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May 4, 2007

ESDC grilled over blight, “civic project” in EIS lawsuit hearing, but judge’s latitude may be limited

Atlantic Yards Report distilled 3 hrs. and 45 mins of legal arguments into nearly 5,000 words, which will take you about two mins to read if you're "The Mad Overkiller" Norman Oder, but will probably take the rest of us the entire subway trip to work.

Seriously, it seems daunting and lengthy, but Norman Oder covers a lot of ground and if you want to know what happenned, it's pretty much all there:

The hearing, which began at 3:30 p.m., lasted some three hours and 45 minutes, as State Supreme Court Justice Joan A. Madden soon recognized that the parties would not be able to leave at 5 p.m, the normal courthouse closing time. Some 70 people, many of them Atlantic Yards opponents, packed the courtroom, which included a substantial contingent of Forest City Ratner executives, periodically grim-faced during rockier moments in the argument. (Unlike at some public hearings last year, there were no contingents of project supporters wearing shirts identifying themselves as members of Community Benefits Agreement signatories BUILD or ACORN.)

On both points noted above, Madden seemed sympathetic to the arguments made by the petitioners, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and 25 other neighborhood and civic groups, peppering an ESDC lawyer with sharp questions about the planned arena.

On the other hand, such challenges to Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) have a record of failure. And Madden did not seem as sympathetic to several other arguments more forcefully rebutted by the respondents, which include the ESDC, the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

And the oral arguments could hardly get to all the points raised in the lengthy legal briefs and the almost absurdly voluminous record, more than 25,000 pages in thick volumes positioned in a long row on the table for defense counsel. There were eleven of the latter at and behind the table, backed by several colleagues in the audience. The petitioners, as usual overmatched in terms of sheer lawyer-power, had five lawyers at their table, though they also had legal volunteers in the audience and DDDB point man Daniel Goldstein, sitting in the first row, periodically passed notes to his counsel.

Madden, who had clearly gotten up to speed on parts of the case, said she would try to rule in four to six weeks. While the petitioners had asked for a preliminary injunction to block the further demolition of buildings, Madden, who previously denied a temporary restraining order to do that same, apparently will rule on the case as a whole before a significant number of demolitions continue.

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Oder covered the main points made by the plaintiffs and defendants ranging from blight findings, how the blight study coincidentally only covered the property that Ratner wanted to take, the Coney Island myth, the difference (or no difference) between the public "hearing" and public "forums," whether or not the arena for a professional basketball team is a "civic project," the lack of a terrorism review, the EIS's ten-year timeline (even though professionals involved with the project say it will take longer) and the MTA's scandalous awarding of the railyards to the low bidder.

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Posted by lumi at May 4, 2007 10:17 AM