2004-01-29 / Other News

New Jersey Nets Sale Brings NBA Team One Step Closer To Home In Brooklyn

By Neil S. Friedman
New Jersey Nets Sale Brings NBA Team One Step Closer To Home In Brooklyn

New Jersey Nets Sale Brings NBA Team One Step Closer To Home In Brooklyn

Showing off Brooklyn Nets jerseys at last week’s press event are: (left to right) Former NBA All-Star and Brooklyn native Bernard King, Borough President Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and new Nets owner, Bruce Ratner. 										     Kathryn KirkShowing off Brooklyn Nets jerseys at last week’s press event are: (left to right) Former NBA All-Star and Brooklyn native Bernard King, Borough President Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and new Nets owner, Bruce Ratner. Kathryn Kirk

By Neil S. Friedman

The dream of a professional sports franchise returning to Brooklyn for the first time in 47 years came one step closer last week when a group of investors signed a deal to purchase the New Jersey Nets. The formal an-nouncement came Friday at a press conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The likelihood of the team playing in Brooklyn is now a stronger probability since developer Bruce Ratner, the lead investor, has already proposed building a $2.5 billion, five-skyscraper, sports, commercial and residential complex in a six-block area downtown Brooklyn. However, there are several hurdles still to be overcome before the NBA franchise calls Brooklyn its home.

Last month Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Com-panies, and internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry unveiled a blueprint for the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Complex — bounded by Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues and Dean Street — to be built over the Long Island Railroad yard, now owned by the MTA that will include a 19,000-seat indoor sports arena.


This is the architect’s rendition of the exterior of the sports arena blueprinted for downtown Brooklyn where the Nets could be playing in 2006.This is the architect’s rendition of the exterior of the sports arena blueprinted for downtown Brooklyn where the Nets could be playing in 2006.

The 800,000 square-foot, $500 million Brooklyn Arena will be the centerpiece of a complex scheduled to consist of 5,000 units of urban housing with low income, as well as luxury, units, commercial and retail space, and six acres of landscaped public open space – including a park on the arena roof, ringed by an open-air running track that doubles as a skating rink in winter with panoramic vistas facing Manhattan year-round.

The site for the complex is adjacent to the third-largest transportation hub in New York City – Atlantic Terminal, where nine different subway lines and the Long Island Railroad converge.

"These modes of transportation," Ratner explained last month, "will make visiting the Brooklyn Arena easy for fans, whether they’re coming from other boroughs or from the surrounding suburbs – drastically reducing the vehicular traffic that would be expected at a site that lacked mass transit."

Relocating the two-time Eastern Conference champion Nets into the Brooklyn sports and entertainment complex will give the borough, ranked as the fourth largest market in the United States, its first major sports franchise since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957.

The project is wholly supported by, among others, US Senator Charles Schumer, Governor George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz, who were present at Friday’s press conference.

In December, Markowitz, the borough’s number one cheerleader, said, "We are on the threshold of restoring Brooklyn to its rightful place on the national sports stage. This plan goes even further – creating thousands of apartments affordable to Brooklynites of every income and producing thousands of jobs. I am confident this plan will be a win-win for the communities surrounding the arena, for all of Brooklyn and indeed for all of New York City."

Forest City Ratner has been involved in revitalizing downtown Brooklyn for nearly 20 years – from its 1988 construction of One Pierrepont Plaza to the billion-dollar-plus MetroTech Center, which is now home to a variety of major companies. The builder said the commercial space at Brooklyn Atlantic Yards would be attractive to companies seeking high-quality commercial space, and to residents seeking a vibrant, 24-hour community.

Last Friday, Ratner said, "Today is a great day for Brooklyn…Now that Brooklyn has its own professional basketball team, we can continue to implement the vision of a re-energized downtown Brooklyn…"

Calling it "a huge win for Brooklyn," Mayor Bloomberg said, "It’s the right place to put it." The mayor said the arena could generate as much as $400 million annually and construction would create about 10,000 jobs with hundreds of permanent jobs when the complex is in operation.

But for some who would be the basketball team’s neighbors — and for those residents and businesses that would be displaced by the new arena — Brooklyn Nets has an ugly sound.

Some residents in the gentrifying Prospect Heights neighborhood that borders the site are organizing petitions and hanging protest signs from windows, like one calling the project a "new field of schemes."

There is mounting resistance to the proposed complex, which opponents, led by the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, say will not only displace residents and businesses, but cause additional traffic problems in an already congested area. Opponents claim almost one thousand people will have to relocate while supporters put the number at less than 200.

Ratner wants neighborhood residents to voluntarily leave their apartments in exchange for generous offers of real estate, cash or both, a spokesman recently said.

Freshman City Council Member Letitia James, whose Brooklyn district encompasses the community targeted for the project told the Canarsie Courier last week, "I’m very disappointed, it’s a great day for rich developers and their allies, but a sad day for working families."

James said the community should be involved in any major development affecting it, but, to date, she says that has not happened. The council member also noted that Brooklyn’s landmark Williamsburg Bank Tower will be overshadowed by more than a dozen skyscrapers in the complex.

"I am not against development," James said, "but in the end it should not adversely affect hardworking businessmen and residents."

Furthermore, Ratner faces several obstacles before the Nets formally become a Brooklyn team. The sale must be approved by 75 percent of NBA owners, including New York Knicks’ owner Charles Dolan, who has reportedly been lobbying colleagues to reject the sale, which would make the team a cross town, instead of a cross river, rival. Ratner must also get state approval for tax breaks and guarantees of road and rail network improvements in the area from the city and state. Moreover, he has to persuade state officials to implement the law of eminent domain —‘the right of government to appropriate private property and compensate those it displaces at fair market value determined by the state.

Under the plan, construction could begin early next year and be completed in time for the 2006 NBA season.would be displaced by the new arena — Brooklyn Nets has an ugly sound.

Some residents in the gentrifying Prospect Heights neighborhood that borders the site are organizing petitions and hanging protest signs from windows, like one calling the project a "new field of schemes."

There is mounting resistance to the proposed complex, which opponents, led by the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, say will not only displace residents and businesses, but cause additional traffic problems in an already congested area. Opponents claim almost one thousand people will have to relocate while supporters put the number at less than 200.

Ratner wants neighborhood residents to voluntarily leave their apartments in exchange for generous offers of real estate, cash or both, a spokesman recently said.

Freshman City Council Member Letitia James, whose Brooklyn district encompasses the community targeted for the project told the Canarsie Courier last week, "I’m very disappointed, it’s a great day for rich developers and their allies, but a sad day for working families."

James said the community should be involved in any major development affecting it, but, to date, she says that has not happened. The council member also noted that Brooklyn’s landmark Williamsburg Bank Tower will be overshadowed by more than a dozen skyscrapers in the complex.

"I am not against development," James said, "but in the end it should not adversely affect hardworking businessmen and residents."

Furthermore, Ratner faces several obstacles before the Nets formally become a Brooklyn team. The sale must be approved by 75 percent of NBA owners, including New York Knicks’ owner Charles Dolan, who has reportedly been lobbying colleagues to reject the sale, which would make the team a cross town, instead of a cross river, rival. Ratner must also get state approval for tax breaks and guarantees of road and rail network improvements in the area from the city and state. Moreover, he has to persuade state officials to implement the law of eminent domain —‘the right of government to appropriate private property and compensate those it displaces at fair market value determined by the state.

Under the plan, construction could begin early next year and be completed in time for the 2006 NBA season.

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