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Rejected again! Ratner wins yet another big court case

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Opponents of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-project vowed to take their fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court hours after a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the developer on Friday morning.

A three-judge federal Court of Appeals panel threw out the opponents’ case arguing that the state broke the law when it condemned privately owned properties and turn them over to Ratner.

Such eminent domain takings are legal, the Supreme Court has ruled, provided that the state is condemning private property for a demonstrable public gain.

Project opponents argued last fall that a publicly financed basketball arena that will largely benefit a private developer was not the kind of “public benefit” required under eminent domain law.

But this week, the appeals panel declined to weigh in on that specific argument.

“Federal judges may not intervene in such matters simply on the basis of our sympathies,” the court wrote. “Just as eminent domain has its costs, it has its benefits.”

Matthew Brinckerhoff, who represented the plaintiffs, said he was “certainly disappointed” by the ruling.

“We believe the decision is wrong,” he added, vowing that he will bring the case to the Supreme Court “to re-examine the use of eminent domain.”

“This case is all about [the state’s] ability to forcibly take my client’s property,” he said.

He also said he would re-file the case in state court because the federal courts have consistently declined to take up the substantive issue in the case, preferring to rule on jurisdictional grounds.

Ratner praised the decision, his second major court win in as many months.

“Atlantic Yards will bring thousands of affordable homes and needed jobs to Brooklyn,” he said in a statement. “We believe, and the courts have repeatedly agreed, that these are real benefits that will have a significantly positive impact on the borough and the city.”

In the other highly watched decision, a state judge ruled last month that the Empire State Development Corporation’s environmental review of the mega-project was legally sufficient.

That decision is also being appealed.

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Reader Feedback

Frank from bronx says:
The problem is, developers are extremely powerful people and the money they make from doing this is so great that nobody is safe from them or abuse of eminent domain to enrich them.

Like everybody, I can support eminent domain being used IN RARE SITUATIONS to say, expand a highway from four lanes to six or eight, or the like, something that EVERYONE would use. But many people could not care less about these special interests like athletic and other arenas are FOR PROFIT establishments. Many people have never been to these games and never will.

Bluntly, owners should be allowed to sell or not sell as they like. If any developer really wants to buy somewhere and has to pay the owners of the houses two or three times what it would cost to buy a nicer house somewhere else, SO BE IT. Thats America. Deal with it. I doubt if it puts much of a crimp in THEIR style.

But for a family to be FORCED out, or being offered MUCH LESS than several times replacement cost (dont forget the cost of moving in so many ways) Often eminent domain forces people out and pays much less than its worth. Typically they lose a house they will never be able to afford again, If they move, they often get an increased tax assessment, (which can make living in NYC suddenly unaffordable for middle class people) is just another nail in the coffin of a NYC where old and young, rich and poor live together. NYC is swiftly becoming a parody of itself, an amusement park for the wealthy. That will be a tragedy for lots of people. There is no other place like it and when its gone, people driven away by the high rents, there wont be another.

By the way, I do NOT support the misuse of deceptively worded anti-eminent-domain legislation to eliminate rent stabilization laws, as the real estate industry is trying to do in California. In my opinion, rent stabilization laws are necessary in a predatory real estate environment as we have.
Feb. 1, 2008, 11:58 pm

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