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The balance of power?

The Brooklyn Paper
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So much for checks and balances.

We are disappointed that the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by 11 slated-to-be-evicted property owners in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

While we sympathize with some of the arguments made by the plaintiffs in the case, Goldstein v. Pataki, our irritation with the High Court stems more from our belief in a fundamental American principal: each branch of government must balance the power of the other branches.

At its core, the issue in this case is New York State’s insistence that Bruce Ratner’s basketball arena, office and housing mega-project will bring about a “public benefit.” The declaration of such a “public benefit” enables the state to use its eminent domain power to seize the 11 properties from their owners and give them to Ratner.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that when states condemn private property for a public benefit, they do not violate the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

But in its most-recent ruling on such takings — the 2005 Kelo decision — the High Court declared that the “public benefit” cannot merely be a pretext for handing over one person’s land to another person.

In a word, the benefit must be real.

But who determines if the public actually benefits from a development? In its brief to the High Court, state officials said that only the state itself has the power to make that determination.

The 11 plaintiffs in Goldstein v. Pataki allege that a corrupt and cronyism-riddled Empire State Development Corporation simply used the pretext of public benefit to hand over properties so Ratner could make millions. Two federal courts have declined to examine this claim, saying that judges have no role in hearing challenges to a state’s determination that a project is a “public benefit.”

So, if a state agency says that a project is a “public benefit,” it is, de facto, a public benefit.

But what if the so-called “public benefit” isn’t a benefit at all?

At the very least, plaintiffs should be able to take their case to a presumably impartial judge who would be empowered to determine whether the state cooked up a “public benefit” merely to justify a land grab for a wholly private benefit.

The Empire State Development Corporation argues that judges have no business meddling with the back room dealings of state officials and the developers with whom they conspire — and the Supreme Court, in not taking up Goldstein v. Pataki, let this argument stand.

“The role of the judiciary in determining whether [eminent domain] power is being exercised for a public purpose is an extremely narrow one,” state lawyers wrote.

In other words, there are no checks and balances when eminent domain is involved.

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Reader Feedback

al pankin from downtown says:
how many words have been written about the atlantic yards project? the supreme court had the last word. that area has been a blight for over sixty years..it's time to do something. how long has daniel goldstein lived in brooklyn? I've been here all my life (67 years).I'm glad that the project will (shortly) move foward. it's about time.!
June 27, 2008, 8:24 am
Corey Martin from Ft. Greene says:
If the footprint of Atlantic Yards, with the rail yards, abandoned buildings, burnt out cars, junkyards and auto body shops is not "blighted" then I guess there is not such thing as "blighted". That's the bottom line. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn with their frivolous lawsuits are the very definition of NIMBY's. Does anyone honestly think they would be fighting Atlantic Yards if it were being built in East New York? Would this editorial board be fighting this project if it were East New York? This footprint has been a hole in the ground my entire life. It's time to build...period.
June 27, 2008, 9:05 am
Sam Pozner from Boerum Hill says:
How long must nonsense, such as Corey Martin's comment above about "abandoned buildings, burn out cars, junkyards and auto body shops is not "blighted" then I guess there is not such a thing as "blighted," persist. Mr. Martin, by promoting such an absurd myth you display that you have no idea what is "over there" or was "over there" before Ratner turned it into his personal test grounds, and you have no idea what New York State considers "blight." I guarantee you that under state law your home and your block can be considered "blighted" without review from any court. Which is the point of this completely on target editorial.

As for the project "moving forward" as Al Pankin writes above. Mr. Pankin should ask Mr. Ratner why the project hasn't moved forward, he has had the right to move forward with his project for close to two years now, but hasn't, presumably because it was never financially feasible. And who cares how long Daniel Goldstein has lived in Brooklyn, who cares about Daniel Goldstein (How long must one live in Brooklyn to availa oneself of one's rights, by the way?), the fight over Atlantic Yards both in court and out, is being waged by thousands and thousands of people, many of whom have lived in Brooklyn even longer than you, Mr. Pankin. And the fight is not about Daniel Goldstein. Anyway, their longevity, which outstrips yours, doesn't make your view invalid, even though by your logic it would.
June 27, 2008, 10:31 am
Corey Martin from Ft. Greene says:
Pozner, you're a NIMBY. By NIMBY I mean "not in my back yard" (I'm sure you know the definition). Again, I pose the same question to you...if Atlantic Yards were proposed for East New York, would you be against it? Let me put it another way...let's say Atlantic Yards were not in Brooklyn at all...not even New York. Let's say its in a land far far away and someone showed you two pictures (i) a picture of a massive hole in the ground surrounded by burnt out buildings, auto body shops and warehouses and (ii) a modern mixed used development on the same spot...which would you characterize as the better use of the property?
June 27, 2008, 12:04 pm
Sam Pozner from Boerum Hill says:
If a project and process as lame-brained and corrupt as Atlantic Yards was proposed anywhere, yes, i would be against it.

problem with your argument is that there is no "massive hole in the grond surrounded by burnt out buildings, auto body shops and warehousess"

so it is by definition a false argument.
June 27, 2008, 4:01 pm
Joe from PH says:
The Brooklyn Paper has exposed itself as a biased publication. For years the Brooklyn Paper has blaring headlines railing against the project or FCR. However, when the opposition is dealt a major blow by the Supreme Court it is minimal story in the editorial section. The opposition whole game plan was to have the Supreme Court accept the case and hear their argument. Well their day in US Supreme Court will not come to fruition. How come you did not choose this major defeat and fatal blow at stopping AY as your headline. Let's hear spin now Kuntzman.
June 27, 2008, 5:50 pm
Corey from Fort Greene says:
Pozner, why don't you go over to the Atlantic Center look out the window across Atlantic Avenue over to the rail yards and tell me what you see...if you don't see a hole in the ground you need to get glasses...
June 27, 2008, 8:03 pm
PJ from Williamsburg says:
The court's decision came at a good time. Now we just have to wait for the Nets. What do you guys think about the NBA draft? Brook Lopez in the first round was definately a good sign for the future in Brooklyn.
June 27, 2008, 10:49 pm
Sam Pozner from Boerum Hill says:
Corey, you talking about the active MTA/LIRR rail yard? Yes, that is called a below grade cut, used as a...rail yard. That is the rail yard that literally everyone would like to see developed. But note, this is an editorial about eminent domain, and for the rail yard to be developed eminent domain wouldn't be used, but for Atlantic Yards to be developed eminent domain would have to be used.

Rail yard trench in the ground, yes, hole in the ground with burnt out buildings, auto body shops and warehouses, nope.
June 28, 2008, 1:09 am
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
Nice try Corey and Joe, but give it a rest. You seem to be misinformed about a great many things ...

First of all, no amount of your crying is going to stop the people IN THIS SECTION OF BROOKLYN, to give up the fight.

Many people believe their rights, the rights of their community, and the Constitution are being trampled upon by the city and a private developer. This is not a crying game, so bring something more to the table than a misrepresentation and a strange emotional affection for a particular private developer.

Furthermore, the petitioners, the community, and the BROOKLYN PAPER are acting in the spirit of true Brooklynites, fighting for the rights of others, and for the American way. I doubt you even know what I am talking about, so let me school you ...

It doesn't matter how long you've lived in Brooklyn. I've lived here my whole life, but that isn't what makes me "from Brooklyn." In American, it's not where your from, but who you are and what you stand for. The Brooklyn Paper and petitioners in this case are certainly more Brooklyn than you. Furthermore, I don't know what section you were raised in, but IN THIS SECTION OF BROOKLYN, we don't let anyone step on us, and we certainly don't listen to people who don't know what the heck they are talking about. Save your breath.

Class over.
Charles
Bklyn
June 28, 2008, 3 am
Joe from PH says:
Charles, class is back in.
Your points are baseless. What you are saying is refuted by the courts. The opposition groups to AY have lost 19 or 20 court proceedings. They have one last shot with the NY State court which they will lose as well. So, if you are saying your rights are being violated then why have the courts ruled in favor of the defendant 19 or so times. You and all the opposition are way to emotionally attached to your opinions which do not reflect reality. Now class is over.

Joe
Prospect Heights
June 28, 2008, 1:26 pm
farmerBK from Brooklyn says:
Joe. You are buying into a bogus Forest City Ratner talking point. Also, if you think the courts are not political and/or corrupt, you are naive.
June 29, 2008, 12:17 am
Bob from Brooklyn Heights says:
the fate of ay lies not in the courts but in its economics. it's a bad project dependent on billions in public money. if the public won't kick in, the project won't happen (at least not on its envisioned grand scale). as for the hole in the ground — put it out for public bid and see how fast it gets developed. then, whatever bad stuff exists around it (side-by-side with million-dollar homes) will disappear. all without eminent domain.
June 29, 2008, 12:36 am
Joe from PH says:
Farmer,

I am completely aware the courts are political and corrupt. With that said, who runs this city? The democrats and liberal judges. So you get what you voted for, your part line.
June 29, 2008, 8:53 pm
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
Joe, I actually agree with you on your point about getting what we voted for, and the link between deomocratic politics and the NY courts is a serious problem in the city that needs resolution. Of course, the fix is probably an impossibility. Good point.

I would only reply to your "emotion" argument is that if this was your neighborhood, and you are the type of person that doesn't like being pushed around, you'd be emotional about it to. Some of our families have put everything into the surrounding neighborhoods of the Atlantic Yard developement, for many decades, and don't want to see it thrown away through corruption and unconstitutional behaviors facilitated by government. It's a bitter pill to swollow. My father worked for every dime he made, and yet Ratner can just get a billion of taxpayer dollars for a developement he couldn't pay for himself? I get mad just thinking about it. What about giving my dad a billion? He'd do a better job then Ratner and his metrotech resume.
In the end, of course, deserve got nothing to do with this.

June 30, 2008, 12:01 pm
Joe from PH says:
Charles,

This is my neighborhood. I live within a stones throw away from the Atlantic Yards. I just look upon this whole situation as a business deal. The politicians never stood up as took a stand. Politicians always try and play both sides of the issue. When that happens the community always loses. With that said, the residents of each of every district who feels they are affected by the AY project should then make note who was, and is their representative and vote them out. Each and everyone of them has failed miserably at their duties. To protect and preserve their communities interests and will.
June 30, 2008, 4:16 pm
Joe from PH says:
Excuse the poor grammar I am at work and posted the previous message quickly.
June 30, 2008, 4:19 pm
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
Grammer excused, and I will give you the last word, as your words hold much wisdom and state the truth of the matter. Thanks.
July 1, 2008, 1:06 pm

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