After Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr Woos Major League Soccer To The Bronx, Now Sits On the Fence About Stadium Being Built

In a meeting held last week at Bronx Legal Services by concerned community members about the proposed Major League Soccer stadium sweetheart deal, it was revealed by several individuals that Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr was proceeding cautiously with this deal as to not make the same mistake he made with the FreshDirect deal.

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Site of proposed soccer stadium.

These comments were allegedly made by Ruben Diaz Jr at the December 30th stakeholders meeting he held with local community members.

The FreshDirect sweetheart deal was made behind our backs almost 2 years ago and announced as a done deal without ever having any community input.

With overwhelming support against FreshDirect moving to the Bronx (well over 40 community based organizations have signed on a platform to block the deal whereas only 6 or 7 organizations support the move) and the fact that the company didn’t even bother coming to Community Board 1 until 16 months after the announced deal it is no wonder that the BP would be moving cautiously.

When we contacted his office, we were given the following statement from Ruben Diaz Jr’s Communications Director, John DeSio:

Our office has not yet made any decisions as to whether or not we would support this project. Our office is hosting a series of meetings with community stakeholders to measure interest in this project, and our eventual decision on this matter will be informed by those meetings.

As for FreshDirect, our office has and continues to support the company’s relocation to the Bronx—100 percent. However, our office has heard some concerns from legitimate community leaders that that project was not vetted to the community prior to its approval, and these meetings help ensure that the soccer stadium—should it move forward—would not be subject to similar criticisms.

The borough president also held up the FreshDirect MOU, as well as the Kingsbridge Armory CBA, as models of what could be done in and for the community should the project move forward.

This is in stark contrast to a press release issued on June 13, 2013 titled, “Borough President Diaz Calls on MLS to Bring Pro Soccer to The Bronx” where he says:

“The Bronx would be the perfect home for a new professional soccer franchise. I am ready to work with Major League Soccer to make this a reality, and I look forward to beginning this conversation,”

This was in a letter Diaz Jr wrote to MLS Commissioner Don Garber on June 12th urging him to, “…consider the Bronx, and not Queens, as the home of its newest franchise, the New York City Football Club.”
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Completely different tone from what was just released by the Borough President’s office but it is it because they truly are attempting to listen to the community or is it because New York City Football Club president Ferran Soriano looking at other sites outside of the Bronx?

On Friday it was announced by mlssoccer.com that the club is actively looking at locations outside of the Bronx so can it be that Diaz Jr is now on the fence because the Bronx deal may not actually happen?

But is this really the case or are our politicians being pushed against the wall with the same threat made by greedy corporations: If you don’t want this deal, we know other communities ready to take it.

Bettina Damiani, Project Director at Good Jobs New York and who has been instrumental in helping educate the community on how deals like FreshDirect negatively impact our communities rather than benefit them as promised, was at the meeting last Wednesday at Bronx Legal Services.

“We shouldn’t be having conversations about Memoranda of Understanding or Community Benefits Agreements at this point,” said Damiani in response to what the BP’s office had to say about the Kingsbridge Armory CBA and FreshDirect MOU. “The conversations that need to be happening right now is with the community and what they want done with the land.” Damiani added.

It is important to note that contrary to popular belief, sport stadiums and arenas do not add promised economic benefits to the neighborhoods they are built in.

Regardless of what’s happening behind the scenes, please attend a townhall meeting this coming Wednesday, January 15th at 7:30PM hosted by the 161st Street BID at 900 Grand Concourse. Email your thoughts on the soccer stadium deal to cary@161bid.org and please attend this meeting! It is important, as a community, to voice your thoughts and concerns!

ALSO: The possibility of a new soccer stadium is the subject for BronxTalk tonight. 9pm. BronxNet’s channel 67 and Fios 33. streamed on bronxnet.org

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