A federal appeals court rejected an appeal by critics of the use of eminent domain in the $4 billion Atlantic Yards mega-project in Brooklyn, a big, if expected, victory for developer Forest City Ratner, and surely a demoralizing blow to project opponents. (There are statements from Forest City and from opponents below this story.)
The decision nearly puts to rest the legal chapter of this years-long, high-profile development battle. Since the plan was approved more than a year ago, the courts have been the focus of any attention, as Forest City chairman Bruce Ratner has done little work on the Prospect Heights site other than demolitions and some other preparation.
The rejection leaves opponents with few legal avenues left, as the appellants on the lawsuit would need a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to merely be granted a trial in the case, let alone to come out victorious. Critics had said they put their highest hopes at the federal appellate level, and have previously conceded that it was unlikely the Supreme Court would take the case (the court only hears a few dozen cases a year).
The critics had appealed on a number of grounds, though argued generally that the use of eminent domain was unconstitutional as any public good that may have come of it was merely a pretext for Forest City Ratner’s private gain.
The court dismissed that argument, and the others. “As Kelo reaffirmed, the mere fact that a private party stands to benefit from a proposed taking does not suggest its purpose is invalid because ‘[q]uite simply, the government’s pursuit of a public purpose will often benefit individual private parties,’" the decision said.
Last month, critics were dealt a loss in state court, where they had challenged the state’s environmental impact statement, though they have pledged to appeal.
Statement from Forest City Ratner below:
FOREST CITY RATNER STATEMENT ON VICTORY IN FEDERAL EMINENT DOMAIN CASE
U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms Judge of District Court
February 1, 2008 – Brooklyn, NY – Bruce Ratner, the CEO and Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, today applauded the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, affirmation of the District Court’s decision in a case brought by opponents of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn on the grounds that the use of eminent domain violates the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The District Court had decided against the plaintiffs in the case.
“Today’s decision is more than another victory for Atlantic Yards," Mr. Ratner said. "It is a victory for public good and the importance of investing in diverse communities throughout the City. Atlantic Yards will bring thousands of affordable homes and needed jobs to Brooklyn. We believe, and the courts have repeatedly agreed, that these are real benefits that will have a significantly positive impact on the borough and the City.”
Two weeks ago, opponents suffered another defeat when the NY State Supreme Court ruled against them in a case involving environmental review procedures. Opponents have lost over a dozen court decisions in the past two years.
Statement from Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn: