Sunday, October 07, 2007

Deconstructing 'Death throes for arena foes'

In his Daily News column today, headlined Death throes for arena foes, Errol Louis repeats many of his past arguments against the Atlantic Yards eminent domain suit.

I've responded to most of them already.

He's also ignoring the existence of other lawsuits, including the challenge to the project environmental review, as well as a challenge to the state's relocation offer. And, personalizing the issue, he calls Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn "Daniel Goldstein's anti-project group," ignoring the many volunteers and supporters.

Smoking gun?

He additionally points out that there's no smoking gun that shows government officials illicitly green-lighting the project. The plaintiffs are asking for discovery, based on a sequence they call illegitmate--an angle of the lawsuit Louis won't address.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his concurrence to the court's 2005 Kelo v. New London opinion, agreed that the practice of eminent domain was legitimate because, in part (as the plaintiffs cite), "the substantial commitment of public funds by the State to the development project before most of the private beneficiaries were known; evidence that respondents reviewed a variety of development plans and chose a private developer from a group of applicants rather than picking out a particular transferee beforehand."

That may or may not serve as precedent in this case, but the circumstances in Brooklyn are different. More on this tomorrow.

Looking at the rhetoric

Note his rhetorical fudges. Louis cites an allegation that "the Project will not materially increase available affordable housing" and writes, "Really? You can build an arena and 6,400 apartments without creating any new jobs or housing?"

He's right about the jobs, but creating new housing is not the same as increasing available affordable housing if there's significant displacement.

Also, Louis writes that "Ratner paid top dollar to local homeowners and businesses to assemble property for the project."

As I've written, it's hardly clear that the price increase was a huge premium over the general rise in value over two years, and it should be expected that FCR would add something extra to ease the process--especially since the developer has also bought the silence of the sellers and barred their participation in any organizations opposed to the project.

Beyond that, there's a huge difference between replacement value of the property purchased and the value of the development rights Forest City Ratner would gain.

Affordable housing

Louis points to "fellow Brooklynites desperate for the 2,000-plus units of affordable housing that the development would provide."

First, only half of the subsidized housing units would be reserved for Brooklynites (residents of the three adjacent Community Districts). The rest would be distributed via an open lottery.

Second, only 900 of the 2250 affordable housing units would be available to those at the Brooklyn median income--and that unnerved many of the attendees at an affordable housing information session last year.

Third, the development would not "provide" the housing; substantial government subsidies are necessary. Such subsidies--a limited pool--could be deployed elsewhere.

And fourth, while the project is scheduled to take ten years, even landscape designer Laurie Olin says it could take 20 years, which means that the benefit of subsidized housing could come--if ever--long after Forest City Ratner sells a significant slice of luxury condos and reaps millions from luxury suites at the arena and arena naming rights, sponsorship deals, and advertising on the building.

Junk lawsuit?

After noting the lack of smoking-gun evidence, Louis concludes:
No wonder two of the original 13 plaintiffs in the lawsuit recently pulled out, and four more reportedly are considering settling with Ratner.

The appeals judges would do us all a favor by tossing this junk lawsuit out of court.


First, the plaintiffs leaving the lawsuit are residential tenants, as are the other four mentioned, and they're settling because they're in the most precarious position, without rent-regulated leases.

And if it really were a "junk lawsuit," why did U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy write that the case "raises serious and difficult questions regarding the exercise of eminent domain under emerging Supreme Court jurisprudence"?

1 comment:

  1. The best way to create more housing for everyone is to get government out of the way.

    Fill up the Atlantic Yards with market-rate real estate and get out of the way as more and more people with higher incomes seek homes in Brooklyn.

    The large influx of affluent residents will provide the revenue base to assist the less affluent. People with little money can't support others who have no money.

    ReplyDelete