2004-01-29 / This Week's Attitude

This Week’s

AttitudePro Hoops May Not Be Net Gain For Everyone In Brooklyn
By Neil S. Friedman
This Week’s Attitude By Neil S. Friedman Pro Hoops May Not Be Net Gain For Everyone In Brooklyn

Pro Hoops May Not Be Net Gain For Everyone In Brooklyn

The Nets are coming! The Nets are coming! The way the local media has covered the sale of the New Jersey Nets to a real estate developer who vows to bring the team to Brooklyn, you’d think a modern miracle had come to pass.

Perhaps the most enthusiastic are those nostalgic souls who still mourn the loss of the Brooklyn Dodgers. But, I daresay, many current residents pro-bably don’t even know there once was a beloved baseball team in Flatbush.

Everyone, however, is not overjoyed about the plan.

Don’t get me wrong, having a major sports franchise in Brooklyn is a fantastic idea – and long overdue — considering the borough is the fourth largest city in the country but has lacked representation in professional sports since the Dodgers headed west back in ’57.

However, the residual effects at the habitually bottlenecked intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues where the team is expected to call home, does not exactly make it a choice setting. Nonethe-less, Bruce Ratner, the real estate magnate who bought the team and announced his intentions to modernize the area, is developing the property designated for a new sports arena. (Ironically, New York power broker Robert Moses turned down a pitch by Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley to build a stadium on the same site in the 1950s, which prompted the Dodgers to head for the warmth of the California sun.)

Proponents of the Nets transaction proclaim the location is ideal because it is a public transportation hub with seven subway lines, plus the Long Island Railroad, making it convenient for commuting sports fans. But I wonder how many fans who attend games will opt for public over private transportation.

An analysis of downtown traffic released yesterday, indicates that major construction from the project would add nearly 200,000 additional cars to the already heavily trafficked area.

Part of the strategy in building the sports arena, which will be part of a mammoth $2.5 billion Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Complex, includes displacing hundreds of residents and businesses under the eminent domain rule that allows a government to take private property for public use and provide fair-market compensation. The regulation has been used many times for key improvements around the city, including the construction of the Verrazano Bridge in Bay Ridge. But displacing homeowners to build a bridge that provides easier access leaving and entering the city is more significant than doing it to host a sports franchise. While displaced residents will be compensated for their property value, they will not recoup the costly investments that make their living spaces cozy.

Daily News columnist Mike Lupica was on target when he recently wrote: "Any move of a franchise, accompanied by a plan to build a new arena, is about one, and only one, thing — making a handful of rich people even richer."

Sophisticated sports fans are aware that even mediocre sports franchises today cannot be bought for under $200 million. Therefore, anyone who makes such a hefty investment is intent on making a healthy profit, not the concerns of the public.

Furthermore, locating the new arena downtown Brooklyn, which has undergone major renovations for years, once again demonstrates how the rest of the borough continues to be overshadowed. Other, sensible locations for an arena might be Coney Island, west of KeySpan Park, home of the Mets minor league affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones; abandoned sites in Red Hook, or even nearby Floyd Bennett Field. The latter two are not easily accessible via public transportation, but, I believe, most people pre-fer private travel modes to get to a game.

The Nets deal has politicians salivating about substantial future revenues to boost city and state treasuries. Nevertheless, the deal is not a slam dunk. First, three quarters of the NBA owners must ap-prove the Nets coming to Brooklyn. New York Knicks owner Charles Dolan is reportedly already lobbying colleagues to reject the team’s relocation.

Second, while most local politicians unconditionally support Ratner’s downtown blueprint, some Al-bany legislators, who traditionally don’t support downstate proposals, will have to endorse the deal with its tax breaks and incentives.

Having a major sports franchise back in Brook-lyn would be wonderful, but at the proposed location, it is more likely that honking horns will be more dominant than the sweet swoosh of basketballs dropping through the nets.

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