Friday, January 23, 2004

Sports: A Bronx Cheer for Brooklyn

The owners of the New Jersey Nets agreed today to sell the team to a group headed by Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, who will move the team to an arena yet-to-be-built in Brooklyn. My response to the return of professional sports to Brooklyn? Moral condemnation. I have nothing against the borough, but no city deserves a franchise when they trample on private property rights to get it:
The arena is merely one part of an ambitious development plan crafted by Ratner. The well-known developer built the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, home to the city's fire department headquarters, along with banking and other offices.

The 19,000-seat arena would sit amid thousands of apartments, hundreds of thousands of square feet of shopping space and more than 2 million square feet of offices. Most of the $2.5 billion project would sit atop a Long Island Railroad yard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency controlled by Pataki.

From the state, Ratner needs both air rights and a condemnation power to take nearby homes and businesses. The developer estimates about 150 homes would be affected, although neighbors fear the number would be higher.

Residents of the upscale neighborhood of Prospect Heights, which adjoins the site, have promised to sue to block what they said would be an unconstitutional use of the government's eminent domain power for private rather than public benefit.

An MTA official said Ratner had yet to formally approach the agency and it was far from certain that the agency would sell him the air rights, let alone provide them at less than market price.

The state's role could allow Ratner to avoid much of the city's lengthy and stringent land-use approval process. Opponents charge that's one of a number of advantages bestowed on Ratner because of his political connections.

Ratner has held high-level positions in two mayoral administrations, and was once appointed by Pataki to study the possibility of luring the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.
The MTA official is either dumb or lying. New York State routinely seizes private land for resale to favored private interests at below-market value. Many of us are still smarting over the state's seizure of private buildings to construct the New York Times' new headquarters. If Ratner doesn't get his way, it will only be because he didn't curry enough favor with the right officials. But I suspect Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg will roll-over without much resistance.

No comments: