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New deal lets Nets escape to Queens

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Is there a super-secret plan to move the New Jersey Nets to Queens instead of Kings?

That’s one way of looking at the Nets’ decision this week to extend the team’s Meadowlands lease through the 2012–13 season.

When he bought the Nets in 2004, Bruce Ratner said he would relocate the fiscally challenged suburban team to a new Frank Gehry-designed arena at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in time for the 2007–08 season.

But delays in the approval of his Atlantic Yards mega-project have set the timetable back, requiring the lease extension, Nets CEO Brett Yormark said this week.

The current plan is to move the team to Brooklyn for the 2009–10 season.

But the new lease allows the Nets to leave New Jersey early — and without penalty — if the team moves to Brooklyn or Queens.

Or Queens?

It’s not so inconceivable.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has agreed to sell the development rights at the Atlantic Yards site to Ratner, also owns the larger Sunnyside Yards in Long Island City — and Queens lawmakers want it developed, too.

One, City Councilman Eric Gioia (D–Queens), has called for Ratner to build there instead of in the congested heart of Brooklyn.

“I don’t think people [would] fight this stadium,” Gioia said two years ago, when he first called for Ratner to look north.

Calls to the MTA and Gioia were not returned.

But Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco insisted this week that the Nets were only considering Brooklyn.

“We are currently in the public approval process for Atlantic Yards and as we have repeatedly said our plan is to move the Nets to Brooklyn in time for the ’09–’10 season,” he said.

But if that plan does fall through, there’s always Queens.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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