120408ay.jpgIn a striking reversal, developer Bruce Ratner has halted work at a location that is integral to his controversial $4.2 billion plan to build a Nets basketball arena, office towers and thousands of apartments in Brooklyn. Ratner has previously insisted that work would continue despite lawsuits attempting to stop the project, even vowing to break ground on the stadium this month. Now a spokesman for his comany, Forest City Ratner, tells the Daily News that "preliminary construction" at the MTA-owned Vanderbilt Rail Yards is being put on hold.

The Daily News also points out that Ratner has yet to actually, you know, purchase the railyard from the MTA, which a spokesman also blames on ongoing litigation. In a statement, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein notes that the $100 million purchase price is well below the yards' $214.5 million appraised value. He contends that the halted work has less to do with litigation and more to do with the project's "dire financial situation":

There is no other way to explain why the developer has halted work on the only part of his Atlantic Yards plan unencumbered by litigation. He is delaying his own project because of a serious lack of financing. Speculation and overdevelopment are a key cause of the current economic crisis. New York City and State can no longer support Ratner's non viable and highly speculative luxury housing plan and frivolous billion dollar arena.

Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, of course, blames the lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain to acquire private land at the site: "Over the last two years, we've prepared the site for the next steps. We've gone about as far as we can go at this point with preliminary work, including sewer, track, infrastructure and utility work, along with demolition."

But according to an update from the Empire State Development Corp., additional work—including debris removal and other construction—was scheduled for last week and didn't happen. One unidentified "laid off" employee tells the News that workers were told two weeks ago to finish up what work they could before a deadline last week.