The struggling economy could mean big changes for the proposed Nets basketball arena in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
According to published reports, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Developments is looking to scale back the $1 billion arena to make it less expensive to build.
The arena was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and is the centerpiece of Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which also includes apartment and office towers – stretching along Atlantic Avenue from Fourth Avenue to Vanderbilt.
However, the Daily News says Ratner has been consulting with "value engineers", who are looking at Gehry's plans and trying to come up with ways to save money.
A source tells the News changes could include cheaper building materials, a different design, or the hiring of another architect.
Gehry has not yet commented on this development or previous reports in the Wall Street Journal that he had to lay off dozens of employees two months ago.
Representatives from longtime opponent to the project Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn say they have heard from sources that Gehry is definitely out as the architect.
"Frank Gehry is a world-famous architect and they had sold this as a world-class, state-of-the-art arena designed by him that would be an international tourist destination," said Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy. "I don't think the developer ever had the capability or the financial wherewithal to build such a facility."
"Now we're at the point where half of the neighborhood is demolished and they can't really build anything and they certainly can't build what they promised," continued Goldstein.
In response to these reports, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner Development released the following statement:
"We are continuing to speak with many arena experts and working hard to find ways to build a world-class venue in an incredibly difficult environment."
The spokesman would not comment on whether the project would be scaled back.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said he remains a staunch supporter of the proposed development, dismissing critics who are calling for government funding to be pulled.
"They were opposed to it with Gehry, would be opposed without Gehry," said Markowitz. "They can't use him as an excuse. That's a lot of baloney. It is responsible for the state to invest. My God, if there's anytime we need Atlantic Yards, now's the time for the thousands of jobs it would create."
The residential elements of the development have been delayed because of the economic constraints. Ratner has promised those will be built.