Atlantic Yards suit dismissed by federal judge: Crain's New York NY Business, 6/6/07

By Erik Engquist

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit against the $4 billion Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The ruling, eagerly awaited for two months, is a major blow to opponents of the project, who plan to appeal.

The lawsuit challenges the eminent domain condemnations that Atlantic Yards needs to proceed. Thirteen residents and businesses in the project’s footprint have refused to sell their apartments, buildings or long-term leases to Forest City Ratner Cos., which wants to build a 19,000-seat arena, a huge office and retail complex, and more than 6,000 apartments.

"Today's decision is an important victory not only for Atlantic Yards but for Brooklyn as well. This decision means we are one step closer to creating over 2,200 units of affordable housing, thousands of construction and office jobs and bringing the Nets to Brooklyn," said Bruce Ratner, president and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies.

Their suit’s chances, say project opponents, are best if the case remains in federal court. That is why they say they will appeal the ruling issued today by Judge Nicholas Garaufis to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

“Part of the reason we have a better chance to win [there] is because the federal courts are much more familiar with constitutional issues and are less susceptible to political pressures,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff days before the ruling.

A federal magistrate judge had recommended in February that the case belonged in state court. Judge Garaufis disagreed, but dismissed the case on its merits.

Another suit by opponents, challenging the process by which the state reviewed and approved the development, remains pending. But the eminent domain lawsuit was considered the greater threat to the project.

The crux of Mr. Brinckerhoff’s argument was that the condemnations do not have a primarily public purpose, as required by New York’s eminent domain law.

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