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Too late to save Yank gate

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A pack of Yankee fans are determined to save Gate Two of the old Yankee Stadium. They want it to celebrate baseball history and dignify Heritage Field, a public park planned for the old Yankee Stadium site. Gate Two was built in 1923.

“If the city rushes to knock down the old stadium, there will be remorse,” said John Trush, a consultant from New Jersey. “Look at Penn Station, Madison Square Garden.”

But the old Yankee Stadium is set for demolition, legendary gate included. According to neighborhood leaders, the “Save the Gate” effort is “too little, too late.” Three years ago, the Yankees needed Macombs Dam Park to build the new Yankee Stadium and promised to ready replacement parks by Opening Day 2009. Even if there is no demolition delay, the Parks Department won’t begin work on ten-acre Heritage Field until Summer 2010, according to Community Board 4 district manager Jose Rodriguez.

“We’ve waited long enough,” Yankee Stadium neighbor and parks advocate Joyce Hogi said. “[To preserve Gate Two] would cost the city and delay the park. If [Trush and friends] had come to the city in 2006, maybe. It’s too late.”

Rodriguez agreed.

“I don’t think it is doable,” he said of the Gate Two proposal. “If you’re a diehard Yankee fan, I understand. We’d rather see that energy spent urging the Parks Department to get [Heritage Field] built.”

The Parks Department visited CB4 on April 28 to present its final plans for Heritage Field. Hogi and other board members approved. The park will include three ball fields, a javelin/discus/shot-put area and a playground.

Heritage Field will boast historic plaques – the spot where Babe Ruth hit his 60th 1927 home run, for example. The Parks Department won’t preserve Gate Two but will install a leafy trail to mark the perimeter of the old stadium.

Trush and fellow Yankee fan Mark Costello won’t be deterred, however. Trush, Costello and others connected in February on an Internet message board. If the city preserved Gate Two, it would gain a dramatic entry to Heritage Park.

Flanked by the Yankee frieze, a standing Gate Two would appeal to baseball tourists and help salvage the struggling bars and shops on River Avenue south of E. 161st Street. The 161st Street Merchants Association has noted that stadium switch has hurt business on River Avenue. To preserve the gate would not cost much, Thrush said. Costello attended the April CB4 meeting and presented a Save the Gate plan. On Wednesday, June 24, the Parks Department is set to hold a public hearing. On Tuesday, June 30, Costello and Trush will campaign on River Avenue.

“I understand it’s late in the game,” Costello, of Long Island, said. “But we think [preserving Gate Two] is the right thing to do. It will enhance the neighborhood. It will be a win-win.”

The stadium demolition is expected to cost $80 million. When asked about Gate Two, the Yankees declined comment.

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