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July 18, 2011

After Years of Delays, Atlantic Yards Arena Begins Taking Shape

The New York Times
by Liz Robbins

While a few days late, The Times gets around to reporting on last week's Atlantic Yards court decision (and much more), and it's one of the paper's better efforts in covering the project. And in one great bit of irony, they link to Atlantic Yards Report's (née TimesRatnerReport) coverage of legal developments.

Steel beams arc high into the Brooklyn sky, flanked by five cranes that rise from a deep, divisive hole in the ground. Sections of prefabricated concrete seat platforms and concourses — the guts of every sports arena since Roman times — are now in place.

Trucks rumble through the hot, dusty corner of the 22-acre site known as Atlantic Yards. There, shoehorned into one of the busiest intersections in Brooklyn, the arena for the New Jersey Nets is finally taking shape.

After eight years of delays — involving eminent domain lawsuits, neighborhood protests, financial setbacks, the removal of its world-renowned architect to cut costs and the enlisting of a Russian oligarch to cover them — the arena, the site’s first building out of 17, is on track to open in September 2012.

“Sometimes I look at it and I am amazed we all got there,” Bruce C. Ratner, the chairman and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, the project's developer, said last week after part of the roof truss was installed. “It was a long haul.”

The arena, however, is the only building with a definite debut date. And the fights that have surrounded the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project from the beginning are far from over, with the rising colossus (and what is yet unseen) giving opponents fresh reason to complain.

The arena’s construction spills over onto the main thoroughfares of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, snarling traffic and sending rats scurrying onto sidewalks. Trucks are kicking up dust when they exit, and some construction workers have been parking their cars illegally in the neighborhood.

At least one bar has received a liquor license in anticipation of the arena’s opening, and neighbors are already fearing the late-night noise and clientele on game nights.

Meanwhile, a new documentary featuring the opposition to the project, “Battle for Brooklyn,” has galvanized some advocates again, lending a national focus to their cause. They are quick to point out that while moderately priced housing and jobs for Brooklyn residents were the hallmarks of the Atlantic Yards promise, the first has not happened, and the second has been slow to come.

Last week, a justice in State Supreme Court ruled in favor of these opposition groups, ordering the state body that oversees the project to conduct another environmental review in light of the delays.

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Related coverage...

Josh Blackman's Blog, “Sometimes I look at it and I am amazed we all got there. It was a long haul.”

Bruce Ratner makes me sick. This Times piece on the construction of Atlantic Yards makes only fleeting references to the eminent domain battles used to seize property in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards...

Posted by eric at July 18, 2011 7:24 PM