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February 8, 2007

“Public purpose” enters uncharted territory in marathon eminent domain “seminar”

Atlantic Yards Report goes into some depth on yesterday's hearing:

Brinckerhoff01-JB.jpgThe marathon hearing in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case yesterday at times felt like a law school seminar, as Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy tossed hypothetical situations at lawyers for the plaintiffs and the defendants. Given a case that tests the boundaries of the law, Levy challenged them to suggest rules for determining when the balance of public and private purposes behind a project is so wrong that a court must intervene—and seemed unwilling to swiftly dismiss the case, as the lawyers for the defense hope. About 100 people listened intently in the federal courtroom in Downtown Brooklyn.

At issue are: * the determination of blight (the ESDC says that the area was declared "blighted" in 1968, the plaintiffs say, yeah, the railyard, but not their properties); * the constitutionality of using eminent domain for developer-driven projects; * the Supreme Court's warning against "impermissible favoritism;" * whether to allow more "fact-finding" or discovery on behalf of the plaintiffs; * though the case may stink, is it "ripe;" * if another case filed in State court will have any bearing on the Federal suit; and * if the courts can intervene when a public purpose has been identified.

The Mad Overkiller also "Oderizes" the numbers cited by lawyers for both sides and a defense attorney's assertion that the project will create a "public" park.

Here's one point made by the defense that made us choke with laughter:

So what kind of case might trigger an alarm? Kraus suggested a case in which a store owner might pressure city officials to condemn a neighboring store for his use. The issue, he said, was reminiscent of Justice Potter Stewart’s famous formulation about pornography: “You know it when you see it."

Bruce Ratner developed and owns the malls just across the street from the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Now he wants to work his magic on the next 22 acres.


Posted by lumi at February 8, 2007 7:37 AM