UPDATED! Judge rules against Yards property owners, paving way for construction

Judge for yourself — Abe speaks
The Brooklyn Paper / Julie Rosenberg

State development officials now own once-privately-held properties in the footprint of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, thanks to a state court ruling on Monday morning that removed the most significant legal hurdle remaining before construction can begin on the Barclays Center arena.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges held that 14 claims asserted by opponents of the eminent domain taking — ranging from the legality of the modification of the project over the summer to even the state’s failure to use the words “public use” in a section over why the land is being condemned in the first place — had no “merit.”

Gerges’s ruling now gives title to the state over properties that Ratner says he needs immediately to begin construction, including the home of project holdout Daniel Goldstein on Pacific Street and the building housing Freddy’s Bar on Dean Street.

There are 12 lots in all that remain in private hands, according to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is pursuing the condemnations on behalf of Ratner.

The case was argued on Jan. 29. Gerges’s ruling was strictly on procedural grounds, contending that “the court is required to direct the immediate filing and entry of the order granting [the condemnations] unless there is merit to any of the [landowners’] defenses.”

With Gerges’s ruling, the street closures around the Barclays Center site will begin on March 8, though it is unclear when the actually taking of property will occur.

Gerges’s ruling follows a decision by the state’s highest court last fall to allow the condemnations to move forward.

As such, Borough President Markowitz, long a supporter of Atlantic Yards, cheered Gerges’s decision to allow Goldstein and others to be evicted.

“Today’s ruling … means that the creation of much-needed affordable housing, solid union jobs and permanent employment opportunities for Brooklynites can finally begin,” the Beep said. “Brooklyn will soon have a national professional sports team and a world-class sports and event facility back in our borough after 53 years! Brooklyn’s shovels are, and have been, ready. So, let’s pick them up and get to work!”

Project opponents saw it the other way.

“Today’s extreme measure by New York State to seize ownership of private property is premature,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the principal opposition group. “There are two pending cases. Either would stop Atlantic Yards dead in its tracks and could impact today’s ruling.”

Goldstein pledged to pursue other legal avenues.

“There will be a dispute over how long we stay here [before physical eviction can take place],” Goldstein said, adding that the dispute will last “many months.”

Goldstein added that no matter what the ruling, he and other Yards opponents were not bowing to their new landlord.

“We live in our property. People will say, ‘Construction can start.’ Well no! We’re still here.”

A spokeswoman for the ESDC said that the agency “will continue to work with occupants to relocate them [in] an orderly relocation over the course of the next few months.”

Hours after the court ruling, the ESDC announced that it would close streets in the project footprint. The move was originally scheduled for Feb. 1, but is now set for March 8.