‘Poletown’ ruling could hurt Ratner’s plan for Downtown

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Could the end of “Poletown” put the breaks on developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards proposal?

Opponents and residents who could be displaced by the massive residential, commercial and arena development plan are hoping so.
Reversing two decades of land-use law, a Michigan court this week overturned its own landmark 1981 decision allowing local governments to seize private property for private use.

In the 1981 ruling, the court allowed the city of Detroit to seize land in the neighborhood of Poletown (named for its Polish immigrant community) and give it to General Motors to build an auto plant.

“Poletown was the first major case allowing condemnation of areas in the name of jobs and taxes,” said Dana Berliner, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a Washington D.C.-based public interest law firm specializing in eminent domain.

The ruling was the first of its kind and has been used to set precedent in eminent domain cases naionwide, according to Berliner.
Atlantic Yards opponents are hoping the new ruling will carry some weight with New York courts.

The Atlantic Yards project, including a 19,000-seat arena for the New Jersey Nets, four towering office buildings and 4,500 apartments, would stretch from Flatbush Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street.

In order to build there, Ratner would have to buyout or have the state use its power of eminant domain to take over 10 acres of privately-owned land.

Opponents of the plan have hired civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel, who called this week’s ruling “a very important decision.”
“This suggests to courts nationwide that a renewed look at the meaning of the concept of public use for eminent domain purposes is warranted.

“We plan to persuade the New York court to follow the precedent of the Michigan supreme courts and hopefully the victory for individual rites in Michigan will serve as a framework for a similar victory for the businesses and property owners and residents of Prospect Heights,” said Siegel.

A spokesman for Ratner declined to comment on how the decision could effect the proposed development.

Illinois, Arizona and California have all also recently ruled that eminent domain taking for private developer is not a public use.

Says Siegel, “What happened in Michigan can only help our case.”

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.