Eminent Domain in Atlantic Yards: New York NY Sun, 8/1/07

Use of Eminent Domain Begins in Atlantic Yards Plan

By Eliot Brown

The state is pushing forward with its plans to use eminent domain in preparing for the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, the future home to a Nets basketball arena and more than 6,000 apartments in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Since late last week, property owners in the footprint of the project have been receiving letters from the state asking for financial information relating to property appraisals, an initial step in the land-taking process.

A spokesman for New York's Empire State Development Corporation, Errol Cockfield, said the use of eminent domain was a ways off. The state will not proceed while a lawsuit challenging eminent domain procedure law is pending, and other suits could potentially delay the process as well, Mr. Cockfield said.

"This is an early step in a process that won't be ultimately resolved for some time," Mr. Cockfield said.

More than seven months after its approval, the fate of the Atlantic Yards project rests in the courts. There are several lawsuits challenging various aspects of the public review and land takings processes associated with the development. In June, a federal court judge tossed out the suit with perhaps the most potential to block the project, though opponents are appealing the ruling and vow that the state cannot proceed with any eminent domain until the suit has wound its way through the multiple stage appeals process.

"We don't think they're going to let this case be decided before all the issues can be ferreted out," a lawyer at the opposition group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Candace Carponter, said.

Also pending is a challenge to the environmental impact statement for the project, which, if successful, could require the Spitzer administration to do a new review for the development.

While the challenges could stave off any eminent domain proceedings for months, perhaps into 2008, development company Forest City Ratner holds that it is still on schedule to begin construction on the arena in the fall and open by 2009, according to a spokesman. Documents from Forest City Ratner, provided by Assemblyman James Brennan, show the premiere skyscraper in the complex, the 511-foot Miss Brooklyn, was supposed to start this month, though there are no visible signs of construction.

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