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March 2, 2007

Case Dismissed! (Maybe.)

Even if Feds Defer, Yards Will Still Have Day in State Court

Brooklyn Downtown Star
By Norman Oder

For months, Atlantic Yards opponents have placed their hopes on a federal lawsuit challenging the use of eminent domain for the project, a case that might break new legal ground. But that challenge just got tougher last Friday, as U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, without ruling on the merits of the case, recommended that it be dismissed because it belongs in state court. That means the 13 plaintiffs - homeowners, renters, and business owners - would have to re-file the case in state court, where legal rules constrain their capacity to argue that the arena-plus-16 skyscrapers project derives from a sweetheart deal.

Before they do so, they have one more shot. Levy’s report is a recommendation to federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, but not binding. Though judges generally follow such recommendations, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the coalition organizing 13 plaintiffs, promised to exercise its option to file legal papers with Garaufis challenging the report.

Forest City Ratner had no comment, but a spokesman for Mayor Mike Bloomberg praised the decision as furthering the benefits of the $4 billion project, including new jobs and affordable housing. Besides the developer and the city, other defendants include the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and city and state officials.

Oder goes into quite a bit of detail, explaining the Burford abstention and why even U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy agrees that the plaintiffs would have a more difficult time proving their case in State court.

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Posted by lumi at March 2, 2007 8:21 AM