Salvo Fired in Atlantic Yards Eminent Domain Battle: New York NY Sun, 11/13/06

By David Lombino

The state of New York has issued what lawyers call the legal maneuver required to begin condemnation of private property inside the footprint of the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

In a letter dated December 8, the Empire State Development Corporation sent a letter to property owners inside the 22-acre project footprint stating that based on its findings, the state had determined it should exercise its power of condemnation to clear the way for developer Forest City Ratner's $4.2 billion plan to construct an arena and 16 towers mainly for residential use. The letter stated the project footprint has been a "center of blight and decay," and that "the Atlantic Yards Project will transform this blighted area into a vibrant, mixed use development."

Property or business owners in the footprint have until January 11 to file a proceeding with the Brooklyn Appellate Division for a judicial review of the state's findings. The law limits the areas where property owners can challenge the condemnation.

A lawyer specializing in eminent domain, Michael Rikon, said last night the state's letter represented the "opening salvo" and the "only salvo" in the state's move to condemn. He said that under the existing laws, "It is virtually impossible in New York State to stop a condemnation."

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