Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
"Blog" doesn't always mean "frequent."See the Archives for more...
As you've discovered here.
And one can make excuses...
...the Democrats cavorting in Beantown (I wasn't one of them)...
...the little parts of life that aren't dominated by Bruce Ratner's every machination...
But truth be told, it's just been a little slow on the pundit front. [Fans For Fair Play generally frowns on pundits, but disclosure is something we believe in. Forest City Ratner, not so much.]
Here's where things are at as the dog days of summer come pawing for tidbits.
* Bruce Ratner has become a nationwide laughingstock, known from Maine to Hawaii as a guy who couldn't care less or know less about basketball.
* In drips and drabs, small bits are coming out about Ratner's partners in the purchase of the New Jersey Nets. It's understood that there are close to 50 investors in the team, an astonishing number. Four of the most influential, it's believed, are Goldman Sachs people. Very murky.
* To make matters more complicated, Ratner, by all accounts, owns but 10% of the team, meaning he could be overruled on the simplest of decisions. His p.r. flacks are claining that Ratner wanted to keep Kenyon Martin, and perhaps Kerry Kittles, but that he was, ahem, overruled. It's a good m.o. for these fifty investors, this Shadow Syndicate -- make Ratner, the only known entity, appear to be the good cop, while all of them work together to dismantle the Nets and push ahead with their real-estate land-grab at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn.
* The Nets beat reporters are tired of being lied to by Ratner and his flacks. One scribe's gut reaction to all this is that Bruce Ratner and the Shadow Syndicate (a snappy wedding-band name, yes?) will put the Nets back on the market as soon as the paperwork clearing all the hurdles between Forest City Ratner and the land they covet is completed. It's hard to comprehend such an astonishingly brazen move. But who thought Harry Macklowe, another of New York's notorious big-shot developers, would tear down buildings just off Times Square in the middle of the night without proper permits or safety measures in place? Not City Hall, apparently. They didn't even slap Macklowe on the wrist. It was more of soothing, flirty stroke when they fined him a few quid and allowed Harry to build the luxury hotel he'd wanted all along.
* Nets star Jason Kidd is, predictably, furious. He's either demanded a trade or will any day now, and the sports analysts have him ending up back in Dallas, where he started his NBA career ten years ago. Zillionaire Mark Cuban's one of the few NBA owners who can afford Kidd's huge contract and fragile knees. But the fact is, possibly by training camp and certainly by the all-star break, the Nets will have disposed of Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, and Jason Kidd. Only Richard Jefferson will be left, and there's no guarantee he'll receive a conctract extension the Netshave already commenced to dragging their feet on.
* No one can remember an owner being so despised by his new team's fans. It's inconceivable that he could show his face in the Meadowlands for the Nets' home opener November 3. Sure, a lot can change in the exactly three months between now and then. It'll be interesting to see if the RatNets can draw on Opening Night. They have one lucky stroke in their favor -- Opening Night's opponents are the Miami Heat and their new stud, Shaquille O'Neal. FFFP's guess...a good-sized crowd curious to see Shaq and hoping to wing at the owner's box whatever cheap free Opening Night goodies the Nets hope will act as salve.
* By the way, if you lean towards conspiracy theory, you could posit that the NBA schedule, just released today, threw Ratner a big bone by giving them the Shaq-led Miami Heat on Opening Night...something, anything to draw more than a few thousand to the airline-named arena the Nets call their halfway house and hopefully, prayerfully, not embarrass themselves with a pitiful Opening Night turnout.
* On the political front, more politicians are joining the anti-Ratner struggle: city councilmembers Charles Barron (East New York, Brooklyn) and Christine Quinn (Chelsea, Manhattan) and Tony Avella (Queens) have joined Letitia James (Prospect Heights), as well as our state senator Velmanette Montgomery and our congressperson Major Owens.
* Ratner is becoming increasingly toxic to politicians worried that voters will remember their stance on this issue. So far, we have a guy who Borough President Marty Markowitz promised would bring pride to Brooklyn, but so far this summer has a) dismantled the Finals-caliber team that was supposed to do so, and b) opened a mall next door to the proposed-arena's site that features exactly NO Brooklyn-owned stors out of the few dozen in the mall. Okay, maybe Rockaway Bedding and maybe the Atlantic Terminal Dental office. But for anything you could want that isn't boxsprings or root canal, that money's leaving Brooklyn, the city and the state for corporate headquarters all across the U.S. of A.
* Forest City Ratner continues to insist that people who sell him property sign gag orders prohibiting them not only from discussing terms of the deal but also speaking publically about Bruce Ratner at all, unless it's glowing and approved by Forest City Ratner. The order also forces signees to spy on slower-to-sell neighbors, cajole them to sign with Bruce, and report to Forest City Ratner on a weekly basis. It worked for Rios-Montt, Pol Pot, Elliot Abrams and Stalin...for a while, anyway.
* Imagine what a louse you are to be less loved than George Steinbrenner. But that's Ratner's current ranking in the current Despotic Team Owner Rankings. The Yankees' announcement this week that they intend to build a new $700 million Yankee Stadium which, the team claims, will be privately-financed, is another embarrasment for Ratner, who wants the city to pay for his arena in Brooklyn. Sure, Steinbrenner's deal is mighty crooked -- he wants the city to pony up $450 million in "infrastructre" moneys for a new Metro North station (for suburbanite fans) and a hotel and conference center that will do nothing for the surrounding community's fiscal health. The new stadium would also destroy Macombs Dam Park, where thousands of South Bronx kids and adults play softball, baseball, and hang-out in the hot summer. (City law will force Steinbrenner to replace the park land, but it doesn't say it has to be in the same neighborhood where he's stealing away Macombs Dam Park.)
* Oh, and you know how we keep asking that you call, write and e-mail the NBA about Ratner's plans for Brooklyn? Well, astonishingly, you still can! The league still has yet to approve Ratner's purchase of the Nets. The popular wisdom says the NBA is overwhelmed with vetting fifty separate owners. It could also be that they keep waiting for that one prized moment when Ratner's name isn't covered in crap, but that instant in time seems further away than Opening Night at the new Frank Gehry-designed arena in Brooklyn. Anyway, Ratner was to be approved way back in April or May, and here it is August and the deed still ain't done. Those e-mails again: Commissioner David Stern's at email@example.com, and Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik's at firstname.lastname@example.org. The phone number is (212) 407-8000. You can also ask why the NBA refuses to meet with community groups who are concerned about Ratner's massive plans for their neighborhoods. Twice Granik has told us "no" when we invited the league to hear out regular Brooklynites caught in the crossfire.
* Gehry's design for Jerusalem's new Museum of Tolerance, by the way, has pissed off people in Israel and Palestine. Let the New York Times spell it out for you:
"[t]he proposed museum is already drawing withering and widespread criticism, years before its opening. At the most hyperbolic edge of the debate, the American architect and critic Michael Sorkin claimed in Architectural Record that the Gehry design's use of large, irregular stone blocks "uncomfortably evokes the `deconstruction' of Yasir Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah into a pile of rubble by Israeli security forces." The leftist Israeli politician Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, denounced the museum in the newspaper Ha'aretz as "so hallucinatory, so irrelevant, so foreign, so megalomaniac." Even mainstream Israelis are dubious that a museum conceived, financed and designed by Americans can possibly fathom, much less redress, the political and social chasms here. Palestinians, who usually agree with Israelis on so little, express similar skepticism."
Ratner really knows how to pick his accomplices.
That's your early August update. Even when the going's slow, this battle is fast-moving.
Stay tuned...or better still, create some news of your own.