…and this isn’t news to anyone who has walked by the site over the last few years, but South Brooklyn residents planning to walk to Nets games in 2010 should probably either invest in really good sneakers or a NJ Transit bus pass. The proposed Nets arena at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards is foundering. Yeah, the same way it was months ago. But…more so.
This isn’t to say that the project is being stopped by any of the many community organizations arrayed against it — a judge threw their case out of court in January, a Supreme Court appeal seems like a longshot, and Ratner is probably too well-connected and well-represented to lose out to a lot of mere (/sneering)citizens. What is holding it up, instead, is a familiar Ratnerian bugaboo: the fact that the guy just isn’t a very good real estate developer. It’s not a job I’m suited for myself — not any more than I’m suited for the job of development critic, at least — but I have eyes, and can see Ratner’s Atlantic Terminal Mall, for instance, for the prison-inspired blight that it is. So Ratner’s op-ed from yesterday’s Daily News (the source of all news in this post) didn’t really move me. He insists that the grandiose Frank Gehry-designed Barclay’s Center (where luxury boxes will run up to $540,000 for a season) and the first of his residential buildings will soon break ground — real estate downturn and shortage of guaranteed funds be damned. In today’s Daily News (see? every link!), Jotham Sederstrom finds a couple of people who disagree.
“His project is in serious jeopardy no matter how he spins it,” Daniel Goldstein of the anti-Brooklyn Yards group Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn said of Ratner’s Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s Daily News.
In it, Ratner claims his entire NBA basketball arena and skyscraper project will be finished by 2018. Goldstein said a lack of committed financing – including housing bonds – and ballooning construction costs could drag the project into a 20-year ordeal. “When he says he plans to complete his project in 2018, it’s simply not credible,” Goldstein said. “It means nothing.”
Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn) said Ratner offered no new explanation on how he plans to finance the increasingly costly project. “It’s the same plan without definitive financing,” said James.
And if it doesn’t happen? Ratner has never made any pretense of caring much about basketball, and you know the guy hates going out to New Jersey to watch Josh Boone miss foul shots. Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger (not, sadly, the Daily News) sums up Ratner’s predicament:
[T]his franchise is closer to winning an NBA championship than to playing games near the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush in Brooklyn. And, as any Nets fan who saw a game last season can tell you, there is no rush to clear room in the rafters for a banner.
Most troubling for the team? You can’t find many people outside of Ratner and his minions who think the arena in Brooklyn makes any sense now. The cost for the arena alone is quickly approaching $1 billion, which would make it twice as expensive as any in U.S. history.
The financial markets have stalled. The neighbor opposition is still strong — residents filed yet another lawsuit this week. The team is already hemorrhaging money and writing its owners love letters requesting checks to cover those losses. And the best acts always will prefer to play at Madison Square Garden… That leaves one destination. Moving the team to Newark makes sense on so many levels, which is probably why it hasn’t happened. The Prudential Center has oodles of open dates to fill, and unless Ratner has forgotten, this is the state that has supported his sorry franchise for the past 40 years.
The Nets are lost, and somebody needs to point them down Route 21. Ratner needs to strike a deal with Devils owner Jeffrey Vanderbeek in the short term to get the Nets out of the Meadowlands, a situation that would be mutually beneficial for both owners. And if the struggles continue across the Hudson, Ratner should sell the team to New Jersey investors to keep it where it belongs.
I’m not going to say I’m unbiased in this — I wrote a million mournful words here about my melancholy love for the New Jersey Nets earlier this year — but even Nets legend and Bad Idea Jeans spokesman Pearl Washington thinks this is a dumb time to spend a billion dollars developing something this grandiose.