Brooklyn community organizations and elected officials file lawsuit to reverse ESDC’s approval of Atlantic Yards’ MGPP

Prominent civic and community development organizations and local elected officials who represent the communities surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project, gathered on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, November 19th to announce the joint filing of a lawsuit that challenges the ESDC’s approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan.

The suit contends that the plan was approved without sufficient study of the impacts of its extended construction schedule and completion risks. It also alleges that the ESDC has illegally delegated to FCRC so much of its governmental power to determine the future content and configuration of the project as to have abandoned its obligations under the law.

The suit was filed this morning at the NYS Supreme Court of Manhattan by Attorney Albert K. Butzel of the Urban Environmental Law Center, who is representing the plaintiffs.

Groups and elected officials filing suit include the Atlantic Avenue LDC, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the Boerum Hill Association, the Fifth Avenue Committee, the Park Slope Civic Council, the Pratt Area Community Council, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblyman Jim Brennan and City Councilmember Letitia James.

“The ESDC has ignored its statutory duty to act in the public interest. By approving a modified Atlantic Yards Project without so much as a new site plan, let alone a committed completion date, the agency has handed over to Forest City Ratner control of 22 acres of Brooklyn, no strings attached. The ESDC must address the likelihood that Atlantic Yards will continue to expand the kind of urban blight the agency now pretends the Project will remove,” said Assemblyman Jim Brennan.

As sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks initiative, the organizations have tried for three years to engage the ESDC regarding impacts of the Atlantic Yards Project on the surrounding communities. The group has advocated, among other things, for a thoughtful proposal for the governance of the Project, including a strong advisory role for local elected officials and community residents currently excluded from any meaningful participation.

“The ESDC has been singularly unable to follow through on its basic governmental obligations–and its commitments to the public—to provide transparency and oversight to the largest single-source development project in the City’s history. We have no alternative other than to bring suit in order to require a valid assessment of the long-term impacts of Atlantic Yards before further irreversible action is taken,” said Jo Anne Simon of the Boerum Hill Association.

"With each day, we learn more about how troubled and troubling this project really is. The overreaching of the developer has only been compounded by the failures of the state authority which is supposed to be in control, the ESDC. Its actions make clear that it has completely and utterly failed its obligations to the public in its efforts to do the developer’s business,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

“Atlantic Yards is a terrible project – out of place, outsized and out of bounds. It represents one more cynical partnership between government, which is supposed to serve the public interest but doesn’t, and the powerful New York City development community, which serves its own,” said attorney Albert Butzel. “This lawsuit challenges that incestuous arrangement and seeks to give the impacted communities an opportunity to participate in the planning for Atlantic Yards and help determine their own future.”

City Councilmember Letitia James, who has opposed the Atlantic Yards project since its inception, stated, “Democracy should not operate in secrecy. The proposed Atlantic Yards project continues to be led by the developer, undermining our system of government and in defiance of the law. The lack of transparency, community input and proper review force a legal challenge.”

“One of the primary justifications for the ill conceived Atlantic Yards project has been the creation of much needed affordable housing,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee. “However, the modified plan recently passed by ESDC includes only one tenth of the affordable housing originally promised and does not even guarantee that the remainder would ever be built.”

“So far, what we have seen of public dollars being spent at Atlantic Yards has been the use of City funds to purchase and demolish homes and properties within the project foot print,” commented Deb Howard, Executive Director of Pratt Area Community Council. “The result will be the clearing of land to create a massive parking lot for the arena. Blight and traffic will continue to paralyze the neighborhood for many years to come. Our neighborhood and the tax payers deserve better,” she added.

Legal documents

(Photo by Tracy Collins.)