Skip to main content

Lawsuit coverage round-up: missing the story and, in most cases, the big picture

The most surprising thing about the coverage of yesterday's big appellate court decision rejecting the case challenging the AY environmental review is how little there is.

Missing the story in the first place

[Updated] Of the three big newspapers in New York City, only one covered it in print.

The New York Times's CityRoom blog headlined its brief post Legal Victory for Atlantic Yards Developer and, in what may be a first (in a Times story, as opposed to a Blogtalk roundup), actually linked to my coverage.

While the Times didn't think the story fit for print, it did cover two other legal disputes: a union hearing involving actor Jeremy Piven's exit from a play and a trial involving a Saks saleswoman charged with theft.

The Daily News story isn't online, but it's a three-sentence round-up, under the headline "Yards scores in court," in the NYMinute column. While the article mentions that "opponents... vowed to appeal," it says nothing about the misgivings expressed by the court and the fiery concurrence by one judge.

I don't know why the New York Post passed on the story, given that it has put far less important AY stories into print, especially when it has exclusives. Was it too complicated? Given that both Forest City Ratner and Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn issued press releases, some story would've been easy to slap together.

Missing the overall point

Most of the other coverage either simply indicated that the case was dismissed or called it a big win for developer Forest City Ratner or even--as the developer's press release suggested--a big win for the project.

While the dismissal does help the project move forward and the developer was a secondary defendant, the big winner was the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the state agency that was the main defendant and whose decisions, by law, must receive extreme deference from the court system.

In Newsday: Court tosses Atlantic Yards environmental lawsuit

On NY 1: Court Greenlights Atlantic Yards Review

In AM New York: Atlantic Yards wins legal victory

In Crain's: Atlantic Yards developer wins key legal victory

In the Brooklyn Paper: Breaking news! Ratner wins a big Yards case

In the Record of New Jersey: Nets' Brooklyn move clears hurdle

On WNYC: Court Tosses Atlantic Yards Environmental Lawsuit

Getting closer to the point

Three articles, I'd suggest, get closer to the complexity.

The New York Law Journal: Concerns 'Legitimate' But Project Proceeds

The New York Observer: Ratner Wins Another Round in Legal Fight Over Atlantic Yards

AYR: Appellate court, despite some misgivings, dismisses EIS case; one judge concurs but slams blight study, says his hands were tied

Something's wrong

While it is important to point out how the decision helps the project proceed, the court ruling and surprisingly bitter concurrence indicate that something's wrong.

Concurring Justice James Catterson believes that the Empire State Development Corporation's blight study was in many ways bogus, calling one argument "ludicrous."

And the main opinion, upholding the blight study, made no attempt to assess whether it was arbitrary for the state to call a lot built to 60% of its allowable development rights as underutilized.

Nor did those justices acknowledge, as Catterson did, that the original contract for a Blight Study required consultant AKRF to study market trends in and around the project site, but AKRF did not do so.

So, when Bruce Ratner says, “This project has been reviewed as thoroughly as any in the city and now it is time to put these cases behind us and get to work,” not only should it be pointed out--as NLG did--that nobody's getting to work just yet, but also that a formal and apparently extensive review by the unelected ESDC does not mean a truly thorough review.

Comments

  1. They're not missing the point. YOU are. The decision was unanimous. You know what that means--getting the Court of Appeals to accept an appeal becomes problematic, at best. Even you admit the other case is even more of a long shot...and to say they're unrelated is a joke.

    You know continuing to offer up straw men to your readers only to have them fall, one after another, doesn't help your credibility.

    And when the mayor issues a statement of support, that SHOULD help you understand that the city really wants this to go ahead. As it turns out, you once again miss the point: the economic crisis could help get this moving.

    You may of course carry on.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bobbo... better at snark than at reading.

    ReplyDelete
  3. after reading some of the articles i am struck by the :

    blight is more facilitative than restrictive

    statement in the decision.

    i am sure the justices gritted their teeth in writing this one. it is distressing that the meaning has been inverted by opportunistic politicians and they feel their hands are tied.

    ReplyDelete
  4. the meaning of this ruling is that the system is broken.

    when the courts say that the process basically stinks to high heaven, but they can't do anything about so the politicians should, and the politicians don't even attempt to smell the stink, then there is nowhere in the our branches system of government for our citizens to turn to.

    the judges could just have easily ruled for the petitioners under the law, as they did for the respondents. one needs to wonder why they chose the respondents, when legally they could have gone either way. would any honest observer been surprised if the court had said that the ESDC failed the "rational basis" test? doubtful.

    the narrow view Bobbo champions misses the larger issues, as the piece explains, which are of great import to development, democracy and justice in New York State. But no matter, at least he may get his Nets in Brooklyn, as long as the ESDC continues to allow themselves to be Forest City Ratner's tool, as per Judge Catterson.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bobbo should sign his name Bob Windrem.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.