A coalition of 26 Brooklyn civic groups that oppose Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development have filed a lawsuit to annul the state’s environmental review of the Prospect Heights Xanadu, charging that officials broke review laws in their rush to approve the project before Gov. Pataki left office.
The lawsuit — primarily funded by Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — is the Ratner foes’ third attempt to use the courts to stop the residential, retail, office and arena complex.
It is the first suit to focus exclusively on the alleged shortcomings in the Empire State Development Corporation’s environmental review of the development, the biggest real estate project ever proposed for Brooklyn.
“The ESDC’s rush to reach the pre-determined outcome of its ‘Atlantic Yards’ review before the end of the Pataki administration led to a fatally-flawed environmental review,” said lead attorney Jeffrey Baker.
Baker said the suit seeks to invalidate the review done under the Pataki administration, “necessitating a fresh look from Governor Spitzer, his new ESDC and MTA, and the PACB.”
DDDB has long said that it would do all that it could to put the project under the control of Gov. Spitzer, who they believe would take local concerns about the project’s scale and impacts more seriously than his predecessor — a longtime ally of Ratner who has known him since they attended Columbia Law School together decades ago.
Pat Foye, the ESDC chairman appointed by Spitzer, has said since coming to office that the new administration intended to improve the economic development agency’s transparency.
An ESDC spokesman said last week that the agency’s new officials would not comment on the Pataki administration’s financial review of the project.
“The [documents] met the test for the previous administration,” he said.
The agency declined further comment until it reviewed the suit.
The lawsuit also charges state officials with failing to take into account terrorism risks associated with building Ratner’s 16 towers and an 18,000-seat arena next to Brooklyn’s biggest transit hub, a complex that includes a LIRR terminal and the Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stations.
Opponents, including Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Prospect Heights), hope that the courts will force Ratner to stop work on the project’s site until the case is resolved.
“Once the buildings are torn down they cannot be put back,” said James. “The injury to the community is irreparable.”
Forest City Ratner declined to comment on the lawsuit.