New York City F.C. Stadium Town Hall turns ugly

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ, EMPIRE OF SOCCER

BRONX, N.Y. | It didn’t take long for a well-intentioned town hall meeting to break down into chaos as opponents and backers of the proposed New York City F.C. stadium in the South Bronx clashed on the issue.

Over 300 people, mainly Bronx residents, gathered at 900 Grand Concourse for what started as a civil discourse but quickly deteriorated into jibes and insults, culminating in one person’s ejection after an expletive laden rant.

The event, hosted by the 161st street BID, had several local politicians in attendance, and even a representative from the Yankees.

“We view this process as a vital tool that will assist us all in moving forward in a productive manner,” Brian Smith, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations of the New York Yankees said.

Several people lined up to speak their mind on the project, with a plethora of community organizations, religious institutions and non-profit organizations lined up in favor of the Yankee-backed initiative, while labor workers and local residents offered tepid-curiousity or all-out opposition to the stadium.

Many of those organizations backing the NYCFC stadium did so from first hand knowledge of working alongside the Yankees in the local community.

“A lot of how we have been able to serve 1,500 children and continue to grow is largely due to the partnership we have, the volunteers and the great support of the New York Yankees,” Johnny Rivera of Harlem RBI said. “Soccer is something that is valuable, lots of people enjoy, it’s the number one sport in the world, so we support you.”

“We also support it because the Yankees are involved in it and the Yankees have always kept their promises to the church,” Bishop Doctor Timothy Burkett explained. “If the Yankees are involved in it, I will support it.”

Local residents turned a more critical eye towards the proposal, citing reported tax breaks, construction related vermin infestation, air pollution and the continued deterioration of local infrastructure in their opposition.

“The traffic problems are horrible, it’s not good for local businesses, after this construction, there won’t be any new jobs,” one concerned resident said. “The site will be unused more than 300 days a year. This is why people shot down Mayor Bloomberg’s idea of a Jets Stadium in Midtown.”

“Why would a soccer team not be able to play Yankee Stadium, Citifield or Metlife for only 35 games a year?” another resident exclaimed. “The owner of Manchester City Football is Sheihk Mansour. Why would he need public subsidies to build a stadium? His personal wealth is listed at $12 billion! Why does the South Bronx have to build him a stadium?

“How many jobs will the stadium create for only 35 games?” he continued. “I eat more than 35 days a year, I have to pay rent more than 35 days a year. It’s not full time jobs, it’s not benefit jobs.”

“Where is the Sheihk!” shouted another.

Those still stuck on either side of the fence seemed to have a similar message. As one Bronx resident put it, “If they want to build it, fine. Use your own money.”

With each speaker came plenty of sniping and cursing from the crowd. Frustrations boiled over as one speaker, a professed Communist who claimed to speak for “the working man,” unleashed an expletive laden rant on capitalism. Forced off the mic, he continued to shout and began to charge the front forum. Off-duty police and local security personnel forcibly tackled the man and escorted him from the building. Several labor representatives walked out with him in a show of solidarity.

This is only the beginning of what will continue to be a hot button issue. Moderator and 161st BID leader Cary Goodman called the event “a restart” to the South Bronx Stadium project. As he points out, the original Bloomberg plan, including all of it’s tax subsidies, have been shelved by the new administration. “We are starting from scratch,” he said, encouraging people to lay their concerns on the table.

NYCFC will likely hold the next town hall, with their representative revealing a coming forum on a date to be determined.

“I know for a fact that it is a priority of New York City F.C. to present the accurate facts related to the soccer stadium project and their commitment to this community in the near future in a forum similar to this this evening,” Rivera said. “That information will be confirmed and shared with all shortly.”

  • sosa

    Well that’s hilarious.

  • Xixi

    The video of it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7-rrebNgm8

    Explanation
    Published on 16 Jan 2014

    In an otherwise responsible, respectful and reasonable pro/con community meeting regarding potential NYCFC Bronx soccer arena, one guy identified himself as a Communist, rambled, did not address the issue, and then rushed the speaker. Most people in the room disappointed that an honest conversation (for once) got derailed. He had every great chance to make a case against the arena but instead was completely self indulgent and unnecessarily histrionic and overdramatic in a room full of reasonable (some angry, all wary and vigilant) community members.

    First Bronx 161st BID community meeting regarding potential soccer arena near Yankee Stadium. Wednesday, January 15, 2014.

  • Anthony

    So MLS stacked the event with local supporters who always back stuff like this, they did the same in queens as well. Most the residents were against it and nothing really came out of it other than this project is dead as presented

    • Rufus T Firefly

      MLS stacked the event? LOL! Butt hurt Redbull or f.cosmos fan?

      • JoLeyden

        Sounds to me like it was stacked by organizations and individuals who definitely benefit from the continued financial success of the Yankees’ investments. When you have this group on one side supporting the initiative while locals are almost entirely opposed or wary about it, it doesn’t tend to bode well, especially with this new administration in charge.

  • “Turns Ugly” is a total misrepresentation of last night’s Town Hall Meeting, which I coordinated. People from all vantage points listened attentively to one another and calmly discussed this important topic. Aside from one misanthrope, the event was a great example of democracy in action.

  • Richard Garey

    I too was in attendance at the meeting. This article is a complete misrepresentation of the events. With biased journalism like this, I see a great opportunity for this author at the Post or Daily News. With the exception of one outburst, the event was both civil and productive.

  • Kwandi Dertz

    Sad to see how there are some groups that love crumbs like the publicity directo for Harlem RBI (who get $ from yankees) kissing the yankees you know what. And then the manhattan guys from South Bronx UNited soccer enterprise claiming to speak and dismiss local concerns, their reputations will suffer commensurately if they do not do the right thing. they already got money from manchester city

  • JonC

    What does “stack the event” mean? If you care enough, you go. If people turn up to support it, and organize others to do the same, that’s democracy. Imagining that the people who don’t serve at a non-profit or whatever are somehow more representative of the public is simply foolish. They don’t. That’s just some guy who does whatever, not some lone representative of the silent majority. If you have good poll data then that’s different.

  • e a

    Planted or not, Bronx residents should not foot the bill for a soccer stadium. There is no reason for that. Metlife was built without public funds (the only nfl stadium actually) and that should be the norm. The benefit to the community will be minuscule, unless they plan on giving taxpayers free or dramatically reduced ticket prices it is a private organization and should not be subsidized.

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