Wednesday, January 24, 2007

ESDC claims city/state, before AY, searched for a railyards project "without success"

The Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) response memorandum of law, filed last Friday in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, challenges several arguments made by the plaintiffs, which should make for a contentious oral argument in court on February 7.

One ESDC statement about the Metropolitan Transportation's Authority's working Vanderbilt Yard really pushes the envelope:
In fact—as the ESDC Defendants explained in their opening brief and as the complaint itself makes plain (but as plaintiffs conveniently omit to mention in their response)—it is uncontested that at least half of the Atlantic Yards Project site is in fact blighted. The City made its blight determination nearly forty years ago, and renewed it in 2004. The State and City governments have been searching for a project to remedy that blight ever since—until now, without success.

How hard were they searching for a project to be built over the railyards? Recall this exchange last March between Kate Suisman, aide to Council Member Letitia James, and Winston Von Engel of the Department of City Planning:

"Had the city been looking at making use of the land?" Suisman pressed on politely.

"Not that I can recall," Von Engel said.


And consider that, even after city and state officials endorsed developer Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, another developer, Extell, responded to the MTA's belated RFP and was willing to build over the railyards.

Yes, in the 1970s, Baruch College abandoned a plan to build over the railyards because of financial constraints. But we've seen rapid appreciation in the value of real estate in and around the project footprint. Had the city and state searched a bit harder, surely more proposals would have emerged.

Blight?

[Update] From Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's comments on the ESDC's blight study:
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) made Freedom of Information Act requests to
NYCEDC and the NY Department of City Planning asking for blight studies as they pertain to ATURA [Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area] prepared since 1980. Both responses came back negative. The responses said the agencies were not in possession of any blight studies prepared for ATURA.


According to a report by Hunter College graduate students that was part of DDDB's response, the term blight was not used in ATURA until 1997.

1 comment:

  1. From Norman Oder's description, it sounds like the ESDC has a pathetic argument. DDDb found another developer to bid on the railyards in a few weeks, even though the State was unable to find one for decades. So, is the ESDC's argument that DDDb is better than them at finding a bidder for a property worth over $200 Million? The ESDC seems to be arguing that it was not corruption that lead them to find a bidder on a valuable piece of property: It was incompetence.

    Reading over the ESDC's motion to dismiss, I am struck by how seemingly oblivious the State is to the post-Kelo world. They try to hide the fact that there is a national revulsion to the private use of eminent domain.

    The state also misses what I understand to be the central point of the DDDb argument: The state process has been corrupted to benefit an individual interest. The state lawyers' attempt to bring the case out of federal and into state court strengthens DDDb's case, since it shows that they want to case decided by state judges, who will answer to their political bosses.

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