SBD/Issue 167/Franchises

Newark Mayor Predicts Sale Of Nets, Demise Of Brooklyn Project

Booker Expects To See
Nets Up For Sale Very Soon 
Newark Mayor Cory Booker Thursday night on WBGO-FM's "Newark Today" predicted that a "sale of the Nets is imminent -- but he worries that investors in Kansas City and Seattle may prove fierce competition to his goal of seeing the Nets move to the Prudential Center," according to John Brennan of the Bergen RECORD. The Nets "have insisted ... that they will break ground" on Barclays Center, part of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, "this summer and move into it in the fall of 2011." But Booker said he is "confident now more than ever that the deal in Brooklyn is just not going anywhere." Booker: "I think there's going to be a comeuppance very soon where the team is going to go up for sale. That's my prediction. I really do believe it. ... I know people involved in the deal, and it does not look like it's going anywhere in Brooklyn." Booker added, "This is my fear -- that there are going to be people competing from Kansas City to Seattle, and Newark is going to have to get in that game. There's a lot of very good investors who are already stepping up that want to look to purchase the team should it be put up for sale" (NORTHJERSEY.com, 5/16).

POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT: A New York state appeals court last week ruled 4-0 against opponents of the Atlantic Yards development, upholding the state's right to use eminent domain given the public benefits associated with the project. Forest City Ratner Chair & CEO and Nets Owner Bruce Ratner said that he is "confident the project would break ground this year," and reiterated the Nets would move in for the '11-12 season. Eight companies, in addition to Barclays, have signed on as founding partners for the arena (Forest City Ratner). Ratner said of the court ruling, "I'm honestly overjoyed. This is a weight off my back." Ratner added that he plans to "break ground by October" on Barclays Center, and that he "wants to pare the projected $1[B] cost of the arena by about" $200M. Ratner said that he will "decide within 60 days whether to keep the original design, by the architect Frank Gehry, or use another." In N.Y., Charles Bagli noted opponents of Atlantic Yards "vowed to continue their fight and expressed skepticism that Mr. Ratner would get the financing at a time when lenders are refusing to invest in real estate projects." Meanwhile, the housing and the commercial building at the Atlantic Yards development "may have to wait for some time ... given the anemic economy" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).

NOT OVER YET? In N.Y., Rich Calder noted the four-member appellate panel "determined the project has enough 'public benefits' -- such as the creation of 2,250 affordable housing units and thousands of jobs -- to warrant condemning land." Opponents said that they "plan to take the appeal to the state's highest court," but Ratner said that he "believes the latest ruling is the 'final hurdle' holding up construction and vowed to finally break ground" (N.Y. POST, 5/16). In N.Y., Jotham Sederstrom noted further appeals could delay the project "from several months to three years." But state officials indicated that Friday's ruling "removes the final obstacle to construction" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/16).

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