Thursday, June 7, 2007

Atlantic Yards Update

"In an emphatic yet potentially questionable decision, U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis yesterday dismissed Goldstein v. Pataki, the federal lawsuit challenging eminent domain that Atlantic Yards opponents have considered their best hope for stopping the project," writes the Atlantic Yards Report:
In his decision, Garaufis ruled that even if public benefits—including new tax revenues, housing, jobs, and the elimination of blight—are less than promised, they’re sufficient to overcome allegations that the project is a sweetheart deal benefiting developer Forest City Ratner.

“Because Plaintiffs concede that the Project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted, Plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the 'sole purpose' of the Project is to confer a private benefit,” Garaufis wrote. “Neither would those allegations permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the purposes offered in support of the Project are 'mere pretexts' for an actual purpose to confer a private benefit on FCRC.”
Develop Don't Destroy responds:
Because Judge Garaufis failed to consider that there was no comprehensive development plan, that the project was developed and driven by Forest City Ratner from the beginning, that FCR planned the footprint of the properties to be seized, that Forest City was known to be the beneficiary before the takings occurred and that there was no legislative oversight -- all characteristics of an unconstitutional taking according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo v. the City of New London -- we are taking an immediate appeal to the United States 2nd Circuit (federal) Appeals Court. But we will not stop there. If necessary, we will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear our claims.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff adds:
“We have a nice issue for an appellate court to decide. Undisputed facts lead to an inference that this was driven for Ratner’s benefit. It’s undisputed that no other developer was considered to do this project, that the genesis was Forest City Ratner, that they identified my clients’ properties [for eminent domain], and that the government, broadly speaking, agreed to do exactly what [the developer] asked for. If those facts don’t give rise to a claim under the public use clause, it’s definitely a dead letter, for anybody.”
With an appeal forthcoming and another suit challenging the environmental review currently in state courts, it will be a long time yet before this matter is resolved.

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