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Why Do Mayors Love Sports Stadiums?

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On a busy streetcorner in downtown Brooklyn, the steel girders are starting to rise. After a decade of protests by residents (including local celebrities like Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Egan and Jonathan Lethem) and innumerable lawsuits, developer Bruce Ratner’s vision of a new arena to bring the New Jersey Nets basketball team to Brooklyn—with the aid of about $500 million in city and state subsidies—is taking root, with a scheduled opening in September 2012.

Yet Atlantic Yards, as Ratner has dubbed his twenty-two-acre development project on the edge of the bustling neighborhood of Prospect Heights, won’t look much like the image he first unveiled in 2003. The “Miss Brooklyn” office tower, which was supposed to bring jobs to the ...

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