UPDATED! Judge rules against Yards property owners, paving way for construction

The Brooklyn Paper
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State development officials now own once-privately-held properties in the footprint of developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, thanks to a state court ruling on Monday morning that removed the most significant legal hurdle remaining before construction can begin on the Barclays Center arena.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges held that 14 claims asserted by opponents of the eminent domain taking — ranging from the legality of the modification of the project over the summer to even the state’s failure to use the words “public use” in a section over why the land is being condemned in the first place — had no “merit.”

Gerges’s ruling now gives title to the state over properties that Ratner says he needs immediately to begin construction, including the home of project holdout Daniel Goldstein on Pacific Street and the building housing Freddy’s Bar on Dean Street.

There are 12 lots in all that remain in private hands, according to the Empire State Development Corporation, which is pursuing the condemnations on behalf of Ratner.

The case was argued on Jan. 29. Gerges’s ruling was strictly on procedural grounds, contending that “the court is required to direct the immediate filing and entry of the order granting [the condemnations] unless there is merit to any of the [landowners’] defenses.”

With Gerges’s ruling, the street closures around the Barclays Center site will begin on March 8, though it is unclear when the actually taking of property will occur.

Gerges’s ruling follows a decision by the state’s highest court last fall to allow the condemnations to move forward.

As such, Borough President Markowitz, long a supporter of Atlantic Yards, cheered Gerges’s decision to allow Goldstein and others to be evicted.

“Today’s ruling … means that the creation of much-needed affordable housing, solid union jobs and permanent employment opportunities for Brooklynites can finally begin,” the Beep said. “Brooklyn will soon have a national professional sports team and a world-class sports and event facility back in our borough after 53 years! Brooklyn’s shovels are, and have been, ready. So, let’s pick them up and get to work!”

Project opponents saw it the other way.

“Today’s extreme measure by New York State to seize ownership of private property is premature,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the principal opposition group. “There are two pending cases. Either would stop Atlantic Yards dead in its tracks and could impact today’s ruling.”

Goldstein pledged to pursue other legal avenues.

“There will be a dispute over how long we stay here [before physical eviction can take place],” Goldstein said, adding that the dispute will last “many months.”

Goldstein added that no matter what the ruling, he and other Yards opponents were not bowing to their new landlord.

“We live in our property. People will say, ‘Construction can start.’ Well no! We’re still here.”

A spokeswoman for the ESDC said that the agency “will continue to work with occupants to relocate them [in] an orderly relocation over the course of the next few months.”

Hours after the court ruling, the ESDC announced that it would close streets in the project footprint. The move was originally scheduled for Feb. 1, but is now set for March 8.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to include more comments.
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Reasonable discourse

Steve de Seve from Brooklyn Heights says:
No surprise there. This is a bad law. And even a good judge can't do much with a bad law. I would like to thank Judge Gerges for taking his time. I'm sure the decision was a difficult one for him.

43 states have changed their laws after the Kelo decision opened the door for the kind of favoritism we have seen at work all the way through this process.

Homeless kids and their families were the least favorite, and the first to be put out when Ratner requested the city close the Pacific Dean shelter.

Bribery is alleged in Yonkers, and the briber is not indicted -- but the person who took the bribe is.

Favoritism to Ratner, from apparent immunity in the bribe scandal, to the city locking a shelter in winter for him, to the subsidies and the eminent domain takings, is rampant.

Now the government has formally said Ratner is the preferred person, and Freddy's, Dan Goldstein, and the others are the unfavored. This is a money losing venture they are building according to the city's Independent Budget Office. So there is no economic benefit. There is only favoritism.

WW2 Germany and the Soviet Union took exactly this step. The favoritism there started with property rights. Jews' homes were taken from them and given to preferred party members. Then other rights were weakened.

How many people wished, too late, they had taken a stand when they still could have won? We face that choice now.

Those of us who see the danger of this law never had any illusions about the courts. Many of us keep trying, and there are more cases, because it was and is the right thing to do.

There are chains at Freddy's Bar to make a stand against the eviction. We invite anyone and everyone who believes along with 43 other U.S. states, that this law has got to be overturned. And it starts on what they will want to call "eviction day."

Favoritism, as it has been exercised today through the worst eminent domain law in the country, must be stood up to. And must be defeated. It's an election year, and too many politicians have accepted money from and showed favoritism toward Bruce Ratner. The man is charmed. And the rest of us are not.

We must change this.
March 1, 2010, 3:21 pm
David Brown from LES says:
I am really sick of Goldstein and his scorched earth "DDB" bunch. There are plenty of things wrong with Eminent Domain, but there are also things wrong with an opposite approach that rivals Islamic Fundamentalism in its level of extremism. Instead of fixing things that are wrong, they want to keep toxic waste dumps like Willets Point open, and waste everyone's time and money with Atlantic Yards lawsuits that have such a lack of merit, they losr EVERY battle in the Court Of Law. Was the New London case wrong? Yes it was. But this battle should have been decided at the ballot box, and DDB should have started to encourage people like Bill Perkins to run against the Status-Quo Establishment, and came up with pragmatic solutions instead of the most radical ones.
The very rrason many people are against President Obama's approach to Health Care is its radical left-wing ideal of Goverment Knows Best (I include myself in this majority). However, even Obama looks like a Centrist compared ro Daniel Goldstein, that is how far out he and DDB are. Good riddance to him.
March 1, 2010, 5:13 pm
Rob from North Slope says:
@David Brown -

It was the left wing of the supreme court that upheld the Kelo decision. The right wing wrote the dissent.

By pursuing every resource to protect his private property rights, Daniel is doing something that the right, not the left, is more sympathetic to. Hence why columnists such as George Will have come out in defense of Dan's fight and why folks such as the first poster recently were on Fox News.

I'd concur that the folks fighting AY probably lean left in general, but that's as much a reflection of the prevailing political views in the surrounding neighborhoods as anything else. The fight about AY has made for strange bedfellows (a billionaire developer teaming with ACORN; a bar famous for anti-Bush performance art toasting George Will).

But let's be clear that it's the right, not the left, that have been leading the fight against eminent domain and hence why the 43 states that have passed laws against eminent domain trend red, not blue. (One might also argue that the left's tendency to get on the wrong side of issues such as eminent domain is why they're having trouble appealing to "middle America" right now).

I find it amusing that posters from other "marginal" neighborhoods such as the lower east side post messages in support of AY. Be forewarn - the appetite of voracious corporate developers such as Bruce Ratner is insatiable. Don't look for the Prospect Heights community for help when Mr. Ratner - backed by New York's eminent domain law - comes knocking on your door to take your home. You are seriously deceiving yourself to not consider that your neighborhood could very well be the next target for Mr. Ratner's next project. What's your plan for when Mr. Ratner comes to take your home, David?
March 1, 2010, 6:42 pm
die from mohter——er says:
this judge should be strung up from a street light in said neighborhood
March 1, 2010, 8:01 pm
freddy from slope says:
Can't we get a decision from a judge who doesnt have questionable history?

Looks like he goes even further than having the public take private lands under any pretense. He's for taking public lands for private use.
March 2, 2010, 2:12 am
Michale from Brooklyn says:
Eminent Domain is the worse policy ever. People who plan on making millions of dollars are able to take property from others and give them far less than the property should be valued at. The American dream of owning a home is simply brushed away from any Greedy developer who has the clout to push through what they want. Of course being in bed with slimy Marty doesn't hurt.
March 2, 2010, 8:25 am
Tony from Waterfront says:
Just as the Atlantic Yards' deal was a "contract" from the start, Abe Gerges -- a nice man -- is simply fulfilling the Kings County judicial end of the deal.

Goldstein may impress some as a bit of a wacko, but he stood on principle, as did the Brooklyn Paper in its early and sustained opposition to this boondogle.
March 2, 2010, 8:01 pm
D. Goldstein from Prospect Heights says:
If someone who doesn't like having his home stolen by the government to give to a billionaire developer for his corrupt boondoggle is a wacko, then color be wacko.
March 3, 2010, 12:50 pm

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