Atlantic Yards Again
October 10th, 2007
The Atlantic Yards case was back in court yesterday as opponents of the megaproject sought reinstatement of a suit against it that had been dismissed earlier this year. That suit charged that the project, which includes a basketball arena and high-rise buildings, will illegally seize private properties to benefit a private developer.
A victory in this round would simply give the opponents a chance to have their care heard. If the appeals panel rules for the plaintiff, Candace Carponter, the head of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn legal team told the Brownstoner they would be guaranteed a trial at the district court level. They would also have the opportunity to subpoena documents and take testimony from government officials. That information, wrote The Real Estate “could be a treasure trove in helping the opponents establish their case.”
Yesterday’s appeal was heard by “an engaged but skeptical panel of three Second Circuit appellate court judges, who let the argument extend for an hour — well more than the initial time allotted,” said Atlantic Yards Report’s extensive account of the proceedings.
While we are not lawyers, it seems the decision hinges on who one think benefits from the project: Ratner or the public – or as Ratner’s lawyers might have it Ratner and the public. “There are strong indications of an inappropriate, illegitimate public process here,” the opponents attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said outside the courtroom. “Government officials at every level here toed the line and said, ‘OK, you are our old buddy from law school, we’ll let you do it,’ and that’s a problem, because Ratner decided what he needed was to take my clients’ property.”
On the other side, Preeta Bansal, a lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation, which has endorsed the project every step of the way, argued it will significantly improve what it (though not many residents) considers a blighted area. She dismissed the contention that the plan was approved because of relationships between Ratner and public officials. And Bansal said, said even if the builder benefits (and it’s difficult to know why he would do this if he didn’t), the public will too. “Don’t confuse motive with purpose,” she reportedly said.
“This isn’t some frivolous lawsuit, it is a chance for the people of the community to speak out on what happens in their lives and the area around them,” said Joshing Politics. “Allowing one company (and one man, Bruce Ratner) to be able to take people’s property away from them so that he can make a profit is not only disgusting, it is un-American. The appellate court should at the very least allow the people to present their case.”
Writing in the Daily News, Errol Louis disagreed, calling the plaintiff’s chances of success in the appeals court “somewhere between slim and none.” In Louis’ opinion, that’s all for the best: “What might have once appeared to be a David-Goliath struggle of a few courageous Brooklynites fighting against a big, bad developer is actually a small group of Davids harming the interests of a thousand other Davids – fellow Brooklynites desperate for the 2,000-plus units of affordable housing that the development would provide.”
What ever happens in this case the fight against Atlantic Yards, however quixotic some might consider it, will continue. A separate lawsuit that’s looking to annul the project’s controversial Environmental Impact Statement is also reportedly in the works.By Gail Robinson on October 10, 2007, 3:48 pm
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