Friday, February 27, 2009

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.

5 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.

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  5. Bobbo should sign his name Bob Windrem.

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