Developer Bruce Ratner published a column in the Sunday New York Daily News that the Atlantic Yards project is moving forward at a steady — if not rapid — pace. Is it a timely public relations message? Or a sign that Ratner is on the ropes?
Rumors of Atlantic Yards’ demise, stirred by opponents, have been greatly exaggerated. The project is moving forward in its entirety, and in the coming years it will bring jobs, housing and an improved quality of life to Brooklyn.
It looks as though things are going swimmingly in court — Ratner cites 18 favorable court decisions out of 18 cases so far — and that deals are getting done. But in the whole piece, Ratner mentions the New Jersey Nets exactly once.
Meanwhile, Jersey officials are sharing their opinions freely in the media.
“Four years later, we’re getting a rendering?” Codey said yesterday. “It’s becoming ridiculous. They’re not going to be playing in Brooklyn in 2010.”
“Instead of him fighting with the constituents there in Brooklyn we would welcome him here in Newark,” DiVincenzo said.
Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, a city spokeswoman, said Newark “would love to have the New Jersey Nets call the city of Newark home.”
Sure, some of it is just that good, old-fashioned brand of trash talk that only you only find in New Jersey. But, I particularly love the “on message” feel of Ms. Cameron’s statement: it’s wonderfully positive and polished without revealing any information that isn’t meant to be public — I hope they pay her well.
While light on inside information (the title is pure speculation), a Jersey Journal piece also published today would throw water on Ratner’s column: The Nets may stay in Jersey after all.
Ratner had hoped to move the team into the New York home for the 2009-2010 season, but there is no way the arena will be ready. In fact, the entire Atlantic Yards project is progressing very slowly.
The Nets owner is facing a very tough credit market that is getting tighter every week. A bleak economy will only continue to hurt the prospects of the Brooklyn development. It is the perfect time for New Jersey interests to put on a full-court press and have the NBA squad become the second tenant in Newark.
So, stacking up against the arena in Brooklyn are local opposition, tight credit markets, and increasing construction costs — and legal battles only add to the costs as deal maker Goldman Slacks can’t find funding until Forest City Ratner can close the books on their court cases. But, according to this New York Sun piece, moving to Newark might not be a slam-dunk either:
Getting the Nets into Vanderbeek’s building is simple on paper, but it is also extremely complicated, because of how revenues generated inside his building are distributed. Ratner would need access to monies from luxury boxes, club seats, and in-arena concession areas.
Vanderbeek would theoretically have to give up lucrative revenue streams from NBA games that he would normally keep from non-Devils events in the building. But Ratner could not financially survive without getting the lion’s share of those revenues.
As I read it, Ratner purchased the Nets for the purpose of getting leverage to begin a building project in Brooklyn, the centerpiece of which would be the Barclay’s Center arena. Due to legal delays and increased costs, the developer has scaled the project back to phases — the first of which will be the arena planned to begin later this year, and the last of which will be completed in 2018.
Booker and Vanderbeek are reportedly hoping to find investors to bring the Nets to Newark, which would be fantastic for the city, for fans, the team, and its investors. But, in order to do that, Ratner has to be selling.
The question really lies in whether the Atlantic Yards project can move forward without the Nets. Nobody’s going to build an arena without a team to play there, and it’s unclear what would be left of the project without the arena. In his column, Ratner highlights more than a dozen residential buildings and a Frank Gehry-designed commercial tower.
What do you think? Could Atlantic Yards move forward without the Nets or the arena? Do you think Vanderbeek and Booker have a card or two up their sleeve to entice Forest City Ratner to sell the team?