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Developer Bruce Ratner is this close to bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, sources close to the negotiations said this week.

Ratner wants to build a Frank Gehry-designed state-of-the-art arena for the team at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Details of the more than $300 million sale are still being worked out and a final announcement could come “any day now,” sources close to the negotiations told The Brooklyn Papers on Thursday.

“If and when it becomes a reality it would be a dream come true for Brooklyn and for me,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has been championing the effort to bring a professional sports team back to Brooklyn ever since he took office in 2002.

Ratner was reportedly in final negotiations to purchase the reining NBA Eastern Conference champions and bring them to Downtown Brooklyn. Some published reports cited sources saying that the owners of the Nets were now negotiating exclusively with Ratner.

Ratner spokesman Joe Deplasco declined to comment on the negations. Alice McGillion, a spokesman for Nets parent company YankeeNets, also declined to comment.

The second highest bid has been from New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner and Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), who together have bid $267.6 million to keep the team in the Garden State.

Reached Thursday, a spokesman for Kushner insisted they are still in the running to purchase the team.
“It’s the furthest thing from the truth as far as we know,” said Michael Turner, a Kushner spokesman. “While our bid contains certainties including an existing arena, [the] Brooklyn bid is based on speculation and uncertainties and contingencies that have yet to be explained.”

Asked whether they had, or would, up their bid, Turner said they were “currently reviewing the financials.” He said they had heard that an answer would come later this month.

New York financier, Stuart Feldman, reportedly has the third-highest bid at $257.5 million.

If Ratner is successful, and should he get approval to build the arena — the plan has the support of the mayor and borough president and opposition to the arena has thus far been limited to residents and elected officials in the area where it would be built — the Nets would be the first big-league sports team in the borough since Walter O’Malley moved his Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957. O’Malley had wanted to build a new stadium for his team at roughly the same site as Ratner has planned for the Nets but the city refused to cede the land to him, preferring he build a stadium out in Flushing, Queens, where Shea Stadium was eventually built.

At the center of the plan, which Ratner is calling Brooklyn Atlantic Yards for the Long Island Rail Road storage yards it would sit atop, is a glass-enclosed, 19,000-seat arena at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at the nexus of Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.

Flanked by four sweeping skyscrapers and marked with Gehry’s trademark wave-like walls and sculptural design, the plans also include 14 residential buildings providing an estimated 4,500 apartments.

The arena development site encompasses about six blocks, primarily in Prospect Heights, and is bounded by Dean Street and Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues.

But there are still several obstacles Ratner must overcome to get the deal off the ground.

In order to complete the deal, Ratner needs to secure rights from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build over the LIRR yards and needs the state to condemn more than two square blocks of land, including two luxury condominium buildings and some small businesses.

The sale would have to be approved by three-fourth’s of the NBA’s 28 team owners. Knicks President Charles Dolan has reportedly been lobbying NBA Commissioner Henry Stern not to allow another team in the city.

A group of vocal neighborhood opponents — including Councilwoman Letitia James and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery — have been trying to thwart the plans ever since they got wind of them in November.

Residents who would lose their homes have been meeting with attorneys to discuss how to defend themselves. The Prospect Heights Action Coalition, which has taken the lead in the fight to stop the arena, just this week brought in former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton to tour the site and lead a rally against the arena.

Despite the announcements this week, some people still remain skeptical.

“[Ratner’s] trying to make people think that everything is sewed up except for the final signature on the contract,” Patti Hagan, a leader of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, said.

Jim DeBosh, a spokesman for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the Meadowlands sports complex that includes the Nets’ current home, the Continental Airlines Arena, says the group is still in discussions with Kushner over a $150 million renovation of the arena including doubling the number of luxury boxes from 29 to 60.

“Anybody who says they have a deal sounds premature,” DeBosh said Thursday.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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