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May 29, 2008

AY ten-year timetable realistic or p.r. scheme? ESDC, residents battle in court

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder delves into the most-recent lawsuit — filed in state court on behalf of apartment renters facing eviction — challenging the use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) has filed legal papers asking for a state court to dismiss the lawsuit filed April 30 that charges that the ESDC’s willingness to give developer Forest City Ratner 12+ years to build Phase 1 of Atlantic Yards violates a provision of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL). The suit also requests a new public hearing to evaluate the benefits of the amended project.

In arguing against the lawsuit, filed by 13 residential tenants in two buildings within the project footprint, the ESDC curiously claims that the courts should view Bruce Ratner’s May 4 Daily News op-ed asserting a 2018 completion date as more credible than his interview in the March 21 New York Times regarding the project’s stall, and that the penalties facing the developer for delaying the project are “draconian.”

Ten-year timetable realistic?

While the lawsuit, filed on behalf of petitioners who have lost two other suits filed by attorney George Locker, attempts to break new legal ground and thus must be seen as an uphill effort, it brings an important public policy issue to the legal arena. At essence is whether the project approved by the ESDC in December 2006, with a ten-year “anticipated” timetable for an arena, 16 towers, eight acres of open space and more, remains realistic.

The ESDC says it is: “Petitioners cite an exhibit to the [State] Funding Agreement that describes the draconian contractual remedies that would be available to ESDC if FCRC fails to complete established Project milestones by certain outside dates. The fact that ESDC could bring to bear certain contractual remedies in such circumstances does not change the Project approved by ESDC on December 8, 2006. Moreover, a change in the construction schedule would not be the type of significant change in public use that would require a new EDPL public hearing.”

However, the funding agreement does not address a starting or ending date for the 11 towers of Phase 2, instead leaving that to be resolved in yet-unfinished “Project Documentation.” The petitioners thus contend that the ten-year project “that was studied and approved by ESDC in December 2006, as having sufficient public purpose and public benefit, ceased to exist on September 12, 2007, when by agreement AYP [Atlantic Yards Project] became an uncertain project of an unspecified duration.” The petitioners charge that the agreement “was kept hidden from petitioners and from the public for six months.”

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NoLandGrab: Seems pretty straightforward to us that if your environmental review is based on a 10-year timeframe, and then the state turns around and gives the developer 12 years to build Phase 1 and doesn't attach any deadline to Phase 2, something ain't right.

Posted by eric at May 29, 2008 9:14 AM