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For Immediate Release: February 14, 2006

State Court Judge Rules ESDC/Ratner Lawyer Has Conflict of Interest DDDB and Co-Plaintiffs Win Case to Disqualify Lawyer Representing Ratner and ESDC

MANHATTAN, NY - Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and twelve co-plaintiffs won a major victory in State Supreme Court today. Honorable Justice Carol Edmead enjoined the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to dismiss its retained attorney David Paget who had a clear conflict of interest as he was representing both Forest City Ratner and the public corporation charged with an objective review of the developer's "Atlantic Yards" development proposal.

Justice Edmead ruled that to protect the public interest Mr. Paget must immediately be removed from providing services to the ESDC on the proposed project. The judge stated that by continuing to retain counsel with a clear conflict of interest would harm the public interest and have a "crippling" effect on the integrity of the review process.

"The burden is now on the ESDC, and its Chairman Charles Gargano, to restore the public's faith in the agency's objectivity. Until that is done we have every reason to view the ESDC, the developer, and the review process with skepticism," said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.

On January 18th when the suit was filed, Empire State Development Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano said he was unaware of any problem. "I don't know whether we are using the same lawyer," said Gargano to the Daily News. "I don't know of any conflict."

DDDB legal committee chair Candace Carponter said, "The agency is supposed to have an arm's-length relationship with Forest City Ratner; today's decision shows that instead ESDC and Ratner have been tied in a tight embrace leaving the public out in the cold. ESDC and Ratner vigorously defended their right to share lawyers claiming that they are supposed to have a collaborative relationship. The judge didn't buy it."

The judge ruled that Ratner could demolish five buildings in the "Atlantic Yards" proposed footprint. DDDB was seeking an injunction on the demolitions arguing that the ESDC's declaration of emergency–that the buildings are an imminent threat to public safety and should be demolished–was based on nothing but a questionable report from the developer's engineer, without the requisite independent "hard look" by the state agency. Ratner's engineer did not file an affidavit swearing to his findings on the buildings. The demolition approval was made under the watch of the same lawyer, Mr. Paget, whom the judge ruled had a clear conflict of interest. Additionally Forest City Ratner drew up demolition plans for the buildings in question eight months before their structural engineer determined the buildings required demolition.

"We disagree with the Court's decision on the demolitions," said Goldstein. "We believe that Ratner's public safety claims warranting demolition, for most of the buildings, are a sham. If the buildings are near collapse and a threat to the public why are there no warning signs posted on the buildings and no public protection measures like sidewalk sheds?"

Over the next few days DDDB and co-plaintiffs will consider further action including appeal.

Carponter concluded, "our victory today and the judge's scathing rebuke of the ESDC's defense of its conflicted attorney shows that business as usual is bad business."

All lawsuit related documents and information can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation

DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of dividing and destroying them.
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