The New York Yankees are now squarely in the sights of the Occupy Bronx protesters, who consider themselves the real “99 percent” of the non-wealthy Americans.
“It doesn’t make sense to have the poorest district in the financial capital of the world right next to one of the most successful sports franchises in history,” said Maribel Vasquez, 24, of Hunts Point.
Shouting slogans like, “They got bailed out, the Bronx got sold out,” Vasquez and around 50 other anti-corporate protesters gathered in Fordham Plaza on Saturday, October 22 to plan their future actions.
The new Yankee stadium was built in 2009 with a price tag of over $1 billion. Its underused parking garages have been the subject of controversy ever since. The borough president’s office is looking into proposals to demolish and replace the garages with a hotel.
Protesters are angry that the new stadium was partially financed by public funds, when most Bronx residents cannot afford the $70 average ticket price to attend the games. “We are tired of bailing out the rich,” said Vasquez.
Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera, 75, addressed the meeting, drawing on lessons from the civil rights era to inspire the protesters. He likened the young protesters to Rosa Parks, who stood up for her right more than 50 years ago to keep her seat in the Birmingham, Alabama bus. “It was people like you who made the civil rights movement possible,” he said.
Dr. Mark Naison, a history professor at the nearby Fordham University related the protests to his experiences from the Vietnam War era. “I teach history and also like to make history – that’s why I am here,” Naison said.
The group has also found local allies. Less than a mile west of Fordham Plaza, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition rallied about 400 more residents. Among that group’s concerns were a lack of quality education, a pending living-wage bill in City Council and laws that protect tenants from landlord abuse.
Last Saturday, New York police officers escorted about 30 Occupy Bronx protesters from their general assembly meeting down Fordham Road and University Avenue where they united with those gathered at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church.
Together, the group of 450 or so marched in front of Chase Bank and across from the Bank of America near Valentine Avenue. The group chanted “Bank of America, bad for America” and “Chase move, get out of the way.”
Another Bronx mother of four, who attended the first Occupy Bronx protest, focuses her protests around education reform. “I’m here representing Latinos, the women, my children, and the children of the Bronx,” said Eliada Helsado, 35, a poet. “The schools are disappointing because they are teaching only for the tests, not for creativity.”
Veronica Feliciano,29, of Throgs Neck was concerned about public health. “Diabetes is very rampant which is not taken care of, there is high obesity here,” said Feliciano, who is due to give birth next month. “We need initiatives for supermarkets and bodegas to carry fresh food, as opposed to sugar and high fructose injected foods.”
At the end of the march, a handful of protesters boarded the Number 4 Subway to join the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement downtown in Zuccotti Park. Many believed the Wall Street protesters needed to hear from Bronx residents.
“The Bronx is a microcosm of what’s happening around the country, the poor stays poor while the rich keeps on getting richer,” said Frederick Fret, a union organizer with District Council 37. “That needs to change.”