It’s a tale of two parks with one thing in common: they were both considered to host the Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup next year.
This tale ends differently than most sports-related tales, since there were two winners. Van Cortlandt Park was not chosen to host the international event. Eisenhower Park on Long Island was picked instead.
And yet, there were two congratulatory news conferences or events.
In the case of Long Island, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman was so happy he was even hoisting a cricket bat and ball as he announced the International Cricket Council’s decision to name Eisenhower Park one of three U.S. venues to host the cup.
At Van Cortlandt Park last week, a scheduled family fun day also included local electeds announcing the news their park was saved from the temporary closure the cricket event would have brought next year.
“The people of Riverdale won,” U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres said. “I think we collectively defeated an outrageous background deal to privatize public parkland. The city proposed sectioning a massive amount of land to a private entity for private use — all without the barest attempts of community engagement.”
The news that a temporary 34,000-seat stadium would not be built at the Parade Ground is good for neighbors and their electeds who represent New York City’s third largest park.
“New Yorkers would have lost access to this public space, and the project could have done untold damage to the park and the Enslaved African Burial Ground,” Councilman Eric Dinowitz wrote on social media last week. “This plan also ignored park alienation, environmental review, and ULURP (uniform land use review procedure) laws.”
The Adams administration wanted to push through a plan where the venue would have to be built in the next five months.
To get a sense of how large that is, consider the size of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, which are now about 10 years old. Granted, those are permanent edifices that seat more than 40,000 people. But it took years to build those stadiums.
That was only one of the many concerns surrounding this stadium proposal. Consider the rest:
• The environmental impact of the entire park since automobiles and the thousands of fans walking on the fields would have.
• The loss of access to the grounds for park-goers who play games, run and walk there regularly.
• The current lack of enforcement officers in the park, where there aren’t enough now to deal with crime. With the size of such an event, the enforcement team would not be large enough for crowd control.
• Traffic in and around that part of Van Cortlandt Park would be horrific, backing up onto the nearby highways.
• It would seem the only entities that would benefit from such an event would be sponsoring corporations and outsiders.
One of the biggest concerns about building this stadium was the lack of time local electeds and those living in the surrounding neighborhood were getting. If you think of this project as a mini-Olympics, five months is about a tenth of the time Van Cortlandt Park would need to properly vet the work.
It was quite fortuitous that Nassau County came swooping in when it did. It seems the work of local government officials — including Community Board 8 chair Julie Reyes, who called an emergency meeting this summer — helped get the job done.
But they can’t take all the credit for successfully beating back Mayor Adams’ haphazard plan to take over 19 acres of Van Cortlandt park without the necessary approvals. Major contributors included neighbors, the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, 29 other groups — including cricket leagues — and 144 individuals who signed an open letter and petitions to stop the project.
Everyone involved in resisting the mayor’s ill-conceived plan to build a cricket stadium at Van Cortlandt Park should take a bow and celebrate.
People power is still alive and well in our community. Congratulations!