Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Courier-Life, "Yards foes" find journalistic confusion

An odd exchange in the letters section of this week's Courier-Life chain leaves as a casualty some basic factual information about the latest Atlantic Yards eminent domain challenge.

The letter

In Stephen Witt’s article “Yards foes strike back again" paragraph 4 reads:
"The petition asked the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling backing the Empire State Development Corporation's findings and determination to seize property in the footprint of the project."
This is incorrect. The petition is for an entirely new legal challenge, it is not seeking to overturn any court decision at all. There was no lower court ruling backing the Empire State Development Corporation's findings. The suit, rather, is seeking to overturn the Empire State Development Corporations decision to use eminent domain to seize homes and businesses in the footprint of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan.
Also, paragraph 2 reads: "The reiteration came after opponents of the $4 billion project ... filed yet another legal petition trying to stop the project.
This is incorrect.
Home owners, business owners, residential tenants and commercial tenants (not "opponents") facing the prospect of NY State seizing their homes and businesses filed this lawsuit in order to stop NY State from seizing their homes and businesses not to "stop the project."

Daniel Goldstein
DDDB Spokesperson


The response

Stephen Witt Responds:
If this is a whole new case, unrelated to any other of the opponent's numerous cases, why was it filed in the Appellate (appeals court) Division of the New York State Supreme Court? On Jan. 11, 2008 NY State Supreme Court ruled against opponents in a case on environmental review procedures.
In this current Court of Appeals case, you are the lead petitioner. While you live in the footprint, the release on the new filing came from the vocal Atlantic Yards opponent organization, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, of which you are one of the founders and spokesperson.


The analysis

The eminent domain litigation, first filed in federal court but ultimately dismissed, leading to a successor case filed in state court, is unrelated to the case challenging the environmental review, which was filed in state court and remains under appeal.

Why was it filed in the Appellate Division rather than in the lower-level trial court? That's what state law requires. According to Article 2, §207 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law:
Judicial review. (A) Any person or persons jointly or severally, aggrieved by the condemnor's determination and findings made pursuant to section two hundred four of this article, may seek judicial review thereof by the appellate division of the supreme court...

As for whether "opponents... filed yet another legal petition trying to stop the project," Goldstein's technically right. However, Witt and others can point to intertwining motives; DDDB, while not a plaintiff, has organized and helped fund the eminent domain case. And people contributing to DDDB's legal fund are doing so not to help individual plaintiffs but rather to block or change the project.

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