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Can Lebron James Save Bruce Ratner?
July 1st, 2008

Today, from a website that probably isn’t the first place you would look for New York land use-related news: a nugget that will fill the New York Post editorial board with glee, and this scrappy, widely-read Web site with fear:

“My favorite borough? Brooklyn,” James said, choosing the proposed future home of the New Jersey Nets over the borough of Manhattan, where the Knicks play their home games. “Brooklyn is definitely a great place here in New York City, and some of my best friends are from Brooklyn, so I stick up for them.

A little background for the non-SLAM Magazine-reading set: The James here is Lebron, who is buddies with rap mogul and Nets minority owner Jay-Z. The Nets’ principal owner is Forest City Ratner, which wants to move them to an as-yet unbuilt, 18,000-seat, Forest City-developed, Frank Ghery-designed arena in Atlantic Yards by 2010. James, arguably the world’s most marketable athlete, becomes a free agent in 2010. He currently plays in Cleveland, which we’re told is a much less interesting and exciting place than New York.

Could James’ apparent interest in Brooklyn have any impact on Atlantic Yards?

Maybe not: In May, Atlantic Yards Report noted that certain Atlantic Yards design components won’t be complete until 2011 at the earliest. Both Curbed and the report have covered whether the project will receive the same tax exemptions that have made other sports-related development projects possible — the Curbed post also notes that if you use one early, no-doubt optimistic estimate, the arena is currently four or five years behind schedule. But Atlantic Yards Report points out that while the arena’s tax-free bonds are based on a “loophole,” it’s one that municipalities have been traditionally willing to let developers exploit.

Which brings up the larger issue of whether a Lebron James-led Nets could make the project more palatable — or, more justifiable – -to its detractors. No speculation here, but some interesting reading in the form of this socio-economic look at the Jordan years from a 1999 article in Business Week. It includes some fodder for the Lebron-James-will-somehow-hasten-Atlantic-Yards-to-completion camp, even if it appears in an article that argues against the economic utility of sports celebrity:

“We’re consumers of not only entertainment but of good episodes and experiences,” says Northwestern University marketing professor Philip Kotler, who describes himself as an ambivalent basketball fan until Jordan arrived. “Michael Jordan created an experience which was a very valued experience. Whether it has created net wealth in society measured in dollar terms I would not argue one way or another. But he has created social wealth.”

By on July 1, 2008, 3:56 pm
In category: Land Use | 2 Comments »

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2 Responses to “Can Lebron James Save Bruce Ratner?”

  1. gideon Says:
    July 1st, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Lebron James makes Atlantic Yards…the same. not worse, not better. refardless of what it does for the Nets.

  2. Frank Barry Says:
    July 1st, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    It would be truly ironic that a Lebron James run to Brooklyn (which will devastate the Cavaliers) would be a act of trechery in that the Ratner Family made their fortune in Cleveland after coming here from Europe after WW2.
    If history has taught us anything, a Lebron run to Brooklyn would be the same as when Julius Erving destroyed the New York Nets in 1976 at the moment of the merger of the ABA and the NBA by forcing the owner into a terrible trade or giveaway with the 76er’s.
    The NEts have never recovered, wandered in Piscataway for years and now view Brooklyn as their new home.
    When will the rest of the NBA as well as Major League Baseball wake up and realize that without revenue sharing, the big five will dominate and the rest of the teams will be their farm system.

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