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January 29, 2010

Condemnation on hold after judge promises prompt review of claims; streets unlikely to close on February 1

Atlantic Yard Report

No, the Atlantic Yards condemnation case was not going to be simple, after all.

After nearly two hours of oft-contentious oral argument before Kings County Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges--argument that, according to counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) went well beyond the proceeding at hand--the judge chose not to rule on the motions and counter-motions filed in the last two days.

"While the court will proceed promptly, the parties are entitled to a review of their claims," Gerges said at the end of the hearing, promising to "proceed expeditiously."

That means, most likely, that streets planned for closure February 1 will not close, even though developer Forest City Ratner seeks the closure of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues for sewer work needed before arena construction will go forward--and has said it wanted that street closed even if the case was delayed.

Gerges was not unskeptical about the claims raised by attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff, representing several footprint property owners and leaseholders, who argued that changes in the project after the ESDC's 2006 approval of the eminent domain Determination & Findings (D&F) were so significant that a new D&F was required.

Weren't such issues supposed to be dealt with in other cases, the judge asked.

Brinckerhoff pointed out that other courts considering AY-related cases had relied solely on the record as of December 2006. "The fact that they changed the project so much has to be considered by someone," he said.

He suggested, by way of example, a situation in which a D&F had been approved but there was absolutely no financing for a project. In such a case, despite the D&F, he said, a condemnation court would not have transferred title.

He said: "The question is: where on the continuum from nothing changing to everything changing do we get heard?"


Posted by eric at January 29, 2010 3:53 PM