A-Yards Backers Lose Their Appeal

In a final defeat for Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation, the New York State Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier ruling that requires a supplemental environmental impact study (SEIS) for the Atlantic Yards megaproject.

The court denied the appeal by the developer and the agency to overturn State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman’s 2011 decision ordering a new study of the effects of construction on surrounding communities over a 25-year period.

A group of BrooklynSpeaks sponsors (including the Park Slope Civic Council), local residents, and elected officials originally filed suit in November 2009, charging that ESDC approved Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) without sufficient study of the longer-term effects of construction. ESDC initially implied it had negotiated remedies to ensure the project would be completed on its original schedule; in fact, the agency had agreed to a 25-year time frame for the project. The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors then asked the court to reopen the case; Justice Friedman ultimately ruled that ESDC’s approval of the 2009 MGPP lacked a rational basis and violated state law.

“Our elected officials must demand accountability from the SEIS process,” said Civic Council President Michael Cairl. “While the arena may be nearing completion, the impact of the project on local individuals, families, and businesses is just beginning. The SEIS must develop in good faith plans and alternatives to complete the Atlantic Yards project on its original schedule.”

BrooklynSpeaks sponsors have argued that ESDC fast-tracked approval of the 2009 schedule concessions demanded by Forest City so it could meet a deadline that would allow its arena bonds to be tax-exempt. “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. Now … the Cuomo administration has a responsibility to put the public’s interest first, and ensure that housing and jobs are delivered as soon as possible.”

To learn more about this decision, visit www.brooklynspeaks.net.

from the Summer 2012 Civic News