Supremes sing the blues to Yards foes

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The Supreme Court will not hear a case brought by property owners who are slated to lose their land to make room for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project — but the property owners say they will take their case through New York State’s court system, which has traditionally not been sympathetic to property owners in eminent domain cases.

The Supreme Court denied without comment the 11 property owners’ request that the High Court take up case, which has been rejected by two lower federal courts — though the court did reveal that Justice Samuel Alito, a known skeptic of eminent domain, voted to hear the case.

Plaintiffs, including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein, who owns an apartment that is slated to be leveled, have argued that the state can not use its eminent domain power to transfer privately owned land to a private developer unless there is a clear public benefit.

Goldstein and his fellow petitioners claim that state officials agreed to condemn land for Ratner in a “sham” process that used the project’s supposed public benefits as a “pretext.”

“Our claims remain sound,” said plaintiff’s lawyer, Matthew Brinckerhoff. “New York State law and the state constitution prohibit the government from taking private homes and businesses simply because a powerful developer demands it. Yet, that is what has happened. … We now know that Ratner’s project will cost the public much more than it will ever receive. Now we will turn to the state courts to vindicate our rights.”

Brinckerhoff admitted that he had initially brought the case in federal courts because they have been more “sympathetic,” both on the merits of eminent domain cases and on the plaintiffs’ right to see internal state documents, a process known as “discovery.”

“Admittedly, our right to discovery in state court is much more dubious,” Brinckerhoff told The Brooklyn Paper. “But the same [state] court that we’re petitioning [did agree to hear] a similar eminent domain case last year, so we’re optimistic.”

The Empire State Development Corporation has argued that the project’s public benefits — affordable housing, a basketball arena, seven acres of open space and the development of land that is mostly scarred by a rail yard — are real and not a pretext.

Economics have delayed Ratner’s $4-billion project. The developer has said that he is having trouble lining up financing to begin construction of the arena and one residential building next to it. The vast majority of the affordable housing and all of the open space is in Phase II of the project — but the state has given Ratner no deadline for completion of that part of the project and opponents believe it will never get built.

Ratner insists that the entire project will get built within 20 years.

Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Charles from PS says:
The Supreme Court denies most cases they receive, so this isn't a surprise. They need, however, to ultimately enforce the constitutional interpretation they made in Kelo v. New London (2005). Economic benefits are a public use, but pretextual takings are not allowed. Pretextual takings, such as the Atlantic Yard project, must be voided as fundamentally unfair, and against the takings and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. I have faith the New York courts upstream will see the wisdom of their words:

“A purely private taking could not withstand the scrutiny of the public use requirement; it would serve no legitimate purpose of government and would thus be void” … "Nor would the City be allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit."
June 24, 2008, 12:21 am
PJ from Williamsburg says:
Remember in the New London they were fighting over waterfront property. Maybe I'm crazy but they also ruled that the Cleveland Browns belonged to the public. If the Nets come to Brooklyn would the public benefit from it? Would the public benefit from a Walmart?
June 26, 2008, 12:23 am
Jerry from Park Slope says:
If the Supreme Court had decided to hear the case, the decision would have been a front page story, probably with a banner headline. Since it didn't, the Brooklyn Paper buried the story on page five.
June 27, 2008, 12:23 pm
Charles from PS, Bklyn says:
It is true the New London case was about semi-waterfront property, but New London was suppose to be the correct way for government to go about using eminent domain: The government must initially develop the idea and plan for a certain area, create a real and comprehensive development plan, and then, after this is done and approved, seek a developer.

The problem with many of these eminent domain cases is that the developer is chosen before the plan is created, thus a "pretextual" taking. Of course, the similarity is that in both cases, the land is valuable and worth "stealing" through government facilitation. Why pay the fair market value when you can get the government to do it for you, at taxpayer expense?

There is an old legal adage, used for obscenity, that "I know it when I see it." Bridges, hospitals, roads ... sure, public purpose. A sports team or a Walmart? Well, I don’t believe so, and so do a great many people in America. It trivialize the Constitution to believe these are for public purpose, and makes this country a little less great than it use to be.
July 3, 2008, 11:53 am

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