Fans For Fair Play
Challenging Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn Atlantic Yards project

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Benevolent Bruce Ratner thinks the thoughts of deluded men.

Benevolent Bruce, in this holiday season, has shown in just a year's time that he can run a basketball team the same way he runs his real-estate empire:

1) Spend money the rest of us can never know, just to make gobs more;
2) Make knee-jerk decisions rife with hubristic misinformation that are immediately dubbed "mistakes." Or "awsomely big mistakes.
3) Adopting a ingratiatingly humble tone, claim you were learning and apologize.
4) Compound the mistake by making another one, all in the name of "listening" to those agrieved by your massive and arrogant miscalculation.

In other words, the Bruce Rater way.

Of course we're speaking of Ratner's New Jersey Nets' acquisition of former NBA It-Guard Vince Carter.

Carter, as hoops fans know, was annointed Michael Jordan's successor several years ago when both he and the Toronto Raptors were on the rise. Oh, those halcyon days when the NBA thought basketball in Canada was a swingin' idea. (It's not.)

Turns our, Vince Carter's electric output is now totalled in the "potential kilowats" column. Injuries have resulted in reduced playing time and offense the last couple of years. Carter's spent all this season publicly agitating for a trade away from Toronto and in most diatribes to the New York Knicks. And just after the trade to Toronto -- for which the Raptors were compensated with Alonzo Mourning and all current Nets players named "Williams" -- it was revealed by a Tacoma, WA newspaper that Carter told three Seattle Supersonics the play the Raptors were about to run against Seattle in the closing minutes.

And now the media's congratulating Benevolent Bruce. Apparently it's this easy to convince most of the New York sports media that Bruce Ratner isn't the dumbnest cluck to buy a basketball team in recent memory. Sure, sharing a media market with the Knicks makes that easier to swallow, but still...

Much like Ratner's condescending exploitation of working class Brooklyn's desperate need for jobs and affordable housing, his manipulation of local sportswriters and fans is rank with cynicism and bottom-line concerns.

Here're some of the issues wafting from the stench of the Carter deal:

* Ratner finally, clumsilly, admitted last week that his dismissal this summer of Nets fan-favorite and heart-and-soul Kenyon Martin was a mistake. It wasn't an act of passion, but rather a methodical, weeks-long bowing to the pressure of either money people forcing his hand or his own jaundiced eye on the finances of his 17-skyscraper Atlantic Yards project -- the one Brooklyn doesn't need.

* Carter -- damaged goods that will never be the Great Vince Hope the NBA touted years ago -- was picked up to show the world Bruce Means Business. It's up to the world to figure out that "Business" means real-estate, not basketball, business.

* Though Alonzo Mourning was branded a whiner and "bad influence in the clubhouse," Carter comes in with a free pass. Mourning did what few athletes are unwiling to do these days -- criticize a team owner for moves that hurt the team, the fan base, and local taxpayers. Say that and you're called a troublemaker. Demand to be traded for a year and on the way out tip off the other team about a play, you get a free pass.

* This trade was about two things: getting rid of someone (Mourning) who doesn't repress the truth, and trying to change the basketball world's accurate view that Ratner is using basketball to sell his Brooklyn Yards real-estate colossus.

* Carter is much the same player that Richard Jefferson is. If Carter ever regains full health, the Nets will have three guards for a two-guard system -- three guards that are all-star caliber and ego. If Nets fans are happy trading no-name mediocrity for big-name disappointment, they'll be happy with this deal.

* Sportswriters, particularly the New York Times' Harvey Araton, wrote that Ratner was right to sign-and-trade Martin to the Denver Nuggets. Martin wasn't that crucial...Martin would cost too much...the draft choices the Nets received could be parlayed into hot young players. These writers, particularly Araton, have holiday crow to chow down now that their Bruce has admitted he was wrong and, to prove it, got rid of two of those future draft picks, both Number Ones, to get Carter. Araton was very, very adamant about the righteousness of the Nets' divestment of Martin, underscoring it in print and in a letter to Fans For Fair Play. Oh, by the way, Harvey Araton's employer, The New York Times, is a business parter with Bruce Ratner. The Times rarely mentions that, an omission that is journalistically unethical. We'll help 'em out, though, by bringing it up.

* Ratner, because he's as vindictive a basketball owner as he is a real-estate mogul, wants to cut Jason Kidd down to size, either by subjugating his status on the Nets by bringing Carter aboard, or by replacing him with Carter. Perhaps Ratner believes -- or is told to believe by his handlers -- that having Carter will less the blow absorbed by Nets fans when Kidd is traded.

* The trade was a wash monetarilly. The deal was designed to make fans think that Ratner, after an initial inexperienced stumble, is getting his owner's feet and starting to shell out the big bucks for a big-money star. But he's spending no more now than before the trade. Another bait-and-switch from Ratner, like his spokesperson Jim Stuckey telling Brooklynites that the Atlantic Yards project means lots of apartments for locals desperate for affordable housing, even though 80% of the units will be priced beyond the reach of anyone earning the area's median income or less.

It's sad to see the trade for Carter fly under the usually-scrupulous New York sports media's radar. Except for Araton, who has the Times' business deals looking over his shoulder, New York's sportswriters need to analyze every Nets move in connection with Ratner's non-basketball deal in Brooklyn.

They also need to stop writing things like "when Ratner moves the team to Brooklyn in 2007." Because IT'S NOT A DONE DEAL. Ratner hasn't the land, the deals, the financing or the public authorities in place. There are other developers planning to build on parts of the 24-acre site's footprint. Ratner has no tenants for his massive commercial skyscrapers, with more office space than the Empire State Building and more total commercial square footage than the World Trade Center. The MTA will be forced to sell their land to Ratner -- or the other developers and planners who have designs on the LIRR railyards, constituting 11 of the footprint's 24 acres -- at market value, because the MTA's broke...really, really broke.

The Atlantic Yards is no more a done deal than the Nets are a winning basketball team.

* * * * * * * *

Happy Holidays, then, from Fans For Fair Play. 2005 will be an explosive year on this front. Some dates to pencil in:

February 22, 2005
The U.S. Supreme Court hears Kelo v. New London, a case involving eminent domain condemnations of private homes for a strictly non-public-use real-esate development. Should the plaintiffs -- homeowners who are battling New London's condemnation of their homes so that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Corp. can build a waterfront office/commercial complex -- win, it will seriously harm Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Yards project. Some experts believe it will kill the project.

June, 2005
Kelo v. New London decision handed down.

July 6, 2005
International Olympic Committee announces which of five finalist cities -- Madrid, London, Paris, Moscow or New York -- will be awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Other than that, every day is a key day in the struggle to keep Bruce Ratner's destructive Atlantic Yards project from bringing Brooklyn down. Check in with us as often as you can, and visit our sister organizations Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and No Land Grab for up-to-the minute reporting, analysis and links to all the info you need about this battle.

And here's a New Year's resolution -- more frequent and shorter blogs.

Get home safe so we fight together in '05

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