NEW YORK — Bronx business owners who say they have been grand slammed by the coronavirus shutdown want the Yankees to bail them out.
About 10-15 people showed up for a protest — complete with a marching band and clowns playing a drum on stilts — outside Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, hours before the Yankees would take on the Blue Jays.
Organizer Cary Goodman complained that the multi-billion-dollar Yankees do too little for the surrounding community, pay no property taxes and pay just $1 a year in rent.
“That’s all we’re asking for,” said Goodman, executive director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District and the protest’s organizer. “Help these businesses afford becoming extinct. This is a unique neighborhood, this is an iconic neighborhood. People come here from all over the world, not just for baseball.”
Goodman paid for the band and the clowns.
The problem: The Yankees aren’t immune to the impact of the virus. According to Forbes, the Yankees were set to lose more than $175 million this year in tickets sales.
The Yankees made more than $336 million in ticket and suite sales last year, according to Newsday.
“Throughout the New York Yankees organization there is an ongoing commitment to be a productive member of the community,” Brian Smith, senior vice of community relations said, “and when faced with current circumstances we ramped up related efforts. In addition to the day in and day out focus of the New York Yankees Foundation to support, develop, and implement initiatives that enhance access to educational, health/wellness and recreational outlets, during these trying times we’ve dedicated millions of dollars in resources and support to assist our neighbors with addressing heightened disparities.
“There is no time to waste, and the current challenges faced throughout surrounding communities fuel our drive to remain steadfast in engaging our neighbors and viable community partners to promote change.”
The Yankees also responded to protesters with a packet of dozens of letters from Bronx-based business leaders, addressed to Goodman, detailing the club’s efforts to help them.
Letters from officials at the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club and the St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters were among those included. Not all of them cited efforts that were made during the pandemic.
“The Yankees are committed to supporting their neighbors and community partners, working in conjunction with them to enhance the quality of life throughout the surrounding communities,” the team wrote. “In response to the struggles and difficulties that have arisen due to COVID-19, the organization has dedicated several million dollars in resources and support.”
Goodman said he also wanted to push the Yankees to open the stadium as a polling center for the upcoming presidential election. He cited the Nets’ plans to make the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a polling facility.
He said he’s repeatedly reached out to the Yankees.
“But they don’t respond,” Goodman said. “And for months we’ve sent them letters, urging for meetings, urging for them to make some sort of contributions.”
The messages from business owners who showed up were mixed, however.
Tyrone Robinson, the owner of Dugout Bar across from the stadium, said he hasn’t gotten any help from the team. Robinson said he’s owned his business for 18 years. It shut down in March when MLB put the season on pause amid fears over the spread of the virus. Robinson said he doesn’t expect to be able to reopen any time soon.
“We are suffering,” Robinson said. “All I’m here for today is … Yankees, please give out a helping hand. We’ve lost so much. We just really need it.”
Mike Rendino, the owner of Stan’s Sports Bar around the corner from the park, said the absence of fans attending games has tanked his business’ revenue and that restaurants in the area are all feeling the crunch.
John Michialis, whose father own Yankee Twin Eatery Bar, said he attended the rally because it was time for fans to be allowed back into the stands. He said he didn’t know that was a decision made above the team’s head by Major League Baseball.
“This is a cry for Major League Baseball to step up,” Michialis said. “They haven’t done nothing, absolutely nothing, for all the merchants.”
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Brendan Kuty may be reached at [email protected]. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.