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.