Opponents of Atlantic Yards are readying a lawsuit charging huge deficiencies in the draft and final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which they contend must be redone. The suit is expected to be filed in State Supreme Court in the coming weeks. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) are expected to be the main defendants. There will be many co-plaintiffs on the lawsuit and were still waiting to hear from several more organizations that may be signing onto it, said Develop Dont Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) legal advisor Candace Carponter, who is spearheading the legal challenge. Carponter said that eventually there will be between 15 and 20 co-plaintiffs and it has not been determined yet who will be the lead plaintiff. Also signing onto the suit is the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), an organization of several dozen community and civic groups put together to ensure community participation in the Atlantic Yards project. Officially, the CBN has not taken a position on the project. However, Carponter, whose DDDB organization is against the project, is co-chair of the CBN. Among the elected officials supporting the EIS lawsuit is City Councilmember Letitia James, who obtained city money for the CBN to fund an independent consultant to look at the DEIS and final EIS on the project. The council member believes the EIS process was deeply flawed and is glad the community groups are filing this important suit, said James chief of staff Kate Suisman. The council member hopes that the severity of the environmental issues finally comes to light, she added. Suisman said some of the environmental problems stemming from the project include increased rates of asthma, sewage overflow and other forms of pollution. Suisman said James is also following and supporting the eminent domain (ED) lawsuit filed first in Federal Court, and recently amended to include a state court claim. Carponter said the ED lawsuit argues the U.S. Constitution has been violated in the project because the initiative is developer driven with no legislative oversight. Additionally, the ED lawsuit charges there was no public process determining that the land condemned was necessary to accomplish a public purpose, she said. While the case could dismissed in federal court and then heard in state court, Carponter feels the plaintiffs have a solid case. We feel very optimistic. We believe the case law is solidly in our favor, she said. The federal court is expected to make a ruling whether it will hear the case or throw it down to the state court early next month, said Carponter. While DDDB spokesperson Daniel Goldstein is the lead plaintiff on the ED lawsuit, Henry Weinstein, who owns property in the footprint, also recently signed onto the suit. According to the blog, Atlantic Yards Report, Weinstein owns four properties in the footprint of the project, including three lots and a renovated six-story building that he rented to Brooklyn developer Shaya Boymelgreen. Weinstein has a case pending in state court, according to the blog, alleging that Boymelgreen had no rights to assign his lease to FCRC. Boymelgreen did not return calls at press time. Weinstein argues that his tenant didnt get permission to assign the lease, which allowed FCRC to claim it controls a property that it does not own. Meanwhile, 13 rent-stabilized tenants of 473 Sean Street and 624 Pacific Street have filed two suits in state courts. According to the tenants attorney, George Locker, the first case seeks a judgment that ESDC has no authority to utilize ED to create a private road for a private entity, and secondly, only the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal have the jurisdiction to authorize the demolition of rent-stabilized apartments. The second suit has to do with FCRC allegedly failing to provide relocation agreements for tenants once they are displaced, said Locker. Locker said FCRC has not approached him or the tenants about a possible settlement. He [Ratner] cant touch the buildings until the second case is over, said Locker. There is no chance that Ratner can legally touch those buildings for two years, and they are sitting at half court of his arena or in the lobby of his boutique hotel. Neither ESDC nor FCRC would comment on pending litigations.
©2007 Community News Group
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