One of Borough President Markowitz’s top staffers revealed on Monday that the deal to bring the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn is as much of a sure thing as Shaquille O’Neal is from the foul line.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get the Nets,” the Beep’s Director of Planning and Development Jon Benguiat blurted out on Monday during an unrelated discussion about other Markowitz initiatives.
It was unclear if Benguiat’s comment reflect Markowitz’s current thinking about the unraveling Atlantic Yards project. But after an earlier version of this story was posted online at BrooklynPaper.com, Borough Hall e-mailed a statement affirming Markowitz’s belief that the project, which he has championed since it was unveiled in 2003, would be built.
That conviction runs counter to Garden State officials, who have become increasingly confident that the Nets will stay in New Jersey. Those officials cite the fact that Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s proposed $950-million arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is just one stalled part of his delayed 16-skyscraper residential-and-office Atlantic Yards project.
Lawsuits have contributed to some delays, but the larger problem has been the tightening of the credit markets, an inability to get more public subsidies from officials in Albany and at City Hall, and a failure to line up large corporate tenants for the office space.
Hours before Benguiat made his comment, The Daily News reported that Ratner had actually talked to investors about selling all or part of his Nets. Of course, it’s not the first time Ratner has put the Nets on the block. Two years ago, he tried to sell 25 percent of the team.
Spokespeople for Forest City Ratnerdid not respond to requests for comments about Benguiat’s slip. Last week, a company spokesman said that the project is “critical to the ongoing economic vitality of Brooklyn and the city.”
Originally the Nets’ arena, which is slated to be called the Barclays Center, was slotted to open in 2006 and be financed privately. Now, 2011 is the target and the arena is being funded entirely with public money.