Bronx, NY - While Major League Soccer (MLS) was in Philadelphia preparing for Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft 2014, a crowd of over 400 people attended Wednesday’s night Town Hall Meeting to discuss the pros and cons of building a soccer stadium in the area for the league’s 2015 MLS club, New York City FC.
Hosted by the 161st Street Business Improvement District (161BID) at 900 Grand Concourse, Wednesday night’s Town Hall was well represented by individuals who passionately expressed their support & disapproval of the potential soccer stadium. Also in attendance was Councilmember Arroyo, representatives of Comptroller, Scott Stringer, Congressman Jose Serrano, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as well as several members of the New York Yankees front office.
Other than an incident in which an individual was physically escorted out of the building for his profanity and attempt to rush the moderator and 161BID Executive Director Cary Goodman, majority of the people in attendance were respectful of each other’s opinions and didn’t go over the two-minutes they allotted.
For those of you who wish to see his ejection, here’s the YouTube clip. Only things positive that came out of that situation is that no one was injured, the Police Officers from the 44th Precinct handled the situation appropriately and the simple fact that he didn’t proclaim that he was a soccer aficionado.
The residents chanting “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye” was definitely better than the hissing I had to endure when I covered last year’s Hudson River Park Trust Advisory Council public meeting about a potential soccer stadium at Pier 40, click here.
Unlike last year’s controlled Fernando Fiore moderated MLS to Queens Soccer Town Hall (click here), Wednesday night’s Town Hall was definitely more organic. While it was clear that several residents and nonresidents agreed to disagree, both sides only they want whats best for the Bronx.
Meaning that along with building a stadium, both Manchester City and the Yankees need to socially, educationally and economically be ready to invest in the Bronx. One crucial factor that majority of the people agree is that if a soccer stadium was to be built in the Bronx, then it has to come out of the Yankees and Manchester City’s pocket instead of receiving any special tax breaks.
As one speaker said it best, “enough of the corporate welfare.” The truth is that there are residents who are still bitterly angry and believe they didn’t have an opportunity to express themselves in an open forum regarding the current Yankee Stadium, FreshDirect and the Bronx Terminal Market.
One thing that needs to be overemphasized about the Town Hall Meeting is that the residents finally had their say to voice their opinions. From what was said, it appeared that progress is welcome under the condition that it benefits their community.
Speakers who represented nonprofit agencies like Rock and Wrap It Up, Harlem RBI, and South Bronx United pointed out how a professional soccer team and a stadium would benefit the population they’re serving in terms of employment, internships and the opportunity to for their clients to take their families to matches.
Members of the South Bronx Community Association, an organization that represents the epicenter of the residents who live near the proposed stadium listened and are currently reviewing the pro’s and con’s of a soccer stadium. Like many in attendance, they only want whats best for their community.
Others against the stadium addressed the gameday inconveniences they face during the MLB season. From public drinking to the inability to find parking, several Bronx residents are convinced that the last thing they need in their community is a soccer stadium where maybe 25-35 matches will be played.
You also had speakers like Leo Glickman, a board member of Uptown Soccer Academy who believes that there’s a greater demand for soccer fields and jobs asked both residents and union workers present to research Manchester City’s owner and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mansour.
At the conclusion of the Town Hall Meeting, I stuck around and interacted with the public. Rather than make the argument of why a stadium is or isn’t necessary in the South Bronx, I would rather ask both sides to explain to me their position. Overall, I was pleased with the turnout. In the end, I hope that a decision is reached that will benefit the Bronx and it’s beautiful people.