Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project
Monday, August 16, 2004
There's a list.See the Archives for more...
With a lot of names on it.
It's a closely guarded secret.
Not a state secret, though it's being treated like one.
A list with a hundred names, entities, shell groups, fronts and limited liability corporations.
You'll be hearing about this list a lot over the next couple of weeks...in the media, around the water cooler, on blogs, on sports and news radio, and every time it bounces around your inquisitive, curious, demanding and increasingly angry mind.
It's the list of everyone or every thing who has invested in Bruce Ratner's purchase of the New Jersey Nets.
You thought it was outrageous that the Shadow Syndicate numbered fifty -- a hopelessly cumbersome collection sure to drag down the Nets' management for as long as Bruce Ratner partially owns the team.
You thought it was outrageous that the Shadow Syndicate was just that -- a murky, secret gang doing all it could to stay out of the limelight...limelight aimed by the taxpaying public at Forest City Ratner's theft of the public coffers.
You thought the whole thing was outrageous.
It just got worse.
The list, in the hands of several influential media outlets, will come out in the next few days. Suffice to say it's explosive, detailing names and affiliations that should, should, embarrass the backers of Ratner's fiasco. Embarrass them enough to regain their sanity and walk away from Bruce Ratner.
For instance, did you know that one of your No Where's Near Brooklyn Nets owners is Dennis Kozlowski, the disgraced former head of Tyco? The guy who spent a million bucks he embezzelled from Tyco on a birthday for his wife? You know, the one featuring an ice sculpture of Michelangelo's David peeing vodka for the invited guests?
Dennis Kozlowski has just been approved as a co-owner of Bruce Ratner's Nets by the National Basketball Association.
That's right -- the NBA sez Dennis Kozlowski's okay by them.
Another owner you've heard about...Jay Z. Or Shawn Carter to the non-bling world. Bruce Ratner has trotted Mr. Z out everytime he wanted the Black community to understand that he, Bruce, loves Black people, really loves Black people. Jay-Z is happy to play along...he gets to be the first hip-hop owner of an NBA franchise -- and reinforce his cred on both The Street and Wall Street.
That is, if owning six-tenths of one percent of a basketball team earns cred.
Which we don't think it does, exactly.
Put another way, Jay-Z now owns all of the Nets except for 99.4%. Wow...that guy's got power, f'shizzle, dizzle!.
The NBA, always anxious to show how progressive they are on the people-of-color-in-the-front-office front, approved Jay-Z as six-tenths-of-one-percent owner of the New Jersey Nets.
You go, Shawn! Fight the power, NBA!
Another name on the list is noted civil- and human-rights attorney Michael Ratner -- Bruce's brother. Michael's spent his entire life fighting on behalf of the poor and disempowered, arguing against Reagan's miserable Central American policy in the '80s and being one of the lead attorneys for Ron Dellums' landmark Supreme Court challenge to the first Bush administration's unconstitutional refusal to consult with Congress before going to war in Kuwait in 1991.
Michael Ratner's been one of the good guys.
Until now. His blood-is-thicker-than-ethics stance on his brother's malfeasant machinations in Brooklyn is a sad abdication of his basic principles. Michael believes that his brother's acts are just that -- his brother's.
But too many people have been hurt, too many more will be, by Bruce Ratner's use of the city and state's rich and powerful -- the very class Michael has fought against in Washington, Managua and throughout the U.S.
The NBA is probably more than happy to approve a good guy who's washed his hands of the whole sordid affair.
Another intriguing name on the list is Dolly Williams.
Dolly Williams, of course! Ms. Williams owns a construction firm, A. Williams Construction. More to the point, she was appointed to the City Planning Commission by one Marty Markowitz.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz -- Bruce Ratner's adorable cheerleader for the entire Nets project.
A shiny new Nets owner who was appointed to a city government position by the Nets' arena's biggest backer! Subtle, Marty!
This is a twist that's convenient enough for a mind to wonder about issues like conflict-of-interest and favoritism. You knew that a project of this size, scope and ethical vacancy couldn't get very far without machine-politics shenanigans greasing the skids.
In addition, that is, to Ratner's constant bailouts by law-school pal George Pataki's administration. Bailouts in the form of tax breaks, back-room deals, oversight by boards staffed with Pataki loyalists (the MTA and the Empire State Development Corp.), and state agencies renting space in failing Ratner properties to further prop up the master developer's teetering initiatives.
Lord, this is a mess.
The List is full of bizarre names, oddly-labeled LLCs and trust funds, fronts and, weirdly, current Nets owners who the NBA forced to accept $60 million less for the team than Ratner originally agreed to. Seems that some of Ratner's biggest partners, a few notables from Goldman Sachs, pulled their $60 million at eleventh hour because they realized the whole deal is a house of cards.
Rather than force Ratner to honor his $300 offer to the current Nets owners, the NBA forced them to accept $240 and retain some of their ownership until somehow, in the distant future, Ratner turns the Nets into a money-maker and they're able to recover the lost $60 million.
Not that we have a lick of compassion for sports team owners jobbed out of $60 million. But it does show how desperate the NBA was to seal this deal.
It's like noticing huge cracks in the reactor's containment dome the night before it goes on line, and slapping on some duct tape before flipping the on switch.
Brooklyn, you might wanna start re-thinking those emergency plans for when the meltdown hits.