Sunday, January 17, 2010

Atlantic Yards condemnation case postponed for six weeks (change in judges?); will streets close February 1?

Updated 11 am January 17.

The Atlantic Yards condemnation case, which was supposed to go to court on January 29, has now been postponed to March 17, with a change in judges from Abraham Gerges to Bert Bunyan.

Updated: Gerges was assumed to have been the judge, but a look at the record shows that he was never formally assigned.

Why? It's unclear, but one lawyer speculated that it may be because Gerges is ultimately stepping down and wanted to avoid presiding over a case that lingered--at least in the compensation phase--past his term.

I have a query in to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

Only after the March 17 hearing would the ESDC be able to take title to properties within the Atlantic Yards footprint. Usually there's little wiggle room to challenge a condemnation petition, but the lawyer for footprint property owner Daniel Goldstein (and perhaps others) said, "We will challenge the petition. It is defective in many respects."

Will streets close?

One pending question is whether streets planned for closure on or about February 1 will be closed as announced. It seems less likely.

Presumably that timing was tied to the (expected) transfer of title, given that the streets were among the properties to be condemned.

3 comments:

  1. A spontaneous change of judges and a 2-month adjournment raises my suspicions of improper intervention in the judicial process by an administrative judge. In my personal experience, such improper interventions do occur when the judiciary wants to do one of the parties a favor. Was there concern that Judge Gerges, known as sympathetic to condemnees, might rule for the project opponents, because he is retiring and no longer beholden? I hope that inquiries are made at the highest levels in the Office of Court Administration, and that complaints are filed if it smells like a fix. This is troubling but not surprising.

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  2. As updated, the change in judges may not have been spontaneous.

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  3. It is my understanding that Judge Gerges handled all of the eminent domain cases in Kings County. Based on this understanding, the case would have gone to Judge Gerges automatically. I suspect that an administrative judge interceded. The two-month adjournment is weird. What does the clerk of the court have to say, and the Office of Court Administration?

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