NEW YORK, NY— Today ten plaintiffs–property owners
and tenants from the site targeted for Forest City Ratner's (FCR) "Atlantic
Yards" project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn–filed
a Federal lawsuit
, in the Eastern District, to stop the State of New
York from taking their properties for the developer's private benefit
through an abuse of its eminent domain powers. The suit says that the
defendants' use of eminent domain for the "Atlantic Yards" project
Governor George Pataki, FCR's President Bruce Ratner, Empire State Development
Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Charles Gargano, Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, Forest City Ratner Companies and its parent
Forest City Enterprises, amongst others, are named as defendants in the
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) has organized a stellar legal team
to represent the plaintiffs: lead counsel is Matthew
of the constitutional law firm Emery,
Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady
(ECBA); counsel for tenant-plaintiffs
is Jennifer Levy of South
Brooklyn Legal Services
; co-counsel is DDDB attorney Jeffrey
Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore
; and a team of dedicated volunteer
"This lawsuit presents a textbook example of what the Fifth Amendment
expressly prohibits: the taking of one citizen's property in order to
benefit a powerful and influential private citizen. Our case is strongthe
sham process employed by defendants to justify the taking of plaintiffs'
property for Bruce Ratner's ‘Atlantic Yards' is precisely what was forbidden
by the majority in last year's controversial Supreme Court Case -- Kelo
v. New London
," lead attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said. "The
‘Atlantic Yards' proposal is premised upon the abuse of eminent domain.
Plaintiffs will not stand idly by while their properties are seized by
the State and given to Bruce Ratner to maximize his enrichment. We seek
a court order prohibiting the State from abusing its eminent domain power
in violation of the Fifth Amendment."
Property owners and tenants in the proposed development have the right
to keep their homes and properties. New York State has no legal right
to take those properties for a private, favored developer when there is
no comprehensive development planning process, no bidding process for
the condemned land, a phony "blight" finding and when that project
is wholly conceived and driven by that private developer for that private
developer's benefit. This is the case with Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic
Tenant attorney Jennifer Levy said, "I represent low-income renters
and most of my clients in this case are rent-stabilized tenants who will
be removed from their long-term homes, distanced from their families,
and removed from their communities, if this Project is permitted to proceed.
This case represents an unjustifiable use of the State's eminent domain
powers, which only permit the use of eminent domain where there is a resulting
public use. It is not permissible to use eminent domain for the benefit
of a private developer displacing vulnerable populations.
calling on the Public Authorities Control Board–Silver, Bruno and
the Governor–to postpone any vote on the proposed 'Atlantic Yards'
project until the courts have ruled on eminent domain,”
said DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker. "There is much that is illegal
with the Ratner ‘Atlantic Yards’ proposal and its process.
Its abuse of eminent domain, which we will show with this case, is at
the very foundation of the project’s numerous violations of the
"We want to stay in our homes, keep our businesses, and keep our
properties. Our case, at its core, is very simple: Bruce Ratner does not
have the right to ask Governor Pataki to take my home and give it to Bruce
Ratner, and the Governor does not have the right to oblige Mr. Ratner.
We are sure that most people agree with us on that," said plaintiff
and DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein. "With our suit here in Brooklyn
we are standing up for millions of people across the United States who
understand that the abuse of eminent domain can impact anyone and has
gone too far. We are excited that our case may rein in eminent domain
abuse here in New York City and across the country."
Lead DDDB legal volunteer Candace Carponter said, "We fully support,
congratulate, and deeply respect the courage of these owners and tenants
in defending their fundamental constitutional rights. As the Ohio Supreme
court said in its ruling for owners in the City
eminent domain case, 'although the judiciary and the legislature
define the limits of state powers, such as eminent domain, the ultimate
guardian of the people's rights...are the people themselves.'"
The 8.8 million square foot, $4.2 billion "Atlantic Yards" project
was first conceived by Forest City Ratner and unveiled in December, 2003,
at which time it was made clear that private property (homes and businesses)
would be condemned, seized and transferred to the developer to construct
his project and bring enormous profits to the development corporation.
The City of New York and the State of New York never had any plan for
the proposed project site, and thus, "Atlantic Yards" and its
dependence on eminent domain abuse is entirely driven by the developer,
and the private goals of the Forest City Ratner corporation. The Supreme
decision in the summer of 2005 forbade this kind
of favoritism in takings.
ECBA and the lawyers who work there
have developed a
national reputation in the field of constitutional litigation, winning
important victories in landmark matters such as Morris v. Board of
, the US Supreme Court case that struck down the previous
form of New York City government as a violation of one-person/one-vote
principles, and Gasperini v. Center for Humanities
, the US Supreme
Court case that upheld a litigant's right to a jury award. The Firm currently
has an active constitutional docket, including two other Fifth Amendment
Takings Clause cases, and numerous Equal Protection Clause, Free Speech
Clause and other constitutional cases.
The mission of South Brooklyn Legal Services (SBLS)
to seek equal justice for low-income people in Brooklyn by providing a
broad range of legal advocacy and information. In pursuing this goal,
SBLS tries to work respectfully with individual clients and client groups
to identify and address their legal needs, to help empower poor people
to identify and defeat the causes and effects of poverty in their communities,
to focus on matters that will have the greatest impact for low-income
people, and to work cooperatively with the private bar and with other
agencies and organizations serving poor people.
The complaint can be found here: www.dddb.net/php/reading/legal/eminentdomain