Sunday, January 19, 2014

The fuzzy Atlantic Yards legacy: ex-judge Gerges, retired planner Hornick

Atlantic Yards may not be quite down the memory hole, but it played a cameo in two retirements. From PRWEB 11/29/13, The Dean of the Judiciary, Well Respected Judge Abraham Gerges, Joins Forces With
Honorable Justice Abraham Gerges brings more than two decades of involvement in trying and settling cases in the areas of complex commercial and condemnation disputes to His reputation in expediting cases towards fair and equitable settlements is legendary, serving the attorney-mediator portal with distinction and an eye on justice.
Former Justice of the New York State Supreme Court Abraham Gerges has over 100 published opinions in his area of expertise and presided full-time over New York City condemnation matters for eight years. He retired from the bench in December 2010. His ratio decidendi’s in cases are regularly cited during the course of other condemnation litigation across the U.S.
“My extensive experience on eminent domain and the process of condemnation has allowed me to successfully handle cases where property owners and the government cannot agree on a fair price to be paid for private property deemed to be required to benefit the public,” says Judge Gerges.
He adds that, “Although litigation in this area is highly technical, there are strict rules and guidelines that apply to the process of condemnation to make certain a private property owner is fairly and justly compensated. The balance of justice must prevail for both parties.”
Justice Gerges is highly experienced in litigated and negotiated eminent domain issues. All issues such as covenant enforcement, the scope and validity of easements, title questions and what relocation benefits the property owner may receive, are matters addressed in court or prior to court, by way of alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation. Should a case not be settled through mediation, the option exists to retain a condemnation trial lawyer.
Judge Gerges has delivered frequently cited opinions in various high profile cases such as Powell’s Cove Environmental Waterfront Parks, Barclays Center litigation, Exxon Mobil and the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards real estate development litigation. Those who have litigated in his courtroom find him to be “fair and even, without playing favorites.”
(Emphasis added)

In the Atlantic Yards litigation, he didn't challenge the status quo.

A planner's tangential AY role

An 11/29/13 article in the New York Times, Retirement Ends 4-Decade Career of Drafting Big Plans for New York City:
You have never heard of him, but he was a modern Robert Moses. As a strategic thinker for the Department of City Planning, under eight chairmen since 1975, Samuel Hornick was instrumental in a number of initiatives that have changed the face of New York.
If you are living in a loft, thinking of moving to Atlantic Center or Hudson Yards, taking advantage of the waterfront or on the front lines in preparing for climate change, chances are that Mr. Hornick, a whirlwind known universally as Sandy (even before the hurricane), was there first. “Sandy Hornick brings creativity, passion, erudition, and yes, humor, to the most thorny of planning challenges,” said Amanda M. Burden, the city’s planning commissioner. “Sandy is one of New York’s great secret treasures.”
Until he retired this month, Mr. Hornick, 64, presided over a legal apparatus that instructed developers where and how big they could build. He served as a consultant to the department after having been deputy executive director of strategic planning and zoning director. He was involved in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long-term PlaNYC, the waterfront plan, the affordable housing program, the city-financed extension of the No. 7 subway line to the Far West Side and the planning commission resolutions that rezoned more than one-third of the city’s land area under Mayor Bloomberg alone.
(Emphasis added)

Thinking of moving to Atlantic Center? There are a relative handful of row houses; the rest is a mall. Unless the author meant the area around Atlantic Terminal.

Some wisdom and debate:
“People will accept development more if it’s in keeping with the neighborhood in which they choose to live,” he said. “The challenge is how can we accommodate development and protect neighborhood character. The object is the best solution. It might not be ideal, it’s always imperfect — there’s not enough money, not enough knowledge about the future, there are different needs to be accommodated.
“Government is about deciding who gets what, how and when.”
Some critics say the solutions have fallen far short of perfection. “He was a dedicated civil servant and is an outstanding New Yorker whose policies I disagree with,” said his former teacher, Ronald Shiffman, a professor at Pratt Institute and co-founder of its Center for Community and Environmental Development.
Shiffman cited the department's resistance to maintaining manufacturing and to mandatory inclusionary housing, now a policy of the new mayor.

The AY future

The Times reported:
Is it frustrating to plan for changes that may not materialize for decades?
“The city changes slowly — in most places, physically, it’s going to look the same,” he said. “Hudson Yards, West Chelsea, Atlantic Yards will be built out. People will need to find more places to allow development as the supply of land gets smaller and price of land keeps going up.
“I won’t say there aren’t frustrations, but I like to think of myself as a pragmatist. There are so many things that have to be done. If we do two of them we’ll have done a lot. We’re doing two and a half. That’s not so bad.”
Hornick's right, and then he's not. As I wrote in July 2010, he discussed Atlantic Yards. "There were clearly some constituencies who chose never to participate in the process, to always oppose it," he said, "and there were other constituencies who chose to get something out of the process and may, if [it] really goes forward, may get all those commitments of affordable housing, and so on. But the nature of our process requires participation.

I thought his statement papered over the fact that the city's land use process was bypassed, and that those who opposed and criticized the project participated very much in the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) review of the project, in a far more substantive way than did project supporters.

Some constituencies got something out of a process, but it wasn't the process, because the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) resulted from a private agreement between Forest City Ratner and several community groups, most with no track record. That private agreement was concluded before the official ESDC process began, and it was used to justify an override of zoning for the developer.

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