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May 16, 2009

Nets project moves ahead, but toward what?

Stop me if you've heard this before: New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner has won another court ruling over his proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, as the New York state appellate court ruled it wasn't illegal to use eminent domain to seize property for the project.

Of course, this state lawsuit was only a last-ditch move by project opponents after their federal lawsuit failed. (Not to mention previous court setbacks.) Now their really final last ditch is an appeal to the state's highest court, which is expected any day now.

While there's always a chance this court will be unlike all other courts, the bigger question now appears to be: If all the lawsuits are cleared away, then what will Ratner do? Or, more to the point, what can he do? We've already noted that the economic crash has essentially doomed Ratner's proposed office tower, that the apartment buildings might not happen for years, if ever, and that the original arena design has been abandoned as way too expensive; that leaves, um, an on-the-cheap arena surrounded by vacant lots?

The state senate is scheduled to hold its first-ever hearing on Atlantic Yards (only six-and-a-half years after it was first proposed) on May 29, and Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report has a list of proposed questions that should be asked:

  • Is it guaranteed that Atlantic Yards will still include affordable housing, or can Ratner put off that portion of the project indefinitely without penalty?
  • When will the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority get the $100 million Ratner promised to pay for development rights to its rail yards — money it could kind of use.
  • Is Frank Gehry still working on this thing or what?

I'll add one more question: Given that the entire economic landscape has changed since this plan was first proposed back in 2003, and that the design will apparently bear little resemblance to what was originally approved by the state back then, might it make sense for the state to just go back to square one and issue a new request for proposals for the site?


The appeals process is lengthier than "any day now." The appeal of this decision will take a few months, and if the New York State Court of Appeals agrees to hear the case, it could be two years before a decision is rendered.

Another case, on the State's faulty Environmental Impact Statement -- now, with Ratner's countless revisions, hopelessly outdated -- is also in the appeals process.

Trying the eminent domain case in state court wasn't a "last ditch" effort. It was the only option left in a state consistently ranked as the worst in the nation for confronting eminent domain abuse. Atlantic Yards opponents didn't hold out much hope of winning -- the law says New York State can take anyone's property whenever they see fit, and it's hard to convince a court that there's wiggle room around an absolute.

Short story -- months to years before the legal challenges are wrapped up.

Posted by Scott M.X. Turner on May 16, 2009 06:41 PM

Right, I meant the appeal was expected any day now, not a verdict. Sorry if I was unclear.

Also, I think "only option left [without] much hope of winning" is pretty much the definition of a "last-ditch effort," but you're welcome to disagree on the wording.

Posted by Neil on May 16, 2009 09:02 PM

What can I say? Nets should've gone with Newark when they still had a chance....then maybe its not too late, unless the Devils decide they don't want to play nice and share "their" luxe seating.

Posted by Marty on May 16, 2009 10:57 PM

We are now at a point where the "wudda, shudda, cudda" has completely overtaken reality.

It should that the Court of Appeals does not have to take this appeal and based on this case's history, the likelihood of it even agreeing to hear the appeal is limited. If the appellate court had split, an appeal and hearing would be automatic. Now, with a unanimous ruling (that leaves little wiggle room for the critics to slip through) why would the court take this case?

There is nothing to stop the ESDC from moving ahead and closing on the deal and moving ahead with eminent domain...and let the critics try to stop them. Again, with the court record on this case--and the now well established public good--why does anyone thing this can't happen.

There are dwindling legal options. The Nets seem quite confident of financing. The new red herring is that Barclays might drop out because the arena's "Gehryness" has been diluted. If that were the case, why did Barclays sign on to be the co-investment banker on the project?

Enough. DDDB, AYT and NLG have tried to sell any one of a number of false hopes. None have materialized. What they should have done is made a deal somewhere along the way. Now, they will be steamrolled, uh bulldozed, out of the picture.

Posted by Bobbo on May 17, 2009 07:32 AM

Hey bobbo/netincome, go back to the kiddie pool at netsdaily before you hurt yourself. You're in over your head on this board.

Talk about "false hopes". Go ahead, keep dreaming that ratner will be able to get the financing to build the arena. It ain't gonna happen and you know it.

I know you're clinging to the notion that the $100 million bond financing for the magic's new arena in orlando is a good sign for ratner. You better think again buddy.

Ratner doesn't need to raise just $100 million, he needs to raise 6 or 7 times that amount.

The nets have a debt/franchise value ratio of 71%, almost triple that of the magic. Forest City's debt situation is even worse than that of the nets. That's a killer in the credit markets.

The ratner family are paupers compared to the owners of the magic, the devos family. Last time i checked, rich devos has a net worth of almost $4 billion. How's ratner's net worth doing? If you don't think that was a huge factor in the magic's ability to raise money, you're kidding yourself.

So dream on buddy. And again, go back to the kiddie pool at netsdaily. That's far more your speed.

Posted by newark hawk on May 17, 2009 12:36 PM

Ah, Bobbo, the bitter secret ID for a bitter former national reporter who is shilling for this boondoggle for some reason...and really cheesed that blogger Norman Oder continually shows him what real investigative reporting should be!

Let's see if his legal-eagle chops are any better than his "journalism." Ever heard of an Article 9 appeal, for constitutional issues, which this certainly is? You hadn't? What a SHOCK!

What a joke! PA-thetic.

Posted by TomTom on May 17, 2009 01:09 PM

@ Tom Tom

What do you expect from a former nbc (nothing but crap) reporter?

Posted by newark hawk on May 17, 2009 03:53 PM

I'm shocked that the former nbc (nothing but crap) reporter had the nerve to venture out of his little cocoon at netsdaily.

Doesn't he realize that he's no longer protected by the new jersey-hating netsdaily moderator who blocks/deletes comments which expose his lies, half-truths and absolute stupidity?

You'd think a self-hating new jerseyan wannabe new yorker like bobbo/netincome would at least have the smarts to avoid message boards like these where he'll get chewed up and spit out like a bad piece of gum.

Posted by newark hawk on May 17, 2009 04:22 PM

I'm not going to block/delete anything, but I will make a request: It's fine to beat up each other's arguments, but please, no trash talking. There's plenty of room for entertaining and informative disagreement here without crossing the line into personal attacks.

Posted by Neil on May 17, 2009 05:38 PM

In fact, I'll start: Bobbo, you say Ratner is"quite confident of financing," but for what? All signs were that the arena was meant to be a loss leader for the office and residential towers, so how would Ratner make it work on its own? Even if they trim it to $700 million or so, that's still a hefty nut to pay off in today's bond market — basically they'd be looking at the Mets' debt load with a team that sells one-quarter as many tickets and is only a fraction as popular, which seems, um, difficult.

I don't doubt that Ratner is still trying to make this work to get something out of his investment, but until he presents a real financing plan, I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by Neil on May 17, 2009 05:44 PM

Ratner was also "quite confident" that barclays center would open in 2006, then 2007, then 2008, then 2009, then 2010, then 2011, etc, etc, etc.

Ratner's promises and predictions are meaningless. He's got zero credibility, just like his lapdogs in the media.

Posted by newark hawk on May 17, 2009 07:18 PM

@ neil

Point taken regarding the trash talking.

I guess i was a little rough on bobbo/netincome, even though he had it coming to him.

In the future, i'll spare him the beatdowns, although i doubt he'll be returning here any time soon.

Posted by newark hawk on May 17, 2009 08:06 PM

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