One day before a climactic court hearing that could clear a major legal barrier for Bruce Ratner, opponents of the developer’s residential, retail, office and arena mega-project filed another lawsuit this week, this time challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s mid-summer “sweetheart” renegotiation with Ratner.
The suit, filed on Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan by a panoply of state legislators, plus Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene), the NYPIRG/Straphangers Campaign and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, seeks the annulment of that June deal to sell the Vanderbilt rail yard near the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues with just a $20-million down payment.
The original 2005 deal with the MTA gave Ratner control of the Vanderbilt Yards for $100 million, even though it had been appraised at more than $271 million. In the ensuing controversy over that deal, the state passed the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005.
Opponents argue that the new law required the MTA “to obtain any appraisal of the current value of the yard [and] entertain any competing proposal for the yard.”
But when it rubber-stamped the renegotiated deal with Ratner in June, the agency did not do so.
Instead, the MTA “capitulated to [Ratner’s] demand and negotiated a disposition of the Vanderbilt Yard on terms significantly more favorable to [Ratner] than were approved in September, 2005,” the brief states.
In a statement, state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, one of the plaintiffs, said, “We have laws in this state that forbid these kinds of sweetheart deals. With the Atlantic Yards, the MTA violated our legislation and the public trust. Their sale of the Vanderbilt Yard to Ratner must be annulled.”
A spokesman for the MTA, Kevin Ortiz, said simply, “We will not comment on pending litigation.”