Arena foes: Where do Dem bigs stand? NY Daily News, 3/9/05

By Hugh Son

Mayor Bloomberg's Democratic rivals have come out swinging against the
proposed Jets stadium on Manhattan's West Side - but Brooklyn's arena project is another ballgame.

The Atlantic Yards project, also backed by Bloomberg, has prompted none of the outrage of the Manhattan project among the four top Democratic contenders.

"I am generally supportive of what Ratner and the city want to do there," Rep. Anthony Weiner told the Daily News, referring to developer Bruce Ratner's $2.5 billion project to build a Nets arena, housing and office towers in Prospect Heights over the train yards.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) said there were "positive differences" between the two projects and touted the Brooklyn project's affordable housing and smaller price tag, said spokesman Steve Sigmund.

The two other Democratic hopefuls - former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields - voiced some opposition to the project, but fell short of condemning it.

"There needs to be a full and open public debate before making a judgement," Ferrer's spokesman Chad Clanton said.

A Fields spokesman said the Brooklyn project should go through a rigorous city review process, but refused to say if Fields supported it.

"They all need to get off the fence and take a firm position by looking deeply into the details of this project," said Daniel Goldstein of the anti-arena group Develop - Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

The group sent candidates letters this week demanding they oppose the Ratner project on the same grounds they oppose the West Side development.

"I think every one of their answers are inconsistent to their position on the West Side stadium," Goldstein said.

The four hopefuls have bashed Bloomberg over the Manhattan project - and not Ratner's deal - because the West Side arena "has overshadowed the Brooklyn project," said political expert Hank Sheinkopf.

"The West Side [stadium] has become more of a lightning rod," Sheinkopf said. "There has been much more controversy surrounding it."

Ratner's project would require $200 million from the city and state and would allow the condemnation of homes and businesses on the 21-acre site that have not already been purchased by Forest City Ratner.

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