Eleven property owners and tenants within the Atlantic Yards footprint filed a petition yesterday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their eminent domain case, nearing its 18th month in the judiciary system still without a trial. The case was dismissed twice by lower courts in developer Forest City Ratner’s favor. Since news broke of the basketball arena and high-rise project’s Dec. 19, 2009 kill-date (as long as Ratner stops pursuing litigation or construction matters), a lot of attention has been focused on the ticking clock rather than the people arguing beneath it. Now, about that legal case: In short, it seeks to clarify the Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo v. New London decision in 2005, which allowed the Connecticut city to give a developer private property for the purpose of economic development. In that case, eminent domain was decided by a legislative body, whereas Atlantic Yards was voted on by three publicly accountable politicians, though it went through a lengthy review process. And lead attorney for the plaintiffs Matthew Brinckerhoff said Kelo’s definition of public purpose was vague, leaving the average person vulnerable to having their property handed over to more influential citizens. They want the chance to vet that out more, and further investigate who Atlantic Yards was actually intended to benefit.
Forest City Ratner execs have long called lawsuits and appeals filed by project opponents “delay tactics” that deprive citizens benefits from the project’s arena, affordable housing and jobs. And now Ratner has found himself in credit crunch territory, possibly delaying or killing key components of the project. Lead plaintiff Daniel Goldstein, who owns a condo in the arena footprint, said it’s about their constitutional rights. But as far as the ticking clock, he said this is their last federal appeal, and he expects the court to decide whether to hear it this July. “If they don’t take our case, or take our case and rule against us, then we will go to state court, the appellate division, and raise our state claims.” When asked if they could drag out their case until 2010, after which time Forest City could automatically default if he decides not to continue pursuing litigation, Goldstein said, “We will take our case as far as we can to protect our constitutional rights.”
Ratner Only Required To Show Arena Financing for Eminent Domain Approval[Brownstoner]
Read The Fine Print[Atlantic Yards Report]
Slow Economy Likely to Stall Atlantic Yards [NY Times]
What Will Be Left of Gehry’s Vision for Brooklyn? [NY Times]