Saturday, April 24, 2010

Justice Gerges, "Atlantic Terminal," the ESDC's bad faith, and the side deals involved in "just compensation"

If anyone going to the hearing last Wednesday in Kings County Supreme Court thought Justice Abraham Gerges was going to look incisively into the Atlantic Yards condemnation case, there was a small but telling reason for doubt even before the hearing started.

Gerges referred to the case not as Atlantic Yards but Atlantic Terminal, just as he had at a 1/29/10 hearing in which those facing condemnation attempted to block it.

Atlantic Terminal refers to (take your pick) a longstanding urban renewal area (of which the Atlantic Yards site contains a part), a train terminal, and a mall, not a complicated and controversial development project.

Gerges's goal, apparently, was to ensure that the condemnation case was resolved that day, with no more expenditure of judicial resources nor the bad publicity of an actual eviction.

"Just compensation"

An appraiser working for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had made Goldstein a lowball offer of $510,000 for an apartment he bought for $590,000 and likely worth double that; to add insult to injury, four of the five alternative condos shown by an ESDC consultant were from a lawsuit-plagued development.

Thus Goldstein and his attorney had a good case for bad faith on the part of the ESDC. That, apparently, was not to gain ground before Gerges.

Rather, the judge told the parties to hammer out a settlement. Goldstein stated:
So instead of being evicted in about 27 days and then being forced to go to court to hope to get close to fair market value for my home (as opposed to the extremely lowball "just compensation" offered to me by New York State, which was nowhere near fair market value), I agreed to leave in about 17 days. That agreement to leave ten days sooner avoids further litigation over "just compensation," which would have cost me more time and money while accomplishing nothing for the fight against the project.
The $3 million, as noted, resulted in Goldstein taking home roughly double the value of a replacement apartment and saved the developer millions of dollars.

Gerges also allowed an eminent domain settlement--supposedly geared to "just compensation"--to encompass side deals.

The settlement includes not just Goldstein's withdrawal from a pending lawsuit and other litigation, but his agreement to no longer serve as Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman (a position he likely was ready to leave) but also to no longer “actively oppose the project," a vague term that seems unenforceable.

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