Court Reviews Agency’s Approval Of Atlantic Yards Project: Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle, 5/7/07

By Sarah Ryley

A Manhattan judge heard oral arguments yesterday afternoon in the latest lawsuit to challenge the proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards development project for Central Brooklyn.

The plaintiffs in the case DDDB et. al. v. ESDC et. al include 26 groups ranging from neighborhood block associations to the Sierra Club. They are basing their case on what they say are deficiencies in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued for the project by the Empire State Development Project (ESDC). They cite the failure to look into the threat of terrorism as one such deficiency. In addition to the ESDC, a state agency, the developer Forest City Ratner Companies, the Public Authorities Control Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are all named as defendants. FCRC Executive Vice President Bruce Bender has said that the lawsuit is without merit, and is simply another tactic to derail the multi-use project. It would include an arena for the Nets basketball team, housing and office space.

The lawsuit also seeks a declaration that a privately-leased and operated sports arena does not meet the definition of a “civic project” under a state act that gives the ESDC power to issue bonds and grant tax abatements, condemn land and seize property through eminent domain, and to overrule local zoning laws without acquiring legislative approval.

The ESDC has used its authority to spur private development in the past. The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and the redevelopment of Times Square, which both used eminent domain, and the World Trade Center Memorial Fund are a few examples.

But the lawsuit contends that “the home of a professional sports team and commercial venue [is] by no stretch of the imagination a ‘facility for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other municipal purposes.’”

Supporters of the project have argued that the affordable housing and jobs it provides would also serve a civic purpose. If the lawsuit is successful, the controversial high-rise project would have to start the entire review and approval process over again, which could take years.

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