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State’s highest court sees some ‘appeal’ in Yards eminent domain case

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In a twist that could be disastrous for Bruce Ratner, New York’s highest court surprised many and agreed to hear an appeal that the state has illegally used its power of eminent domain to spearhead the embattled $4.9-billion Atlantic Yards project.

Previous eminent domain cases have gone well for Ratner, but even if he wins this court battle — this time in the Court of Appeals — delays from this round of litigation means that he could lose the bigger war.

To qualify for tax-exempt financing that could save him millions, Ratner must begin construction by Dec. 31 on the Barclays Center, now a $772-million basketball arena no longer designed by Frank Gehry. Also on the line is the British bank’s agreement to pay $400 million to have its name on the Nets’ now-generic future home court, another deal that turns into a pumpkin at the end of this year.

The high court’s decision on Monday to hear the case from property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint — who are seeking to prevent the Empire State Development Corporation from condemning their land and turning it over to Ratner — surprised many people, including Ratner himself.

In May, Ratner said after a unanimous lower court victory in the same case that “this is really the last hurdle, and now we can do what our company does best and build an arena and houses,” the Daily News reported.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Ratner expressed confidence that Court of Appeals would also rule in favor of the developer, and said the company would “be in construction before the end of the year.”

The main Atlantic Yards opposition group, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, argues that the state Constitution prohibits the use of eminent domain for any project that includes luxury housing, though that argument did fail earlier this year.

“This case provides an opportunity for the Court to continue its proud tradition of interpreting this state’s Constitution in a manner that affords more protection to individual rights and liberties,” said plaintiffs’ lawyer Matthew Brinckerhoff.

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Reader Feedback

al pankin from downtown says:
another waste of the courts time . if ratner looses nothing will get developed in this state except housing projects.
July 1, 2009, 5:56 pm
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
Finally, the cry of fundamental property rights and misuse of government power will be heard! If we lose this one, however, we are up ——s creek.
July 1, 2009, 6:19 pm
freddy from slope says:
al:

if ratner had used his private funds to buy out the footprint there wouldnt be all the squalor. at least not from me.

it is quite simple... you dont take housing from the poor (they did call it blighted didnt they?) to make housing for the rich at all, let alone using state dollars.

now the question is whether the state judges have enough backbone to enforce the state constitution.

my bet is enough of a ruckus is going to be raised that they actually deal with the issue.

i would call this whole process the height of idiocy if we didnt have the senate yokels wasting good oxygen
July 1, 2009, 6:47 pm
Rhywun from Bay Ridge says:
This should be a no-brainer. Eminent domain is for *public use*. A private basketball facility is NOT public use.
July 1, 2009, 11:02 pm
Queen of the Click from Bay Ridge says:

I'm glad to see that this case will be heard in the highest court. The owners of the property are right and this is an abuse of eminent domain.

We're seeing a lot of shifts in power lately, I wish for a victory for Brooklyn property owners!
July 2, 2009, 4:31 am
Peter from Fort Greene says:
Too much of downtown property, the most valuable property in Brooklyn, can not fall into the hands of one developer and development organization. This is a land grab.

Who hangs out in Metrotech on the weekend? It's a dead zone. Ratner's track record is not good. The area needs to be developed responsibly with locally owned businesses. That's good for Brooklyn. Atlantic Yards is not good for Brooklyn. Period.
July 2, 2009, 10:59 am
Avril Haynes from Crown Heights says:
Has anyone every addressed the traffic situation on Atlantic Avenue. How can they devise a plan to get traffic flowing. This is outrageous. Atlantic Ave. and the intersection where Flatbush Ave. meets is a nightmare, and yet i have not heard one soul talk about the traffic flow. God help us all!
July 2, 2009, 5:54 pm
David from Forte Greene says:
Part of the reason that Ratner's arena is being a considered a "public use" of the land is that technically the city will own it and he will lease it from the city for $1 for 99 years. This is bull----! Does this mean that if I had enough money I could rent Prospect Park for a few years? Or the Brooklyn Bridge? Or my local police precinct? By definition property that is designated for public use should not be allowed to be leased to anyone.
July 2, 2009, 8:25 pm
sam from downtown says:
Avril, EVERYONE talks about traffic and knows that AY would be a traffic nightmare. Yet, NYC and NYS have NO traffic plan if the project is built. true, that.
July 3, 2009, 12:32 pm
john from all brooklyn says:
Hey Ratner, throw in the towel on Atlantic Yards!
Accept it: some neghborhoods love the modest and the drab. There are rail yards in East New York and it hasn't yet been "discovered" by the "I want to live in a sleek condo amidst decreptitude crowd." Besides, your new arena design is too 80's suburban.
Here's another thought: Why not turn Atlantic Yards into a true transportation hub by extending PATh , Metro North, and the 2nd Avenue subway to its tracks? A real Greyhoud bus terminal there would be another plus.
July 6, 2009, 11:41 am
judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
We'll wait and see Ratner seems to come out with a better deal all the time. I wonder what the haters are going to do if they lose this one?
July 6, 2009, 4:01 pm

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