Residents Call Foul on Soccer Stadium Proposal

The New York City Football Club, one of the most successful professional soccer teams in the city, has not had a permanent home in the three years it has been playing.

Failed negotiations and opposition over proposed locations have stalled the Major League Soccer club’s pursuit of a stadium since the team’s creation in 2013. The team has used Yankee Stadium as a temporary home since its first game in 2015.

Now, with a $700 million project called the Harlem River Yards proposal, the football club could finally be getting a home in the South Bronx. Yet residents of the neighborhood around Harlem River Yards are uncertain that the new stadium would benefit the community.

Aaron Seale, who has lived in the Bronx for the past eight years, said he sees the stadium project as an attempt to push out longtime residents in order to make room for wealthier prospective arrivals.

“They got all this going up but it’s nothing for low income.” Mr. Seale said. “They’re building all these buildings. Look at the price on them, they’re not affordable. I can’t move in them.”

Harlem River Yards, in the South Bronx, is a proposed site for a New York City soccer stadium. Aileen Perilla/NYT Institute

Related companies, Somerset Partners and the club have submitted a proposal to Empire State Development to build the stadium in the complex, a waterfront industrial property on the Harlem River, about two miles from Yankee Stadium. They project that the stadium could be completed by 2022.

Since the late 1990s, the Harlem River Yards has experienced considerable commercial development. There is a printing plant, a waste treatment facility and a Federal Express distribution center, in addition to a freight rail yard that has been there for years.

Representatives from the team and the developer did not respond to telephone messages.

With the Bronx having more impoverished residents than any other borough, and one of the highest rates of homelessness nationwide, residents suggested that a project providing affordable housing and more direct economic benefits would be better.

Tito Morales, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, has lived in the neighborhood for seven years.

“It’s all about money for them. We don’t need a soccer stadium, we need more affordable housing,” Mr. Morales said. “We have a very large homeless population here.”

Residents of the South Bronx live close to the Harlem Rail Yards, proposed site for a new sccer stadium. Some worry that the stadium would not help the lowe-income residents. Aileen Perilla/NYT Institute

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit group that advocates for homeless men, women and children, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression, largely because of the lack of affordable housing. There are an estimated 63,000 men, women and children living on the streets.

Mr. Morales pays a little more than $280 a month for his apartment. He said he feels extremely lucky to have a home. He benefited from a housing lottery program in which developers get a tax break in exchange for making 20 percent of the units in their building available for low- to middle-income renters like Mr. Morales.

“I was picked out of a lottery, and that’s how I have a place to live now,” he said.

He pointed to the various immigrant vendors around him, many of whom he considers friends.

“They sleep here. Many of them spend the night on the sidewalk.”

Mr. Seale also lives in a low-income, subsidized studio apartment where his rent is $243 a month. He says rent is starting to go up, though.

“I have a beautiful place,” Mr. Seale said. “It’s a gift from God for me, and I love it. But they’ve raised the rent because they’re chasing certain people out.”

When he first moved into his apartment, Mr. Seale said, it was virtually uninhabitable.

“When I first moved into these buildings, they had a very foul odor, nobody wanted to rent, so they went to low income and Section 8,” he said.

According to the New York City Housing Authority, approximately 90,000 New Yorkers are on housing assistance, making it the largest Section 8, or Housing Choice Voucher, program in the country.

City Council member Diana Ayala, who represents the district, said she believes the project will cause further traffic congestion in an area already overtaxed by vehicles and whose residents are disproportionately afflicted by asthma from the pollution. She said her main concern, though, is the need for affordable housing.

“My priorities are affordable housing and access to the waterfront for the residents,” Ms. Ayala said in a statement. She plans to meet with Empire State Development in the near future to discuss the proposal.

In the meantime, residents said they would have to wait to see how the city and developer proceed.

“Whichever way it goes,” Mr. Seale said, “I just trust God.”