More Litigation, Questions Hurled at Atlantic Yards as Finance Deadline Nears

During its six years in the court of public opinion, this much has been certain about the planned Atlantic Yards project: It’s not without drama.

Racing to meet an I.R.S.-imposed Dec. 31 deadline to secure financing, developer Bruce Ratner is scrambling to tie down all of the loose balloons that are trying to float away (he’s been having trouble getting some $700 million in tax-free bonds rated, for one) and cobble together a completed deal within the next six weeks for his $4.9 billion mega-development. At the same time, opponents and critics are launching an unending cascade of lawsuits and legitimate questions at the process in an attempt to delay or kill Atlantic Yards in its vulnerable state.

The two latest shots came Thursday, as the third lawsuit in two months was filed in court, and the main opposition group announced a letter it sent to elected officials outlining new reasons why a recent approval was illegal.

All that, and the Court of Appeals is expected to issue a make-or-break decision on eminent domain within days, perhaps as soon as Monday.

Thursday’s lawsuit, at least the sixth significant suit in the history of the project, challenges the approval process–or, more precisely, challenges the re-approval process, given that the project has changed since it was first approved by the state in 2006. The suit was filed by a collection of community groups and a set of elected officials.

From the brief, which claims there needed to be more study of the environmental impacts of Atlantic Yards:

[T]here should have been a further analysis of the adverse environmental impacts resulting from the changes would have been provided through an SEIS, allowing other expert agencies, as well as the public, the opportunity to provide their input.

A suit that had some similar claims was filed in October by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Forest City Ratner apparently felt a need to be a bit fiestier than usual in its statement on this latest suit. In the statement, Bruce Bender, Forest City’s government affairs executive, says the company is “on the verge” of making the project happen:

We’re on the verge of making Atlantic Yards a reality, a reality that means thousands of jobs for a borough and city hard hit with unemployment, affordable housing and a dynamic sports and entertainment facility. It should not surprise anyone that opponents who pledged to sue early and often are still suing.  It is what they do.

(A spokeswoman for the state’s development agency said in a statement that the agency would “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit, and it does not expect the litigation to delay the project.)

Separately, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn penned a letter to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and State Senator Bill Perkins, claiming that Atlantic Yards was improperly re-approved this year because Forest City did not provide all the needed financial information.

The letter (below) comes in advance of a state hearing Tuesday on some $700 million in tax-free bonds for the project’s centerpiece Nets basketball arena. The issuance of those bonds must be approved by the board, and DDDB requested that the officials intervene to stop the process.

Should Forest City get a favorable court ruling, favorable bond ratings, and the expected approval from the state on the bonds, it would then need to market the bonds and then sell them–then pull everything together for a “master closing,” in which contracts with the state, city, and M.T.A. all are finalized and signed.

DiNapoliPACB091118 More Litigation, Questions Hurled at Atlantic Yards as Finance Deadline Nears