Friday, October 25, 2013

Bruce Ratner, "Real Estate Visionary" on Morning Joe: 15 years ago, he drew the fate of Flatbush on a napkin

Bruce Ratner's victory laps have continued, with an appearance yesterday on Morning Joe on NBC.

It begins with clips of Ratner and his favorite front man at an empty press conference where Jay-Z announced the team would become, duh, the Brooklyn Nets.

"It was seven and a half years ago, Jay-Z, not too far from here, when we met for the first time," Ratner states. "We shared our dreams together and we got along, and he put his hand out, and I put my hand out, and we shook hands, and the rest is really history.

"I just appreciate all the support from Brooklyn, because without Brooklyn, I wouldn't be standing here right now," Jay-Z, in an apparent reference to the Westinghouse High School students behind him as props. "I'm humbled, I'm excited, so get ready for the Brooklyn Nets. Westinghouse, let's make some noise.

Then co-host Mika Brzezinski cooed over the Brooklyn Nets hat and t-shirt she was given, and Ratner declared her "an honorary citizen of Brooklyn." She followed by declaring her daughter a huge Jay-Z fan.

No questions, of course, about that little complicating fact of the Barclays Center being way behind financial projections.


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Adman Donny Deutsch commented, "I don't need to tell you, what a brilliant marketing move... to take that Jay-Z magic fairy dust and sprinkle it on top of the project instantaneously made the Nets cool, the project, of the people, stroke of genius."

"Made me a little cool too, and I needed a lot of that," Ratner replied in his self-deprecating way.

 Getting over resistance

While people were concerned about noise, traffic, and crime, Ratner said, "What's happened is none of that turned out to be the case. Most everybody takes subway or walks. There has been actually a lowered crime in the area, property values are up and of course most of all, there is a great venue for people to actually have their whole social life around. Whether you like Bocelli or the Nets or Jay-Z,, you've got all of us there. People have their whole social life around that arena."

 Um, no noise from concerts in people's apartments? No cars idling on neighborhood streets?

People have their whole social life around the arena?

The whole project

One of the panel asked "how close are you to the full vision, not just of the arena, but the whole development of the Atlantic Yards thing?"

"Well, the first thing to recognize, across the street, there is almost 800,000 square feet of retail that we built a number of years ago," Ratner replied, rather oddly. "The most important thing now is the housing. And we started the first building, we found ourselves a partner from China. And so it's going to go very quickly."

Or so they say. So far it's gone very slowly.

"And most importantly, we're going to build that project modularly, a new way to build high-rise construction, which I think will change construction. So it's a lot of good things happening."

The vision moment

Deutsch asked, "Give me the moment you were looking at the area where everyone else would have seen as just waste land and you saw the emerald city. It is such a creative, visionary type thing."

 (Just waste land where people were living and working? Or a valuable, if undeveloped and expensive to develop, piece of government property?)

"You know, it is some instinct, I think, and instinct is a bunch of experiences put together," Ratner replied. "I think it was almost a moment when I kind of looked and decided, this is the project. I saw..  a piece of land that had railroad tracks on it that could be built into something remarkable right in the hea--downtown area of Brooklyn."

(Note how he almost said "heart" but reverted to the "downtown" mantra.)

"I could just see it, honestly. In fact, 15 years ago, I remember I drew on a napkin what would happen to Flatbush Avenue 15 to 20 years from now, the amount of residential,, the amount of office, and so on," he continued. "I don't know what it is. It's just instinct."

Note that 15 years ago would be 1998, well before Borough President Marty Markowitz made his allegedly revelatory phone call about a basketball team up for sale. Though Ratner did not mention that his earlier revelation included an arena.

Or as cousin Chuck Ratner, then CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises on 9/9/05 told investment analysts, "I will confess that it was less than two or three years ago we were sitting around in New York wondering where the next deals were going to come from. We had finished a whole bunch of office and we completed MetroTech and we didn't have the next great site in Brooklyn. That was one of the reasons we got so aggressive and creative, Bruce and his team did in this Atlantic Yards project. We saw that land sitting there for this last 10 years, realizing it would be a great opportunity if somebody could turn it on."

More kudos

One on the panel saluted Ratner for building the Barclays Center, saying "it makes Madison Square Garden [which is being renovated] look shabby and kind of embarrassing. You go to barclays center and see the future of what a sports arena should look like. It's a modern sports arena, kind of like a nightclub/ sports arena, all in one."

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