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March 16, 2011

BrooklynSpeaks and DDDB battle ESDC and FCR in inconclusive court hearing over AY timetable impacts; no stay issued; judge won't hear sanctions case

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has the complete blow by blow from yesterday's New York State Supreme Court argument over the failure of the Empire State Development Corporation to properly weigh the effects of 25 years (or more) of Atlantic Yards construction impacts.

What was likely one of the last court hearings in a long skein of Atlantic Yards legal cases was an inconclusive but hard-fought affair yesterday afternoon in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

A lawyer for the community coalition BrooklynSpeaks assailed a "cover up" by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) over the legitimacy of the ESDC's response to a court order requiring it to explain why it didn't need issue a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement to study the impact of a potential 25-year buildout.

In response, the ESDC and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) forcefully defended themselves.

Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, who in a hearing last June had evinced skepticism toward the ESDC--and issued a ruling in November partly backing community petitioners, requiring the ESDC to make new findings--asked relatively few questions.

The judge, whose default posture seems to be weary, wary skepticism, ultimately expressed some exasperation with both sides.

She heard a request for a stay on Atlantic Yards construction--a request with the provision that ongoing arena construction could continue--but did not indicate when she'd rule.

No hearing on sanctions motion

One thing was clear: Friedman was not about to take seriously the unusual motion, filed by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and by Brooklyn Speaks--and later withdrawn by the latter--for sanctions and lawyers' fees from the opposing side, for failure to produce the crucial Development Agreement last year in court.

Though that issue was the subject of some heated legal papers, Friedman said at the outset that she would not devote any oral argument time on it.

She announced she'd give each side 20 to 30 minutes for their arguments, but they each wound up taking about 45 minutes. As is typical.

Click through for a full report on the arguments.


NoLandGrab: Our favorite part? Forest City attorney Jeffrey Braun getting himself extolling the virtues of ubiquitous environmental impact consultant AKRF, calling them "rigorous" and the "gold standard" for such firms. Had we been able to cross-examine, we would have asked him, in all their rigor, how many times they've ever found a project had unacceptable impacts. If he could cite just one instance, we'd throw in the towel.

And as Norman Oder reminds us, the ESDC admitted at an early 2010 oversight hearing held by state Senator Bill Perkins, that AKRF has never provided a determination that did not lead to a blight finding. Perhaps Mr. Braun meant to say "gold standard for real estate developer-friendly" consultants.

Posted by eric at March 16, 2011 12:15 PM