land will be sold to them, which in turn they will lease to the football club for their permanent home.
As for the rest of the complex, developers have entered into a “tentative agreement” with the Bronx Parking Development Company, which owns several lots on the block, including a 9,500-space lot leased to the New York Yankees, the Times reports. The baseball team would reduce the parking spots to 6,500, thereby allowing the parking company to lease the remaining land to the developers for further construction, the Times reports.
Residents need community benefits
Any developments in the area must include “overwhelming public benefits,” said Mychal Johnson, co-founder of a neighborhood coalition of residents and businesses called South Bronx Unite, adding that the community already suffers from housing Yankee Stadium.
“The problem is that there is a lot of traffic. When the Yankees have a game, it pretty much takes up the entire neighborhood,” Johnson said.
Echoing his concerns, 68-year-old Lourdes Cachola, who lives at the intersection of East 153rd Street and River Avenue, said that residents are usually seen fighting with Yankee fans for parking spaces on the block during home games. The traffic is bad as it is, without another stadium and another set of fans inconveniencing the community, she added.
Sixteen-year-old Yuritizi Jachuz, who lives across from the GAL Manufacturing factory, said that she has to wait more than an hour to get home on Yankee game nights, to her mother’s chagrin. Jachuz, who said she plays soccer at school, admitted that the presence of a soccer stadium might kick-start a new fan base in the city, one that rivals baseball fandom.
“More people will think ‘Oh, there’s a soccer stadium, let’s see what it’s like.’ Hopefully, more people’s opinions will start changing about following soccer,” she said, adding that steps to improve the community’s experience before commencing on such a project will be ideal.
Businesses welcome new investment
Most businesses around Yankee Stadium, including those selling Yankees’ merchandise or serving up drinks for fans, open only on game days, according to Michael Rending, general manager of Stan’s Sports Bar on 836 River Avenue.
“We have always made our money depending on the Yankees. When the Yankees do well, the business does well,” he said, adding that any new event space welcoming new fans to the area could only be good for business.
As for NYCFC, which plays home games at Yankee Stadium, Rendino said there has been a steady decline in the business he gets from soccer fans, adding that he has doubts about the team having staying power in the league.
As for the establishments that the proposed complex will displace, Rending said, “A parking garage does nothing for economic development whereas a stadium will bring in an influx of outside revenue to the neighborhood — that’s the guy in the deli, the souvenir store, that’s the restaurants and the bars.”
Olesya Davlad, owner of The San Jose Tulcingo Deli and Restaurant, which already feeds workers from Yankee Stadium, said that construction of a new stadium will mean new business in feeding construction workers.
“We are the only ones on this block, which means that business will be good for us.”
Soccer fans rejoice
NYCFC having a permanent home in the city would bring “innumerable benefits” to the neighborhood’s youth, including networking and programming opportunities, according to Andrew So, executive director of South Bronx United, a youth development organization that combines soccer with academic training and college prep for immigrant and first-generation youth of the South Bronx.
SBU already has a “positive” relationship with NYCFC, wherein the soccer team has helped fund after-school programs and provided tickets to the organization’s youth, So said. More soccer programs for the community, under the umbrella of a professional soccer club based blocks away, could work wonders for youth development in the community, he added.
“There is certainly a lot of potential if done right, and as far as I know NYCFC, they have been very good partners so I’m certainly optimistic about the proposal,” So said.
As for fans who frequent NYCFC games at Yankee Stadium, the area proves a familiar and well-established location for a permanent home.
“It’s an area that needs some up and coming,” Dave Mancion, an NYCFC supporter, said, adding that the Metro North stop, in addition to the subway lines, will provide an easily accessible location for fans.
“I just want to be able to finally say, ‘Hey, New York City F.C. has a home and it’s in New York City. And no, its name is not Yankee Stadium.”
A stadium in Queens?
Another site being discussed for the NYCFC home is in Willets Point, Queens, an area that is about to undergo redevelopment. Most recently, the city approved a plan to build 1,100 units of affordable housing and an elementary school. For the 17 acres that don’t have a designated purpose yet, a task force has been convened with Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Francisco Moya.
A soccer stadium has come up in the latest talks of the task force, a spokeswoman from Katz’s office said. The BP has been a strong proponent of a soccer stadium in the borough, first calling for it in her State of the Borough address in January 2017.