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Yards foes ‘suit’ up for another appeal

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Nine property owners inside the Atlantic Yards footprint moved last week to appeal last month’s Appellate Division ruling that said the state could use eminent domain to seize privately owned land for the controversial arena and skyscraper proposal.

The plaintiffs want the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, to review the plan’s constitutionality, and ultimately, overturn the May decision by the lower court.

The property owners argue that a clause in the state Constitution adopted during the Great Depression prohibits the seizure of private property for housing — unless the new housing that’s created is reserved solely for low-income tenants.

Like the earlier case, the appeal alleges that developer Bruce Ratner’s expected profits so overshadow the supposed public benefits of the mega-development, such as the basketball arena, thousands of units of below-market-rate housing and open space, that the project itself can not be a “public benefit” — the accepted precondition for the use of eminent domain.

“The state Constitution is perfectly clear that you have to do an analysis to determine if public benefits substantially outweigh the private benefits,” said Matt Brinckerhoff, the attorney for the plaintiffs. “And the Empire State Development Corporation has no idea if Ratner is going to make $1 or $10 billion.”

Of course, the Court of Appeals can deny the request to hear the case — a move that would please Ratner. He’s repeatedly complained that the string of lawsuits has impeded construction, though construction has been far more hampered by the developer’s inability to obtain financing for the controversial $4-billion project.

Updated 4:03 pm, June 18, 2009: Story was amended after a keen-eyed reader noticed that we called the developer "Ranter" instead of "Ratner." We assure you that the mistake was only a typo.
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Reader Feedback

Steve Nitwitt from Flatbush says:
Any truth to the rumor that Norm from atlanticyardsreport.com is the brains behind the Scream Team's defense?
June 17, 2009, 2:16 am
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
When you say "sceam team," you mean the concerned citizens who have rasied their voices against the misuse of political power, and who have fought for their rights and Constitutional pricinples against corruption, greed, due process violations, and government facilitated private land grabs, right?

This ain't a scream, it's a roar (Grrr ...)
June 17, 2009, 11:57 am
al pankin from downtown says:
enough already...let's move foward..this is not news anymore. it is an abuse of the legal system..who pays the legal bills for these "nine" homeowners? in the end they have stalled a project and what will be built in the place of the original design is less than what could have been on that spot. those few will move on and no one will remember who they were.
June 17, 2009, 12:41 pm
sal from downtown says:
enough already al. it IS the legal system, not an abuse of it.
June 17, 2009, 1:12 pm
William from Park Slope says:
I agree with you al. These 9 people need to get over this because all they are doing is abusing the system and not thinking about how building this project will benefit our neighborhood in the long run. This project is going to happen just get over it already.
June 17, 2009, 1:19 pm
Ted from Downtown Too says:
Me too:
I agree with Al.
June 17, 2009, 7:08 pm
freddy from slope says:
ratner could have developed most of the property with FCR's money.

instead, just like in other cities, FCR waits for the public dole.

i think ratner got used to having no public review like the lowes on the gowanus. it was a federal facility and thus required no review.

time for this street theater to go prime-time. get the popcorn and start taking names.
June 17, 2009, 7:53 pm
Christian from Clinton Hill says:
Wow.

The legal system shouldn't be used like this. Its clear that opponents are just filing desperate lawsuits on every ground in an effort to delay this project... all the mean time the cost associated will skyrocket.

Don't get me wrong, Im not opposed to due process and judicial review... but its been seven years!
June 17, 2009, 8:42 pm
homeowner from Fort Greene says:
I so admire these victims for continuing the fight against Atlantic Yards. This project is going to cost the city enormous amounts of money in the long run, as Ratner continues his end run around everything that is legally and morally right. Imagine what intelligent development with the real needs of the surrounding community could have been like.
June 18, 2009, 10:28 am
Peter from Fort Greene says:
Christian,
How should the legal system be used? Should it be used to force people out of their property? Or should it be used for people to defend themselves and stand up for property that they own? Both parties are using the legal system to accomplish what they want. Don't make Forest City Ratner out to be a victim.
June 18, 2009, 2:40 pm
Christian from Forte Greene says:
Peter:

Actually, I wasn't trying to make Forest City out to be the victim. They will be just fine.

New York is the real victim. Again, I'm all for people using the legal system to advance their own interest, but in this case, the endless appeals are not designed to actually win anything, but only to bleed the developer.

Launching lawsuits to win a case is a perfectly legitimate prove a point, or defend your rights.

But launching frivolous, vain, or futile lawsuits with no hope of winning simply in an effort to delay or bleed your opponent is a misuse of the legal system.

Forest City Ratner will be fine in the end, but its New York that will have to deal with the rising cost of the project (see, lackluster architecture), and the empty lot that is there.

Im no supporter of frivolous eminent domain use, but the supreme court's ruling in kelo vs. New London provides legal precedent and cover for both Ratner and the City of New York.

Bottom line. If the city decides to invoke eminent domain for this project, and the public supports it (in this case the majority of the public did, by re-electing the same politicians who supported the project), then pay the people 5x their estimated property value (something which Ratner offered to do) and move on... but using the legal system as a proxy battlefield (something they have the right to do) just seems to delay the inevitable, and is an abuse of courts.
June 18, 2009, 5:45 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
Victims???? More Like opportunists. I don't know what this Daniel Goldstein guy did before this great job opportunity opened up for him to be a spokesperson for (I guess now it's nine people) the people against the arena.

Are these "hipsters" who are against against this arena even from Brooklyn or did they grow up in brooklyn? Ive lived here my whole life and anyone else I know with that background have all been extremely excited about this projectfrom day one. These people who aren't even from here have some nerve to feel that they speak for people who are from this borough... They are just a rogue group of only a few people who are trying to spoil something great for this borough by trying to portray to the press that Brooklynites are appalled by the idea that we will have our very own arena....

And besides, it seems that when all the court cases and opposition finally ends, Daniel Goldstein might have to actually go get a real job......
June 18, 2009, 5:59 pm
al from downtown says:
"Don't get me wrong, Im not opposed to due process and judicial review... but its been seven years!"

It's been six yeas and 4 lawsuits. that is hardly "too much"
June 18, 2009, 6:09 pm
sal from p. slope says:
"But launching frivolous, vain, or futile lawsuits with no hope of winning simply in an effort to delay or bleed your opponent is a misuse of the legal system. "

true. but there haven't been any frivolous lawsuits. so what are you talking about?
June 18, 2009, 6:10 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed- Stuy says:
She's talking about 9people who think they represent 2.6million people.
June 18, 2009, 8:12 pm
Christian from Clinton Hill says:
2 lawsuits are perfectly fine, but lets express judgement.

Look, everyone.. 4 lawsuits were filed on four different grounds. Daniel Goldstien has already stated (more than once) that that the lawsuits were an attempt to bleed Forest City Ratner.

I am also a little unsympathetic to the plantiffs here because they were offered quite a bit of money (in contrast to the terrible payouts governments usually give evictees)

In any case... we need a better process in this city. We live in the most densely populated city in America, and if any major project can be held up by a handful of disgruntled residents for ideological reasons, then we will never have major developments in New York again.

I do sympathize with the rights of the homeowners in that area, but as Judah says... Brooklyn belongs to ALL of us as well, (something you accept when you live in a dynamic city). In New York, we need to find a way to come to an effective consensus (referendum?) regarding big projects like these.. and then move forward... (so long as the residents who live there are handsomly paid for their relocation)

But the whole development process is broken in NYC, and unfortunately using the legal system isn't going to solve it.

Thats why I think its an abuse of the legal system... these guys know that they aren't going to win... but they file lawsuits and appeals any-way, just hoping to stall the project.

Instead... we should require mega projects like this in New York to be approved by referendum, and mandate that all those removed from their homes for projects completed in tandum with a private developer.. be paid at least 3x the estimated value of their property.

Anything but this.
Its been messy, nasty and silly at times.
and the real loser is New York, and Brooklyn.
June 18, 2009, 9:05 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Christian you have said it very well.I am not for eminient domian but it is a law upheld by the highest court in the land. The compensation will never be fair to those being displace but so is life. We cannot pick & choose which laws we like when it fits into our needs. The effects that this project will have on the surrounding area does not fit the outrage.

We all have ideology but the idea that a developer should invest all of his money, give tremendous benefits to the public & not be given any incentives by governmental institution is what's outrageous.

Brooklyn has already lost out indeed. A wonderful design trashed by obstructionist.
June 19, 2009, 11:04 am
Edley from Brooklyn says:
"... unless the new housing that’s created is reserved solely for low-income tenants."
Wish someone could/would fill the entire space with all-low-income housing -- just to see what these plaintiffs' NEW objections would be ...
June 21, 2009, 2:44 pm

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