BrooklynSpeaks sponsors file response to ESDC and FCRC appeal of court order to revisit 2009 modified project plan

BROOKLYN, January 14, 2012: On Friday, January 13, BrooklynSpeaks sponsors filed legal documents in response to an appeal by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) of a July 2011 court decision ordering further environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project. The decision came after nearly two years of litigation by BrooklynSpeaks’ sponsors, local elected officials and community members, which challenged ESDC’s 2009 approval of changes to the General Project Plan which increased the duration of project construction from 10 to 25 years. The brief was filed in conjunction with Develop Don’t Destroy (Brooklyn), petitioners in a similar case covered by the July decision.

“ESDC and FCRC have, in effect, asked the court to believe that when the agency approved increasing the construction duration from 10 to 25 years, it didn’t expect the developer would actually use the extra time,” said Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, a petitioner in the case. “The lower court didn’t buy that, and we don’t think the appellate court will, either.”

Responding to claims made by ESDC and FCRC that State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman attempted to second-guess the agency’s review, attorneys Albert K. Butzel and Jeffrey Baker write, “This was not and is not, as the Appellants would have it, a case where the Court substituted its judgment for that of the agency or exceeded its review authority. This is a case where the agency acted irrationally to cover up what it knew to be an unsupported analysis and decision. The Court below fulfilled the classical role of the judiciary in calling ESDC to account and requiring it to reevaluate the impacts of the Atlantic Yards Project in good faith and in accordance with the law.”

State legislators from the communities surrounding the Atlantic Yards project previously called on the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to comply with the court order to reconsider the 2009 Modified General Project Plan. In an August 2011 letter to ESDC CEO Ken Adams from Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and signed by Assembly Member Joan Millman, State Senator Eric Adams and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, the officials point to troubling facts. “More than seven years have passed since Atlantic Yards’ announcement, and almost five years have passed since its original plan was approved. In that time, we have seen the promises of affordable housing and local jobs move nearly a generation into the future,” they wrote. The legislators also note extended use of the site for 1,100 surface parking spaces, and the removal of project elements intended to reduce the impact of locating an arena in a residential neighborhood, as critical changes introduced with the 2009 plan.

“Brooklyn needs Governor Cuomo to step in to end the cycle of litigation, and get this project to deliver on its promises,” said Deb Howard, Executive Director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “It’s time to move beyond the past failings of the ESDC, and focus on building the affordable housing and providing the jobs the community so desperately needs—now, not in 25 years.”