NEW YORK CITY-It was a moment several years, negotiations, land use battles and lawsuits in the making.
“Hello Brooklyn,” were the words of Forest City Ratner Cos. CEO Bruce Ratner upon taking the stage for the grand opening of the 675,000-square-foot, $1 billion Barclays Center arena this morning, officially ushering in the new home for the Nets NBA franchise and the first piece of the company’s $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards project in Downtown Brooklyn.
Joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Forest City Enterprises chairman Charles A. Ratner, Borough President Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Ratner described the trials and tribulations of getting the project done amid the financial crisis, development changes and community opposition.
“We needed to win 35 judicial decisions and we did,” he said. “We needed to survive the worst economic climate and we did. When no one thought that was possible, we did. We needed to keep our promise to bring the first sports team to Brooklyn since 1957 and we did it.”
Bloomberg echoed similar sentiment, explaining that the new arena will spread the “greatest good for the greatest number of people” who live and work in Brooklyn. “Next week when Brooklyn’s own Jay-Z opens this arena with a set of sold-out performances and then he is followed by artists like Barbara Streisand and Bob Dylan and Justin Beiber and Brooklyn’s first big league sports team in 55 years, the Nets, this is going to send a loud and clear message that Brooklyn has arrived as a center for exciting entertainment, thrilling big-time sports and thriving commerce,” he told reporters at the event. “New York City is a great city, and great cities change and great cities grow, and that’s always been true of New York. When we came into office 11 years ago, we saw that this part of Brooklyn was poised for growth that would spell new jobs and opportunity.”
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The ceremony marked a joyous occasion for a project entwined in several legal and political battles. At the time of Atlantic Yards’ approval in 2006, in return for an estimated $2.1 billion taxpayer subsides, access to the power of eminent domain, the purchase of public land below its market value and an override of the city’s zoning regulations as well as a bypass of its democratic land use review process, FCRC committed to provide with ten years 2,250 units of affordable housing, 10,000 permanent jobs and eight aces of open space and a mixed-use 16 tower development.
In a move courts have rules violated state law, Judge Marcy Friedman ruled recently that Empire State Development, the state’s arm that oversees economic development, use of the 10-year build date in approving the 2009 MGPP lacked a rational basis and was arbitrary and capricious.” And in protest of the event, several nonprofits and grassroots groups, including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, protested the ribbon cutting at the same time of the ceremony outside the arena gates.
However, Ratner announced that the first 350-unit tower for the residential component of the project will break ground on Dec. 18, of which, 50% will be affordable.
Charles A. Ratner, chairman of Forest City Enterprises, parent company of FCRC, said real estate does have the ability to be transformative. “It does have the ability to create change and energy,” he said. “It does have the ability to not only employ, but entertain and to make a difference in the quality of life, and that’s why we love this business and the opportunity to participate in projects like the Barclays Center.”
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