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Ratner Hypes His Nets Bid / Brings out host of players to back move to Brooklyn

Developer Bruce Ratner's interest in buying the Nets took

on a Barnum & Bailey flavor yesterday. The man who would move the NBA team to

Brooklyn posed with Connie Hawkins and donned World B Free's fedora, having

gathered a handful of the borough's former basketball stars to stump for his

cause.

The display at Junior's Restaurant on Flatbush Avenue offered more

cheesecake - "We are going to bring professional basketball to Brooklyn,"

Ratner declared. "We're going to really do it!" - than substance.

Ratner and the two other bidders for the Nets, Islanders owner Charles Wang

and New Jersey real estate magnate Charles Kushner, signed confidentiality

agreements at the request of YankeeNets when the team was put up for auction

last month, according to several sources. But behind the bluster and the lack

of bid details, the process is moving ahead, and people involved in the sale

say the Nets could have a new owner by the end of the year.

The three prospective buyers for the two-time Eastern Conference champions

submitted what are called "indications of interest" last week and will spend

the next two to three weeks immersing themselves in everything Nets. They'll

meet with team management, review player contracts and assess the team's

finances before submitting final bids. According to sources, it is believed all

three suitors are offering more than $250 million for a team Forbes magazine

valued at $218 million. Representatives from Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers,

the firms handling the sale, will assess the bids and make a recommendation to

the YankeeNets board of directors.

Once a buyer is chosen, 22 of the league's 29 owners must approve the sale.

Two people familiar with the sale said it appears the Nets will be awarded

to the group that bids the most.

If Jason Kidd and Alonzo Mourning, the newest Net, had their way, the team

would stay in New Jersey, but Ratner rationalized the players' reticence about

moving.

"I don't think that's what they said. I think they said they would demand

trades if they moved to Long Island," Ratner said. "Specifically, they said

Brooklyn was fine."

Actually, in Kidd's case, the word "request" was used, not "demand";

Mourning stopped short of saying he would request a trade. Both said they would

be willing to move to Brooklyn but made it clear it was not their first choice.

What Wang and the New Jersey group (Sen. Jon Corzine supports Kushner) have

going for them that Ratner and his business partner - current Nets majority

owner Lewis Katz - do not is an existing arena. A Ratner spokeswoman said the

Nets would remain at Continental Airlines Arena - the lease runs through 2008 -

until a new arena is completed at the Atlantic Avenue site in downtown

Brooklyn. Ratner said building a new arena would take three years. Nassau

County Executive Thomas Suozzi recently offered the same timetable for an arena

to replace Nassau Coliseum.

"We don't want to spend any crazy amounts of money or any additional tax

monies," Ratner said of his plan. "I can't really comment on how it's going to

be funded yet, but our goal is not to spend any additional tax revenues."

While Ratner and Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz professed that

all of Brooklyn would love to have the Nets, several demonstrators outside of

Junior's said there is no need for an arena and housing complex in their

community.

"The concern about our neighborhood is so benign, it's malignant," said

Vanessa Carey, a Fort Greene resident. "We don't mind a stadium, but not in

that particular area."

Schellie Hagan, who is circulating a petition against overdevelopment as a

member of the Prospect Heights Action Coalition, spoke with Ratner briefly

after the news conference as she and several protesters held placards and "No

Stadium!" balloons outside the restaurant. Hagan said residents are worried

that taxpayers will have to help finance an arena and housing complex they

don't want, citing the traffic and pollution.

"It's stuck in the middle of two neighborhoods: Fort Greene and Prospect

Heights. To [build] a residental stadium development would be exceedingly

unsettling," Hagan said. She said residents prefer a sports complex modeled

after Chelsea Piers.

Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten said Ratner, who has developed more

than 6 million square feet of commercial and retail space in Brooklyn, always

has listened to the concerns of the community and plans to meet with residents

in the "very near future."

"If the people aren't happy with a project," she said, "it's not good for

us."

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