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Release: March 2,
Forest City Ratner Jumps Gun on Demolitions;
Fate of “Atlantic Yards” Plan Rests in Courts
Seeks Demolition Permits Though Eminent Domain, Environmental Suits
Could Stop Project From Being Built as Proposed; Norwood Redux?
BROOKLYN, NY— On the heels of a Federal Magistrate’s opinion that the proposed
“Atlantic Yards” project “raises serious and difficult questions regarding
the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence,”
Forest City Ratner (FCRC) has responded with a tried-and-true tactic from
the eminent domain abusers’ handbook: the developer plans to start knocking
down buildings prematurely in order to scare plaintiffs and disillusion
Forest City Ratner has moved quickly to seek demolition permits following Judge Robert M. Levy’s report on the lawsuit brought by property owners and tenants in the footprint of the proposed project (most of the applications have been filed since Friday, the day on which the report was released). The action appears to be an attempt to intimidate the suit’s plaintiffs by threatening to knock down, or actually demolish, perfectly sound buildings adjacent to or near the plaintiffs’ homes and businesses.
“Forest City Ratner wants to give the perception that they can proceed with their project, but the reality is that without the plaintiffs’ properties, their plan is dead in the water,” said Eric McClure, speaking on behalf of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which has organized the plaintiffs’ legal team. “They appear to be pursuing the same course as the developer in Norwood, Ohio who razed an entire neighborhood except for the homes of three owners who refused to sell; those homeowners stood fast and won their case in the Ohio Supreme Court. The developer had no Plan B; they’ve abandoned the project and left the community with a wasteland.”
“If Mr. Ratner thinks that seeking demolition permits or even knocking down buildings will weaken our resolve, he’s sadly mistaken,” said Donald O’Finn, the manager of Freddy’s Bar & Backroom, a Prohibition-era tavern and community gathering spot that is a tenant in the footprint and a co-plaintiff in the eminent domain lawsuit. “The simple fact of the matter is that he can’t build the arena and a good portion of the project he has proposed without Freddy’s Bar and the homes and businesses of my fellow plaintiffs. Any demolitions would be nothing but public relations and window dressing.”
Forest City Ratner's pre-demolition preparatory work has gotten off to a bad start. Its "Atlantic Yards Community Liaison Office” failed its first test when it was unable, or unwilling, to provide answers or support to Dean Street residents who lost water service for several hours on Tuesday after an error by one of FCRC's subcontractors, and then tried to shift blame for the problem to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Compounding the problem, the “Committee on Environmental Assurances” created by the “Atlantic Yards” Community Benefits Agreement to “provide a vehicle to address specific concerns” “on potential environmental issues caused by development” of the project does not appear to be operational. And the Empire State Development Corporation has provided no date for the hiring of an environmental monitor to oversee the project, despite having issued an RFP nearly a month ago.
Forest City Ratner has applied for demolition permits for several properties along Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue, including 618, 626, 644, 646, 800, 814 and 818 Pacific Street, and 536-538, 542 and 546 Vanderbilt Avenue. Based on New York City regulations, even if these permits are granted, it would be several weeks before actual demolitions could commence.
“I hope Mr. Ratner has a back-up plan, especially if he intends to knock down perfectly good buildings,” Mr. O’Finn added. “Whether we have our case heard in Federal court or by the state, we plan to be toasting our victory here at Freddy’s.”
[Click here to read “What’s Next for Norwood?,” Cincinnati Enquirer, February 18, 2007]
DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based community coalition
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of
dividing and destroying them