Reopen NYC: Struggling merchants around Yankee Stadium plead with team to help

BRONX, New York City (WABC) -- Merchants located near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx are struggling as professional baseball games are being played without fans, and on Thursday, they joined with officials from the 161st Street Business Improvement District to plead with the team for help.

The protesters said the Yankees have rejected requests to help the local souvenir shops and sports bars that have been decimated by the shortened season and the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are suffering," one business owner said. "Businesses are suffering. No one is making money."

They say many decades-old businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy, while the nation's richest sports franchise -- valued by Forbes at $5 billion - pays only $1 a year to the city as part of a deal with then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, avoiding nearly $150 million in yearly rent and taxes.

"The Yankees have refused to meet with the businesses and have contributed zero," 161st Street BID Executive Director Cary Goodman said. "Help these businesses avoid becoming extinct."

As the season continues with no fans, many say they have no way to make cash, and the local merchants still drowning in bills.

"I'm about 95% down in revenue," said Joseph Michialis, who owns Yankee Twin Eatery. "This is my largest income from the Yankee Stadium."

It's a community known for its baseball and even more for the local hospitality.

"It's an outrage," State Assembly nominee Amanda Septimo said. "We are standing out here to ask a corporation who makes millions to help our community."

Brian Smith, Senior VP of Community Relations to the Yankees, released a statement Thursday saying,

"Throughout the New York Yankees organization there is an ongoing commitment to be a productive member of the community, 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."



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