Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Court of Appeals denies appeal in EIS case; no effort to engage Justice Catterson's fiery concurrence criticizing ESDC's Blight Study

In a decision announced today, the state Court of Appeals denied without comment a motion to appeal the challenge to the Atlantic Yards environmental review. It was another blow to Atlantic Yards opponents, who nonetheless cited new pending suits challenging the project.

The challenge to the environmental impact statement (EIS) was dismissed first at the trial court level and then by the Appellate Division, with Justice James Catterson writing a concurrence that had the tone of a dissent, slamming the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) "for being used as a tool of the developer to displace and destroy neighborhoods that are ‘underutilized'."

While Catterson said his hands were tied, the petitioners hoped to leverage his dismay at the limits of the law to get the state's highest court to look at the "ESDC’s obligations under SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act], the standard of review of a blight determination and legal ability of ESDC to lease a civic project to a for-profit entity under the UDCA [Urban Development Corporation Act]."

Multiple petitioners

The case, organized and funded by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), involved 25 co-petitioners, including the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, New York Public Interest Research Group/Straphangers, the Sierra Club, the Crown Heights North Association, the Fort Greene Association, and Park Slope Neighbors.

Issues bypassed

In choosing not to accept the case, the Court of Appeals chose not to engage with claims regarding consultant AKRF's misrepresentations of crime data and the failure to analyze real estate rents and values, as was requested in the original contract with AKRF.

Here's more on the legal argument.

DDDB statement

DDDB's Daniel Goldstein said:
The environmental review was a sham process and a rubberstamp. It did not accurately or adequately evaluate the environmental impacts.

The appeal we were asking the Court of Appeals to take, in the end, was about whether or not he blight study and finding was arbitrary and capricious. In our view it was.

The blight finding has always been bogus and a pretext. The state did not determine this site, hand drawn by Ratner, to be blighted until 3 years after the project was announced. The bulk of the site had never ever been called blighted through ten amendments to ATURA--it is actually some of the most expensive real estate in Brooklyn. The state lied about crime statistics and lied about conditions on the site. These factors combined are the definition of arbitrary. The site is not blighted and never was, and it is a disgrace that that determination stands.

Now we turn to two other suits the community has brought, including that the State must do a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement because the project has changed so much. And the plaintiffs on the eminent domain suit will litigate every step of the way to stop New York State from stealing their homes and businesses.

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