Locals are turning up the volume against the cricket plan in Van Cortlandt Park.
Twenty-nine groups, mostly based in The Bronx, sent a letter to city and state officials on Saturday rejecting the cricket stadium proposed for an international tournament in Van Cortlandt in 2024, THE CITY has learned.
Spearheaded by the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality and the Broadway Community Alliance, the letter says its authors are “against the extended, exclusive use of parkland in Van Cortlandt Park, or any other park, for private, commercial purposes.”
They are also requesting increased transparency and public notice for a proposal that has thus far had little engagement with the community, they said. They noted concerns about the short timeline for construction and for meeting legal requirements — concerns already documented by advocates, lawyers and local elected officials.
“Said legislative and other regulatory processes must be completed before any municipality can make such a drastic change to the use of public parkland,” reads the letter. “We, therefore, now request that our State and City Officials ensure that transparent and thorough public notice and review processes are complied with as required under law.”
First revealed publicly by THE CITY in July, the mayor’s administration has proposed building a 34,000-seat “temporary” stadium on the Van Cortlandt Park Parade Grounds, near the Enslaved African Burial Ground, to host the International Cricket Council T20 World Cup in June 2024.
If the ICC selects New York City as a host, the project would have an ambitious turnaround schedule with construction to begin in January 2024. In theory, the stadium would be taken down a few months after the tournament ends. While it stands, parkgoers would be unable to access the parade grounds, which hosts games for various sports, picnics, runners and bike riders.
Several elected officials, community organizations and the local community board have raised eyebrows at the proposal. The project has lacked community input, and skeptics have noted that a likely required state approval to “alienate” parkland — the process for making up for lost green space — plus the short timeline for the rigorous land review process and the potential damage to the park are all major obstacles for City Hall and the ICC.
As the letter goes out, opposition to the idea is growing in the borough.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-The Bronx), who had not previously taken a stance on the project, has now joined the fray in opposing it. While acknowledging the potential economic benefit of the international cricket tournament, Rivera told THE CITY in a written statement that the “authorities in charge of executing this ambitious project” failed to engage all stakeholders, including Bronx Community Board 8, to address “the project’s most disruptive aspects.”
“The logistical hurdles associated with this project simply do not serve our community and I cannot in good faith support this project at this time,” Rivera said. “I will continue to reach out to our local authorities in the hopes that they will finally be able to answer the questions my office is receiving from the community.”
Other elected officials who had already opposed the stadium echoed similar feelings on Monday.
“My community in the Bronx feels ambushed by the sudden decision to build a colossal cricket stadium in Van Cortlandt Park. If the city is going to radically restructure Van Cortlandt Park, it should do so only with the buy-in of the local community, whose voice thus far has been ignored,” U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx) told THE CITY in a written statement. “I am of the view that the restructuring of Van Cortlandt Park for an entirely new use represents the kind of park alienation that should be voted upon by the state legislature.”
Assemblymember Jeff Dinowitz (D-The Bronx) told THE CITY that he was “thrilled that all of these organizations are joining us in expressing their opinion about the problems with this proposal. I don’t want to exaggerate, but like nobody supports this.”
“There needs to be local input,” City Councilmember Eric Dinowitz, the son of Assemblymember Dinowitz told THE CITY on Monday. He noted the resentment Bronxites still feel after the expensive water filtration plant project at Van Cortlandt Park. “There are deep concerns.”
The mayor walked the parade grounds, where the stadium would be built, with Torres and Assemblymember Dinowitz on Sunday for the Anti-Defamation League’s Walk Against Hate event.
Neither City Hall nor the ICC responded to requests for comment about the letter.
City Hall Spokesperson Brad Weekes previously told THE CITY, “New York City remains hopeful to be selected as one of the International Cricket Council’s host cities. Cricket is one of the world’s most popular sports, and it only makes sense to host their tournament in the melting pot that is New York City.”