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"Their Enemy Is Not Only the City but the Mets"

C. J. CrossWednesday, May 2, 2007
By C. J. Cross

Editor's Note: This is C. J. Cross' first contribution to this blog. - M.S.

I am not sure at what point it came to this. Were the New York Mets ever is a position to reject a fan from joining the rest of it's loyal followers? Was it Tom Seaver who shunned a young wide eyed, would-be, Newsday reporter? Something had to happen to make Mr. Wallace Matthews this vindictive.

Their Enemy Is Not Only The City But The Mets - W. Matthews

What is happening in Willet's Point right now, with the construction of CitiField can be called many things. Progress? Absolutely. Evolution? Certainly. Criminal? Matthews seems to think so. Our favorite Newsday "reporter" is convinced he is fighting the good fight. Standing up for the little man. Exposing the big bad corporations for what they are. But here's a little wake up call for Wallace. These things happen all the time. Neighborhoods are wiped out. Avenues are claimed and made parkways. Houses are torn down and made into high-rised brick boxes labeled "condos" but are closer to low-cost housing in their construction than to the luxurious domiciles they claim to be.

Before I was born, the city embarked on its last major publics work project. The city claimed imminent domain over an extended length of 7th Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and began construction on what was to be the longest suspension bridge the world had ever seen. In 1964, New York gave to its' citizens the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. My father proudly worked on the bridge as an ironworker. Every time I see the bridge, cross it or photograph it I am grateful. I know sacrifices and hard decisions were made in its formation. And though it may have been hard for all of the people who had to abandon their homes and relocate, I doubt anyone of them could honestly say that it wasn't for the city's best interest.

Now over forty years later, two of my cousins are working on the steel that will hold CitiField upright and the current, and future, Mets fans in their seats hovering above the ball field. While the new Mets ballpark is a private endeavor, the Willets Point overhaul will not be. Not initially. The city is involved and has made the assessment that it's necessary to start from scratch to bring life to the area. Matthews was right about one thing. The area had been long ignored. But not just by the city. It has been neglected by the very same people who claim to love it. The streets and sidewalks are greased, littered, loitered, rancid, an eyesore, a stain etc. etc. etc. I am not ignorant enough to think that all of the Point people are crooked but the area had long welcomed shady dealings with car thieves and mobsters. The only people who will miss it are those who filled their pockets with dirty money while ignoring the area as a whole. Why, if they hated the area's plumbing, sewer system and lack of sanitation would they want so bad to stay there?

It is a point that seems to be lost...on sports fans, who don't care whom the bulldozers flatten in the rush to build their heroes a stadium.

Interesting how WM likes to portray us as sheep, just following the evil shepherd. It seems Wallace Matthews would rather play the holier-than-thou part by standing against our Mets, an easy target, since they are in the public eye. I find it hard to believe that he would do the same against the Russian mob and shady councilmen who allow "developers" to buy up two story houses and build six story buildings in what zoning laws dictate are only reserved for two floors down in the south (Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Gravesend, Bensonhurst) of Brooklyn. Those people are being run out of their neighborhoods illegally. The idea of community is destroyed in those parts. These are the problems facing the people of New York. Not the Mets, their fans or the residents of the surround area in Queens who only want a change from what was cleary the armpit of the borough. If you need proof of what a new baseball stadium can do for an area just take a look at San Diego.

About C. J. Cross: My first Mets game was on July 13, 1986. Known to Mets fans as Rusty Staub day. The day the Mets wore the red spikey wigs that Daryl Strawberry will never live down. My uncle brought me for my eighth birthday. That day Lenny Dykstra hit a home run and made me a fan of his for life. My loyalty to the Mets can be attributed to my mother, a huge fan herself. She celebrated on the field when the '69 Mets won it all. She even took home a piece of the field. She has handed down the tradition of going to games, plopping down on the couch to watch and turning the radio on in the backyard for a summer night of baseball listening.

When I am not posting comments here at Mike's Mets or watching the games, I am out playing softball or attending punk rock shows. I work at one of the major news networks in the country as a radio producer and engineer, only a few short city streets from the TV home of our Mets, SNY. You can also check out some of my Mets photos at my Flickr site.

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Comments (4)

Excellent piece. I feel great sympathy for anyone who has to leave their home in the wake of "development" but any long time Queens resident will tell you that Willets Point has needed revitalization for a long time.

Forget Citi Field and forget the Mets. The entire area is and has been in shambles for ages. The junkyards dominate the area. Drive around and you'll find few local businesses thriving, if any. The streets are littered, broken and seemingly abandoned. And in all honesty, the area has become a den for drugs and other unsavory dealings.

While I truly hope the city fairly reimburses the present home owners in the area for their land, as a resident of Flushing I can't wait for that large piece of land to be cleaned up and improved. It will improve things for every other resident of Queens.

And of course, Wallace Matthews is a capricious and intolerable writer. More often than not, his pieces for Newsday present a very one-sided version of any debate. Ultimately, his work ends up being nothing more than the musings of a poorly schooled "journalist."

C.J. - Welcome to Mike's lineup. And finally, a post about something other than the Mets' recent woes on the field (I'm guilty as charged of that offense myself).

There's a real interesting documentary short from a few years back called "Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story". It details how a low-income area populated by Mexican-Americans, now called Dodger Stadium, was cleared and excavated in the late 50's.

The uppermost thought when I saw this film was the same as yours, so eloquently elucidated above: why were these people so upset at the prospect of being moved out of the awful 'homes" in which they lived? They weren't ushered into luxury penthouses, but they were given better living conditions than they'd had before.

Virtually every ball park in America is built in a depressed neighborhood. Not because those building it want to improve the area's economic situation; because the land is cheap. CitiField and the neighborhood surrounding it are no different.

Mr. Matthews has had an anti-Mets axe to grind for as long as I've been aware of him, so anything I read of his must be filtered through the prism of that bias.

Agreed on Wallace's anti-Mets bias. I think he also has an anti-happiness bias, for what that's worth.

And I am happy to see another well spoken contributor to Mike's Mets. I look forward to reading your stuff.

Am I allowed a point that I feel needs to be mentioned? Make it two points.

One is that while vast public works have been happening since before any of us were born, that sure doesn't mean that they were routinely well considered, or cost effective, or planned with the principle of minimal disruption to the public in mind. Or even that they were an accurate expression of the public will; often enough they were simply the brainstorm of some bureaucrat who envied the power bestowed on the urban planners in Europe, not to mention the USSR. The Cross Bronx, Far Rockaway, and I bet you I can name twenty more in under two minutes. No, the fact that we have lived with these actions doesn't of itself justify the next one.

Mike Bloomberg is a mayor upon whom my personal opinion has changed several times so far, from dilatante to hard working producer to nanny for the universe. He gets it in mind what he wants to do and so far as I can tell, is not open to discussion on the rightness of his cause, from smoking in restaurants to dancing in bars without cabaret licenses to sitting on milk carton containers on the sidewalk to building a stadium on the West Side to.....you get my point. He is a bit arbitrary, and not especially interested in my opinion or a democratic process, which would be fine of we were discussing policy for Bloomberg News, but is a different thing when he is deciding development policy for New York City.

I don't exactly love the space surrounding Shea Stadium either; but being involved in real estate daily, I can assure you that cities need un-beautiful places too. One of the guys quoted on the news blurb claimed that the work would put him out of business, ending the jobs for his 700 employees; which was about one third of the jobs eliminated by the Grand Central Station cleanup a few years back (300 of them in Zaro's Bakety in the Bronx).

All this stuff counts. Personally I would prefer a free market solution, as I would prefer a free marke solution for most issues, but I know that isn't likely in New York. So if these decisions must be decided by the so-called higher authority of the public good, I hope that all sides are heard, and the decision isn't made entirely on a desire to turn an industrial into a parklike space with a hotel.

Excellent debut, CJ! Just like Mike Jacobs. Well, without getting traded.

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