Thursday, June 07, 2007

Morning After: Dismissal of Atlantic Yards Doesn't Bode Well for Opponents

AY Footprint

Yesterday, a Federal Judge dismissed the eminent domain lawsuit that had been filed to block the taking of property for the Atlantic Yards developments in Prospect Heights. He did not do so on the grounds that a magistrate had suggested--that the suit belonged in New York state courts--but because he found the central part of the plaintiff's case lacking in merit. In so doing, he ruled that taking the property would not be solely on behalf of a private developer.

The ruling will clearly be appealed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, but the judge's decision clearly doesn't bode well for opponents of the Atlantic Yards Juggernaut. Time after time during the Atlantic Yards approval process, the opposition was overpowered by the project's supporters from developer Bruce Ratner to his friend Gov. George Pataki and Empire State Development Corp. Chair Charles Gargano to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Gov. Eliot Spitzer seconded their actions by clearly choosing to sidestep Atlantic Yards and not interfering with its approval in the waning days of the Pataki Administration.

Now, the judicial branch is slowly removing the last roadblocks to a development that will radically and fundamentally change part of Brooklyn and all of the neighborhoods around it. There is still a suit pending based on the deeply flawed environmental review process for Atlantic Yards. It is not the type of litigation that would torpedo the entire project, although a ruling against the state could result in changes. Gov. Spitzer has shown no appetite for taking on Atlantic Yards and making it a better project, so one does not hold out much hope that he and members of his administration will perform in fundamentally different ways than his predecessor where Atlantic Yards is concerned.

Supporters will cheer the judge's decision in the eminent domain case, as Bruce Ratner did. Opponents will say it isn't over yet, that there will be an appeal and express confidence that an appellate court will rule in their favor. A lot of average Brooklynites that haven't been following every twist and turn of this complex project and its wideranging impact, will simply wonder if this means that the Nets will actually be playing at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues a few years from now.

If you have looked around the area that Forest City Ratner will develop--with what we personally believe will be disastrous consequences for the quality of life of surrounding communities and at what will be astronomical cost to taxpayers--you have noticed that a significant amount of demolition has already been done within the "footprint." Soon, the preparation work for the development will reach a point that even if a panel of judges recognizes the legal validity of the case against Atlantic Yards, neighbors will have to contend with vast, depressing parcels of empty land for many years to come while the public sector and developers work out a Plan B. (Much of that acreage could sit vacant for many years to come regardless, but that is another story.)

Any way you cut it, yesterday's court decision was one that did not put joy in the hearts of those that wish to block the Atlantic Yards project. It might be precipitous to say that the end is near, but it's fair to say that the end is a little closer than it was at this time yesterday.

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