Today’s news:

HELLO DOLLY!

The Brooklyn Paper


Dolly Williams, the borough’s City Planning commissioner and a key player in Brooklyn’s development and land use review, is among the lengthy list of investors real estate magnate Bruce Ratner has secretly put together to purchase the New Jersey Nets.

According to a list of the Nets investors, a copy of which was obtained by The Brooklyn Papers this week, Williams and her husband, Adonijah Williams, owners of A. Williams Construction, are both investors in the team Ratner hopes to bring to a new arena he envisions at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Williams was appointed to the 13-person commission in 2002 by Markowitz, a vocal supporter of the Nets plan who, since he took office, has touted the notion of bringing an NBA franchise to Brooklyn.

The commission, with appointees by the mayor, each borough president and the public advocate, weighs in heavily on all development and land use projects that are subject to city public review.

Sources confirmed that Williams’ stake in the team is nearly $1 million. Ratner has consistently declined to divulge the identy of his partners.

Opponents of the Ratner plan this week condemned Williams’ interest in the team as a potential conflict of interest and called it “deeply troubling.”

“She needs to remove herself from any discussion of the project or give up her interests in the team,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a community group fighting the project.

Contacted this week, Williams said she is an investor in both the team and Ratner’s plan to build a new Nets arena, three soaring office towers and 4,500 housing units extending from Downtown Brooklyn into Prospect Heights. She said she “had not thought about” whether her company would be involved in the 8 million square feet of construction.

“It is not a conflict, otherwise I would not do it,” said Williams, a minor investor whose nearly 30-year-old construction company is worth millions. She receives a $45,131 salary for her City Planning Commission post.

Responding to the conflict of interest charge, Michael Kadish, a spokesman for Markowitz said, “As with any planning commissioner, we would expect that Dolly Williams would recuse herself from voting or discussing any matter before the commission in which she has a commercial interest.”

While such a major city land use proposal would typically pass through the commission as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure [ULURP], Ratner is looking to steer the 21-acre project, half of which would be built over the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Long Island Rail Road storage yards, through a less stringent state review instead.

His plan to build a Frank Gehry-designed arena surrounded by skyscrapers at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, would also require the condemnation or sale of 10 acres of privately owned property.

Wayne Hawley, general counsel for the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, said he could not comment on whether Williams’ investment constituted a conflict, saying only that the board “had issued nothing public about any City Planning commissioner that may be an owner of the Nets.”

Not surprisingly, the list of investors in what is expected to become the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets starts off reading like the invitation list to a Ratner family picnic.

There’s the principal owner of the team, mega real estate developer Bruce, his brother, the noted constitutional rights leader, Michael Ratner, and his daughter, Elizabeth Ratner, a reporter for the New York Observer, among other Ratners.

Two prominent investors who had already announced their intent to buy a piece of the team include Brooklyn-born rap star Jay-Z and New York Mercantile Exchange Chairman Vincent Viola. While Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) is on the list, Viola is not on the list, but many of his family members are listed as trustees and beneficiaries in the ownership team.

Other noteworthy names on the investor list include Richard S. Rubin, chairman of the Brooklyn Museum, mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark, and Lyor Cohen, former head of Island/Def Jam Records who now heads Warner Music Group.

The new investment team is made up of more than 80 entities including nearly 200 individuals. Each entity contributed a minimum of $1 million, according to sources close to the deal.

David Carter, a sports business consultant and professor at the University of Southern California, said he was not surprised by the lengthy list of investors.

“The price of franchises has gone sky high over the course of the last decade making it virtually impossible for a single individual to swallow the entire financial responsibility,” said Carter.

The new investment team also includes Community Youth Organization [CYO], the former Nets ownership group, which signed on after Goldman Sachs investors bailed out of the deal earlier this month leaving Ratner $60 million short.

The CYO is made up of more than 30 entities and 70 individuals including former Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski, who was accused of looting $600 million from that company.

But their investment in the team may be brief.

“Financial arrangements between CYO and Bruce Ratner is of a temporay duration and made in order to get the deal closed,” said Edwin Stier, president of CYO. “A substantial part of that interest is going to be sold as soon as we can make arrangements.


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