‘Supreme’ loss for Yards foes

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With site preparation work continuing on the Atlantic Yards project, opponents appear to be down to their last court appeal before developer Forest City Ratner Companies can officially start construction.

The United States Supreme Court last week decided not to hear an eminent domain suit petitioned by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

“We believe, and the courts have repeatedly agreed, that Atlantic Yards provides significant public benefits including thousands of affordable homes and much-needed jobs for Brooklyn,” said FCRC Chair and CEO Bruce Ratner in a statement.

“We are gratified that the Supreme Court has decided to put an end to this lawsuit. The opponents have now lost 20 court decisions relating to Atlantic Yards and we are now one step closer to making these benefits a reality for the borough and the city,” he added.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal comes from the case in which 11 property owners and tenants in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project argued unsuccessfully in lower federal courts that the use of eminent domain violated the U.S. Constitution because the taking of their property is not primarily for the public’s benefit.

The project includes an arena to house the NBA’s Nets basketball team as well as 16 high-rises for both market rate and affordable housing.

The city, state and FCRC argued that the development is necessary as an economic engine and to provide much-needed affordable housing.

Despite the court decision to not hear the case, Matthew Brinckerhoff, the attorney for the plaintiffs, vowed to pursue the case in the state court.

“Now we will turn to the state courts to vindicate our rights. We will soon file an action in New York State court under state law as we were expressly permitted to do by the rulings of the federal courts,” Brinckerhoff said in a statement.

Meanwhile, FCRC spokesperson Loren Riegelhaupt said one court case remains before the company can proceed to break ground.

That case is in the state appellate division in which opponents allege the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was not completed correctly.

The appeal will be heard in September and the decision is expected in either October or November, and assuming the court decides in FCRC’s favor, ground will be broken on phase one of the project including the arena in November or December, said Riegelhaupt.

While the legal fight carries on, work is continuing on the 22-acre project site.

Riegelhaupt said roughly 53 percent of the structures on the site have been demolished or are in the process of being demolished.

Thirty structures have been demolished already and an additional three buildings are being demolished or are slated to be demolished in the short term, he said.

Riegelhaupt said there are now 11 vacant lots and 29 other remaining structures on the project site and construction of a temporary rail yard is under way as well as infrastructure upgrades.

“Negotiations on the financing are continuing and we are very confident we will get the financing necessary to build Atlantic Yards,” he said.

Updated 3:46 pm, October 19, 2011
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