Tag Archive | "Yankee Stadium"

Yankee Stadium installs metal detectors

The Yankee Stadium in the Bronx increased security at some of its gates on, News 12 reported on Tuesday.

According to a new initiative by the Major League Baseball (MLB), all stadiums are required to install metal detectors at their gates by 2015.

Baseball fans will now have to walk through full body metal detectors or be manually scanned by security before they head to watch the game.

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Runners race around Yancey Field with Yankee Stadium in the background

Yankees strike out on promises

Runners race around Yancey Field with Yankee Stadium in the background

Yancey Field is a new track and soccer field built as a compromise to Bronx residents on top of one of the Yankee Stadium parking lots. (NIGEL CHIWAYA/Bronx Ink)

The parking was supposed to get better. That’s what New York Yankees president Randy Levine promised Bronx residents and city council members back in March 2006 when the team was negotiating for a new Yankee Stadium. By adding 3,000 parking spots, Levine said, Yankee fans would not need to cruise the streets looking for curbside parking spots. The result would be a less congested South Bronx.

Bronx residents don’t see it that way. According to them, things have actually gotten worse since the new stadium went up.

“It’s a nightmare,” said Joyce Hogi, who has lived on 165th Street and the Grand Concourse for over 30 years. “There are still people that are looking to park on the streets, but now the police block off 161st Street on game days. I have friends in Highbridge and it takes them two hours to get through.”

Decreased street congestion was just one of the four key promises the Yankees made in 2006. At that city council meeting Levine also pledged to create new public parks to replace those lost during stadium construction, to establish a benefits fund for Bronx non-profits, and to provide 1,000 permanent new jobs at the stadium.

But five years after the team broke ground on the new stadium, the parking garages sit half empty during game days, the benefits fund has come under fire for the way it manages the money, and no one is exactly sure how many Bronx residents work in the stadium.

While the city may have determined that the new Yankee Stadium was worth over $60 million to New Yorkers, those who live next door to it in the South Bronx believe is not nearly as valuable.

“All you have to do is look around to see that it wasn’t worth it,” said Ramon Jimenez, who runs the For the South Bronx Coalition, a community group that has been trying to pressure the Yankees into living up to their promises since 2009.  “The new Yankee Stadium has not added to the community.”

Requests to the Yankees organization and city council members Helen Foster, Joel Rivera and Maria Carmen del Arroyo for comment were denied. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz did not return calls to the Bronx Ink.

Parking garages: The increase that nobody needed

“The same number of cars and buses already come to the stadium.  However, today, they just park all over the street, and all over the community… It causes disruption.  So we’re trying to fix it. By building the new parking spots, the cars will get out of the community.  Won’t circle around the community and disrupt it.  And will go into parking lots.”  -Randy Levine to New York City Council, March 28, 2006

As part of the stadium proposal, the Yankees asked the city and state to build about 3,000 new parking spaces. Critics balked at this request, citing the fact that 7,000 parking spaces already existed and the current stadium would seat almost 4,000 fewer fans. Additionally, the stadium is located along the busiest subway station in the Bronx and the MTA planned to build a Metro North station a few blocks away, providing car-free transportation for Yankees fans from upstate New York. Finally, even the best parking garages wouldn’t attract those that were determined to park for free on the street.

“Additional parking spots doesn’t necessarily mean the fans are going to elect to park in those garages,” said Councilmember Maria Arroyo at the 2006 meeting.  “And as long as there’s free community parking, they may opt to do that before they go into the garage.”

Nonetheless, the City Council approved the Stadium along with the new parking facilities in April 2006 and the city’s Economic Development financed the parking garages with $237 million in public bonds. Three new garages were built: one adjacent to the new stadium and two across 161Street behind the old stadium. The city selected Bronx Parking Development Corporation; a company located 121 miles north of the Bronx in Hudson, New York, to operate the garages.

Five years later, the critics have been proven correct. Though the Yankees have drawn more fans than any other team in baseball since the stadium opened, the garages have struggled to reach 60 percent capacity. In fact, city records show that the parking garages were only 45 percent full during September 2011, when Yankee closer Mariano Rivera recorded his baseball-record 602nd career save.

The anemic performance of the garages has caused Bronx Parking to repeatedly alter its financial projections. The company expects to bring in only $12 million in revenue from the garages in 2012, down from the $22.6 million it projected in September 2010.

On top of the empty garages, Bronx Parking must repay the public bonds issued in 2006 and must make two payments of $6.9 million to the city in April and October of each year. Facing a revenue shortfall, financial records show that the company has had to dip into its cash reserves to make the last three payments, withdrawing $2.3 million in October of 2011. With only $9.2 million remaining in its reserves and facing a projected deficit of $8.3 million, Bronx Parking will have little choice but to reach into its reserves once again next year. The company’s own financial projects show that it is on pace to exhaust those reserves by April 2013.

Too many options

The garages have struggled to compete with free parking offered at the nearby Gateway Center. Budget-conscious fans leery of paying the $35 fee to park at Yankee Stadium have instead opted to pay the Gateway Center’s $10 fee.

“People are trying to save money,” said Jimenez. “So you park in the mall and you walk three blocks to the stadium.”



View Yankee Stadium Parking in a larger map   Yankees fans have several options for traveling to and parking at Yankee Stadium. In the chart above, items in blue represent Yankee Stadium parking lots, items in red represent competing lots and items in green represent mass transit options.

And in direct contradiction to Levine’s promise, fans are still parking on the streets. “Seasoned fans that know they can find a spot on the street do that,” said Hogi. “It’s gotten so bad that we’ve tried to get a resident parking permit. The garages have not freed up the streets at all.”

Faced with an embarrassing default, the city has begun searching for exit strategies. In September, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. announced a plan to tear down one of the garages and replace it with a hotel. Diaz, who admitted that the parking lots face “severe financial problems” in his 2011 state of the borough address, believes that replacing garage 8­– the 1970’s-era garage that stood next to the old stadium­– with a 200-300 bed “world class hotel” would be a win-win for the Bronx and Bronx Parking.

“This development would serve as a new tourism hub for our borough, while creating hundreds of good jobs for Bronx residents and greatly enhancing the area surrounding Yankee Stadium,” said Diaz.

Community Board 4, which voted against the new Stadium in 2005, is on board with the new plan. And while William Casari, a librarian at Hostos Community College who sits on the board’s parks commission, would rather see the garage turned into parkland, a hotel is better than nothing.

“If it’s done correctly, sure; it’s better than a parking garage,” Casari said. “But it’d have to be a Marriott or something. Not some government-assisted thing.”

Public Parks: The long wait to play

“There will be baseball and softball fields on the site of the original stadium, where Bronx and City kids will play on the same hallowed ground that Yankee greats from Ruth to Gehrig, to DeMaggio to Mantle, to Berra, to Jackson, to Rivera and Jeter have played. The new park will have a new running track, a new soccer field, new baseball and softball fields, new basketball courts, new handball courts, and new tennis facilities.”
                                                       -Randy Levine to New York City Council, March 28, 2006

Yancey Field is a racetrack and soccer field that sits across the street from the new Yankee Stadium. Every morning, even before she has her breakfast, Hadiyah Colbert runs laps around the track. Colbert, originally from Yonkers, is quite fond of the track.

“This one is cleaner,” said Colbert, who moved to the Bronx seven years ago.  There used to be garbage in the old one.”

The track that Colbert runs on is part of a grand compromise that the parks department and the Yankees made with Bronx residents. The new Yankee stadium was built on top of Macomb’s Dam and Mullaly parks. To replace the destroyed parkland, the parks department spent $195 million rebuilding Macomb’s Dam Park across the street from the stadium. Yancey Field–part of the new park–sits on top of one of the stadium’s parking garages.

It didn’t come easily. Originally scheduled to open in 2009, Yancey field didn’t open until 2010, which meant that Bronx residents went four years without a track. Colbert made do by running around the remainder of Mullaly Park, but added that she would have preferred the old park.

“They didn’t need to build a new stadium,” Colbert said. “I think the money could have been put to better use.”

Baseball players have had to wait even longer. The area lost its only regulation baseball field when Macomb’s Dam Park was paved over. The parks department promised to replace it when Heritage Field–a complex of three ball fields built in the footprint of the old stadium–by 2010, but delays in the demolition of the old Yankee Stadium pushed the park’s opening date back to fall 2011. The park opened for one day in late November, when Little Leagues competed on the field. The park was then shuttered for the winter the next day. Casari said that he has noticed parks officers shooing residents away.

“Two guys with big bags for baseball bats were headed toward the field,” Casari said, “and the officers took them off the field.”

When they finally open to the public, the ball fields will require a permit to play on. While it children under 18 will be able to obtain a permit for free, adults will have to pay, which Jimenez said makes them less attractive to the community.

“The old parks were open,” Jimenez said. “This just doesn’t replace the old parks.”

Community Benefits Fund: money with no oversight

“As part of the benefits agreement that we’re negotiating, we’re talking about putting a very sizeable amount of money  — I’ll give you a ballpark right now, about $700,000 a year, which, for each of 40 years, which will go to a committee… There will be a grant apparatus set up.  That everybody in the community will come, make an application, and the people in the area, in the community, will decide which is appropriate, which is prioritized, and which is not.  -Randy Levine to New York City Council, March 28, 2006

If the parking situation irritates Hogi, the Community Benefits Fund makes her seethe. To Hogi, the fund is another example of the lack of input given to the people of the Bronx.

“Nobody knows how much money is in there and how it’s handed out,” Hogi said. “It’s demoralizing to the community to be so left out of the loop.”

Despite its name, the Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund operates independently of the community and the Yankees. Created in 2006 as part of an agreement between the team and four Bronx politicians, the fund is a non-profit organization that handles $800,000 worth of grants provided annually by the Yankees. The fund has been a magnet for contention since its inception. While the Yankees said they began donating money annually in 2006, the fund’s committee wasn’t established until 2008.

According to the fund’s 2008 and 2009 tax documents, it has distributed over $1.6 million to several Bronx non-profit organizations. Records show that the Highbridge Community Life Center and the Highbridge Voices children choir received grants of $20,000 and $7,500, respectively, in 2009.  However, groups outside of the community, like the Manhattan-based New York Road Runners club, which received a grant of $16,250 in 2009, also have access to the money.

“That money was supposed to benefit the people in the South Bronx,” said Jimenez. “It’s supposed to be for those who had to deal with the disruption the stadium caused. How does that money go to Throgs Neck and Riverdale?”

The fund came under further fire in September, when the New York Post reported that several groups without non-profit status were receiving grants. The groups in question include El Maestro, a Foxhurst boxing gym that was for-profit when it received $5,100 of sports equipment in 2009, and Flo-bert Ltd., a Manhattan tap-dance troupe that last filled out tax forms in 2007 yet still received $2,000 in 2009. Flo-bert’s non-profit status was revoked in 2010.

Serafin Mariel, the fund’s president and the former chief executive of National Bank, refused to comment or provide copies of the fund’s annual reports to the Bronx Ink. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak to reporters,” Mariel said.

Jobs: the unproven investment

“This new stadium will create thousands of construction jobs, and at a minimum, as President of the Yankees, I’m telling you 1,000 new, permanent additional to what we have, new permanent jobs at the new stadium. And they will be good jobs… A commitment by the Yankees to significant Bronx employment.”
                                                   - Randy Levine to the New York City Council, March 28, 2006

In the same agreement that created the fund, the Yankees also promised that 25 percent of all new jobs created at the new Yankee stadium would be reserved for locals. It is difficult to verify whether this promise has been fulfilled, however, because the Yankees have not provided figures.

Even so, Levine’s promise of 1,000 permanent jobs rings hollow. A 2009 report by former New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky revealed that the Yankees reported to the city’s Industrial Agency that they intended to add only 15 full-time jobs in 2009. And while the Yankees disclosed in a 2008 application for public funding that they would add 1,100 contract jobs, the majority of those jobs were in concessions.

If Bronx residents are outraged by the lack of transparency, they are powerless to combat it. Only five people signed the community benefits agreement: Levine, former Borough President Adolfo Carrion, and council members Arroyo, Maria Baez, and Joel Rivera. Only the politicians that signed the document have the legal standing to enforce its terms, and both Carrion and Baez are out of office.

This lack of community input has caused the community benefits agreement to be widely criticized as a sham that was thrown together to help the Yankees get their stadium.

“I’d give an ‘F’ to whoever drew up that benefits agreement,” said Jimenez, “if I thought they were drawing it up in the interests of the community.”

Bettina Damiani, Project Director at Good Jobs New York, a watchdog group that tracks government subsidies, summarized the community’s legal woes by saying: “there is no CBA – not a real one anyway – at Yankee Stadium.”

Unhappy anniversary

For Hogi, the anniversary of the groundbreaking is not one she cares to mark. In fact, these days she does her best to avoid the stadium altogether.

“If I have to be out driving on the game day I go all the way east and come around,” Hogi said. Part of her reason for staying away is to avoid the traffic, but part of it is to escape the irritating feeling of being right.

“Those of us that were really fighting the intrusion,” Hogi said. “Everything that we said would happen, has happened.”

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Occupy Bronx day two: Yankee Stadium just another bailout

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.”

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Yankee Stadium car lots said to become affordable-home sites, Bloomberg

Two Yankee Stadium parking lots are slated to become sites for affordable housing and retail, a person familiar with the plan told Bloomberg.

The Bronx Parking Development Co., which issued the bonds, approved terms to lease the sites to two development firms to build between 550 and 600 units of apartments, plus about 45,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, said the person.

Income from parking has been short of projections even though the New York Yankees were second behind the Philadelphia Phillies this year in Major League Baseball attendance, with 3.65 million fans, according to the ESPN website.

 

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Why is Heritage Field still closed?

Why is Heritage Field still closed?

Heritage Field's green ballfields sit empty

Heritage Field sits idle in the footprint of the old Yankee Stadium (NIGEL CHIWAYA/The Bronx Ink)

Yankee Stadium was empty on October 7. The home team’s season ended with a heartbreaking loss the night before. The ballpark on the other side of 161st street was empty too, but for an entirely different reason.

By most accounts, Heritage Field, the 11-acre complex of ball fields and playgrounds that sits on the site of the old Yankee Stadium, is finally ready to host its first pickup baseball and softball games. However, almost a year later than scheduled, the park is still closed.

“It’s looked finished for about two, three months,” said Paul McCaffrey, who was having lunch at Billy’s Sports Bar down the road from the field on 161st street. McCaffrey, who works nearby at HW Wilson in Highbridge and passes by the field most days, shrugged when asked why the park wasn’t open yet.

“I don’t know why it’s not ready,” McCaffrey said.

The city has long maintained that Heritage Field would open in fall 2011. But with the crisp October weather hitting the area and baseball’s playoffs in full swing, any Yankees fan knows that fall has already arrived.

When asked about the field, Parks spokesperson Zachary Felder said that everything is right on schedule, and that the department has not yet set an opening date.

The opening of the field cannot come soon enough for Bronx residents, who lost 22 acres of Macombs Dam Park space when construction began on the new Yankee Stadium in August 2006. According to the parks department website, Heritage Field was designed to return the lost space to the neighborhood as part of the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Program.

The new Macombs Dam Park features three ball fields — one in the footprint of the old Yankee stadium — as well as four basketball courts, fitness equipment, handball courts, a soccer and football field, a racetrack and a 600 seat grandstand. The track and soccer field, built on top of the Rupert Plaza parking garage, opened in April 2010.

The city originally promised that the ball fields would be ready by December 2010, but had to keep pushing the date back because it took far longer than promised for the Yankees to remove their old stadium. It wasn’t gone until May 2010, and the city held a groundbreaking ceremony for Heritage Field on June 2010.
How long the parks department takes to select an opening date will determine how much use the field will get. Baseball in a summer sport, after all, and the temperature will only go down from here.

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Officials push for new hotel near Yankee Stadium, Daily News reports

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced a new plan to transform an underused parking garage near Yankee Stadium into a hotel. The project will be in conjuction with the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp, the New York Daily News reports.

The site renovation, at E 153rd Street and River Avenue, will not only create jobs and offer tourists a more upscale place to stay near the stadium, Diaz said at a press conference, but will also bring in revenue for Bronx Parking, the nonprofit parking firm.

The parking garage in question was empty during the news conference, the Daily News notes, even though it was only two hours from the first pitch.

Development Corporation President Marlene Cintron said she expects a hotel to create more than 125 jobs and kick start other development in the area. The group is accepting building proposals until mid-November, writes the Daily News.

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Yankees host Brooklyn football champs

Fort Hamilton (13-0) celebrates its PSAL City Championship on the field at Yankee Stadium.

Fort Hamilton (13-0) celebrates its PSAL City Championship on the field at Yankee Stadium.

The ball wasn’t round and the weather was too cold. But the final score of this football contest might have been the result of a recent Yankee game with A.J. Burnett on the mound.

Fort Hamilton High School defeated Lincoln High School, 8-6, last night at Yankee Stadium to claim a Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) City Championship. It was the second-ever football game at the current ballpark.

Last week, Lincoln defensive tackle Wayne Williams said the key to shutting down the Tigers would be containing Brandon Reddish, the 6-foot-tall wide receiver and safety who posted 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Railsplitters when Fort Hamilton ended their playoff run last year. History repeated itself with a title on the line.

Down, 6-0, with three minutes and 12 seconds left in the third quarter, Marvin Centeno hauled a 26-yard pass into Reddish’s arms to tie the score.

“If we want that big play we had to go Reddish,” Fort Hamilton coach Danny Perez said after the game. “I knew once the ball was in the air, I knew he was going to come down with it.”

Centeno connected again for the 2-point conversion, finding an open Dylan Campili to take the, 8-6, lead. On Monday, the Tigers practiced the play four times, and each time Campili had dropped the pass. The senior held on when it counted.

“When that play came on in the game and coach called it, everything ran through my head,” Campili said. “The only thing I could think of was, ‘I got to get this ball. I want this ring.’ So I came down with it, and I got up, and it was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.”

Lincoln (12-1) had scored its touchdown in the waning moments of the first half. On third-and-inches with two seconds remaining, junior running back Kareem Folkes powered into the end zone to cap off a 12-minute drive.

Fort Hamilton’s (13-0) goal of the season was to finish. Much like the Yankees before their 2009 championship, the Tigers entered the title game after a recent string of strong regular-season showings and playoff heartbreaks. Fort Hamilton went undefeated the last three regular seasons, but lost in the title game two years ago and by 1 point in the semifinals last year.

“I just feel so glad for the kids,” Perez said. “They came to the championship as sophomores and they lost, and now they’re able to come on the big stage at Yankee Stadium and finish the job.”

The first football game at the House That George Built was Notre Dame’s 27-3 victory over Army on Nov. 20.

The Yankees had allotted 10,000 tickets for this event. By the time the game was in progress, most of the lower bowl had filled up. Brian Smith, the organization’s senior vice president of corporate and community relations, said at a Dec. 1 press conference that the Yankees hope to continue hosting the city championship.

“The New York Yankees are proud supporters of the PSAL,” Smith said. “We’re looking for this to be one of the premier events at Yankee Stadium, and hopefully something we can continue to do on a year and year out basis.”

With the Yankees reaching out to host high school and college football games, the Bronx can expect a surge in Highbridge even after October.

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Graffiti, girls, and bragging rights

This article is by Jennifer Brookland and Ryan Tracy.

Ashley Cardero, second from right, and Angelica Nitura, second from left, stood with friends by a memorial on Cromwell Street, not far from where 18 year-old Juandy Paredes was stabbed to death Friday night.

Ashley Cardero, second from left, and Angelica Nitura, second from right, stood with friends by a memorial on Cromwell Ave., not far from where 17 year-old Juandy Paredes was stabbed to death Friday night. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Juandy Paredes’s crew hangs out at 1164 Cromwell Avenue at night, or at the nearby park just north of Yankee Stadium.  They smoke, drink, and make too much noise. The cops come arrest people all the time for trespassing and being loud. In fact, the kids from this neighborhood say they see the same cop and the same ambulance on the corner by the park every night, waiting for trouble.

Trouble breaks out a lot.

In this stretch of Mt. Eden, thumping a few blocks away from the 4 train, graffiti colors the exteriors, kids with Spanish nicknames and tattoos fight members of rival cliques, and questions are met with “I don’t know anything,” by people who do.

Next to guys in sweats with ear-buds tracing lines from their pockets to their ears, Angelica Nitura looks almost out of place in skinny jeans and a blue cardigan.  She talks about her favorite memory of Paredes, a 17 year-old kid they all called “Frko,” or fresh boy. It was on April Fool’s Day, and someone from another crew had taken a guy’s hat. Paredes stood up for the guy, fighting the kids who had taken the hat until they smashed a bottle over his head. Paredes walked angrily back to Nitura.

“His whole side of his head is bleeding, like busted up, leaking,” said Nitura. “I like that he came back, after washing off all that blood. I like that he stood up for his friend. That was my favorite time.”

Paredes’s crew calls itself the “F— Your Life” group, or “F.Y.L.” for short, but insists it’s not a gang. More like a family where everyone watches the others’ backs. There are maybe 50 or 60 of them, all from the neighborhood. Today, laminated badges that they designed on computers swing from their necks showing pictures of Paredes and “4/16/2010,” the date he was killed a few blocks away at 167th and Jerome Avenue. They cross themselves and kiss their fingers in front of the memorial they’ve built for Paredes, a wooden table with tall plastic flowers under his picture, a Dominican flag, and a collection of candles with pictures of saints on them.

Juandy Paredes, pictured here in a collage made by a family friend.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Juandy Paredes, pictured here in a collage made by a family friend. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Their expressions are hard. But only four days after Paredes was murdered, tears come suddenly.

Ashley Cordero is known by her friends as “Shine.” She has her brother’s name tattooed on her right hand, and swirls of color filling the gap between her shirt and her waistband on her left side. She breaks down thinking about the first time she met Paredes. It was July 14th, and she was eating Chinese food in the park. Paredes hung out there a lot because he loved inline skating, trying out tricks on rollerblades that were fitted with a panel on the bottom for sliding along curbs and rails. He told her she was beautiful and he was going to make her his. She offered to share her Chinese food.

Now Cordero is planning the tattoo she’ll get with Paredes’s name and a pair of wings on her back. She and Nitura both feel guilty that he was killed, because they encouraged him to leave the building where they were chilling and playing with knives. It was getting too loud, the cops were bound to come. So Paredes left with two other teen boys and according to Cordero, went to the convenience store on the corner.

Paredes was stabbed five times. Cordero said he flagged down a police van nearby and banged on its windows for help.  “I’m poked, I’m poked,” he told the cops.

Then he collapsed. Paramedics attended to him there on the street, but he died before he arrived at Lincoln Hospital.

The man charged with murdering him lives a nine-minute walk from where the mouthpiece used on Paredes lay full of blood in the street, up Jerome Avenue under the train tracks and past tables selling discount perfume and peeled oranges.

At his arraignment at the Bronx Supreme Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon, Hector Bautista looked much too young to be charged with second-degree murder. The pony-tailed 18 year-old stood silently when the judge denied his request for bail.

Juandy Paredes' friends scrawled graffiti on the wall across from his family's home  They had nicknamed Paredes "Frko," or fresh boy.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Juandy Paredes' friends scrawled graffiti on the wall across from his family's home. They had nicknamed him "Frko," or fresh boy. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Outside the courtroom, friends took turns defending Bautista, a basketball player who they said was a jokester with a good heart who had stopped attending high school. They insisted he was innocent of the stabbing.  But they admitted he was part of the conflicts that, fueled by graffiti, girls, and bragging rights, permeate the world of teenagers like him and Paredes.

“They lived in different places. That’s it,” said a girl who identified herself as Bautista’s girlfriend but would not give her name.

In the dimly-lit apartment on Irving Avenue where Paredes lived, cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends wore black, about to attend his funeral. They had heard about Bautista’s arrest, but wondered if police would be able to catch the other two teens police told the family were involved in the fight.

The family was calm and poised on Tuesday.  Two unsmiling men went about filling a cooler with ice and bottles of water for visitors. Until, contagious as a yawn, a long, slow wail broke out from one of the dark-clad women. She lowered her head and balled her hands into fists. The high-pitched sounds of her crying spread to other family members and escaped into the bright sunlight outside, where Paredes’s friends had spray-painted white graffiti over the entire brick surface of the opposing wall.

“If you stay for 20 minutes you can read it all. Then you’ll understand,” said Dualis, Paredes’s 10 year-old half-sister.

Paredes’s room was covered in graffiti, too, blue and black scrawls painted by him or his friends swarm across the walls. “F.Y.L” appeared in several places, and on the ceiling, emblazoned with a heart was the name Brenda. The room was a disaster. A bare strip of mattress poked out from under piles of clothing that spilled onto the floor and made walking impossible. Boxes of his favorite designer shoes were stacked head-high. A heads-up penny lay near the doorway.

“He would clean it every day but that same day he’d make the same mess,” said Dualis.

Graffiti and tags from his local crew cover the walls in Juandy Paredes' bedroom.  Paredes, 18, was stabbed to death on Friday, April 16.

Graffiti referring to Juandy Paredes' crew cover the walls in his bedroom. Paredes, 17, was stabbed to death on Friday, April 16. An 18 year-old member of a rival crew has been arrested but is denying the charges. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Paredes used to play “tickle monster” with her on the bed, where they would tickle each other’s feet. They played board games like Monopoly and “Guess Who?” even though Paredes got so mad when she beat him that he swore he wouldn’t play again. Dualis said she usually won.

A computer with a large silver-framed screen sat on a small desk in the corner, where light from the window illuminated the keyboard. Coralys Nunez, who was like an aunt to Paredes, and says he was creative, smart with computers and could “unblock” any website. He thought about being a game designer, if not a fashion designer. He got all A’s in school.

But Paredes had dropped out of school. He just got tired of going, says Dualis. Even Cordero, who says she and Paredes were always together for the past nine months, didn’t know if Paredes had any goals. They just didn’t talk about that, she says.

One of Paredes’s friends created a Facebook page in his memory. Brendalee Torres captioned a picture of her and Paredes kissing with expressions of grief and love, and also, a threat.

“Whoever did this to you gonna get his, trust me.”

Cordero says none of the crew has been killed before, despite all the neighborhood rivalries. But it’s almost as if she thinks Paredes won’t be the last friend for whom she will be forced to light candles.

“The one person you don’t want to lose,” she said,” is the first one to go.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Southern BronxComments (5)

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