AY Arguments Heard at Appellate Court

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Appeal arguments in the Atlantic Yards case — 26 neighborhood and civic groups against Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation — were heard at Appellate Court yesterday, and folks challenging the project seemed to feel optimistic about it. The plaintiffs “intently listened to the exchange between the five-judge panel and the attorneys yesterday afternoon. They heard a judicial bench that was extremely skeptical of the ESDC’s rationale for its blight determination,” reads a DDDB press release. The defendants were required to prove that the area surrounding Atlantic Yards was blighted, and thus eligible to be snatched up under eminent domain, so the entire 30-minute argument focused on the definition of blighted (any talk of making an area blighted by way of demolishing it, as in the photo above?). Defendants squirmed when answering, and, wrote Atlantic Yards Report, “representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), along with their clutch of attorneys, exited looking none too cheery.”
What Remains. Photo by horseycraze.

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  • Brownstoner

    Does anyone have a truly unbiased opinion of the chance that this appeal might actually work?

  • lisa, just want to confirm that this post is entirely based on DDDB’s press release and the AY report. you didn’t actually attend, right?

  • Biff Champion

    “Does anyone have a truly unbiased opinion of the chance that this appeal might actually work?”

    An unbiased opinion on Brownstoner? I guess there’s a first time for everything!

  • Even if it doesn’t work, and this is the optimist in me speaking, perhaps it will give the City pause the next time a massive project like this is propose.

    Let’s say the economy takes a 180 and this project is built and is a great success (in whatever definition you’d like to use)… the lawsuits and general community uproar, I truly hope, ensures that this project isn’t a “precedent” upon which all other projects can be based. That is to say, while the eminent domain and “blight” issues may not be overturned in this particular case… the next project won’t be able to use the same (flimsy) rationale. If nothing else, that could be counted as a victory of sorts.

  • And “rich guy wanting corporate welfare” isn’t the standard for taxpayers having to underwrite a $2 billion gift to the owner of a basketball team.

  • “post is entirely based on DDDB’s press release and the AY report”

    I agree that the coverage is sadly very biased. I read this same press released as if it was an objective perception. Very sad reporting indeed.

  • I don’t know what the quote “”representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), along with their clutch of attorneys, exited looking none too cheery.” even means. I’m a litigator and I’ve never exited an appellate hearing looking “cherry”…even if the case was a slam dunk. It’s pretty irresponsible for you (Lisa) to post the DDDB/AY Report perspective as if it were a statement of fact. Lisa, were you in attendance?

  • East New York

    The reality is that there was and will be very little “affordable housing” in that area WITHOUT AY. Without some great rent control deal, the market rate in the area is easily beyond “afffordable.” Take it from me as a past renter in the immediate area.

  • i used to live around there, and i’d say it was blighted. and scary.

  • As noted on my blog, the lawyers for the ESDC have seemed happier after other court arguments. When a judge asked a direct question about AKRF, the ESDC attorney couldn’t answer it.

  • East New York

    I have to agree with previous posters – is there any independent, UNBIASED reporting of what occurred? Brownstoner, the Brooklyn Paper, and Norman Oder’s Web site are clearly in the anti-AY camp. Reports about facial expressions and perceived sentiment aren’t particularly revealing.

  • I have attended nearly every Atlantic Yards hearing, and I have to say that this was one of the strongest. The panel of five judges seemed very skeptical of the state’s claim that the land that Ratner wants is blighted. At several points there was almost disdain in the judge’s statements, such as when one of them asked about the company that wrote the environmental review: “Has AKRF ever found an area NOT blighted?”

    Norman Oder wrote that the state punted in its response, but I thought in a way the state made AKRF look even worse. The ESDC lawyer essentially said, “well, they don’t only study blight,” which I would interpret as meaning “yes, they always find blight when asked, but sometimes they are given other tasks.” I think the judge who asked this might have the same one who determined that the Columbia eminent domain case was tainted by AKRF’s conflict of interest.

    Another judge asked of the ESDC whether their definition of blight could mean that they could condemn any property in New York.

    There have been other instances of judges asking tough questions of one side and then ruling in favor of them, so the DDDB crowd is tempered in its optimism. I find it hard to temper my optimism in general, so I would say that it is quite likely that these judges will agree with the argument of DDDB and its dozens of community allies: The blight determination is capricious and arbitrary. It was not based on the legal justification of eminent domain, but on the desire of a private developer to get private profit at the expense of the public.

    I am expressing my views as someone who was at the hearing.

    By the way, the building where the hearing took place was beautiful, and I recommend attending something there just to look at the paintings on the walls.

  • “Norman Oder’s Web site [is] clearly in the anti-AY camp.”

    Norman Oder says that he is a critic not an opponent of the Atlantic Yards proposal. You may not like what he says, but he is very thorough and is critical of all sides. If you want “unbiased” reporting, then you should at least read his full posting. You can judge for yourself.

    There were no other reporters there, and the ESDC lawyers are not likely to post on this blog.

    I would say this is telling. If there were a large, silent pro-Ratner crowd, why weren’t they attending the meeting?

  • East New York

    “”Norman Oder says that he is a critic not an opponent of the Atlantic Yards proposal.”

    Just because he SAYS he’s not a critic doesn’t mean he’s being truthful! I’ve read the entire post, and in my opinion it uses a great deal of subjective language – not impartial reportage – to describe the events. I will agree that Mr. Oder, through his blog, seeks to compile a detailed picture of the issues and events surrounding the project, but in my opinion there is no question he’s personally against the project, and it’s quite evident. Also, who claimed there “was a large, silent pro-Ratner crowd?” at the meeting? I merely said I wanted to hear about the meeting from an IMPARTIAL source (which, if you think about it, would NOT include pro-AY people). It’s quite possible there were NO “pro-Ratner” folks at the meeting. Does that make Mr. Oder’s posts any more impartial? Not in my book.

  • I was there. I’m against the project. But Oder’s reporting is straight-up. Maybe you can buy a transcript if you want something free of what you perceive as bias. Otherwise, you’re SOL, because no journalist other than Oder bothered to cover the hearing (or at least they haven’t published anything yet).

    Yes, the appeal could actually work. At least two of the judges seemed very skeptical of the ESDC’s position. That doesn’t mean there’s a third, and it doesn’t mean the law is there to support the judges’ opinions. History has shown it’s extremely difficult to win these types of cases. But the tenor of the judges’ questions and comments couldn’t have been too encouraging to the ESDC and FCRC.

  • East New York

    “Maybe you can buy a transcript if you want something free of what you perceive as bias.”

    I’m not quite that concerned. I have my own viewpoint, and what comes out of this meeting won’t change that. I’m willing to wait it out and see where this all goes. Hopefully the judges will realize that despite the three buildings, the area has been dominated by a massive hole in the ground for more than 40 years, and on that basis qualifies as blighted. It certainly does from where I stand. I’ve been looking at that crappy train yard since I was a kid. Sure the appeals could work – and that would be a drag, but I’ve lived through other disappointments. In any event speculative “reporting” about what MIGHT happen, I imagine, will not impact the outcome.

  • Might be time for you to attend these meetings yourself. It’s naive to expect an “impartial” report, there’s no such thing. Oder is reasonable and calls the shots well, and I’d say that’s as good as it gets. If nothing else, he’s a stickler for factual accuracy.

    I can’t see being pro-AY in spite of all the evident short cuts, derogation of due process, sweetheart subsidies and back-room deals that have been well documented, even forgetting the aesthetic disaster it represents. After a while the adage where there’s smoke there’s fire does have a basis.

  • “”Maybe you can buy a transcript if you want something free of what you perceive as bias.”

    I’m not quite that concerned. I have my own viewpoint, and what comes out of this meeting won’t change that.”

    Okay, so you admit that you are biased, and that facts won’t change your mind. And then you say that Oder is biased (without giving any examples) because he disagrees with you.

    I think I get the picture.

  • East New York

    That’s right, harriet – the meeting was held to determine whether or not the area is blighted, and I do believe it is, and the outcome of this meeting won’t change my opinion, which was formed over the 45 years I’ve lived in Brooklyn and dealt with this crappy eyesore. However, whether or not Oder’s report is laden with “facts” is quite another story altogether. His report, as I mentioned, includes a good amount of speculation as to the meaning behind the judges’ reactions, questions and “looks.” I wouldn’t confuse these with “facts.” As I mentioned, I’m content to wait for the real facts, i.e., the ultimate result of the fight.

    “I can’t see being pro-AY in spite of all the evident short cuts, derogation of due process, sweetheart subsidies and back-room deals that have been well documented, even forgetting the aesthetic disaster it represents.”

    I heard the same complaints when other projects like MetroTech were built and in the end, the positives outweighed the negatives. Do I think the project is perfect? Certainly not, and I do have some problems with the design as well. But overall, I think it’s a good project for this area, and frankly I don’t care if a developer is going to get subsidies and make a sh**tload of money as a result. That’s what developers do, and he won’t be the first. I’m more concerned about housing, jobs and something positive happening at that intersection where there’s been a hole in the ground my entire life.

  • babs

    That hole in the ground is necessary for the LIRR — it’s the railyards, not just a hole in the ground. If that’s your definition of blight then I’d say the entire railroad industry is in big trouble.

    Yes, it may not be the most aesthetically appealing site, but a thriving, busy railyard is not blight.

    And the parts that Ratner wants to take by eminent domain are not in that “hole in the ground” that so offends you — they are apartment buildings, houses, and condominiums on Dean and Pacific Streets — hardly blighted areas.

  • “I’m more concerned about housing, jobs and something positive happening at that intersection where there’s been a hole in the ground my entire life.”

    That’s lovely. You still have not even attempted to show how Norman Oder is biased. You have not shown how Norman Oder is devoid of facts.

    You have shown yourself a supporter of jobs and housing. I’m afraid to inform you that EVERYONE says that they are in favor of jobs and housing. I would argue that there are much better ways to achieve these goals.

    If you don’t mind bringing the discussion back to the original thread, we could achieve our common goals much quicker if the ESDC followed the laws. We could achieve these lovely goals if the ESDC or anyone in our government bothered to do a market analysis, which was an important part of the discussion in court yesterday.

    Does the project benefits outweigh the negatives? This shouldn’t be determined by a blog discussion. It should have been determined by our elected leaders BEFORE deciding to give hundreds of millions of dollars away in subsidies.

    DDDB and the other community groups argued that the state was acting capriciously and irrationally. We will find out in a few months whether the judges agree.

  • I don’t know why you people are bothering to argue with one another. This legal case shall unfold exactly as all of the others, namely that the anti-Ratner camp endlessly claims imminent victory, only to lose in the end.

    Norman Oder is indeed biased and heavily against the project. All of his posts on legal cases read the same: frequently using words like “seems” and “may”, hoping like hell that the opponents will win, which, of course, they never have and never will.

    D-O-N-E D-E-A-L

  • BTW, one way that Norman Oder has been biased has been his choice of topics to cover. When Patti Hagan was ousted from the DDDB board, he hardly gave it the degree of investigation that he devotes to Ratner et al. Same goes for when Daniel Goldstein made racially-remarks.