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Public hearing on soccer stadium

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Got an opinion about the proposed Major League Soccer stadium slated for the South Bronx?

Now’s your chance to make your voice heard.

Local stakeholders will gauge the community’s pulse at an open town hall meeting Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 900 Grand Concourse, headquarters of the 161th Street Business Improvement District (BID).

The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m.

Locals pro or con?

City officials have yet to strike a deal with the New York Football Club for the proposed stadium, but reports leaked in December stated the franchise was eyeing a site at River Avenue and 157th Street.

The stadium would occupy part of an underutilized parking facility at River Avenue and 153rd Street, as well as take over space currently used by GAL Manufacturing, an elevator parts company that employs over 350 people.

Locals remain undecided on whether or not to support the project, said Killian Jordan, an activist who lives blocks away from the proposed site.

Possible benefits

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. urged MLS to bring a stadium to the borough this June, after elected officials and community members shot down a plan to bring the franchise to Queens.

The Bronx is home to many soccer fans who pack Yankee Stadium to watch international matches. Visitors to a new stadium would infuse nearby shops with more business, Diaz argued.

But the Beep, as well as the local community board, have yet to endorse or decry the proposal now on the table.

Mayor-elect Bill Be Blasio told the New York Times in December that he had “serious concerns” with investing public resources in the project, though he has yet to take an official stand.

Decriers emerge

Naysayers charge that adding another stadium down the road from Yankee Stadium will cause congestion in an area already packed with housing.

“One stadium has not improved our quality of life, and I don’t expect this one to help,” said Joyce Hoggi, a local who actively protested the relocation of the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.

Locals are also wary of the still-unofficial financial details of the deal, which call for taxpayer subsidies and enticements.

Hoggi said she’d prefer the city subsidize the development of local merchants that she can visit year-round.

“I get tired of driving in my car to somewhere else to eat and shop,” she said.

Keeping jobs

Also likely to come up at the meeting is finding a way to preserve the hundreds of jobs at GAL, the elevator parts company whose headquarters are included in the stadium blueprint.

“Our number one thing is that we don’t want to lose those jobs from the Bronx,” said Chauncy Young, a local resident who works at the Highbridge Life Center.

Politician influence

Elected officials whose influence could or break or break the plan are expected to turn out at the public meeting. Newly-elected City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will have a major say on changes to the city map called for in the plan. Changes to the federally funded Major eegan Expressway would need to be approved by local Congressman Jose Serrano. And much of the financial details would go through the city’s Comptroller office.

Cary Goodman, executive director of the 161th Street BID, said he was optimistic that a good deal could be worked out, as long as the community is a part of the discussion.

“The skepticism needs to be overcome,” Goodman said. “People need to feel like they can talk about their problems, and also be open to the benefits.”

Updated 12:44 pm, January 16, 2014
Ben Kochman can be reached via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742–3394
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