Bronx kids still waiting for new fields
April 10th 2009
The baseball season officially begins next week for All Hallows High School - a wonderful Bronx Catholic school in the shadows of the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium.
The varsity team's home opener will be against Iona Prep on Wednesday, but the game will not be played in the Bronx. It will not kick off a few blocks away at Babe Ruth field in Macombs Dam Park, where All Hallows played all its home games for so many decades.
Babe Ruth field is gone.
All Hallows, which opened its doors on E. 164th St. 80 years ago, and which every year graduates virtually all of its students and sends them on to college, is suffering through its third consecutive year of its sports teams being homeless. So are the track and soccer teams. So are teams at many other neighborhood schools.
Next week, All Hallows will "host" the visiting Iona team on Iona's field up in New Rochelle.
For this scandalous state of affairs, we can all thank the legendary Yankees organization and the Department of Parks.
Both have failed to address the problem they created for neighborhood kids when they grabbed 22 acres of public parkland to make way for the new stadium and its assorted parking garages.
If you go to the All Hallows Web site, you will find the letters "TBA" (to be announced) as the site for most baseball home games this spring.
Back in 2006, when the City Council approved the stadium plan, the Parks Department assured neighborhood residents that temporary alternate fields would be provided.
It said new replacement parks, including a new running track, would be built quickly, some to open as early as this summer. The Yankees even promised $800,000 a year for the community and its sports teams.
The past three years have been a nightmare for the school's sports programs to pin down sites for their home contests, Principal Sean Sullivan said.
"I can get an answer from the Pope in Rome faster than I can from the Parks Department," said Sullivan, who doubles as assistant baseball coach.
Only a few days ago, the Parks Department finally offered the baseball team a rundown field at Pelham Bay Park - a 40-minute trip to the other side of the Bronx.
"The field looks like a lunar landscape," Sullivan said. "When I'm standing in the third base coaching box, I can't see my shortstop completely because he's playing in a ditch."
To accomplish all this additional traveling for the varsity and JV teams, even for practices, the school has been forced to buy two small buses and order a third. The total cost, says school President Paul Krebbs, has been more than $100,000.
Krebbs figured that since the new stadium made them homeless, the Yankees should help bear the school's additional cost.
He applied for a $40,000 grant from the Yankees Community Foundation to pay for one bus. That amounts to less than one inning's pay for CC Sabathia.
"We were rejected," Krebbs said. "They told us they don't pay for vehicles."
The Yankees did give the school a huge second-hand pitching machine from the old stadium, but it's far too big to be used indoors - and there's no way to get it to Pelham Bay Park.
So what about the new baseball fields that were supposed to replace the ones the neighborhood lost? Well, the construction cost has since skyrocketed, and the city has set back the openings until 2011.
That's because most of the fields will be on the site of the old Stadium, which is still standing.
No one has explained how the Mets managed to tear down Shea Stadium as soon as the season ended, but demolition of old Yankee Stadium hasn't even begun.
Somehow, the new stadium has opened on time, the Yankee garages are on schedule and the new Metro-North station is done.
Only when it comes to replacing the community's lost parkland are huge delays acceptable to the Yankees and Mayor Bloomberg's people. After all, its just thousands of poor blacks and Hispanics who will suffer.
There are student athletes at All Hallows who will go through all four years of high school being treated like gypsies by their city and the big, rich team down the street. What a way to play ball with our kids.