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

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Dog Days of August 

Hot weather, green leaves starting to brown around the edges, depressing sounds of "Back to School" sales, and the saddest signifier of another summer become history, Labor Day.

Basketball does not frequent the sports fan's consciousness. For hardcore hoops fans, there's streetball at Rucker or West 4th Street, the auction-block camps run by Nike and adidas, or thet once-every-four-years-occassion to watch the U.S. women's basketball team sweep to gold and the men's version either beat up the rest of the world like bullies or lose petulantly to Argentina, who puts the "team" back into "basketball, a team sport."

For the contractual-obsessvives, there's the NBA's equivalent of a hot-stove league...maybe a cold-Gatorade-bucket league, brimming with free-agent signings, mid-level exceptions and trade recscindtions (hey, we made up a word!).

Bruce Ratner's Nets have been running in place, doing more to aid the boss' obsessive quest to destroy Brooklyn than to bring a championship caliber team to New Jersey.

Like Ratner bought the Nets for anything having to do with basketball.

GM Rod Thorn's biggest acquisition, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, failed a Nets physical. Maybe he's damaged goods. The New York Mets thought Vladimir Guerrero's back was brittle as balsa. A zillion homers later, Vlad's loss has been plugged up -- or not -- by the strikeout-prone team of Cameron and Diaz. Abdur-Rahim could turn the same way for the Nets.

They've also recent acquired NAPA-replacement-parts functionaries in Jeff McInnis and Marc Jackson, and brought back old guy big-man Cliff Robinson. The Robinson signing is the Nets' latest attempt to fill the lowpost vacated when Ratner, who'll always be a neophyte basktball owner -- hell, he'll always be a neophyte human with a soul -- traded Kenyon Martin "on advice from his investors," Ratner now claims.

What this all comes down to is that you, the sports fan, should be bored and disinterested in all of this.

Because Bruce Ratner sure is.

His p.r. flak-inspired protestations aside, he doesn't give a rat's ass about any of this. His overpaying acquisition of the Nets -- on other people's dimes, just like everything else he does -- was done for one reason, and one reason only: to grease the skids for his 17 skyscraper project -- or is it 20, or 22? He knew he'd never get it done without the sexy mad-hot seduction of a pro-sports team and a taxpayer-assisted sports arena.

Recent developments continue to expose Ratner's neferious machinations:

* A law is making its way through the New York City Council, sponsored by councilperson for the district targetted by Ratner, Leticia James, that would prevent city money from going to private developments that use eminent domain. Ratner's will, and if this bill passes -- and it must -- it'll cost Ratner a cool $100 million. At least. This for a guy whose finances are a cobbled-together amalgam of investors, loans, public money, subsidies and tax breaks.

* The MTA, which erroneously (and potentially illegally) ignored another developer's three-times higher bid to choose Ratner's insulting low-ball bid, faces serious litigation that will delay or end Ratner's attempts to build at the Atlantic yards site. MTA chair Peter Kalikow pushed the board to take the unusual action -- especially for a cash-strapped entity like the MTA after a last-minute phone call from Ratner pal and lame-duck governor George Pataki.

* Over fifty community groups, religious organizations and elected officials now stand opposed to Ratner's project.

* Elected officials who supported Ratner's land-grab are now opposing it. Residents of Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Fort Greene who'd previously ignored Ratner's monstrosity, well, after glimpsing Frank Gehry's outrageously over-the-top renderings of Ratner's revised (i.e. higher, more dense, uglier and more arrogant) designs, you can measure their bulging eyebrows with a ruler.

The summer's a slow time for activists as well as the rest of humanity. Activists are human too.

All indications are that as the cool autumn breezes blow into the five boroughs, things will heat up in Brooklyn long before they ignite in the Meadowlands.

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