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Lawyer for footprint owners says ESDC effort to move tenants is premature

I wrote Wednesday that tenants and property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint have received letters from the law firm Berger & Webb, which represents the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) in its pursuit of eminent domain, telling them it'll be time to move soon.

Attorney Michael Rikon, who represents some footprint property owners, sent a letter of complaint to the ESDC, saying the process shouldn't begin until eminent domain is completed:
My client forwarded a copy of a letter dated June 26, 2009 in which you inform that the New York State Urban Development Corporation relocation consultant, Cornerstone Group Real Estate Services will start conducting initial visits with each occupant in the effected business buildings. Please be advised that no one is permitted to enter the premises to speak to any tenant on the property with respect to relocation until title has vested. We will view any such visit as trespass and further as an “affirmative value depressing act.” No relocation effort may begin or contact with the tenant with respect to relocation until title vests.

In a comment to me, Rikon added, "ESDC has absolutely no right to talk to tenants about relocation before it acquires title. This is totally improper as it invariably leads to tenants vacating and often not paying rent. Cornerstone is only doing what they were instructed, but have been informed by me that they may not speak to anyone in the properties that we represent."

ESDC response: not sure

I asked the ESDC what the rule was, and whether Cornerstone would continue with such visits or pull back. The answer was that they're not sure.

Spokesman Warner Johnston responded:
We are evaluating the situation to determine how to proceed. By contacting residents and offering assistance, we are doing what the law requires us to do, while making every effort to minimize the disruption of peoples' lives by assessing their relocation needs and providing assistance to those residents who will be displaced by the condemnation.


  1. Besides being premature, the ESDC relocation program is unlawful. The UDC Act requires ESDC to provide comparable and affordable housing to displaced residential tenants, not to provide real estate brokerage services. That's a big difference, especially down the road when it turns out there are no Rent Stabilized apartments in the neighborhood at $500/month. Also, where are the leases for an apartment in the new Atlantic Yards? By statute, it's supposed to be part of the package. Curious that the easiest part of relocation hasn't been done already. Where's that affordable housing, Bruce?


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