Forest City Wins in Federal Court

A federal court today dismissed the eminent domain lawsuit that Daniel Goldstein, the co-founder and spokesman for Develop--Don't Destroy Brooklyn, and others had filed against the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.    

The 13 plaintiffs, who own or rent property in the project’s 22-acre footprint, had argued that the alleged public benefits of Atlantic Yards were just pretexts for transferring property from one private party to another using the government’s power of eminent domain.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis, of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, said that Forest City Ratner, the project’s developer, and the Empire State Development Corporation, the project’s government sponsor, may well have exaggerated the benefits of the proposed NBA basketball arena and 6,430-unit housing complex, but that Atlantic Yards would nonetheless serve some public purpose.

“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, plaintiffs’ allegations, if proved, would not permit a reasonable juror to conclude that the sole purpose of the project is to confer a private benefit,” he wrote.

Develop–Don't Destroy Brooklyn, which has raised money to fund the lawsuit, promised an appeal and tried to cast the decision in the best possible light. Just a few months ago, a magistrate had recommended that the suit be dismissed because it was more suitable for state court. This time around, Judge Garaufis considered the case appropriate for federal courts–which would permit the plaintiffs to subpoena internal documents to help build their case in a way that state courts would not–but said it failed on its merits.

"We need to put the defendant to the task of justifying what was done, why no other developer was considered, why this development was conceived of by someone outside of government," DDDB's attorney Matthew Brinckerhoff said.

Forest City Ratner e-mailed the press a statement from its president and chief executive, Bruce Ratner, saying, "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."

The Empire State Development Corporation, which was a co-defendant, said in a statement, "This is yet another instance in which the project has stood up to legal scrutiny, and we remain confident that the project will continue to prevail in the courts."

UPDATE: This version of the post has been updated with more comments from plaintiffs and defendants.