Feb 8, 2020
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N.Y.C.F.C. Is Close to Deal to Build Stadium in the Bronx

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New York City F.C.’s circuitous search for a permanent home — a seven-year quest that generated frustration for the team, exasperation among its supporters and endless ridicule from rival fans in Major League Soccer — has come full circle.

The team’s owners, in conjunction with a group of local developers, are nearing an agreement with New York City that would allow the team to construct a privately financed, 25,000-seat stadium in the South Bronx as part of a development project costing more than $1 billion.

The new stadium, the anchor of a plan that will replace parking lots and an elevator parts factory with affordable housing units, a new school, a hotel and retail stores, would rise just a short walk’s distance down River Avenue from the team’s current home at Yankee Stadium.

The group of developers, which includes Jorge Madruga’s Maddd Equities, says the project has the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio and James Patchett, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The E.D.C. said in a statement that it sees value in the proposal but cautioned that no formal agreement has been finalized.

“It’s long past time to make the underutilized parking lots around Yankee Stadium into something more,” a representative for the E.D.C. said in a statement Friday. “The city has been approached by a team of affordable housing developers, the Yankees and the N.Y.C. Football Club.

“A deal has not been reached, and more conversations are needed. We are hopeful for a future where these lots can better serve the community. The first step toward achieving that is engaging the community on their needs and vision for this area.”

A New York City F.C. representative confirmed the discussions but, perhaps wary because of earlier failures, expressed similar caution.

“We have been honored to call the Bronx our home for the last five years playing at Yankee Stadium, and we will keep our neighbors and our dedicated fans informed as we participate with Maddd and others in any related consultations and the public approval process,” the team said.

Final approval for the project, including public hearings and an application for rezoning the site and decommissioning the affected roadways, will require several months. But the developers said they were confident they would not face the kind of community and governmental opposition that scuttled previous proposals.

If approved, the stadium will be built on the current sites of one of the old parking garages currently used for Yankee games and the GAL elevator parts factory across East 153rd Street. In order to connect the two plots on which the stadium will sit, that block of East 153rd, from River Avenue to the Major Deegan Expressway, will become part of the playing field. An off ramp from the Deegan will be closed as well; it is set to become a pedestrian walkway to a new waterfront park.

Construction would not begin until at least 2022 and could take several years, meaning it is unlikely the team would move in until at least 2024.

The complicated plan was made possible when the Yankees’ president, Randy Levine, approached Maddd Equities, a developer that produces affordable housing in the city, and said the team would be willing to scale back its requirement for thousands of parking spaces in the immediate area of Yankee Stadium, allowing Maddd to purchase them.

The Yankees own 20 percent of N.Y.C.F.C., part of a joint venture with an investment group led by Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, who also controls the English soccer champion Manchester City.

By purchasing the six scattered parking lots (five outdoors and one indoor structure) for $54 million, Maddd Equities will help the Bronx Parking Development Corporation, a nonprofit set up when the new Yankee Stadium was built, get out from under crippling debt, a problem that has vexed the city for years. Some of the lots will be used for the housing and some for the stadium and hotel.

Maddd and N.Y.C.F.C. also are in contract to purchase the GAL factory. They would then convey the property to the city, which would then lease the land back for the stadium.

“It’s a moment in time where the stars have aligned,” said Eli Weiss of Joy Construction, one of the developers involved in the proposal. “And by the stars, I mean all the people involved.”

The project will be a tight fit, with everything tucked into a parcel of land a few blocks south of Yankee Stadium, hard by the Metro North train tracks and a short walk to the Harlem River. And construction cannot begin until all the procedural steps and approval requirements have been met.

A similar proposal for the site in 2018 collapsed, but this time the team and the developers are working closely with city and state officials, and expressed confidence that they would gain full approval. That confidence is largely based on the affordable housing component and the fact that the factory will be moved to another site in the Bronx and continue to employ its workers.

When New York City F.C. was founded in 2013, it arrived in M.L.S. with deep pockets and a public pledge to build a stadium within the city’s five boroughs. That proved to be a daunting task.

Every time a site was identified — in the Bronx, on the edges of Manhattan, in Queens or just beyond its borders — it was just as quickly ruled out, running up against one obstacle or another.

As the search dragged on, the team and its frustrated fans persevered in temporary conditions at Yankee Stadium that were far from perfect. Each time a scheduling conflict with the Yankees arose, it was the soccer team that hit the road: The team has played regular-season, cup and even playoff games on college fields at St. John’s and Fordham; hours away at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.; and even at Citi Field in Queens.

When N.Y.C.F.C. joined forces with the Yankees in 2013, it not only gave the soccer club an alliance with one of the most venerable institutions in the city, but it also gave the team access to Levine, a former deputy mayor familiar with the complex web of public and private bureaucracies in the city.

Levine was part of the search for the new stadium from the beginning. He said De Blasio, Patchett and community leaders in the South Bronx were instrumental in shepherding the project, and that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s transportation team has been helpful in opening up the waterfront.

“Thanks to their leadership,” Levine said, “we are moving toward concluding a transformational project in the South Bronx that will create and save thousands of jobs, provide thousands of units of much-needed affordable housing, a new school and hotel, community-based retail and a world-class soccer venue.”

Previous plans to build a soccer stadium for N.Y.C.F.C. in Queens or Manhattan drew widespread criticism from residents and community leaders concerned about the effects on their neighborhoods. This time, the developers said, they began with community outreach and sought input long before they presented any concrete proposals.

The affordable housing units, set to be built on several existing outdoor parking lots along River Avenue and atop the site of a current self-storage facility, will be built, owned and operated by Maddd Equities, which has built and owns about 3,000 units of affordable housing units in the Bronx.

At the core of the deal, though, are the parking lots, which have been a money-losing fiasco since the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009.

When the new Yankee Stadium was built, the Yankees demanded about 9,300 spaces to accommodate their fans on game days, but the team has agreed to reduce the number of spaces by about 3,000 to accommodate the new project. That reduction was made possible because more people are using public transportation and ride-share options that did not exist when the stadium opened in 2009.

“That’s what made this deal happen,” Madruga said of the Yankees’ relaxing their parking covenant. “Without the Yankees, the reality is that this deal does not happen.”

Andrew Das and Matthew Haag contributed reporting.

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