Release Main Page
For Immediate Release: May 15, 2009
Court Rules Against Home, Business Owners and Tenants in Atlantic Yards
Eminent Domain Lawsuit
Plaintiffs Will Ask the Court of Appeals to Stop New York State From Seizing
Their Properties to Enrich Bruce Ratner
BROOKLYN, NY— A New York State Appellate Division* (Second Department) panel of
4 judges ruled against nine Brooklyn homeowners, business owners and tenants who
had filed a lawsuit to stop New York State from seizing their homes and businesses
by eminent domain to benefit developer Bruce Ratner for his indeterminate and
uncertain development proposal known as Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
(The ruling in Goldstein et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation
The plaintiffs will appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals.
In the decision, the court
We find that, on the record in this case, the condemnation does not
violate the Public Use clause of the New York Constitution because it cannot
be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected
to yield are incidental or pretextual in comparison to the benefit that
will be bestowed upon the project’s private developer.
“The court’s logic is faulty. The private benefit to Ratner was never compared with the alleged public benefit because no one knew or cared to ask Ratner whether he would make billions, tens of billions or hundreds of billions. The ESDC has conceded that it had no idea how much money will be made by Ratner when it agreed to seize my clients’ homes and businesses on his behalf. There is ample evidence that the public benefits are minor compared to the enormous benefits for Ratner,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff. “We have the right to appeal directly to the State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which we will do, so that Court can determine that the New York Constitution’s Public Use Clause provides greater protection to its citizens than the federal constitution.”
Developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) cannot build its beleaguered, $4 billion Atlantic
Yards development proposal, including the billion-dollar Barclays Center arena,
unless New York State seizes the plaintiffs’ properties on behalf of Bruce Ratner
and it secures financing. FCR has been unable to attain the financing for the
project or pay
for the rail yard portion of the project site. The developer does not own
or control** the land the needs to build the project, including the arena. The
project has not started construction, and the developer halted all preliminary
work in December 2008. Two days ago Cleveland-based parent company Forest
City Enterprises stated that the developer will not start any new vertical
development “in the near term.”
“We’re disappointed in the ruling, but are optimistic that the Court of Appeals
will see the importance of setting clear boundaries between constitutional and
unconstitutional uses of eminent domain in New York State. The benefits the original
project allegedly offered were negligible, at best, and with the changed economy
they are now non-existent. Despite this setback, our fight against the
improper use of eminent domain and against the Atlantic Yards project is far from
over,” said Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn legal director Candace Carponter.
“Forest City Ratner may claim again, like the boy who cried wolf, that they will
break ground soon. But they won’t; they are unable to do so.”
The initial complaint to the Court, all the briefs, and today’s ruling for Goldstein
et al. v. Empire State Development Corporation can be downloaded at: www.dddb.net/eminentdomain
* Note: The ruling today is on the initial case, not an appeal. The ruling comes
from the Appellate Division because New York State law requires that
all eminent domain challenges must be initiated in the Appellate Court, rather
than the lower court—the Supreme Court.
**Note: Just last week FCR
lost control of an additional 1+ acres of property in the project site, when
they lost a case to property owner, and plaintiff on this eminent domain case,
Henry Weinstein. Within the proposed 22-acre project site, Ratner only owns or
controls about 6-7 acres.
Note: Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, in its effort to defend the homes and businesses of members of our community, and to advocate for their rights, organized the eminent domain lawsuit, and raises the funds to support it.
RELATED NEWS: In two weeks the New York State Senate will probe the Atlantic Yards
project. Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (the
State agency overseeing the project) will be testifying in the
first State Senate public hearing on the Atlantic Yards project scheduled
for May 29th in Brooklyn. More details
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