- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Finally, the Park Department came up with the only suggestion involving park land which makes any sense. It was no new thing. Its locale was Queens, not Brooklyn, a fatal defect from the point of view of some Brooklyn fanatics, but otherwise eminently sensible. It had been on the park program for many years, going way back to the expansion of Flushing Meadow and the basic improvements for the World's Fair of 1939, 1940. I had charge of this work, and everything was planned with the idea that Flushing Meadow Park ultimately would take the place of the World's Fair at the geographical center of metropolitan New York and what is today also its population center.
We laid out on paper 20 years ago an all-purpose municipal stadium and sports center, roughly bounded by Flushing Bay and the Roosevelt Avenue elevated rapid transit line. An argument promptly developed with the Daily News, headed at the time by my old friend Captain Joseph Medill Patterson. Captain Patterson was with us but thought our stadium was much too small and that it should accommodate at least 100,000 people instead of the 50-odd thousand we proposed. We replied that such a huge stadium would be a white elephant and that it would be filled only once or twice a year, and we deluged the captain with reams of statistics to prove our point. These figures did not impress him at all, and he ran editorials once or twice a year for several years saying that I was against his plan because I hadn't invented it. We continued to be the best of friends and I enjoyed his pungent editorials immensely. Anyway, we didn't get the money for any kind of a stadium, and other parts of Flushing Meadow Park closer to rapidly growing adjacent subdivisions naturally came first on the program.
For example, Police Commissioner Arthur Wallander asked me to set aside part of the site in the proposed stadium area for the use of commuters who would drive in from Long Island, leave their cars, climb up on the elevated railroad and thus not congest traffic in the heart of the city. I didn't think much of the scheme at the time but went along on an experimental basis. The experiment was a success with revenues from a 25¢ charge, and now about one third of the sports center area is occupied by the parking field, which must continue to be available to commuters five days of the week but not at weekends and not in the evenings. Incidentally, at these off hours the field would, of course, be available for stadium users—no small advantage.
The Flushing Meadow site has other obvious advantages. It is large enough. It can provide all required parking on the surface without garages. It is accessible by way of major arteries, some of which are about to be substantially widened and improved as part of the federal-state-city arterial program. This program includes a new bridge over Flushing Creek leading to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and the Throggs Neck bridge on the way to all upstate New York, and to the east, north and west. The temporary Long Island Rail Road World's Fair station can easily be restored. No money is required for land. The stadium can be built for $8 million without a roof and $10 million with. A roof I personally think is impractical. An additional $2 million would be required for parking improvements, fencing and other incidental purposes. If the city were willing to begin foundations before the entire plans are finished, we could complete the job for the opening of the baseball season of 1959.
If George McLaughlin's figures as to possible returns from nonprofit, limited-profit or profit-sharing baseball and other sports are correct, and I have never known George to be wrong on figures, enough revenue would be guaranteed by contract so that the city could advance, let us say, $10 million, which would automatically be exempt from the debt limit because all the service charges would be provided for. At the end of a comparatively short period the city would own the Sports Center free and clear and would be in a position to renew the contract with the operators or the city could negotiate a new one.
I have no judgment as to whether the Dodgers or Giants could be bought from the present owners by people interested in the preservation and elevation of baseball and the expansion of other city recreation facilities. I do not know, either, whether a new club or clubs are practical in the National or any other league, but certainly a scheme which included the continuation of the Dodgers or the Giants in New York or the introduction of another National League team is well worth trying, if only to dissipate the smog of controversy and the atmosphere of evasion, haggling and penny pinching which overhangs the scene. I don't want to be accused of sentimentality, but I hate to see our youth disillusioned, not by professionalism, but by plain, ordinary skulduggery. One thing at least is certain, namely, that we in the Park Department can build a first-class, all-purpose sports center at Flushing Meadow in jig time if we are given the green light.
It is claimed that Brooklyn would not be Brooklyn without the beloved Bums. The same thing was said about the Brooklyn Eagle, which nevertheless folded. That was a damn shame and so, in some respects, would be the departure of the Dodgers, although a new location elsewhere on Long Island could hardly be classed as a tragedy. I shall leave it to people closer to politics and public opinion to prove what proportion of the 3 million and more residents of Brooklyn really care a great deal in view of the slim attendance at Ebbets Field, the convenience of television, etc. Certainly, the political retina will be less clouded after Election Day. Unfortunately, it looks as if the decision will have to be made before then.
One final confession. In weighing this testimony, or to stick to the original metaphor in diagnosing this diagnosis, please remember I am seizing upon a favorable moment to argue for something I have wanted a long time, something less grandiose and elephantine, more modest than what my farsighted friend Captain Patterson envisioned—a municipal stadium at Flushing Meadow, worthy of New York, big enough for decent professional baseball and football and for other sports in which the spirit of amateur athletics still prevails.