Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Glory Days and the "public purpose" of a new stadium

Looking for something to do over the weekend? The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957, a bang-up exhibit about the rivalry and cultural presence of the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Giants, is running just through December 31 at the Museum of the City of New York.

As we know, the latter two teams left for the West Coast and, if you believe Brooklynites of a certain vintage, the borough has never quite recovered--and won't, until we get the Nets and Atlantic Yards.

(At right, the companion volume. More on baseball stadiums tomorrow.)

At the museum

The museum display explains that Ebbets was built in 1913 "in a suburban and somewhat seedy location." That of course changed as the neighborhood developed, but owner Walter O'Malley wanted a new stadium in/near Downtown Brooklyn. The city's power broker, Robert Moses, as well as many in the political establishment, weren't buying it.

A 10/20/53 letter (right) from Moses to O'Malley shows the former in full form:
It is obviously your thought that we can some how go out and condemn property for a new Dodger field just where you want it, writing down the cost and in some way helping to finance the stadium. This is absolutely out of the question as any good lawyer can tell you...

... the establishment of a new Dodgers stadium is not of itself and by itself, a public purpose.


That changed in the decades to come, as many municipalities did decide to support sports facilities. Whether the Atlantic Yards arena qualifies as a "civic project" remains in question, as it's challenged in the pending environmental lawsuit.

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