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Daily News pokes at Lipsky contradiction on eminent domain; also, FCR may have hired him for youth sports, but he's been a zealous advocate

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg yesterday took a swipe at lobbyist Richard Lipsky for some seeming inconsistency: vigorous advocacy against projects involving eminent domain like Willets Point and Columbia University, while working for Bruce Ratner on Atlantic Yards.

Lisberg writes:
At the same time, though, developer Bruce Ratner's companies are paying Lipsky $3,500 a month for "information and advice" on Atlantic Yards, the controversial project to bring apartments and the Nets basketball team to Brooklyn.

The first phase of Atlantic Yards alone required the state to condemn 15 privately owned properties.

Eminent domain allows government to seize a private owner's property to serve the greater public good — if you consider a basketball stadium or a shopping center to be a public good.

Lipsky said he's usually against it, but the Nets arena and its benefits for neighborhood kids make it worthwhile in Brooklyn.

"I don't have an absolute position on [eminent domain] but I do have a strong disposition against it," Lipsky said. "It takes a lot to push me in that direction."

He also said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts.

Of course, Ratner could have hired him to work for Atlantic Yards just so the opponents couldn’t hire him to work against it.

"That's true," Lipsky acknowledged. "You'd have to ask them why they hired me."

An Atlantic Yards spokesman said Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs.
What Lipsky's argued: CBA

If Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs, he sure hasn't let that stop him from extolling Atlantic Yards for multiple reasons.

He wrote in July 2009:
A truly empowering CBA [Community Benefits Agreement] is a phenomenon that has yet to be seen in the Bronx-or any where else in NYC-with Atlantic Yards, in our view, being the major exception.
A major exception? None of the empowered CBA signatories ever raised a peep about the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor.

What Lipsky's argued: economic benefits

He wrote in September 2008:
We can only hope so, since the arena and the team would be a huge boost, not only for the city, but for the thousands of young people that are playing ball in Brooklyn harboring the dream of playing professionally. It will be inspiring for these youngsters, and the Nets will be partnering with the amateur sports groups in the borough to channel the dreams into constructive directions for those majority of young people whose dreams are not commensurate with professional talent.

At the same time, the project will be a big economic boost for the city at a time when the both the mayor and the governor are looking to raise taxes to cover revenue shortfalls; but it hasn't been easy for FCRC (also our client)...

There are those who have criticized us for alleged inconsistency over the issue of eminent domain because of our opposition to the efforts of Columbia. That being said, the two projects substantially differ in regards to their relationship to the public interest. Forest City's going to build thousands of affordable housing units, while Columbia resists doing anything substantive for the West Harlem community-and this is without factoring in the economic and social boost that the Nets relocation will bring to Brooklyn.
Lipsky should know that it's highly questionable that the project would be a big economic boost; the studies on which the city and state relied have enormous holes.

As for the promises of affordable housing, Forest City's not going to build the units until they get subsidies, and even the first building's delayed.

What Lipsky's argued: Brooklyn Day

He wrote in June 2008:
We've always maintained that the AY project, on balance, has much good to offer Brooklyn and the rest of the city, but as the critics point out, we're paid to say that. So don't take our word for it, listen the the kids and the amateur athletic teams that turned out on Brooklyn Day to trumpet the Nets coming to the city-they know what kind of excitement and support the team will bring to the youngsters; and we still haven't touched on the housing which will follow the team's entrance.
Brooklyn Day was not exactly a day of excitement--it was an event ginned up by Forest City Ratner. But maybe Lipsky sees his Brooklyn Day advocacy as connected to youth sports programs.

Lipsky's reponse

Today, Lipsky writes:
Now, we dealt with this issue six years ago-emphasizing the importance of the Nets coming to Brooklyn:

"From the Alliance's perspective the most salient reason to join hands with FCRC, Build and Acorn is the bringing of the Nets to Brooklyn with a brand new arena. When the Alliance's Richard Lipsky was an up and comer plying his basketball wares all over the city, Brooklyn was a mecca for all BBall pilgrims. It still is, and the love for the game is beyond what even we would have imagined when we first began to evaluate the AY proposal.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to galvanize the entire borough and the team and its ownership is going to play a major role in working along with the youth leaders of Brooklyn in their tireless and unacknowledged efforts on behalf of the kids. That is why the support has been so unequivocal from these community folks."

A position that we reiterated when we talked with Lisberg
Except his position is well beyond sports.

Shady deal?

Lipsky adds:
But what Lisberg misses here-and should pursue in our view-is that our representation of WPU has always been straightforward and above board. The proponents of this massive boondoggle, however, have been underhanded from the start-improperly hiring Claire Shulman's local development corporation to engage in a successful lobbying of the city council when such advocacy is proscribed by law.

Lisberg and his Albany colleagues should be asking the NYS Attorney General, what is the status of the investigation into the Shulman matter?
That's a fair question, and it should extend to the investigation of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and its Atlantic Yards lobbying, as well.

The bottom line

Lipsky, however, misses the connection between high-profile cases, writing last October:
There is simply no way, in our view, that the confiscation of private property in West Harlem has anything to do with a public use-and the plan was hatched in the bowels of CU and emerged fully grown somehow as a state initiative-call it legerdemain.
Lipsky may think that the Columbia and East Harlem cases he's criticized are somehow different from Atlantic Yards, but that's not what the experts say.

Last month, I listened to some law professors discuss the state of eminent domain in New York. (I'll have more details in a bit.) There was an enormous amount of criticism of the doctrine laid down in the Atlantic Yards case, which essentially gives condemning agencies carte blanche.


  1. Lipsky "said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts."

    Really? Here is an example of Lipsky only working on youth sports efforts programs (as NoLandGrab's Eric McClure keeps making clear, it's all about the kid$$$$). Lipsky wrote:

    "Goldstein also told the paper that a size reduction alone would not halt the "my way or the highway"opposition to the project. Even the linchpin of the development for so many in Brooklyn-the team and the arena- is something that this misanthrope wants to disappear. Which means that the best thing that could happen to Brooklyn would be for Goldstein to disappear from the footprint of the borough.

    His opposition to the arena, something we are going to advertise far and wide throughout the borough, means that there are now thousands of newly minted volunteers who will be delighted to man the bulldozer when the legal green flag is waived to demolish this obstructionist's abode. He has now gone from being a legitimate critic to just some self-serving crank and a pest."

    Youth sports efforts — yeah right. I guess the threats and character assassination were just freebies Lipsky thought he'd give to Ratner.


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