Real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner is showing Brooklyn homeowners the money.
He's turning residents of one building into instant millionaires so they'll go quietly - letting him knock down their homes to make way for his controversial $2.5 billion Nets arena and housing complex.
That means people who paid about $600,000 for a swank three-bedroom, 1,300-foot condo just last year are being offered a cool $1.2 million to flee.
One couple is bolting to trendy Chelsea, where a million bucks can buy a corner loft with 11-foot ceilings and a roof deck, according to real estate Web site Corcoran.com.
Another woman said she hopes to stay in Brooklyn, where the bulging pot of newfound cash can buy a seven-bedroom "mansionette" on tony Prospect Park West.
A move to Staten Island could land these residents in a brick colonial estate on ritzy Todt Hill, down the street from the late mob boss Paul Castellano's storied neo-Federal mansion.
"Many people really love this building, but Ratner understood that we're young and not that rooted yet in the community," said one resident of 636 Pacific St. who requested anonymity.
"It's a lot of money," said another woman, who did not want her name used, citing an internal building pact to keep mum about the deal.
Nearly all the 30 owners in the eight-story condo - a renovated warehouse called the Atlantic Arts Building - are negotiating with Forest City Ratner.
One holdout remains.
"They're kind of mimicking what they did at MetroTech, which is to treat people equitably," said Atlantic Arts Building developer Marc Freud, referring to the downtown Brooklyn office and university complex Forest City Ratner built in the early 1990s.
Ratner recently purchased the Nets and is set on moving them to Brooklyn. He commissioned renowned architect Frank Gehry to design a 21-acre residential and commercial complex over and around the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Yards.
But the project - which would displace more than 160 homeowners - has faced opposition from local leaders and residents, who say it will toss aside longtime Brooklynites and overwhelm the neighborhood.
Opponents called Ratner's buyout offers a cynical move that will do little to quell the uproar against the project in Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.
"There are still a number of hurdles, including a significant number of people in the footprint and the adjoining communities who are opposed to this project," said Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Brooklyn).
Ratner spokesman Barry Baum would say only that the company was "looking at how we can substantially reduce and possibly eliminate the need for residential condemnation."
The buyout of the Atlantic Arts Building is seen as key because it's in the direct path of the planned 19,000-seat basketball arena. Ratner hopes to have the arena ready for tipoff by 2007.
Roger Paz, a Prospect Heights resident who lives near the proposed arena site, said word of negotiations at 636 Pacific St. spread a panic among homeowners, who fear Ratner is using a divide-and-conquer strategy.
"All of a sudden on the street, there was talk of people making deals," Paz said. "Nobody wanted to be last to cut a deal."
Movin' on up
Here's a look at what $1.2million can get you around the city:
1. Park Ave., Manhattan - A "super-luxury" one-bedroom apartment in the Trump Park Avenue, at 60th St.
2. Boerum Hill, Brooklyn - A four-story brick townhouse with a "graceful" center staircase, gourmet kitchen, garden and English basement.
3. Tottenville, Staten Island - A four-bedroom brick mansionette with a lush front lawn, backyard pool, intercom system and a two-car garage.
4. Jamaica Estates, Queens - A six-bedroom Tudor with three fireplaces, a private driveway leading to a two-car garage, and plenty of trees.
5. Riverdale, Bronx - A "sensational" three-bedroom stone Tudor with a breakfast balcony, a garden, a two-car garage and an "entertaining level" with a summer kitchen and a stone dining terrace
I hope that by retiring from basketball, he's able to get some semblance of his health back. From all accounts he's a nice guy, and will unfortunately probably go down as one of the biggest "what-if?" stories in the NBA.