Sunday, December 23, 2007

Still waiting for Madden; decision on AY environmental challenge lingers

Two major Atlantic Yards legal cases remain pending and in one the decision has been delayed far longer than expected. The challenge to the environmental impact statement was heard on May 3, and state Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden indicated she would try to rule promptly.

Then again, the voluminous legal record stretches more than 25,000 pages, so that's a formidable challenge. In mid-July, Madden issued a memo (the first "Waiting for Madden") that stated she expected to have a decision in September.

The case has lingered for three months more, undoubtedly causing nervousness on both sides. I don't think we can read anything into the delay other than that it's a complicated case and the judge is trying to rule carefully.

On the one hand, such challenges to environmental review rarely succeed. On the other, Madden did express skepticism regarding the state's assertions of "blight" and whether the project is actually a "civic project."

A successful suit might block the project entirely--even as Forest City Ratner has sunk significant sums into pre-construction demolition and railyard work--or require a revision of the environmental review, which could delay and change the project.

Also pending is a decision from a federal appeals court, after a hearing in October, regarding an appeal of the dismissal of the Atlantic Yards eminent domain challenge.

AY failing?

Last Thursday, under the headline Atlantic Yards Seems To Be Failing, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn wrote:
[W]e see a stalled project: infrastructure activity is occurring in the Ratner-selected footprint, and demolition has taken place on some of the buildings the developer owns, but there appears to be a lot of soil pushing and dirt shifting on the rail yards. As of today, the construction of the project hasn't moved forward, and cannot move forward.

One year after political approval, and the project seems to be failing. The project is stale. And the markets don't look promising for the overly-dense behemoth.


Well, the project certainly has been delayed, markets fluctuate, and resolution of the legal cases is necessary for construction.

Atlantic Yards may be troubled, but that's not proof that it's failing; rather, Forest City Ratner and the state are calculating that they can move forward as far as they have under the expectation that they will prevail in the lawsuits.

In the next several months, we should discover the wisdom of that calculation.

2 comments:

  1. I don’t know whether this is part of the law suit or something Madden is considering but I am wondering whether the gag-order, non-disclosure, tout-for-the-project agreements that Ratner obtained in conjunction with buying proposed project site land under threat of eminent domain irredeemably tainted the otherwise deficient environmental review process. Under what may be considered illegal duress, Ratner collected agreements, in likely violation of public policy, that required members of the public to:

    1. Testify in favor of the project at the public hearings.
    2. Limit what they could say about the megadevelopment.
    3. Report information to Ratner about the activities of the public opposition.
    4. Withdraw from groups and organizations opposing the megadevelopment.
    5. Not assist, fund or coordinate with entities opposing the megadevelopment.
    6. Promulgate Ratner-scripted statements to the media covering the megadevelopment in lieu of their own honest sentiments or knowledge of facts.
    7. Designate others to speak on their behalf in favor of the megadevelopment irrespective of what they, themselves, would have said or testified.
    8. Eliminate all their expressions of opposition to the megadevelopment including all their writings and any banners.
    9. NOT take actions in opposition to the megadevelopment including NOT:
    a. Sign petitions
    b. March
    c. Rally
    d. Testify against the megadevelopment
    e. Demonstrate against the megadevelopment

    If a substantial segment of the better informed Brooklyn and local public was so constrained by such questionable agreements obtained by such questionable means how was the process of obtaining testimony from the public not irredeemably tainted?-

    ReplyDelete
  2. An additional comment on these gag-order, non-disclosure, tout-for-the-project agreements- Such agreements have only materialized recently with the new private-sector-propelled world of eminent domain abuse. In the old days when eminent domain was a process conducted through a government negotiation process according to an old time practitioner, “There were no gag orders because the government did all the acquisition and did not rely on the developer at all.” And, had the government sought to get such gag orders they would more likely have been held to be unconstitutional and/or void as against public policy precisely because they would have been obscuring a government process and would have been using government power to silence free speech.

    The results from having the private the private sector tale over these activities are of course worse and ought also to be voided as against public policy.

    (The SEQRA law of course did not anticipate this corruption of process.)

    ReplyDelete