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Macombs Dam Park needs upkeep $$

Bronx Times

The official opening of the new Macombs Dam Park won’t be until March, but some are already calling on the city, public and private partnerships, for additional funds to properly maintain the improvements to that park and others near Yankee Stadium.

The new Macombs Dam Park stands in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, with ballfields just south of the stadium. It includes the footprint of the former stadium in indelible blue marked out on the three new baseball fields in the park, and should be a real gem and a gateway to Yankee Stadium, said 161st Street BID executive director Cary Goodman.

However Goodman is concerned about vandalism and litter he already sees in the park even before its official ribbon cutting, and by what he has said he has heard from the Parks Department about lack of resources in terms of maintaining the park, he said.

“[Bronx Parks] Commissioner Aponte has said that he has not been given any additional staff or funding for the maintenance of the park, and yet it is a large investment that should be properly maintained,” Goodman stated. “Building this park was a great effort, but it has to be maintained.”

Goodman is hoping that a conservancy could be formed in support of the park that includes public and private funds, similar to one that was created years ago in Central Park, or that the Yankees could supplement the work of the Parks Department for upkeep of the park, he said.

Originally planned to be called Heritage Field after the reconstruction, Macombs Dam Park will retain its former name, Goodman said.

It has many amenities, including a series of viewmasters which are still being installed around the old stadium’s footprint. These viewmasters contain pictures of classic events from the vantage point of the old ballpark. Some of the events on the right field viewmaster, which has already been installed, are A-Rod’s 500th home run on August 4, 2007 and a 1936 World Series game with the New York Giants baseball team.

There is also an enormous re-creation of the historic “frieze” which was part of the old ball park, next an entrance to the park at Jerome Avenue and West 161st Street.

“A group can enter the park at Babe Ruth Plaza, take a picture in front of the frieze, come over and look through the viewfinders and connect with not just the history of the former stadium, but also the city, Goodman said.

There also are a series of pavers that mark historic events in Yankee Stadium history in chronological order leading from the Metro North Station next to the enormous bat to Babe Ruth Plaza, Goodman said. The overall hope is that people will experience a beautiful new park that serves as both a recreation area and museum, and decide to check out the merchant corridor on East 161st Street and River Avenue, Goodman said. The 161st BID would be happy to help with the maintenance of the park, but cannot do it all alone, Goodman stated.

“A BID’s job is to help supplement city services and we would be happy to help out, even though the park [is technically outside our boundaries,]” Goodman said. “If we had a pool of money from the Yankees, the city EDC, or other sources we could hire a maintenance crew and keep this an almost pristine park.

Business leader Joe Bastone, a member of the BID who is the owner of Yankee Tavern at 72 E. 161st Street, said that he believes that since the park has already opened to the public in February, so should the ballfields. A soft opening for the ballfields was held last fall, and it is common practice to close ballfields in winter, a parks spokesman said. The fields are expected to open in the coming months as permits are issued, but visitors should still feel free to stroll through the park, Goodman said.

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