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On Brian Lehrer Show, DDDB's Goldstein points to Paterson, but the governor hasn't spoken out on his AY pledge

So, maybe it's up to Gov. David Paterson now.

At about 16:30 of yesterday's Brian Lehrer segment, Recent Developments, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein was the guest. He said that, while legal strategies remain, only Paterson can stop the planned "master closing" of contracts regarding Atlantic Yards scheduled for next week.

And Paterson, who on December 1 made a public pledge to conduct a further inquiry into Atlantic Yards, has not made a statement since, with queries to his aides coming up blank.



AY in context

During the segment, Lehrer asked if the failure of a redevelopment plan involving the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx had any relationship to the Atlantic Yards fight.

Goldstein said a number of development fights around the city are related, but the big difference is that this one, unlike AY, went through the City Council, where the elected officials could use leverage.

The Columbia case

Lehrer asked if an appellate court's rejection of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion could help Atlantic Yards plaintiffs go back to court.

"The substantive issues in their case and our case are the same, when it comes to the state finding blight for a site chosen by a developer or a university, the state finding blight years after a developer says they want to do a project," Goldstein said. "The judge talked about... the folly of underutilization as the criteria" for blight.

And, he noted, AKRF, the consultant "paid to find that blight, who was excoriated in the Columbia decision," also worked on the Atlantic Yards case.

"We have filed a motion for re-argument… and asked them to hold a decision on that motion until they come down on the Columbia case," he said. "We can't have the Court of Appeals have contradictory opinions on what blight means in New York State and how much deference is paid to state agencies."

WNYC reporter Matthew Schuerman, however, cautioned that, while the result in the Columbia case was 3-2 to overturn the ESDC's decision, the decision was more like 2-1-2, with two judges slamming the ESDC and a third judge who ruled on technical grounds.

"The Court of Appeals can rule in any number of ways," Goldstein said, "but we hope that they'll rule on the affirmative in the big issues of basically bogus blight being used to justify eminent domain." The court, however, could uphold the Columbia decision without weighing in on blight.

The end of the road?

Citing a series of losses in court, Lehrer asked, "What’s the end of the road?"

"When the legal avenues are extinguished, that's the end of the road maybe," Goldstein suggested. "I think there's a political solution to be had in the coming weeks."

He cited Paterson's pledge but said that "won’t mean anything if he doesn’t intervene to stop what appears to be an imminent closing... and imminent start of the process to take people's homes."

"The governor needs to decide if this project, which today appears to be an arena, maybe a building or two, plus acres of parking lots..… if that’s what he bargained for," Goldstein said.

Of course the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency in charge of AY, says the project would be built eventually, even if there are delays. So Paterson would have to look into and essentially overrule a department--and project--he probably hasn't looked at closely.

Who's in charge?

In other words, a lawyer named Steve Matlin and an urban planner named Rachel Shatz are the state employees in charge of the project--they appeared at a public forum in July. (They report to Peter Davidson and ultimately to Dennis Mullen.)

And outside lawyers for Forest City Ratner are probably drafting many of the documents.

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