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Release: February 14, 2006
Court Judge Rules ESDC/Ratner Lawyer Has Conflict of Interest
and Co-Plaintiffs Win Case to Disqualify Lawyer Representing Ratner and
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
"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
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."
DEVELOP DONŐT DESTROY BROOKLYN
a broad-based community coalition
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of
dividing and destroying them.
We oppose Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect
Over 5,000 members.