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The Bronx Comeback
With the GAL stadium site seemingly stalled for nearly a year, NYCFC’s stadium search turns to…..the South Bronx?
Next Wednesday will mark one year to the day when a vote was scheduled to occur in Bronx Community Board 4 that would have started the dominoes falling towards a multi-billion dollar development in the South Bronx and a brand spanking new soccer stadium for NYCFC. Over multiple years, NYCFC put all its stadium eggs in the GAL location basket, and in the end, it all fell through due to parking spaces.
As a club-affiliated Twitter account now flexes corporate partnerships with just about every corner of the construction industry, anticipation grows among the NYCFC faithful that perhaps these are hints that things are close. While much speculation has been made towards perhaps a stadium in Willets Point, public records and lobbying disclosures show that the search for a new stadium location is only a mere five-minute Carmel ride away from Yankee Stadium, in a familiar spot, the Harlem River Yards.
CityFootball Group has recently completed a memorandum of understanding with the New York State Department of Transportation to lease the Harlem River Yards location, and revive a 5-year-old proposal to include the construction of a 26,000-seat stadium amidst other development. Additional work is still to be done prior to any formal announcement, but progress is being made in an all-too-familiar area for the Boys in Blue.
The Original Harlem River Yards Proposal
In early 2018, reports began circulating about NYCFC’s proposal in response to an RFEI from Empire State Development (ESD) to develop the plot of land at the Harlem River Yards location. The club, along with development partners Related Companies and Somerset Partners proposed a $700 million development including a 26,000-seat stadium, over 550 units of affordable housing, 150,000 square feet of retail, a new waterfront community park, and an urgent care facility, among other amenities.
The proposal itself was in response to a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) released by ESD late in 2016. The RFEI looked to “determine interest from qualified parties in the sale or long-term lease of the air space and related real estate interests above a limiting plane approximately 30 feet above a portion of the Intermodal Rail Facility at the Harlem River Yards in the South Bronx.” Per NYCFC’s proposal, the development would be completed in 2022.
However, not long after these reports surfaced, former NYCFC president Jon Patricof noted that the Harlem River Yards location was “not an active site” and the club was focusing its efforts in other areas. Later that same year, the GAL location became the club’s sole focus for developing a stadium, kicking off a three-year chase that abruptly ended when NYCFC’s roommate seemingly pulled the rug out from underneath them.
Where There’s Smoke…
In March 2022, a new company was registered with the Delaware Secretary of State, RXR Somerset HRY JV LLC. This ostensibly benign administrative matter wouldn’t normally register to anyone as potential signs for a stadium development. But not even a month after RXR Somerset HRY became a legal entity, an agreement was put in place for long-time NYCFC stadium lobbyist Geto & de Milly to provide lobbying services “in connection with a proposed sports facility in New York City”.
Breaking down the name of this new legal entity tells the rest of the story:.
RXR = RXR Realty, a real estate company whose portfolio consists almost exclusively of NYC, Long Island, and Westchester properties
Somerset = Somerset Partners, a private investment firm that is currently developing other portions of the Mott Haven neighborhood
HRY = Harlem River Yards, the location for the potential stadium development
JV = Joint Venture, RXR and Somerset created this joint venture together in order to pursue this development
LLC = Limited Liability Company
The RXR Somerset HRY lobbying activities aren’t the only lobbying disclosures pointing towards the Harlem River Yards. In “Period 2” (March-April) of 2022, Martin (Marty) Edelman, CFG Board Member and Vice-Chairman of NYCFC, lobbied New York City Councilwoman Diana Ayala in relation to “issues in connection with proposed sport facility”.
Not only does Ayala represent District 8, which includes the Harlem River Yards location, but she is well connected with the club and it’s lobbyists during their efforts to bring the GAL location to fruition, as that location also falls under her purview.
Through a public records request filed with Ayala’s office, The Outfield learned that the Councilwoman met with Marty Edelman and Geto & de Milly leadership over lunch in April 2022. Ayala’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
…There May Be Fire
According to public records requests filed with NYS DOT, The Outfield can confirm NYCFC’s renewed interest in constructing a stadium at the Harlem River Yards location beginning in late 2021. NYS DOT has leased the property to Harlem River Yards Ventures, Inc. (HRYVI), which is part of the Galesi Group.
These records obtained show that HRYVI was approached by Somerset Partners and City Football Group after the GAL site negotiations fell through. This project would include a 26,000 seat stadium, 150,000 square feet of retail space, 1,200 square feet of a waterfront park, 550 units of affordable housing, and an urgent care facility. All components of the original 2017 proposal.
As late as March 2022, CFG had finalized a draft Memorandum of Understanding with HRYVI and began proceeding with due diligence analysis to include Phase I and II Brown Field Report, test borings, topographic studies, and surveys of utilities and easements. These analyses will be necessary to include within an updated Environmental Impact Statement, a necessary item to kick off the city and state approval processes.
According to documents obtained by The Outfield, key elements of the project relate to the cost of decking the stadium and analyzing the impact to traffic. Approvals will be needed from various city and state entities. Somerset Partners has not responded to requests for comment.
One other entity is still involved in discussions with ESD in potentially developing the Harlem River Yards site for other purposes, but according to records obtained, they appear to be further behind in the process and have concerns with the price of rent that HRYVI is looking for. Neither NYS DOT, nor ESD have yet responded to requests for comment.
Is This It?
It’s too early to tell if this is where the club will ultimately land. NYCFC still seems to be engaged to a degree in feeling out development in Willets Point. But with the remediation activities required at that location, followed by ULURP and then ultimately construction, meeting the club’s goal of stadium completion by 2026 seems incredibly tight.
When asked about the Harlem River Yards location, a club spokesperson noted, “Finalizing a location for a permanent home remains a number one priority for the Club, and we continue to pursue various sites in NYC. We are eager to finalize and announce those efforts.”
As excitement builds with each construction related company NYCFC announces as a partner, and rumors of a big announcement in July loom large, the permanent home for the Pigeons could be just a stone’s throw from [one of] it’s current home[s], and the Boys in the Bronx may actually stay there permanently. ❧
Image: From Related / Somerset / NYCFC 2017 Harlem River Yards Proposal
nobody really cares what this means