Court ruling: State broke law okaying Atlantic Yards, new review ordered

Bait and switch? Ratner sued over ‘sham’ job-training program
A bird’s-eye view of construction on the Barclays Center, as seen from Third and Atlantic avenues in 2012.
Photo by Tom Callan

The state violated the law by approving the Atlantic Yards mega-project without considering its long-term impact on surrounding neighborhoods, according to an appellate court ruling that won’t halt the construction of the nearly-finished Barclays Center or several residential towers slated to rise around the Prospect Heights arena.

In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the Appellate Division found that the Empire State Development Corporation, the quasi-government agency overseeing the massive $5-billion project, acted illegally in 2009 when it approved developer Bruce Ratner’s plan without assessing how a 25-year build-out would affect the lives of nearby residents.

At the time, Ratner said the 22-acre project, which stretches from Flatbush to Vanderbilt avenues and includes 16 planned towers with 2,250 units of below-market-rate apartments in addition to the under-construction $1-billion arena, would be finished in 10 years — even though he had secured an extension from the state until 2035.

The decision upheld a lower-court ruling by Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman last July that requires the state to conduct a new environmental review of the second phase of the project, which consists of 11 towers that Ratner plans to build east of Sixth Avenue. But the ruling has no bearing on the first phase of the project, which includes the arena on Flatbush and Atlantic avenues and a several proposed residential towers.

Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco vowed that Atlantic Yards will advance, despite the ruling.

“We remain on track to open the world class Barclays Center arena in September and moving forward with construction of the first residential building,” DePlasco said.

That didn’t stop Atlantic Yards opponents from claiming victory and demanding a greater review of the project.

“We want a redesign that’s responsive to the community’s needs and provides the public benefits that were promised,” said Jeff Baker, the attorney for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

State development officials wouldn’t say if they plan to appeal the decision, but promised to complete the massive project in its entirety.

“We will continue working toward the full build-out of the project,” said Arana Hankin, the state’s director for Atlantic Yards.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.