Despite visions of grandeur from the Adams administration over a temporary 34,000-seat cricket stadium in Van Cortlandt Park, legislative obstacles could derail the project before it even begins.
The International Cricket Council (ICC), based out of Dubai, has tapped the Bronx to potentially host the 2024 T20 Cricket World Cup – an ambitious proposition for the world’s second-most popular sport embraced by City Hall that has been met with tentative excitement, ardent opposition and legal worries.
If Van Cortlandt Park – New York City’s third-largest park at 1,146 acres – is selected as the location for the stadium, construction would begin in January 2024 and need to be completed in time for the bulk of cricket matches taking place that June, according to Community Board 8 Chair Julie Reyes. CB8 held a special meeting on July 20 to share plans for the project, which detail a 19.5-acre section in the southeast corner of Van Cortlandt Park including an area for concessions and a stage for entertainment.
But the timeline of Albany’s upcoming legislative session, which isn’t set to start until January 2024, could also throw a wrench in the ICC’s potential plans for a NYC location to be included in its host cities.
State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz – a Riverdale Democrat whose district runs through Van Cortlandt Park – said he is excited about the idea of hosting such a tournament in the Bronx, but expressed opposition to it being held in Van Cortlandt Park. State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Kingsbridge Democrat whose district also includes the park, has not yet voiced his opinion on the project.
Nonetheless, the need for support from Albany would come if the proposal required parkland alienation – and that seems likely.
According to the New York State Park Alienation Handbook, “Parkland alienation occurs when a municipality wishes to convey, sell or lease municipal parkland or discontinue its use as a park.” The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation determines whether or not the private project in question would alienate public parkland.
State Parks spokesperson John Craig told the Bronx Times that state Parks has not yet seen any proposal related to the possibility of ICC’s proposal for Van Cortlandt Park. Therefore, Craig said state Parks cannot yet determine whether or not the project would alienate parkland from the community.
In order to alienate parkland, legislation would need to be enacted by the state Legislature and approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
In most cases, a park alienation bill would be carried by the local lawmakers –in this case Dinowitz and Rivera – from each house of the Legislature.
In an interview with the Bronx Times, Dinowitz said that he “loves” the idea, but remains concerned about the choice of Van Cortlandt Park as the venue, specifically because of the way the project might alienate what is a widely-used park. Dinowitz said that if the cricket stadium did fall under the category of park alienation, he would not vote in favor of it.
“I can’t imagine on what circumstances I would ever sponsor legislation to alienate parkland in Van Cortlandt Park,” Dinowitz said.
Valeria Munt, a spokesperson for Rivera, would not comment on the senator’s position regarding the project.
“Our office is still looking into the issue further,” Munt said.
Christopher Rizzo, a lawyer who has worked on park alienation issues for more than two decades and who lives in the area, told the Bronx Times that there are numerous laws and legal requirements that “almost certainly” come into question with this project, such as the Public Trust Doctrine, the State Environmental Quality Review Act and the NYC Zoning Resolution – all of which pertain to the way a private project could impact a public park.
Rizzo added that addressing these legal requirements could require up to two years.
“I see no indication (that the) ICC or the government officials involved understand the laws that must apply here,” Rizzo said. “I am deeply troubled by that.”
Before any park alienation request reaches the state Legislature, however, it first requires a Municipal Home Rule Request to be voted on and approved by the New York City Council.
While local Councilmember Eric Dinowitz, a Riverdale Democrat, said at the July 20 CB8 meeting that it is nice for the Bronx to be recognized in the potential plans for the stadium, he also mentioned concerns about the lack of dialogue between the mayor’s office and local community members.
Eric Dinowitz’s office told the Bronx Times that the councilmember “will work alongside his colleagues through the legislative and legal process, and ensure that whatever the next steps are, they are fully briefed on the impact of their vote.” However, Eric Dinowitz’s office would not comment on how the councilmember would vote on a potential Municipal Home Rule request.
Beyond any potential legal issues, some elected officials and community members at the CB8 meeting were also concerned about the way a large-scale cricket tournament could cause problems with parking and traffic in the area. Others also worried that the tournament could impact the adjacent Enslaved African Burial Ground and damage the park’s wildlife.
“It’s not merely a neighborhood park, it’s the greatest park in the city,” Jeffrey Dinowitz said at the meeting. “Don’t hurt our park. Don’t hurt Van Cortlandt Park.”
The Bronx Times reached out to the ICC for comment and is awaiting response.
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