The shaky state of affairs for a proposed pro basketball arena in Brooklyn is turning heads across the Hudson.
Despite developer and New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s plans to move the Garden State’s only NBA team to New York City as part of his Atlantic Yards mega-development project, New Jersey electeds have generally refrained from publicly disparaging the plans, at least in the past couple years. But now, with the more than $4 billion project on death watch due to the economy and a lengthy legal battle, there seems to be a change in tune.
Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell publicly released a letter he wrote to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, requesting that the Obama administration act to block Barclays bank from leasing naming rights for the arena—a move that, if realized, would be a major blow to the project.
That comes after Newark Mayor Cory Booker earlier this month told The Times of his efforts to bring the Nets to his city’s Prudential Center arena, after staying relatively quiet on the subject, at least in public. (Last year, it was reported that Mr. Booker was trying to round up investors to buy the team.) Should plans for the project ever collapse—and to date, Mr. Ratner has proved to have notable stamina in his attempt to keep it alive—a relocation to downtown Newark would be an obvious improvement for the Nets, who currently play in the aging Izod Center.
Mr. Pascrell, a Democrat who represents an area full of New Jersey Nets fans just west of the Izod, wrote to Mr. Geithner that he should block the naming rights deal, which has not yet closed, because Barclays received monies from embattled insurance company AIG, which itself received tens of billions in federal bailout dollars. In taking up this cause, he picks up an indirect connection to the bailout that was pushed by project opponents but failed to attract much attention among New York elected officials.
“Federal money was made available to banks and companies like AIG in order to stabilize the financial system and free up credit markets, not for high priced marketing opportunities,” he wrote.
Update: 5:43 p.m.
Here’s a statement from Nets CEO Brett Yormark:
“Barclays has made a long-term commitment to Brooklyn and the Atlantic Yards development and in a very difficult economic environment has renewed that commitment,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Nets. “Congressman Pascrell has long expressed his support for working families and one would hope that applies to the men and women of Brooklyn who will benefit from the much needed boost to the borough’s economy, the thousands of new jobs and the affordable housing that will be part of the Atlantic Yards project. I can understand the Congressman’s interest in keeping the Nets in New Jersey but I do not think he understands fully what this project means in terms of jobs and housing and the benefits for the entire region.”