Bruce Ratner’s quixotic quest to move the Nets from New Jersey to a Frank Gehry-designed nest set like a crashed UFO amid a planned patch of (currently unrentable) identikit luxury condos in Brooklyn has been covered before in this space. Fairly often. And I’m so biased in this due to my fading-but-lifelong affinity for the Nets — described at length here and in an essay in this book and in general by me every time I have four or more beers and basketball comes up — that I generally try to stay out of it.
This means sitting out lots of bullshit from Ratner and his flubby PR maestro Brett Yormark. It means not really commenting on Forest City Ratner’s cheesy backroom politicking and eminent domain abuse and general shittery. And recently, it has meant very little, since everyone but Ratner seems to realize that until the economy turns around — and likely even then — his overambitious, underwhelming development project just isn’t happening.
As it should. The whole thing sucks all the way up to heaven, and as a New Yorker and Nets fan and someone who hates this sort of workaday economic injustice and cravenness, I still care, but…it’s a lot to take, daily. So it’s nice, in a way, to find that I can still be shocked by this. And simultaneously impressed. This report on how Ratner is angling to get stimulus funding for the Atlantic Yards project from New York‘s Intelligencer blog, for instance…you can’t hear it, but I’m slow-clapping for Ratner over here. Well done, you magnificent bastard. Longtime New Yorkers will want to stick around to the end of the blog post for a cameo from vampiric unkillable political lamprey Alfonse D’Amato. Because of fucking course. So:
According to a government source, representatives of Forest City Ratner ” the developers of the massive, foundering Brooklyn basketball-and-skyscraper project ” have been pushing the idea with Governor David Paterson™s office, trying to elbow to the front of the line before any of the roughly $17 billion in federal aid arrives.
Atlantic Yards has been on life support since late last year, stalled by the collapse of the credit markets as well as lawsuits contesting Ratner™s attempt to seize property through eminent domain. Frank Gehry™s design for the showpiece NBA arena has been undergoing revision in an attempt to reduce costs that have swelled to $1 billion. Preparatory construction work on the 22-acre site was halted in December. Meanwhile, Ratner™s team has returned repeatedly to the city and state asking for subsidies beyond the possible $1.5 billion in direct and indirect taxpayer money that went into the original deal.
Ratner is nothing if not persistent, and he™s lined up a powerful group of political supporters for Atlantic Yards, including Mayor Bloomberg, Senator Chuck Schumer, and the project™s first elected cheerleader, [Brooklyn Borough President Marty] Markowitz (new senator Kirsten Gillibrand hasn™t taken a position on Atlantic Yards yet). Other than Markowitz, they haven™t said whether they like the idea of using stimulus money to revive the project. And there is a long list of more worthy state projects ” from the Second Avenue subway to the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel to high-speed upstate rail links ” that would produce bigger public benefit from the stimulus bucks without bailing out a private real-estate developer.