Friday, February 10, 2006


Nets renegotiating lease, may stay in current arena until 2010

An article today in the Newark Star-Ledger, headlined Nets might stay in N.J. until 2010, describes how the New Jersey Nets may postpone the planned move to Brooklyn for two more years:
With delays mounting for their proposed arena in Brooklyn, the Nets and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority are now in serious negotiations to keep the team at Continental Airlines Arena through the end of the decade.

Nets officials wouldn't comment, but the move has already been delayed once. (So much for conclusory shorthand.) The Star-Ledger adds some reasons:
When Bruce Ratner purchased the Nets in 2004, he had hoped to move the team into a new arena in downtown Brooklyn just months after the current lease at Continental Airlines Arena expired.
However, the Brooklyn arena remains a controversial project whose costs grow with each delay. That arena, which at a cost of nearly $600 million would be the most expensive ever built, is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by a community group that opposes it. In addition, the arena and Ratner's planned development of roughly 5,000 apartments surrounding the building have become bogged down in New York's complicated land use approval process.

Yes, the project remains controversial, and maybe construction costs have increased past the previously announced $555.3 million. The lawsuit is directed at the Atlantic Yards project, not simply the arena, and another legal battle, over eminent domain, is likely.

The Star-Ledger, in July 2003, broke the initial story on the move and sale of the Nets, so the New Jersey reporting here should be taken seriously. Some of the reference to the Brooklyn project, however, contain errors. The development would include 7,300 apartments, not 5,000. The article states that "Ratner won the right last year to purchase the land on which he plans to build the arena from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority," but the arena would spill over from the railyard.

As for "New York's complicated land use approval process," it's a lot less complicated than it could be, since the state project bypasses city rules. The state subsidies are subject to the Public Authorities Control Board, which is controlled by the governor and the respective majority leaders in the state Assembly and Senate.

The buidling of the arena is estimated by the Star-Ledger as "at least a three-year construction process." Let's assume that refers to the arena and first phase of towers, since the second phase, originally scheduled to be complete by 2016, might be pushed back.

But if the Nets do delay the move, what does that mean to the project approval process? Will the Empire State Development Corporation delay the Draft Environmental Impact Statement? Will the city, the state, and the developer work on new means to alleviate traffic congestion?

It also places the litigation over demolitions, scheduled to be heard 2/14/06, in starker relief. As the brief from City Council Member Letitia James states:
[A]llowing FCRC, in effect, to “jump start” the Project by commencing demolition before the SEQRA review has been completed would give the appearance that the project is already going forward, thereby intimidating and squelching legitimate opposition to the Project, and discouraging opponents from participating in the SEQRA process.
...Even if it were ultimately determined that the conditions of some of the 12 buildings at issue truly present a public danger, choosing a less obtrusive action such as repairing and/or shoring up the buildings where necessary, and limiting demolition to only those buildings, if any, that could not be made safe by less drastic means, would send a clear message that the Project’s approval is not a foregone conclusion.

Note that the previous number of buildings was reported as six, but there's an extra building behind 463 Dean Street, and the Underberg Building on Atlantic Avenue (pictured, from Forgotten NY) is six buildings combined and has six addresses.

Also, New Jersey officials are reconsidering the terms of the lease, "which now costs the state some $2 million each year," the Star-Ledger reports, including an obligation to "buy $750,000 of Nets tickets each year. This also sets up a challenge for the new Devils arena in Newark, which had been set to attract all the events previously scheduled for the Continental Airlines Arena.

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