Before Bruce Ratner follows up his victory in state Supreme Court by bringing in construction cranes, it’s worth one more attempt to correct the ongoing misinformation campaign that state officials continue to conduct over Atlantic Yards.
Judge Joan Madden may have been correct when she ruled last week that New York State’s weak environmental laws give the state’s economic development agencies broad latitude to circumvent local authorities, override local zoning and hand-pick favored developers in the name of serving the public.
But Madden was wrong to not challenge the validity of evidence presented by the Empire State Development Corporation — evidence that clearly shows that the agency is not, in fact, serving the public interest at Atlantic Yards.
State officials say the proposed basketball arena at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is a public benefit; that designation, they say, would qualify Atlantic Yards as a civic project and allow the use of eminent domain to condemn privately owned property and hand it over to Ratner.
Opponents of the project dispute how building an arena for Ratner and then giving his profit-making company a $1-a-year lease for 99 years could possibly be construed as a public benefit. Rather than question that scheme, Madden hid behind state law, which she said draws no distinction between a facility leased to a non-profit entity or a for-profit conglomerate.
Opponents also dispute how three blocks on the edge of the blighted Vanderbilt rail yards could be considered “blighted” (and, therefore, subject to eminent domain) when houses there routinely sell for more than $1 million. The state also has alleged that crime is rampant in that “unsanitary and unsafe,” yet those crime statistics have been shown repeatedly to be inaccurate.
Rather than pay some attention to the men behind that curtain of lies, Madden fell back on state laws that were crafted to facilitate raiding the public trough to hand over land and taxpayer subsidies to favored developers and their political patrons without regard to public sentiment or honest analysis.
Madden’s weak ruling makes it clear that in New York, the deck is stacked against truth — and her court couldn’t be bothered.
Is there no one who will look beyond the litany of lies and stop this charade?