Once city planners approved the Yankees' plan to build a new stadium, a Bronx community group, Save Our Parks (SOP), challenged the final environmental review and sought a court order to stop the removal of 377 mature shade trees, some of which reached forty feet in height.
SOP claimed that the review failed to consider: the adverse impact the loss of the park would have on the community's children; possible project alternatives (e.g., sharing Shea Stadium with Mets in order to allow the reconstruction of the existing stadium); and, the adverse environmental impact triggered by the mature trees' removal.
In papers filed with the New York County Supreme Court, SOP argued that "irreparable harm" would occur if the City proceeded with the new stadium plans and allowed destruction of the parkland and removal of the trees. SOP asserted that "while you can replace buildings and restore park land, only God can make a 75 year old tree, and that's not something that gets replaced by putting in a new sapling."
The City countered that there was no true harm to the community, because the loss of the parkland was only temporary and the project would actually result in a net gain of 2.14 acres of unencumbered parkland, and thousands of new trees.* The City further asserted that a delay by judicial direction or otherwise might result in the project's abandonment and the loss of a thousand construction jobs. Lon Trost, the Yankees' Chief Operating Officer, also threatened that the team would be forced to leave the City if they could not be assured a new stadium by he start of the 2009 season. (Apparently, by 2009, stadium facilities must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other comparable state and city laws.)
Justice Herman Cahn explained that when ruling on this type of request, a court is required to balance:
the likelihood that a party would be successful with its case;
whether the individuals seeking the relief would suffer an irreparable injury--a loss not compensable by money damages--without the court's intervention; and
whether the opponent would suffer a greater harm were the requested relief granted.After carefully weighing these factors, Justice Cahn sapped SOP and denied the request to stop the stadium project noting, in part, that the Yankees--and the larger Bronx community--would suffer greater harm by any construction delays.**
For a copy of the New York County Supreme Court's decision in Save Our Parks v. The Planning Commission of the City of New York, please click on the following link:
*The Court also noted that the new facilities will feature: "a running track; a soccer field, little league and softball fields; sixteen tennis courts; nine handball courts; four basketball courts, including one with bleachers; a tot-lot with climbing and play equipment; and areas for the passive enjoyment of the park."
**The opinion stresses that the city's trees "have no legal protection." Judge Cahn writes:
Although communities, as a whole, are assessed and protected by environmental impact statements and reports, there is no legal bar to cutting down tress, when that is necessary to permit a project deemed beneficial to the City, i.e, the larger community, to proceed. The trees are not owed more deference than the community as a whole.