Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project
Friday, July 16, 2004
The dead of winter, early 2004.See the Archives for more...
Snow covered the ground, and Brooklyn was shivering in the worst cold snap of the season. At 9:30 p.m., the t.v. news trucks pulled up on the 6th Avenue Bridge over the Brooklyn Atlantic rail yards. The crowd at Freddy’s Bar knew why they were there…everyone in the neighborhood knew why they were there.
Real-estate developer Bruce Ratner had just been chosen as the new owner of the New Jersey Nets.
The reporters, who all looked shorter and rougher around the edges than they look on television, were stomping their frosty feet, trying to stay warm. Their camera people, more hardened to the elements, weren’t.
The lights went on and the reporters dutifully told New York City that Ratner was the chosen one -- chosen not just to steward the Nets, not just to finally -- finally! -- swab salve on the collective wound perceived to have been caused by the Dodgers’ departure lo those many years ago, but to bring prosperity and modernity to the Borough of Brooklyn.
“And here’s where he’ll do that,” the reporters all said, gesturing at the rail yards and the only graffiti-covered building in sight. The camera people dutifully panned their lenses out over the yards, looking especially forlorn and desolate in the cold winter’s night.
“Not everyone, of course, is happy with the choice” the reporters intoned, throwing a bone to local residents who would soon learn about eminent domain abuse, tax abatements for wealthy developers, political back-room deals, obnoxious politicians, the history of battles against Robert Moses and Donald Trump, rallies, phone calls, e-mails, websites, discussion boards, public hearings, letter-writing campaigns, benefit concerts, ULURP, EIS, TIF, gag orders, evictions, alternative proposals, neighbors pitted against neighbors, and wedges wielded and driven by Forest City Ratner between Brooklyn’s races and classes.
Brooklynites are smart. Among the first things they realized about Bruce Ratner was that his purchase of the New Jersey Nets had nothing to do with basketball, the NBA, or even, the usual practice of wildly-successful businesspeople fulfilling their fantasies of owning a major league sports franchise. We already knew it had nothing to do with Brooklyn and its vivid tapestry of history and culture.
And now…the snow’s gone…the news crews are gone…summer, Brooklyn’s best season, is in full bloom.
…and one other change: what was once a viewpoint held by a few Brooklyn residents who shifted uneasily at the news of Bruce Ratner’s overpriced purchase of the Nets (“he don’t care nothing’ about us or the team -- he’s just trying to get his office towers built on top of us.”) is now a nationally-recognized fact.
Newspapers across the country are running Ratner’s-a-cheapskate stories…his spin-meisters are going into Code Red mode…Nets fans are flooding sports talk radio stations here in New York with angry, invective-filled calls…season-ticket holders are canceling their plans.
These days, you have to live under the proverbial rock not to understand Bruce Ratner’s endgame.
By refusing to sign Kenyon Martin, the team’s heart-and-soul and a fan favorite, Ratner proved what was clear to Brooklynites back in the frozen mid-winter months: to get his 17-building office/commercial/residential project off the ground, Bruce Ratner was buying an NBA franchise to seduce local politicians and, it was hoped, enough of Brooklyn’s residents into going along with his insane plan.
But don’t take our word for it. The Nets’ beat reporters, fresh from having been summoned to Ratner’s office just a week ago so that the developer, hurt by the negative press he was already receiving, could lie to them about his commitment to signing Martin, and exaggerate his love for Brooklyn, had their say in this morning’s editions.
Woj: Smelling a Rat(ner) [headline]
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Prospective owner Bruce Ratner gave every indication he would match the Nuggets' offer, but investors around him opposed the move, sources said. When the Nuggets revised the offer to make it too heavy up front, the Nets caved. -- Fred Kerber, New York Post
Kenyon Martin never will see Brooklyn in a Nets uniform.The first major transaction since real-estate developer Bruce Ratner purchased the team and vowed to build a new arena in Brooklyn didn't send a positive signal to the current roster or the team's lame-duck fan base in New Jersey. There was an angry outpouring at Nets fan Web sites from people vowing to cancel their season tickets or multigame packages.