Nine property owners inside the Atlantic Yards footprint moved last week to appeal last month’s Appellate Division ruling that said the state could use eminent domain to seize privately owned land for the controversial arena and skyscraper proposal.
The plaintiffs want the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York, to review the plan’s constitutionality, and ultimately, overturn the May decision by the lower court.
The property owners argue that a clause in the state Constitution adopted during the Great Depression prohibits the seizure of private property for housing — unless the new housing that’s created is reserved solely for low-income tenants.
Like the earlier case, the appeal alleges that developer Bruce Ratner’s expected profits so overshadow the supposed public benefits of the mega-development, such as the basketball arena, thousands of units of below-market-rate housing and open space, that the project itself can not be a “public benefit” — the accepted precondition for the use of eminent domain.
“The state Constitution is perfectly clear that you have to do an analysis to determine if public benefits substantially outweigh the private benefits,” said Matt Brinckerhoff, the attorney for the plaintiffs. “And the Empire State Development Corporation has no idea if Ratner is going to make $1 or $10 billion.”
Of course, the Court of Appeals can deny the request to hear the case — a move that would please Ratner. He’s repeatedly complained that the string of lawsuits has impeded construction, though construction has been far more hampered by the developer’s inability to obtain financing for the controversial $4-billion project.