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October 04, 2010
Ratner's green-cards-for-arena-development-funds swap raises eyebrows
Even on a normal day, Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report is a cornucopia of information about the Brooklyn Nets arena project, often more than you really want to know in one sitting. Today, however, Oder was en fuego, reporting on the growing controversy over Nets owner Bruce Ratner's plans to raise money for construction by offering green cards to Chinese investors, which he first broke news of last week.
- A representative of the New York firm engaged to market the investments — which, under the two-decade-old EB-5 program, which indeed offers green cards to foreign nationals who invest in the U.S. — claimed that the Barclays Center is "the most significant project in the city and state of New York in the last 20 years" and "generates well in excess of 10,000 jobs for years to come," neither of which is exactly true. The investment marketing also makes liberal use of NBA logos and Nets player photos, despite the money officially being for infrastructure on the site, not the arena itself.
- A translation of the official Chinese website for the project reveals that, according to Oder, "immigrant investors must put in $538,000 and, after five years, get the full return of the $500,000 principal and green cards for the entire family. There's no financial gain." (It's for this reason that EB-5 has been criticized as "buying green cards.") Though the pitch does also promise signed basketballs to all takers.
- Finally, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who had been schedule to make the China marketing trip with Ratner, pulled out this afternoon after criticism from both AYR and the New York Post.
While the whole mess mostly sheds light on the weirdness of U.S. immigration law — raise your hand if you had any idea that any foreigner with half a million dollars to throw around could buy their way out of waiting for resident alien status — it does indicate that Ratner and his partner Mikhail Prokhorov are looking for creative ways to find cheap money to finance development of the Atlantic Yards site. Whether that's because they're short of cash, or they just figure you can never have enough money, is anyone's guess.