Judge Kills Brooklyn Arena Suit

A New York federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, which will feature a $4 billion mini-city and basketball arena on what is now a rail yard and a mix of residential and industrial blocks.

The project has become a hot button issue within the Brooklyn community where homes and businesses are threatened with seizure under an eminent domain decree.

Current law dictates that eminent domain can be used to transfer land from one private owner to another for redevelopment as long as that redevelopment would provide a greater public use and spur economic growth within an area.

Opponents of Forest City Ratner’s project argue the developer was able to pick and choose the properties that needed to be condemned for the 22-acre site, and that the project will mainly benefit its investors, the New York Times reported.

Home and business owners occupying one edge of the Ratner development contend their multimillion-dollar properties don’t equate to urban blight, and that eminent domain should not be exercised for the project.

"If $2 million houses mean blight, what wouldn’t be blighted?" real estate agent Suzanne DeBrango told the New York Sun. She said what the area needs is "certainly not an arena," but a "respectful, contextual development."

However, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote in his decision that the arguments of the project’s opponents were lacking.

"Because plaintiffs concede that the project will create large quantities of housing and office space, as well as a sports arena, in an area that is mostly blighted," he wrote, "plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that ‘sole purpose’ of the project is to confer a private benefit."

Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner called the judgment "an important victory not only for Atlantic Yards but for Brooklyn as well."

"This decision means we are one step closer to creating over 2,200 units of affordable housing, thousands of construction and office jobs and bringing the Nets to Brooklyn," said Ratner, who is the principal owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.
The Frank Gehry-designed, 18,000-capacity Barclays Center arena is expected to open near the end of the decade.

But developers will face other legal battles including a suit challenging the project’s environmental impact report, as well as an appeal by the Brooklyn home and business owners, before construction can get under way.

"We will continue to pursue every single legal option available to the plaintiffs, wherever they lead us, to stop what we believe is a private taking in violation of the U.S. Constitution," Candace Carponter, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the Times.