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don't destroy

BROOKLYN     Press 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 is here.)

The plaintiffs will appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals.

In the decision, the court wrote:
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 here.

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
DDDB is 501c3 non-profit corporation supported by over 4,000 individual donors from the community.