The original suit was dismissed in June 2007, asGlobeSt.com reported, and the dismissal was later affirmed by theAppellate Division in Oct. 2007. Two weeks ago, opponents sufferedanother defeat when the New York State Supreme Court ruled againstthem in a case involving environmental reviewprocedures, as GlobeSt.com reported.

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Bruce Ratner, CEO and chairman of Forest City, says in aprepared statement that "today's decision is more than anothervictory for Atlantic Yards; it is a victory for public good and theimportance of investing in diverse communities throughout the City.Atlantic Yards will bring thousands of affordable homes and neededjobs to Brooklyn. We believe, and the courts have repeatedlyagreed, that these are real benefits that will have a significantlypositive impact on the borough and the City."

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The appeals court said that few powers of government have asimmediate and intrusive an impact on the lives of citizens as thepower of eminent domain. "For affected property owners, monetarycompensation may understandably seem an imperfect substitute forthe hardships of dislocation and the loss of a home or business,"the court said. "But federal judges may not intervene in suchmatters simply on the basis of our sympathies. Just as eminentdomain has its costs, it has its benefits, and in all but the mostextreme cases, Supreme Court precedent requires us to leavequestions of how to balance the two to the elected representativesof government, notwithstanding the hardships felt by those whoseproperty is slated for condemnation."

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The court continued that in their view, "theplaintiffs-appellants effectively acknowledge, albeit reluctantly,that the well-publicized, multibillion dollar development projectthey challenge would result in a new stadium for the New JerseyNets, a public open space, the creation of affordable housing unitsand the redevelopment of an area in downtown Brooklyn afflicted fordecades with substantial blight. They contend, however, that theproject's public benefits are serving as a 'pretext' that masks itsactual raison d'être: enriching the private individual who proposedit and stands to profit most from its completion. Following SupremeCourt precedent, we conclude that the plaintiffs have not mounted aviable Fifth Amendment challenge. The judgment of the districtcourt is affirmed."

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Construction work onAtlantic Yards began in February 2007. According to Forest City,the Barclays Center is expected to open sometime in 2010. To date,roughly 50% of the structures on the site have been demolished orare in the process. Twenty-five structures have been knocked downand an additional eight buildings, including the former Ward Bread Building,are being destroyed or are slated to be in the short term. Thereare 11 vacant lots and 28 other remaining buildings. More than $40million worth of contracts have already been awarded to contractorsfor work on the site thus far.

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The plaintiffs' attorney, Matthew Brinckerhoff, says that thedecision is disappointing, and notes that "we intend to ask the USSupreme Court to hear our case, and will continue to pursue everyavenue available to prevent the unlawful seizure of my clients'homes for Bruce Ratner's enrichment." He continues that the court'sdecision "affirmed that the government is free to take privatehomes and businesses and give them to influential citizens as longas one can imagine a conceivable benefit to the public, no matterhow small or unlikely it may be. Indeed, it does not matter if allevidence points to a secret back room deal. All corrupt politiciansneed do to insulate themselves from judicial scrutiny is claim abenefit to the public. This is wrong. It should trouble allcitizens who, unlike Bruce Ratner, lack the power and money toco-opt the governments' power of eminent domain for their privateuse. We believe that the United States Supreme Court will welcomethe opportunity to clarify this area in light of its widelycriticized Kelo decision."

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The court has reviewed such claims and said that the plaintiffs"have failed to allege any specific examples of illegality in theelaborate process by which the project was approved, any specificillustration of improper dealings between Mr. Ratner and thepertinent government officials, or any specific defect in theproject that would be so egregious as to render it, on any fairreading of precedent, 'palpably without reasonable foundation.'"

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Legal director Candace Carponter of community coalition DevelopDon't Destroy Brooklyn, who opposes the development, says "oursupport of the fight of citizens to live safely in their homes, andoperate safely in their business, will continue. We maintain thatthe government's motivation in using eminent domain for AtlanticYards is not to benefit the public, but rather, to benefit asingle, very rich and powerful developer. The seizure of ourneighbors' homes and businesses is at the very foundation of theAtlantic Yards project. It is a foundation that must not stand. Nowis the time for our elected leaders, who have frequently expressedgrave concern about the abuse of eminent domain, to publicly standin defense of everyday Brooklynites and New Yorkers."

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Natalie Dolce

Natalie Dolce, editor-in-chief of GlobeSt.com and GlobeSt. Real Estate Forum, is responsible for working with editorial staff, freelancers and senior management to help plan the overarching vision that encompasses GlobeSt.com, including short-term and long-term goals for the website, how content integrates through the company’s other product lines and the overall quality of content. Previously she served as national executive editor and editor of the West Coast region for GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum, and was responsible for coverage of news and information pertaining to that vital real estate region. Prior to moving out to the Southern California office, she was Northeast bureau chief, covering New York City for GlobeSt.com. Her background includes a stint at InStyle Magazine, and as managing editor with New York Press, an alternative weekly New York City paper. In her career, she has also covered a variety of beats for M magazine, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, FashionLedge.com, and Co-Ed magazine. Dolce has also freelanced for a number of publications, including MSNBC.com and Museums New York magazine.