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Carter's View

Some community groups filed a motion last week in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to halt construction at the controversial Atlantic Yards project in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, according to an article yesterday by Ryan Thompson at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The groups include Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and BrooklynSpeaks.

The motion seeks to stay construction until the New York State Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) responds to a court order to reconsider the need for a supplemental environmental impact statement based on an extended timeline for the huge project that includes a basketball arena for the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets.

In mid-November, the article said, "Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman found that the ESDC unreasonably failed to assess the impacts of 25 years of extended construction at the Atlantic Yards site. Judge Friedman's ruling followed a motion by BrooklynSpeaks petitioners to reargue an earlier decision by the court in favor of ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC)."

Judge Friedman's opinion stated that, "the Development Agreement has cast a completely different light on the project build date. Its 25-year outside substantial completion date for Phase II and its disparate enforcement provisions for failure to meet Phase I and II deadlines, read together with the renegotiated MTA Agreement giving FCRC until 2030 to complete acquisition of the air rights necessary to construct six of the 11 Phase II buildings, raise a substantial question as to whether ESDC's continuing use of the 10-year build-out has a rational basis."

The article said that "ESDC was ordered to reassess its reliance on the 10-year build-out schedule in failing to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for the 2009 modified plan. DDDB had also filed a lawsuit to halt the project based on what it deemed as failures with the Environmental Impact Statement. That lawsuit was dismissed in 2008 and appeal denied in 2009. And another lawsuit was actually filed to challenge the 10-year timeline, as well, and that case was similarly denied in 2008."

"The difference between 10 and 25 years is a long time to wait for affordable housing," said Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council, according to the article, which added that "the governor [David Paterson and the governor-elect [Andrew Cuomo can no longer ignore the fact that a state authority, appointed by the executive, has misrepresented a major development project to the court and to the people of New York state. The ESDC has abdicated its obligations to the public purse and the public interest. Now it's time for the governor to put the interests of the people above those of a powerful real estate developer and commit to reform of Atlantic Yards governance."

"DDDB attorney Jeffrey S. Baker states in legal papers that all construction work must stop until ESDC complies with the court order. To allow work to continue would be 'rewarding [developer Forest City Ratner and ESDC for their malfeasance,'" the article continued.

The next court date is set for Dec. 22.

"'Put simply,' the article continued, 'the ESDC colluded with Forest City Ratner to deceive the court. Unless and until the ESDC follows the court order, any work at the project site would be in violation of state environmental law and an affront to the community that would have to live with Ratner's developer's blight for decades,' said DDDB legal director Candace Carponter."
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.
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