Skip to main content

Beyond the eminent domain case, other lawsuits looming against ESDC and MTA, but can they have any impact?

Many people believe that the pending eminent domain case, to be heard in the Court of Appeals on October 14 after being rejected at the trial court and appellate court levels, is the only piece of litigation that can stop Atlantic Yards from going forward.

That may be so, and that case has to be considered an uphill battle for the plaintiffs. Both the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner have expressed confidence about success in the case.

Still, the willingness of the Court of Appeals to accept a case unanimously dismissed at the appellate division suggests that the court recognizes it needs to at least clarify whether the state constitution restricts eminent domain more than does the federal constitution. (On Monday, I'll have a preview of the legal arguments.)

And, if the court upholds the defendants, the ESDC apparently intends to pursue eminent domain even as other cases proceed.

More litigation

Meanwhile, one other appeal is still in play and three other cases should be filed soon, both by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (and allies) and the BrooklynSpeaks coalition. News of the latter's suit surfaced yesterday.

While these lawsuits may not be able to stop the project formally, they might raise sufficient questions to affect the financing of the arena. More likely, they would at least shine some light on the process behind some questionable decisions by the ESDC and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

The lingering EIS case

The coalition that challenged the project's environmental review, led by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), has asked the Court of Appeals to hear an appeal. A decision is expected later this month.

The appeal was filed after the case was dismissed at the trial and appellate court levels. While the latter decision was unanimous, Justice James Catterson filed a concurrence that read like a dissent, giving some ammunition to the appellants.

New cases from DDDB

DDDB is still raising money, not only for the above two cases, but for two additional cases, likely to be filed in partnership with other organizations.

"In the next few weeks we plan on bringing 2 or 3 new lawsuits against Atlantic Yards to help stop it once and for all," DDDB said in a handout Sunday at the Atlantic Antic. Hence the fifth annual Walk Don't Destroy walkathon on October 17.

One case will challenge the ESDC's unwillingness to issue a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The ESDC has said an SEIS wasn't necessary.

The other case will challenge the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's decision in June to revise the Vanderbilt Yard deal on terms more favorable to Forest City Ratner.

The suits should be filed within the next week.

Possible impact?

But can the suits slow or stop the project and/or the pursuit of eminent domain?

"First, we will file these suits because we believe the involved agencies have violated the law," DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said. "The involved agencies should not allow the project to go forward until these serious issues are resolved. Where applicable we will be seeking an injunction on the project."

"As to whether the suits could slow or stop the project, or slow or stop the ESDC from stealing properties by eminent domain, we'll have to see about that," he said. "Our goal is to hold these agencies accountable and to win these suits."

Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss was more cautious. Regarding the SEIS suit, he told me, "That certainly can result in delay if the court finds that an SEIS is necessary, but it’s really procedural, and I can’t imagine that the lawsuit can stop the project for good.”

What about the MTA lawsuit? "Generally, courts give broad discretion to the judgments of the board of an entity like the MTA," he said. "In the absence of a finding of a breach of fiduciary duty, they will defer to that judgment."

The BrooklynSpeaks lawsuit

Yesterday the Courier-Life reported that the BrooklynSpeaks coalition, including at least the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), the Boerum Hill Association, and the Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC), would be filed, arguing that the ESDC approved the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGGP) last month without a SEIS to assess traffic impacts.

Interestingly, BrooklynSpeaks was formed in 2006 to pressure the developer and the state for changes to the project, and specifically to avoid litigation spearheaded by DDDB (and later the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, or CBN). The Courier-Life quoted PSCC President Ken Freeman: "It is with a heavy heart that we are forced to admit that nearly three years later, all our efforts have been in vain."

And why didn't BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB join forces? "We began preparations for a challenge to the MGPP approval several months ago, at a time when we were not aware of DDDB’s intention to file a similar suit," PHNDC's Gib Veconi told me. "We’re following through with those plans, while watching to see how their efforts unfold."

Local tensions?

The Courier-Life quoted Freeman:
"The PSCC has decided to sue to draw attention to the fact that even reasonable organizations who tried to work with the developer and the ESDC have been shut out and rejected."

I'm not sure whether he had air quotes around the word "reasonable;" surely, the groups in BrooklynSpeaks were considered more reasonable by project supporters such as Borough President Marty Markowitz. That doesn't make groups that have regularly pointed out flaws and deceptions in the project unreasonable.

Similarly, the Courier-Life quoted Veconi:
...the participation of the Park Slope Civic and other groups like the Pratt Area Community Council and Boerum Hill Association sends a message “that purposeful opposition to the project is not limited to a tiny group of people”

Does that imply that those behind and supporting DDDB and CBN are a "tiny group"? Veconi said no.

"The quote in the article regarding opposition to the project was taken out of context," he told me. "It was a reference to the Mayor’s remarks to the Brooklyn Paper a few weeks ago. I told the reporter that the Mayor and other project supporters could no longer claim that 'purposeful opposition to the project was limited to a tiny group of people.' I did not suggest that I agreed with the Mayor’s perception. Both CBN and DDDB have worked very hard organizing awareness and opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, and their efforts are recognized by all community advocates."

(The original quote from Bloomberg, an 8/25/09 article: “One of the great sins here is this small group of people stalled it so long [that] the economy is different.")


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…