Lawyers: Yards neighbors will enjoy decades of blight

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State officials condemned Prospect Heights to 21 years of upheaval by ignoring the implications of giving Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner more time to build his mega-development when they renegotiated their deal with the builder last summer, project opponents alleged in court on Tuesday.

Lawyers from a broad coalition of Atlantic Yards opponents made their argument in state Supreme Court in what is the final major case against the Empire State Development Corporation, the quasi-public agency supervising the project.

The plaintiffs’ main argument centered on Ratner’s extended buildout for his 16-skyscraper residential, retail and arena project, which was originally supposed to be done by 2016.

The terms of the summer renegotiation allow Ratner to complete the project by 2031 — yet the state did not conduct a new environmental review to determine if such a long buildout would have dire consequences for the neighborhood.

“When all you’re likely to get is an arena and maybe one or two buildings, you have to change your analysis,” said Jeffrey Baker, the attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, an opposition group.

Lawyers for the ESDC and Ratner insisted that their new timetable for completing the project did not affect their previous environmental analysis from 2006.

“There is nothing that a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement would provide that we don’t already have,” said ESDC lawyer Philip Karmel. “It would not yield significant new information.”

Baker’s legal co-conspirator, Albert Butzel, who represented Brooklyn Speaks, chose a different method of attack, focusing on the consequences of the extended amount of construction.

“In this case, the worst-case scenario is not the completion of the project, it is how long the construction will last,” he said, claiming that the summertime renegotiation actually gives Ratner until 2033 to pay for the land on which he hopes to build.

Justice Marcy Friedman pledged to decide the case on an “expedited basis” — a likely reference to impending condemnation proceedings that will allow Ratner to demolish several key buildings in the project footprint. Fans of Freddy’s Bar, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, say they will violently resist the bar’s eviction.

In the last few months, Atlantic Yards opponents have watched Ratner and the ESDC overcome numerous obstacles on the way to finally commencing construction of the Barclays Arena, which will house the Brooklyn Nets and is the centerpiece of a larger project that remains very much in flux due to the economy.

Last week, the developer announced it would be permanently closing several roads around the arena footprint in February. And late last month, a state court shot down another lawsuit alleging that the MTA improperly renegotiated the sale of its Vanderbilt railyard last year to Ratner.

And also last month, Ratner sold $511 million in tax-free bonds for his basketball arena — roughly half the money needed to build it.

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Reader Feedback

Norman Oder says:
The BP reports: "Baker’s legal co-conspirator, Albert Butzel, who represented Brooklyn Speaks, chose a different method of attack, focusing on the consequences of the extended amount of construction."

Butzel and Baker filed separate but similar cases on behalf of different plaintiffs, and those cases were later consolidated. They were not co-conspirators in the sense of planning together.

As for different methods of attack, they essentially divided up different aspects of the same case.

More here
Jan. 20, 2010, 6:43 am
Paul from Park Slope says:
The reporter makes the usual mistake of saying "the developer" or "Ratner" did something like close streets or sell bonds. Legally, it's the ESDC that's supposed to be doing that, but in this case it's so obvious that Ratner is running the show that it is a central part of the lawsuit. The ESDC denied it and said they were managing this project carefully and holding the developer accountable, and they can prove it because they have a contract...for the whole last 29 days! That's right, they only signed a development contract on December 23, 2009!
If the Feds think Ridge Hill in Yonkers stinks they should have a whiff of the cheesecake Markowitz is shilling with Atlantic Yards!
Jan. 20, 2010, 4:13 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
I hope the defense attorney said,"And we would've had this thing completed if it was not for you meddling kids". So you are now arguing that he project will take longer. Isn't that because of your endless lawsuits. You engineered the delay, and now your are argue that the project should be stopped because of the delay. That's brillant.
Jan. 20, 2010, 4:36 pm
Joe from PS says:
Yikes for the Newswalk owners.
Jan. 20, 2010, 8:11 pm
Ira from Park Slope says:
Decades of tree disease? (blight)
Please don't infrect our trees!
Jan. 21, 2010, 3:18 am
Paul from Park Slope says:
Actually, Judah, the numbers have nothing to do with the lawsuits. This is from the ESDC agreements with Ratner that say flat out 25-30 years, not the 10 they "guaranteed" in the original EIS, which is why a supplemental EIS is necessary.
Doesn't BUILD tell you anything?
Jan. 21, 2010, 11:17 am
Jim L. from Ditmas Park says:
So instead of an architectural wonder designed the world-renowned Gehry, Brooklyn gets a couple of non-descript buildings and 21 years of "blight"? Too bad.

Brooklyn got screwed here! Ratner presented a grand vision for this very small section of Brooklyn. I hope Ratner brings Brooklyn architects, engineers, and trades to execute his original design. It would be a thrill for us.

Yes, please chain yourselves to Freddy's Bar and let the demolition begin.

The lawyers saw a gold mine in representing these protest groups. The lawyers made out like bandits! Good for them. I hope they really soaked the protest groups!
Jan. 21, 2010, 1:28 pm
Bayof from Biscay says:
Bring Gehry back and let him work magic at Atlantic Yards. Enough with the middling, modest and mediocre. Our borough's landscape needs the inpiration and glitter of at least one 21st century area. Greenwood Cemetery and Brooklyn Heights can continue to represent Brooklyn's handsome, yet dull architectural history.
Jan. 21, 2010, 3:46 pm
Barbara from Clinton Hill says:
Many of the DDDB lawyers have worked tirelessly and for little or no pay. Many of these comments seem to think huge construction/bb arenas etc., somehow improve Bklyn - Quite the Contrary. Our grid, waste systems can not support all these people - let alone the huge traffic problems, aged bridges, ETC... Where is Sen. Perkins and the inquiry re: the bonds and the very dubious re-creation of another downtown Bklyn Development Corp as a receiver for the ESDC?? This sidesteped local land use reguations and review AND public participation. We the public get to subsidize billionaire developers while we watch the middle class run away from this area of Bklyn, once again - 35 yrs later. Dan Goldstein has shown a heroic effort to try and stop a politically mired and corrupt process of big brother gov't and NYC politics as usual, all being paid for by the tax paying public.
Jan. 22, 2010, 7:37 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
it's time to get this thing built and move on, these people will not be remembered..the one thing they did acomplish was that brooklyn now has a watered down inferior projet. hopefully it will not turn out to be like the ebbet's field development.
March 11, 2010, 1 pm

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