Citing referendum results in Seattle and Sacramento that rejected schemes for public funding for new NBA arenas, the New York Daily News’ Michael O’Keefe is hoping the trend extends to greater scrutiny for the Nets’ proposed Brooklyn move.
Bruce Ratner is counting on eminent domain to clear away the holdouts still in the footprint of his proposed $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project. But on Tuesday, millions of Americans from South Carolina to Southern California said that is no longer acceptable. Eminent domain had traditionally been practiced solely for public uses – highways, parks, schools – but last year, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. the City of New London that government agencies could seize private property on behalf of a private developer like Ratner. In an anti-Kelo backlash, proposals to restrict eminent domain were placed on ballots in 11 states and passed – often overwhelmingly – in nine of them.
Because New York state politics is more banana republic than Jeffersonian republic, New York voters haven’t been given the opportunity to approve or deny Ratner public money and infrastructure for his project. Instead, we have Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz telling us we’re selfish yuppies because we’re concerned about the environmental impact of the Atlantic Yards. Instead we have architect Frank Gehry – who elected him? -tell us we’re Luddites if we don’t embrace his designs. And we’ve only been given scant opportunity to engage in honest dialogue and ask real questions: How much will Ratner make on this deal? Is there a better site for the Atlantic Yards? Is there a better plan for the Brooklyn rail yards?
But Tuesday’s election made one thing crystal clear: It’s no longer easy to convince Americans to write blank checks – whether for Halliburton or the NBA.