A Room with a View.
mchawk | July 15, 2008 at 03:16 pmby
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last innings soon to be played at Yankee Stadium, many fans are bidding farewell to their favourite seats. But for some, the move to the new stadium will mean they lose their view of the game altogether.
The fire escapes, roofs and top-floor windows of three apartment buildings on Gerard Avenue, two of them six stories and the other eight, are the Bronx equivalent of free Shakespeare in the Park: no-cost entertainment that generations of New Yorkers have cherished, envied, mythologized and taken for granted.
Across seven decades, the big plays of wealthy Yankees stars half a block away have filled dimly lighted hallways and cramped rent-stabilized apartments with the roar of 50,000. Tenants and their friends have congregated on the rooftops, running extension cords through open windows to watch the games on television, on account of the mostly obstructed views.
But as Major League Baseball prepares to play a farewell All-Star Game at the stadium on Tuesday, a way of life on Gerard Avenue is quietly ending.
Next April, the Yankees will move into a new $1.3 billion stadium directly across the street from the old one at East 161st Street and River Avenue. But the new stadium is too high, too far and facing the wrong way for the people on Gerard Avenue to get a look inside. And so the rooftop and fire-escape tradition, a quirky little footnote of Yankees history that dates to the early 1930s, when two of the three buildings were built, is in its final days.
Pablo Vargas, 38, has watched about 200 games in 23 years from the roof of 845 Gerard Avenue, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He and a group of friends still climb the steps from the sixth floor to the roof for playoff and other big games. There is something magical, he said, about watching the Yankees from up there, where his uncle, the former super of the building, used to take him when he was a boy.
“The electricity of the crowd,” said Mr. Vargas, an installer for a satellite television company. “It’s what really drives us to go up there.”
He expects about 15 people to go up with him for the All-Star Game. After that, only 32 home games are left on the team’s regular-season schedule. The old stadium will be torn down, and Mr. Vargas misses it already.
“It’s always been there,” he said. “It’s a beautiful stadium.”
The stadium closed in 1974 for a $100 million renovation and reopened in 1976 with, among other things, a taller outfield wall on River Avenue. Before the renovation, residents on Gerard Avenue had a nearly unobstructed view of the diamond, and big crowds gathered on the rooftops to look inside.
Today, it takes more than a pair of powerful binoculars to watch a Yankees game from one of the buildings; it takes imagination.
A number of people in the neighborhood have long suspected that the Yankees, the richest team in baseball, built the walls higher during the renovation to block the view of nonpaying fans.
Jason Zillo, a spokesman for the Yankees, denied such accusations.
“When we made the renovations, there were no plans to impede or block people’s view from outside the stadium,” Mr. Zillo said. Of the Gerard Avenue spectators, he added: “It certainly sounds like a unique perspective to take in a ballgame. Yankee fans are very innovative when it comes to watching the Yankees.”
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Fostoria, Ohio, United States
Fostoria, Ohio, United States
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