LOCATION: The U.S. District Court in Brooklyn ruled earlier this month that Atlantic Yards does serve some public purpose. In other words, its sole purpose is not to confer a private benefit on Forest City Ratner, the developer. What did you think of the ruling?
MR. GOLDSTEIN: First off, the judge did reject three of the four motions to dismiss the case brought by the defendants [including Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation].
So what was positive out of that decision was that the judge decided that the claims you are making are constitutional claims based on the U.S. Constitution and belong in federal court, and that’s where they should be. And that’s where we are. But then he went to the fourth motion to dismiss the case where he did agree with the defendants that the plaintiffs did not present a valid claim.
We disagree because we feel that significant parts of the argument that we raised in our initial complaint this court simply did not address; and those arguments come out of the Supreme Court decision of two years ago, Kelo v. New London.
Do you feel a successful appeal of the recent federal ruling would stop the project?
Well, first off, a successful appeal on this would simply get us to a trial. And then we would be able to make a strong case. Yes, [Bruce] Ratner is creating facts on the ground through demolitions. At this point, the issue isn’t what’s going to come down, or what’s coming down, but what goes up. If we ultimately win our lawsuit, the project as we know it can’t go up. There’s a significant amount of property that Ratner does not own. Until the day comes where the developer has the deeds, including this unit in this building, which is situated where the arena would be, the project can’t go forward. We would hope to win this appeal on the motion to dismiss in the Second Circuit Court; if we don’t, we will be writing to the Supreme Court to hear our case. This will go on and on. This is not over by a long shot.
Have you heard anything from the Spitzer administration? He had his concerns coming into office about the project.
The Spitzer administration since it has come into office, when it comes to Atlantic Yards, most of what they’ve had to say publicly is through the Empire State Development Corporation and almost all of it from their press person. Their tactic seems to be “Well, this project was approved by the last administration.”
Have you talked to Pat Foye, the new head of the downstate ESDC?
Pat Foye was scheduled to take a tour of the project site. It was postponed and it hasn’t happened.
When was it postponed?
It was March. We think he should still do that.
After the federal court ruling, Forest City Ratner said this decision puts it a step closer to creating X number of affordable housing units in Brooklyn. How does that make you feel, the tack of saying this is essentially a way of creating affordable housing?
Well, it’s nonsense. Forest City Ratner proposed this project to make a profit. That’s what publicly traded companies do and they’re a subsidiary of a large, publicly traded company. It’s offensive because the plaintiffs on that lawsuit, and I’m one of them, brought that lawsuit because they feel that the taking of their property by the state violates the Constitution.
They didn’t bring that lawsuit to get in the way of creating so-called affordable housing or jobs—so putting aside our contention that this project is not about affordable housing and not about job creation and not about new tax revenue for the city and state—the lawsuit certainly was not an attempt to get in the way of Brooklynites getting those things if those things would actually ever occur. Because we can get all of those things without any use of eminent domain, so our lawsuit had nothing to do with getting in the way.
We would argue that Ratner is in our way, Ratner’s trying to take our homes and our business and our property. So who’s in whose way? Is it surprising that they use that decision to suggest that now they can move forward? Not at all.
How much money has Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spent on court cases?
First of all, we are constantly fund-raising.
From whom, usually?
We are fund-raising from anyone and everyone. We are fund-raising from individuals within Brooklyn and beyond. We’re holding, just this month, five major house parties …. We’ve had others. We have somewhere well over 3,200 individual donors; that’s over this three-year period. When this decision came down, we raised a substantial amount of money within a few days over this decision.
Six figures [laughing]? Not six figures.
Well, this is New York, and you said “substantial” ….
These are relatively small donations. Let’s put it this way: Thousands and thousands of dollars within a few days and some with messages. And I think the message just from the donation was “Yeah, we didn’t like this decision but keep going, keep fighting, we support what you’re doing.” We have set out to raise close to a million dollars for this year. We believe that’s what it will take to get through, and it could take more than that to get through an appeal and a trial.
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