Contract is pending approval Friday

TRENTON, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets' owners have agreed to sell the team to a New York City real estate developer, a move that
could bring Brooklyn its first major sports franchise since 1957.

The contract was finalized Wednesday, said Edwin Stier, president of the Community Youth Organization, which owns the Nets.

The developer, Bruce Ratner, wants to move the Nets to a new arena that would be at the center of a proposed $2.5 billion office, residential and shopping complex in Brooklyn. But the deal must first be approved by the board of YankeeNets, the holding company of the Nets and New York Yankees, which planned to meet Friday.

"I'm very pleased that the process worked and was very successful, and I'm very glad it's over. It was a very intense process of negotiation," Stier said.

Ratner's bid beat out an offer from a group led by real estate developer Charles Kushner and New Jersey Sen. Jon S. Corzine, who sought to keep the team in New Jersey. Corzine and Ratner declined
comment Wednesday night; attempts to reach Kushner through his office were unsuccessful. Ratner's bid was reportedly $300 million. Stier wouldn't comment on the amount.

Stier said he informed Kushner of the board's decision late Wednesday.

"He told me he appreciated the way the process was run," Stier said. "All the parties who participated expressed that to me."

George Zoffinger, president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates the Meadowlands complex where the Nets play, said the team's owner "basically stabbed the people
of New Jersey in the back."

Ratner's proposed Brooklyn Arena and Brooklyn Atlantic Yards would combine residential, retail and commercial space totaling 7.7 million square feet. The entire development is expected to take 10

Under the plan, work on the arena would begin next year and finish in time for the 2006 NBA season. The arena would seat 19,000 for basketball, and include 4,500 units of residential housing and 2.1 million square feet of commercial office space.

Some Brooklyn residents have charged that the project would displace close to 1,000 people.

"I'm very disappointed," said city councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes the area where the arena would be located. "It's a great day for rich developers and a sad day for working

The borough has not had a major sports franchise since baseball's Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.

The Nets were in San Antonio on Wednesday night, where they lost to the Spurs 99-76.

When asked after the game about the possible move, Jason Kidd replied: "When do we move? I'll probably be retired. That's nice so you guys don't have to ask us anymore."