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February 8, 2006

Press Release: City Councilwoman Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Congressman Major Owens Join In Filing an Amicus Brief Against The Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner

Elected Officials Representing Proposed Ratner Development Site Support Suit Seeking Injunction on Rubber-stamped Demolition Approval and Disqualification of Conflicted Attorney

MANHATTAN, NY - Three elected officials, each of whom have fought to protect the public's interest in respect to Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" development proposal, have asked a Manhattan Justice to accept their amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief. The brief is in support of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and over a dozen co-plaintiff community organizations in their lawsuit challenging the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) Declaration of Emergency that would allow Forest City Ratner (FCR) to demolish six buildings in the proposed development footprint. The lawsuit also calls for the disqualification of the ESDC's retained counsel on "Atlantic Yards" who quite apparently has a conflict of interest. The attorney, David Paget of Sive, Paget & Riesel, has, until very recently, represented FCR on the same development proposal the ESDC is charged with reviewing objectively. Mr. Paget approved FCR's proposed demolition.

Councilwoman Letitia James said, “My colleagues and I stand one hundred percent with the plaintiffs–the people who would be most impacted by Forest City Ratner's project. Our lawsuit asks for nothing more than what the state law requires–that the environmental review be conducted in a fair and methodical way, with objectivity and integrity.”

The districts represented by Councilwoman Letitia James (35th District), State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (18th District) and Congressman Major Owens (11th District) include the entire footprint of FCR's proposed publicly subsidized, 22-acre, mixed-use redevelopment project known as "Atlantic Yards." Councilwoman James will argue in court on February 14th on behalf of the application she and her colleagues have filed.

DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "We believe Ratner’s proposed demolitions are intentionally pre-emptive and illegal. The demolitions would serve to subvert and severely taint the integrity of the environmental review process, already tainted by Mr. Paget’s apparent conflict of interest." Goldstein continued, "We are proud to be joined by these three elected officials who are standing up for the public interest, while too many elected officials are willing to ignore such conflicts and breaches of process. Our lawsuit is about protecting the integrity of the sole avenue for public review of Ratner’s massive proposed development; every elected official who is concerned with good government and democratic process ought to support this lawsuit."

Yesterday South Brooklyn Legal Servics (SBLS), a non-profit law firm serving low-income clients, joined in the same lawsuit. SBLS is seeking to intervene on behalf of a building of low-income, rent-stabilized, long-term tenants in Prospect Heights who would be displaced by eminent domain, and whose homes, situated where Ratner's arena is proposed, would be demolished if the project is approved.

Jennifer Levy, Co-Director of SBLS's Housing Law Unit is the attorney on the case. "Our plaintiffs challenge the demolition on the grounds that ESDC failed to seek any independent evidence that the buildings slotted for demolition are unsafe," Ms. Levy said. "In addition, ESDC's special counsel appears to have a serious conflict of interest and should be disqualified."

In order to obtain an emergency declaration, the developer had to show that the emergency measures to be employed were limited and temporary, and designed to cause the least possible environmental damage under the rules of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which currently governs the Ratner proposal. Demolition is not limited and temporary, and the ESDC has failed to even consider whether there might be a less drastic remedy than demolition until the environmental review process can be completed.

The court date for the hearing on the preliminary injunction is set for: Tuesday, February 14th. 9:30 AM.
Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County. 60 Centre Street.
before the Honorable Justice Carol Edmead


All lawsuit related documents and information can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation

Posted by lumi at February 8, 2006 10:31 PM