Skip to main content

Brett Yormark, remixed: Nets CEO's shifting predictions on arena opening date

A good salesman always sounds convincing, even if underlying facts change the spiel, and New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark is at the top of the game.

In three radio or TV interviews over less than 15 months, Yormark offered unwavering predictions about the opening date of the Atlantic Yards arena (aka Barclays Center) in Brooklyn. First, he said 2009, then 2010, then 2011.

Just take a listen to this one-minute audio file or simply click below.

I’ve interpolated my own questions into the remix, but the original quotes come from the interviews transcribed below.

Why such confidence?

 Why does Yormark radiate such confidence? I suspect the goal is to attract additional sponsors and buyers of suites. If the arena seems like a mirage, it'll be harder for them to sign on the bottom line. Yormark sometimes qualifies his certainty, but mostly he doesn’t; he just moves on and offers a new prediction. Maybe that’s a habit developed in SportsWorld, where interviewers are often fawning or unprepared.

 By contrast, the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner more frequently use words like “expected” or “anticipate,” prudently leaving wiggle room in case the announced schedule won’t be met.

Bonus: at right is an excerpt from press materials distributed 12/10/03, in which Forest City Ratner suggested completion of the arena was "set for the summer of 2006."

“We’ll be in Brooklyn for the '09-'10 season”

In a 9/12/07 interview on WFAN radio, Yormark mentioned the move four times; two times he hedged slightly and the other two times he expressed certainty.

He was asked: What have your challenges been, marketing this New Jersey team? Because New York has always traditionally been a Knicks town. What have you overcome to get the name out there, particularly with this move to Brooklyn?

BY: Well, it has been challenging. When you think about what the next couple of years has in store for us: we’re leaving New Jersey, we’ve been very honest about it, and we’ll be in Brooklyn for the '09-'10 season. And our goal is not to alienate our core fan base in New Jersey, but at the same time encourage people from the other side of the river to start to test drive us, to sample us."

A little later a caller suggested that the move was more likely three years away, not two. Yormark hedged slightly.

BY: There's a lot of activity on the site right now, we're doing a lot of demolition. We're relocating the railyards. We've just ordered steel and we're expecting, hopefully, to break ground, in October-November. It usually takes about 24 months to build an arena that's 850,000 square feet, so we think we're going to be right there for the '09-'10 season, and very excited about it.

A little later, however, he returned to certainty.

BY: And when you think of Brooklyn, if it wasn't a borough it would be the fourth largest city in the U.S., it's been underserved in the area of sports entertainment for years, and we will be there for the '09-'10 season, and it's going to be one of those great moments in sports.

A bit later, he hedged once again.

BY: We’re extremely excited, as you know, about our move to Brooklyn, but we do have at least two years in Jersey, and while we’re in Jersey, we’re going to provide a great, great experience, a great product.

As I pointed out that the time, even Forest City Enterprises executives, speaking a day earlier, didn’t think lawsuits would be cleared until the middle of 2008.

Anything other than a faux groundbreaking couldn’t begin until then. Thus, the process Yormark said would take 24 months wouldn't have begun until 2008, which moved the arena in 2010, not 2009. 

Actually, Bruce Ratner has said it would take 30 months and the ESDC’s construction schedule suggests 32 months. Though it's possible that, in the absence of other major construction project, construction could be accelerated, until such a speed-up is announced, we shouldn't accept a 24-month estimate.

[Update 10/22/09: the new architects say it would take 26 months.]

Bonus: Yormark contradicts himself

Yormark, in a 12/12/08 Star-Ledger profile, improbably suggested that, if not for me, he wouldn’t have taken the job with the Nets: “And he's the guy responsible for me having this job -- totally sold me on Brooklyn, totally sold me on the Ratner project."

Let’s go to the audiotape. He told WFAN in the above interview: This is a job that I had my eyes on for quite some time. I started my career in 1988 with the Nets selling tickets. And my dream was always to come back and to lead the franchise.

“We plan on... being there for the '10-'11 season"

In a 7/30/08 Fox Business Channel interview focusing on sponsorship interviews, Yormark was given the opportunity to pitch the Nets. His answer: Things are going really well for us. In May, we opened up the Barclays Center showroom, in the New York Times Building. And we are selling our suites, and doing quite well. What we’re finding is that big companies, and brands, are investing, for the long haul, and we’re hoping that that investment will be part of the Barclays Center. With respect to our other advertisers that we’re talking to, with respect to being involved with the Barclays Center, that’s going well, also. We recently announced seven of our 14 founding partners. A couple more are on the way. So we’re very excited about the interest. We plan on breaking ground in November and being there for the '10-'11 season.

As I pointed out at the time, Bruce Ratner had told shareholders a month earlier that construction would start in January 2009 and take two-and-a-half years--a timetable far different from the developer's public statements.

So Yormark, whose phrase “plan on breaking ground” offered a bit of a hedge, certainly knew better. 

After all, an expected eminent domain suit had not yet been filed in state court--it was filed a few days later--and there was no reason to think it would be resolved by November. But that admission might have deterred some additional "founding partners."

An arena in three years? “Absolutely”

On 12/2/08, after Forest City Ratner had stalled all work at the MTA’s Vanderbilt Yard--but before that was widely known--WFAN host Craig Carton pressed Yormark (audio) and the CEO finally responded with an ironclad prediction.

CC: So let's get down to the bottom line here. You're not moving to Brooklyn.

BY: We are moving to Brooklyn.

CC: You're not moving to Brooklyn.

BY: We're moving to Brooklyn.

CC: Why can't you guys come clean and just be honest?

BY: We're moving to Brooklyn.

CC: How are you going to move to Brooklyn? [Chuckles] They haven't put a shovel in the ground yet.
BY: Craig, as we all know, it’s challenging to build in New York. And this project has presented its challenges, but we are going to get to Brooklyn. Right now--

CC: Give me a realistic time frame, because it ain’t going to happen in the next two years, or the next three either now, right--

BY: A realistic time frame is in Brooklyn, operating in the summer of 2011, being there for the '11-'12 season.

CC: So being there in the fall of 2011, so three years from this season--

BY: That’s correct--

CC: --you think that you’ll have everything built, the infrastructure done, and you will bounce a basketball in an arena in Brooklyn in three years?

BY: Absolutely. Convinced of it.

Drop-dead date?

Co-host Boomer Esiason then moved on to another topic, the Barclays naming rights recommitment, and Yormark said that nine founding partners had signed on. Then Carton returned to the timetable. 

CC: There's got to be a drop-dead date. You can't keep Net fans and the borough of Brooklyn out there waiting and waiting and waiting.... Ballpark, what's the date on that?

BY: I think 2009's the year. Right now--

CC: If you don't put a shovel by next New Year's Eve, then you might come back and say 'You know what, we're not going to Brooklyn'?

BY: I wouldn't say that but I would say 2009 is the year. I say that for lots of different reasons. We've got really one piece of major litigation that remains... the eminent domain case. There will be a hearing in January, hopefully a favorable decision by the end of March... We just had a favorable ruling with the IRS, to use tax-exempt financing for the building. And Barclays, obviously, has reaffirmed their position. So I feel that 2009 is our year.

So, while Yormark is absolutely convinced that an arena will open in 2011, he's leaving open the option for construction to begin after 2009--meaning an opening date no earlier than 2012.

Timetable questions

Yormark may have convinced himself, but his best-case timetable is very unlikely.

Not only must current and future lawsuits have to be cleared by mid-April for groundbreaking to meet Bruce Ratner’s 30-month timetable, but also the credit markets have to recover.

If the timetable is, in fact, 32 months, the lawsuits would have to be dismissed by mid-February.

And that's assuming nothing else goes wrong. Given the shifting predictions--remember that 2006 opening date?--caution, rather than confidence, seems more prudent.

When will Yormark start offering 2012 as a best-case scenario?

Privately, I suspect, he’s already doing so. Publicly, however, he’ll first have to face some interviewers armed with inconvenient facts.

[Update: the arena opened 9/28/12.]


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.


Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2017: no new towers, unfilled affordable units, Islanders prepare to leave, project timetable fuzzy

My 2018 preview.

It was another wait-and-see year for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, with one big twist--the beginning of a slow goodbye for the New York Islanders--but continued delays for towers, a lost (mostly) 421-a subsidy for condos, and new skepticism about unfilled not-so-affordable housing units.

So ongoing questions linger regarding the project's pace, affordability, and even future ownership.

In my 2017 preview, I predicted--not exactly going out on a limb--that two and likely three more towers would open, though it would be unclear how fast they'd lease up and sell.

Indeed, we've learned that the middle-income below-market units at 461 Dean (which opened in 2016) and 535 Carlton have leased very slowly, while it's too soon to assess progress for commensurate units at 38 Sixth. (At 535 Carlton and 38 Sixth, middle-income units make up half the "100% affordable" buildings.) Meanwhile, many apartments are up for rent at the 550 Vanderbilt condo buildin…