Rejection! Court turns down Yards foes in suit over MTA’s sweetheart deal

Freddy’s returns — but it’ll be miles from the Barclays Center
The Brooklyn Paper / Stephen Brown

A state court has once again rebuffed an effort to throw a wrench in Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards machine, rejecting a lawsuit that accused the MTA of improperly selling its Vanderbilt rail yard by not seeking new bids after reopening the original 2005 deal with the developer this summer.

The suit, filed by panoply of elected officials and opposition groups, claimed that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority broke a state law that was passed in the wake of Atlantic Yards to curb abuses by state authorities through stricter transparency and ethics guidelines.

The plaintiffs pointed to the fact that the MTA renegotiated the deal with Ratner this summer, getting just $20 million up front instead of the $100 million originally promised. At the time, the transit agency did not seek new bids for its eight-acre train yard at the heart of the proposed arena, housing and commercial development.

But state Supreme Court judges did not agree with project opponents, ruling last Wednesday that the renegotiated deal did not warrant restarting the bidding process.

“If every change were to be viewed as a new plan so as to trigger anew each mandated review process, no development plan could ever reach final approval — let alone ultimate completion,” the ruling read. “The MTA had a rational basis for continuing to use the 2005 appraisal rather than ordering a new one in 2009.”

Opponents of the project called the ruling a sham, especially in light of the MTA’s just announced “doomsday cuts” in service that would affect everyone who uses public transportation.

“The MTA has no shame,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the main Atlantic Yards opposition group. “While giving a sweetheart deal to billionaire developers … its board gives a big lump of coal to school kids, disabled New Yorkers and all transit riders.”

The ruling by the New York State Supreme Court is yet another blow to the opponents of Atlantic Yards, which in the last two months has seen Ratner overcome several major hurdles on the way to finally breaking ground on his controversial basketball arena that will house the abysmal New Jersey Nets.

In the final week of November, the state’s highest court ruled that Ratner was properly using eminent domain to seize the final holdouts in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

And this week, Ratner secured $511 million for the project through the sale of tax-exempt bonds that were snatched off the market in merely two hours.

Still, the opposition plans to fight right down to the buzzer. This Sunday, a chain was installed at the beloved Freddy’s Bar at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, which likely faces a wrecking ball in the coming months.

If that day comes, a dedicated crew of barflies has pledged to cuff themselves to the chain and face down the demolition.