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Nothing but net: Ratner wins a big one!

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Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner won an important court victory against nine property owners inside the project’s footprint who had argued that the state Constitution bars the use of eminent domain for any development that includes luxury housing.

Ratner reveled in last Thursday’s unanimous decision by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, saying it would allow construction on the long-awaited basketball arena to begin later this year.

“We’re thrilled,” Ratner said in a statement. “The world has changed significantly since we announced this project in December, 2003. But one thing has never changed — [our] commitment to bringing the Nets to Brooklyn and building an arena and residential community that will make the people of Brooklyn and the entire city proud.”

The lawsuit was actually against the Empire State Development Corporation, which plans to condemn the nine properties and then transfer them to Forest City Ratner, which owns many properties within the 22-acre project site in Prospect Heights and has a deal to acquire development rights over the rail yard at the core of the development.

At issue was a claim by the nine landowners that the state Constitution forbids eminent domain on a project that includes luxury housing because the Public Use clause requires that “the occupancy of any such project shall be restricted to persons of low income.”

The opponents also said eminent domain could not be used because the project confers a huge benefit to Ratner yet only an “incidental” one for the public.

But the court disagreed.

“It cannot be said that the public benefits which the Atlantic Yards project is expected to yield are incidental … in comparison to the benefit that will be bestowed upon the project’s private developer,” wrote Justice Randall Eng, referring to benefits of the overall project that include the proposed basketball arena and development over the scar-like rail yard.

The plaintiffs said they would appeal the ruling.

“We’re optimistic that the Court of Appeals [the state’s highest court] will see the importance of setting clear boundaries between constitutional and unconstitutional uses of eminent domain in New York State,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Despite the good court news, Ratner is still facing his largest hurdle: lining up financing for his $4-billion project during a historic credit crunch.

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Reader Feedback

sid from Boerum Hill says:
In NY in order to have an automatic appeal to the Courts of appeals there needs to be at least one dissenter in the court below. You need the Court of Appeals permission when the Court below is unanimous. The Court of Appeals takes very few such cases.
DDDB has been optimistic all along and yet has lost every case so far...
May 15, 2009, 10:23 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
it's about time. the project could have been built before this financial meltdown.
the looser should have to pay all legal costs incured.
May 16, 2009, 8:05 am
freddy from slope says:
not to burst the ratner bubble here, but sid misses the importat point.

there is a well known addition to the court of appeals. if the issue is a significant constitutional issue it can be heard also.
May 16, 2009, 8:57 am
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Jobless folks of Brooklyn, let's rejoice! Ratner break ground sooner. There are more Brooklynites who wants & need this project, than are against it.
May 16, 2009, 3:36 pm
Robert from Park Slope says:
Many states have tough laws against this abuse of power, but not New York, the eminent domain state, where any property that is below its market potential is considered blight.

Well, don't be surprised if some NY State agency has to bail out Ratner because this project flops. The jobs that brought unlimited luxury housing to NYC are gone and will not be back until we've forgotten this latest ponzi heist.

This is not a natural market project. It is already being subsidized by NYS & NYC taxpayers.
May 16, 2009, 8 pm
sid from Boerum Hill says:
Its only an important constitutional issue if the Court of Appeals says so. The way it gets there is that the Court of Appeals agrees that it is an important constitutional issue or grants leave to appeal(the appellate division can grant leave to but almost never does unless you are a governmental appellant.. Its in their unfettered discretion to decide. When the Appellate Division is unanimous its an up hill battle to get the C of A to accept it. Sometimes the glass is half full and sometimes its half empty and it depends on your perception but in this case its 95% empty and the 5% full which represents the chance the C of A will hear the case...the odds are 20 to 1 against it.

You are entitled to view the world through rose colored glasses and I personally would like to see the lawsuit succeed but the law is against you on this one.
May 16, 2009, 8:52 pm
Peter from Fort Greene says:
I am sadly distressed by this ruling of the courts. This project is merely an opportunity for one developer/development organization to control a majority of the property in downtown Brooklyn. This is not a developer who is responsible.

One of my first jobs in NYC was working on a construction crew that was building Ratner's house on the Upper East Side. During the two year period when I was working there he changed the design plans of the building five times (and I mean completely different designs, think modern to victorian). Already with this project he has dangled the carrot of Frank Gehry in front of the people of Brooklyn. Frank Gehry is no longer on the project. Maybe soon we'll find that the Nets (another carrot) are permanently residing in Newark. It scares me that such a large property is being handed to a man that cannot keep his own house in order.

If this is merely a project designed to bring much needed "jobs" to Brooklyn, why not tear up the parks so that we can build high rises in that valuable space? Parks certainly aren't providing enough jobs for our communities.

Neighborhoods, the people that live in them, and the small locally-owned businesses that line our streets are the things that make Brooklyn a great place to live. These are the things that make up the soul of Brooklyn. Our soul is being sold for the sake of irresponsible development.

And hopefully there will be no coffee shops in this utopia of Ratnerville. Hopefully no one will be selling the dreaded Latte.

Sincerely,
Peter the Tea Drinker
May 17, 2009, 12:55 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Happy day in Brooklyn. Bring the Nets home Mr. Ratner.
May 17, 2009, 8 pm
judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
I wish someone will name a few small business that will be lost at a disadvantage to the public? The opposition, who were once the big fish who kick out lower income families in that area to protect high price condo. Now payback is a B, someone with a bigger pocket book has come on the scene.
This is all about one guy's condo. Glad the court sees that.
May 19, 2009, 1:59 pm

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