Magazine article The New Yorker

The Park That Ruth Built

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Park That Ruth Built

Article excerpt

When Shea Stadium was torn down and its site turned into a parking lot for the Mets' new Citi Field earlier this year, nobody seemed to care, least of all historic preservationists. It didn't have that much history, and it was ugly besides. Shea was no Yankee Stadium. But, now that the Yankees have moved to their new $1.5-billion ballpark, the question has arisen as to whether their former home ought to disappear as completely as Shea did. The city has promised to turn the site into a park, complete with three ball fields. But the current design calls for the entire stadium to be demolished, its history recalled mainly through a series of panels and plaques in the pavement.

Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, is a supporter of the park plan, but he knows that a lot of fans have never got over the fact that not a trace remains of either Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds, both of which were replaced by housing projects.

"Yankee Stadium has had papal Masses, Billy Graham's crusade, championship boxing matches, and the rally when Nelson Mandela was freed," Benepe said. "Why can't we create a great new park that acknowledges all of this?"

Benepe and city officials decided to hold a meeting. Rather than gather at City Hall, they asked if the Yankees would be willing to host a group in the new Stadium. So, the other day, Benepe and a dozen architects, preservationists, and community leaders spent two hours in Suite 7, a double-sized luxury box overlooking first base. The guest list included Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx borough historian; Sherida Paulsen, the former chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission; Rick Bell, from the American Institute of Architects; Tony Morante, the Yankees' historian; and Jose Rodriguez, the district manager of Community Board 4 in the Bronx. Two of the designers for the new park, Gary Sorge and David Vanden-Eynden, also came to talk about their project, which has been given the bland name of Heritage Field.

Suite 7 was set up with a U-shaped table to make it feel more like a boardroom, and the Yankee hosts provided a buffet of Cracker Jacks, Power Bars, nuts, and pretzels. "This is just a brainstorming session," Benepe said.

Sorge started out with a PowerPoint presentation of the design, which he said would have "subtle reminders of the site's past" and would still be "a quality community recreational park. …

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