Bruce Ratner has pushed back the New Jersey Nets’ move to Brooklyn again — now saying that the basketball team he owns might not play its first game in an Atlantic Yards arena until the 2011–2012 season.
If that turns out to be true, it means the Nets would relocate five years later than originally promised by the developer when Atlantic Yards was unveiled in 2003.
Ratner told investors at the annual Forest City Ratner Companies meeting in Cleveland in June that construction on the Barclays Center, at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, would begin in January 2009, according to the Atlantic Yards Report, an invaluable Web site.
“And then it will be about two and a half years to build our arena,” Ratner said.
Based on his own calendar, that wouldn’t make the publicly financed $950-million arena ready until July, 2011 — after the conclusion of the 2010–2011 NBA season.
It’s unclear how Ratner could possibly keep that promise. In order to clear land for the project, Ratner still needs the state to condemn a handful of holdout properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint. On Friday, nine of those property owners filed suit in the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court to block Ratner.
Arguments in that case aren’t even expected until January, 2009 — when Ratner said he hopes to be breaking ground.
On Monday, company officials revised Ratner’s remarks.
“I think Bruce was just stating that the schedule in place is, in fact, very aggressive,” said Forest City Vice President Bruce Bender. “We plan to break ground this fall. … While that’s the goal, if it is not met, then [the team’s first game in Brooklyn] would end up being calendar year 2011.”
The Nets’ move to Brooklyn has been steadily sliding further into the future. When Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003, 2006 was the target. In 2007, Forest City Ratner promised to deliver the stadium by fall, 2009.
As recently as May, company officials said the arena would be ready for the tip-off of the 2010 season.
The team can weather the uncertainty surrounding the Barclays Center, because its lease in the Meadowlands in New Jersey runs through the 2012–2013 season.
The adjustments to the timeline come while Newark Mayor Cory Booker has been lobbying the Nets to relocate from the Jersey swamps to the Brick City instead of Kings County. The team currently loses tens of millions of dollars per year in the Meadowlands, making a move to Brooklyn or Newark imperative.
The arena’s holdups are indicative of the troubles facing the entire $4-billion Atlantic Yards mega-project. Earlier this year, Ratner downsized and delayed the iconic Miss Brooklyn office tower. He now says it will not be built until an anchor tenant is found.
The additional setbacks have inflamed local elected officials.
“I am very concerned about the delay in breaking ground on the new Nets stadium,” said Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope). “This delay is further proof that we need better oversight of this project, especially when it comes to the promises they’ve made about affordable housing. It is critical that we hold all developers accountable, particularly a developer who is receiving public funds.”
Only the so-called “Phase I” of the project, which includes the arena and two, mostly luxury residential buildings, are on the construction schedule right now. The bulk of the 2,250 units of public subsidized affordable housing that Ratner says he will build at Atlantic Yards are not on any timetable anymore. Forest City Ratner maintains that the entire 16-skyscraper project will eventually be built.