Gehry In Air Over Nets Arena

Depending on the source, the future home of the New Jersey Nets in Brooklyn, N.Y., is either dead in the water or coming along quite nicely, thank you very much.

The proposed $1 billion Frank Gehry-designed Barclays Arena, along with developer Forest City Ratner’s surrounding Atlantic Yards project, have faced their fair share of economic and legal setbacks in recent years, but a recent court ruling has put the ball back into the project’s court.

A panel of New York appellate judges recently ruled that Forest City’s use of eminent domain to secure private property on which to build the arena is not in violation of the state constitution, the New York Daily News reported.

Forest City head Bruce Ratner heralded the ruling as a victory, telling the paper it cleared the way for summer groundbreaking on the development.

“This is really the last hurdle that we have and now we can do what our company does best and build an arena and houses,” he said.

Nets CEO Brett Yormark echoed the sentiment to the New York Times, explaining the years-long wait is finally over.

“It’s done, inevitable, it’s imminent, it’s going to happen this year,” Yormark said. “We’re on schedule. There’s more certainty than there’s ever been.”

But there is a catch.

Will a multibillion-dollar project touting all the glitz of the Gehry name still shine the same without it?

Asked about the project in March, the celebrity architect who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, told trade publication Architect’s Newspaper, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” He retracted his statement soon after.

Gehry’s firm reportedly laid off all employees working on Atlantic Yards last November.

Following the layoffs, Forest City enlisted the help of sports architectural firm Ellerbe Becket to implement cost-cutting measures on the pricey arena, Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco told the Daily News.

Still, Gehry may not be off the project completely, as word is his design is simply being analyzed and reevaluated at this point.

“As we have said repeatedly, we are talking to a lot of people in an effort to identify savings given the realities of the current economic environment,” DePlasco said. “We should complete the process this summer and will have more to say about it at that time.”

Forest City shouldn’t wait too long to complete the process. If the company misses a Dec. 31 IRS deadline to break ground on the arena, it won’t be able to sell tax-exempt bonds to finance the project. Similarly, a deadline is looming between the Nets and Barclays, which extended its $400 million naming-rights sponsorship last year over construction delays but hasn’t said it would do so again, the Times reported.

And there’s always the possibility of more lawsuits.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the group that filed the eminent domain action against Forest City, has threatened to appeal the recent decision and plans to file more suits to continue to delay construction on the project.