The real story is the land grab, not the Nets

The Brooklyn Paper
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That the Nets are coming is beside the point. And that is the real story, a story masterfully buried by developer Bruce Ratner and his media shills. (When the New York Times is your real estate partner, it’s amazing the story its pages will tell — more than three pages featuring nine upbeat, luciously illustrated stories in Thursday’s edition.)

The real story is that the Atlantic Yards project — and its companion Downtown Brooklyn Plan — is not about the Nets (whose stadium would occupy a tiny part of the massive site), it’s about a land grab by Ratner and his political clients, the largest, most expensive government seizure of private property for private benefit ever in Brooklyn.

Let’s dispose of the sidebar first: Atlantic Terminal is probably the best site in town for a Nets arena, just as it would have been for the Dodgers in the ’50s.

The site’s residential neighbors might not like to hear this, but the Flatbush-Atlantic area is too good a hub to leave fallow, and they should have suspected that Ratner’s early step there — the ugly, dysfunctional, failed Atlantic Center shopping mall he opened in the ’90s and his takeover of the Manhattan-centric, expansionist (in a real estate, if not an artistic, vein) Brooklyn Academy of Music — was little more than a holding action.

With virtually no public consultation (and no request for competing proposals), Gov. Pataki is apparently prepared to condemn enough privately-owned property to allow a potential build-out of more than 14 million square feet, the equivalent of seven Empire State buildings.

Ratner’s architect (sorry, the media’s been instructed to say “world renowned” architect) Frank Gehry said his intent is to build a neighborhood from scratch. Brooklyn’s been hot for a number of years, and not because there’s nothing here worth preserving.

People live in Brooklyn (and pay millions for homes in neighborhoods abutting the condemned sites) for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s not Manhattan but close to it, and it’s not the kind of sterile, suburban campus represented by Ratner’s Metrotech which, contrary to popular but uninformed opinion, is anything but a smashing success.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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