Appellate Division’s Unanimous Decision: ESDC Must Revisit 2009 Atlantic Yards Plan

In a strongly worded rebuke to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), the State Appellate Division ruled to uphold a lower court’s decision that approval of Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified General Project Plan violated New York environmental law. The initial ruling, made last July by State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, ordered ESDC and FCRC to revisit the 2009 plan, which extended the build-out of the Atlantic Yards project from 10 to 25 years. Her ruling also called for additional environmental analyses from ESDC and FCRC to determine how the effect of extended construction on surrounding neighborhoods could be minimized.

The unanimous Appellate decision, on April 12 by a panel of five judges, was a significant victory for the Park Slope Civic Council and other community organizations sponsoring the Brooklyn­Speaks initiative. The coalition has challenged ESDC agreeing to more than double the project construction schedule without analyzing its effect on nearby communities. In legal filings, the groups contended that ESDC’s approval had been rushed through in order to help FCRC meet a Dec. 31, 2009, deadline for issuing its arena bonds with tax-exempt interest.

“ESDC’s actions saved the developer hundreds of millions in interest payments,” said Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, “but at the cost of thousands of units of affordable housing being delayed for decades. The Appellate Division ruling gives the governor an opportunity to put the project’s public benefits back on the schedule promised.”

ESDC has not announced whether it will honor the court decision and move forward with the supplemental environmental impact statement, or try instead to have the latest ruling overturned by the New York State Court of Appeals.

In addition to calling for accelerated construction of affordable housing on buildable lots within the Atlantic Yards footprint, the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors have advocated that the state government create a subsidiary dedicated to overseeing the Atlantic Yards project, with a board that includes outside directors.

Learn more about BrooklynSpeaks or donate to support the coalition’s legal effort at www.brooklynspeaks.net.

— Gib Veconi is a member of the board of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

Photo by David Herman

from the Spring 2012 Civic News

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