Once upon a time, Caring Bruce Ratner saw a chance to make a real estate score in the borough of Brooklyn, and was smart enough to use a sports team as cover for that.
...Only it was never about the Nets.
It was about the property.
About Ratner's vision of those high rises.
Only now, all this time later, Ratner has the shorts, the way a lot of rich guys do, and needs help from government on this deal.
The way a lot of rich guys do.
And a shovel still doesn't go into the ground where the Nets arena is supposed to be.
You know why?
Because Ratner has been the one shoveling something from the start.
So where is the mayor of New York on this, the one who has to get a third term because we need him to protect our money?
Where is he on this boondoggle in Brooklyn?
Where is the new governor, David Patterson, who says he wants to clean up the state?
You know where he can start?
Lupica's right in noting that the developer wants more subsidies. The mayor has been a big Atlantic Yards supporter, adding $105 million in new subsidies in 2007. His effort to have the City Council override voter-imposed term limits, as I've written, shares a spirit of backroom governance.
Paterson (whose name was misspelled) has been basically supportive of the project and, of course, his administration's Empire State Development Corporation is vigorously defending pending lawsuits. Perhaps one of them will cause him to question the state's finding of blight.
Columnist Lawrence piles on
Daily News hoops columnist Mitch Lawrence piles on, under the sub-headline No bridge to Brooklyn:
Instead of putting a shovel in Brooklyn's soil, they're sprinkling dirt, rather liberally, on Bruce Ratner's dream of moving the Nets to the Atlantic yards.
That's good for North Jersey and the 38 fans who still turn out to watch a team that lost whatever relevance it had when Jason Kidd forced his way to Dallas.
But it's bad for Jay-Z when he tries to sell LeBron James on playing in Newark.
Not that there's anything wrong with the Nets heading down Route 21 and settling into the Prudential Center. Becoming co-tenants again with the Devils in their state-of-the-art facility has always made the most sense, even if Ratner continues to hold out hope that Devin Harris will one day run a break in a Frank Gehry-designed building in Brooklyn.
The more Ratner tries to keep his dream alive, the more he finds himself caught between The Rock and a hard place. Having alienated North Jersey fans long ago with his grand plans to bolt the Meadowlands, he has to realize that he's just giving them another reason not to buy tickets. It's not as if they need another one these days. The rotten economy is reason enough to stay home.
Nets fans were never ones to storm the box office, not even when Kidd led the team to back-to-back Finals. Now with Xanadu, that monstrosity you can't help but see from Route 3, challenging everyone to find a parking place within a mile of the arena, there is even less reason to run out and support a rebuilt team led by Vince Carter.
Ratner always thought he could waltz right into Brooklyn by 2009, but residents never lined Flatbush Ave. to toss roses his way. No matter how much David Stern lent his support to the project, lambasting the antiquated Meadowlands every chance he got, the Nets had about as much chance of settling in Brooklyn as they had of beating the Lakers in the 2002 Finals.
Now with Wall Street in chaos, Ratner can't get the financing to make Brooklyn work, so it's status quo, meaning the Nets get to stay in East Rutherford and play before a lot of empty seats.
"They haven't changed a light bulb over there in five years," noted a league source.
And over in Brooklyn, it's lights out.
As I've written, just as we should have been skeptical of the Atlantic Yards inevitability meme, so should we skeptical of those who think the meme has turned 180 degrees.