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Soccer stadium kicked around

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Sure, build a soccer stadium in our backyard.

Just so long as you shoulder the check, and as long as we get something out of the deal.

That’s the tune locals —and a key elected official — sounded at a public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 15 on the proposal to bring a 30,000-seat soccer arena to just south of Yankee Stadium.

Hundreds of community members packed a basement room in a commercial building at the Grand Concourse and E. 161st Street to voice their opinions on the proposed stadium at E. 157th Street and River Avenue.

Skeptical on $$

Reports leaked in December that the Bloomberg administration was rushing to close a stadium deal with the New York City Football Club (NYCYC), a franchise backed by an oil-rich Abu Dhabi sheik and the New York Yankees.

Under the terms of the proposal, the city would dole out millions of dollars in city funds to entice the franchise to move in a mere goal kick away from the new Yankee Stadium.

Naysayers at Wednesday’s meeting questioned why the city would use public funds to support a stadium owned by one of the wealthiest men in the world.

NYCFC’s majority owner, Shiek Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is worth billions of dollars, according to the most conservative estimates.

“If they want to build it, fine,” said local resident Jackson Strong. “But they should use their own money.”

Congressman Jose Serrano, whose district includes the proposed site, charged through a representative that doling out public funds to such a wealthy tycoon is a bad deal.

“The Congressman will not support a stadium deal that includes any public subsidies whatsoever,” said his local district director, Javier Lopez.

Serrano’s support is crucial because he would need to approve a change to a ramp on the Major Deegan Expressway in order for the plan to work.

Split on Yanks

Community groups at the meeting who receive funding from the Yankees urged locals to support the project, arguing that the franchise has been a good neighbor.

“A lot of what we’ve been able to do for our kids would not be possible without the Yankees,” said Johnny Rivera of Harlem RBI, which runs an afterschool program at P.S 18 on Morris Avenue.

Others are still sour from the deal on the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. Naysayers have long criticized the stadium for catering to outsiders while keeping the community out.

“If this stadium gets built the way projects are passed in this city, most of the residents surrounding the project would be spending most of their lives enriching someone else,” said Yorman Nunez, a community organizer.

Community Perks

Locals seemed in agreement Wednesday night that they would only support a plan that provided the community —the poorest urban area in the nation —with real benefits.

“We need viable jobs, and we need to be in on the decisions,” said Carol Boykins, who lives on nearby Jerome Avenue and who supports the new stadium.

Many in the neighborhood are soccer fans, but would like access inside any new arena.

“Our kids don’t need a soccer stadium,” charged Leo Glickman, who serves on the board of the youth soccer organization Uptown Soccer Academy. “They need soccer fields to play on.”

Ben Kochman can be reached via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742–3394
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