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BROOKLYN, NY-Petitioners, 26 in total, have filed with the New York Supreme Court an Article 78 and Declaratory Judgment lawsuit in the hopes of blocking Forest City Ratner Co.’s $4-billion Atlantic Yards project. The filers have asked the court to annul the Final Environmental Impact Statement and approval of the project, claiming the FEIS was flawed.

The petitioners have named FCRC, the Empire State Development Corp., the Public Authorities Control Board and the MTA as defendants and are requesting a new environmental impact study be conducted by the ESDC. They would also like the PACB to vote again once that study is completed. The ESDC conducted the original FEIS and the PACB approved the project in December.

“The ESDC’s rush to reach the pre-determined outcome of its Atlantic Yards review before the end of the Pataki administration led to a fatally flawed environmental review, and violations of its statutory procedures and responsibilities,” says attorney Jeffrey Baker, in a statement. “Our suit seeks to annul the environmental review and approval of Atlantic Yards by Charles Gargano’s Empire State Development Corp., the Public Authorities Control Board, and the MTA, necessitating a fresh look from Gov. Spitzer, his new ESDC and MTA, and the PACB.”

The lawsuit will likely force demolition crews to postpone the beginning construction phase. “The preliminary injunction sought by this lawsuit would postpone demolition while protecting my community and constituents for intimidating and premature destruction,” says councilwoman Letitia James, who represents the Atlantic Yards area district. “Once the buildings are torn down they cannot be put back, and the injury to the community–a landscape of empty lots and ‘interim surface parking’ lots, plus the loss of the familiar buildings that comprise their neighborhood–is irreparable.”

Some of the co-petitioners, which are being represented by Jeffrey Baker of law firm Young, Sommer, Ward, Ritzenberg, Baker & Moore, include Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, New York Public Interest Research Group, Sierra Club, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats and Fort Greene Association.

“The suit filed today by project opponents should come as no surprise to anyone, as the opponents have claimed publicly that their strategy is to sue early and often,” says EVP Bruce Bender of FCRC, in a prepared statement. “Despite numerous losses in court already, opponents are unfortunately continuing a strategy of legal maneuvering rather than constructive dialogue.”

He goes on to say, “For nearly four years, we participated in an exhaustive public review process, involving hundreds of meetings with local leaders and officials, including numerous public hearings, as well as countless meetings with community representatives. We have also complied with rigorous state and city requirements, resulting in what we believe is a better project.”

The project was first introduced in 2003. After revisions to the initial plan and much public debate, the current plan will take a 22-acre part of Brooklyn and transform it into a mixed-use area that will include a stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. Architect Frank Gehry is the master designer for the entire project, which includes 16 high-rise buildings, more than 6,000 residential units (including more than 2,000 affordable units), 247,000 sf of retail and eight acres of public parks.

“The huge density of the proposed development would bring more havoc to drivers and transit riders in downtown Brooklyn, adversely impacting dozens of intersections,” says Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group. “The environmental impact statement offers ridiculous suggestions, such as asking transit officials to put more buses on gridlocked streets, where they will just add to traffic; no suggestions for giving buses priority are made. To paraphrase my daughters, the EIS is lame.”

The project is expected to generate 17,000 new residents and 5,000 jobs once the project is complete. The project is also expected to generate $944 million in tax revenues for New York State.

“Today’s action is simply the latest in long line of attempts to derail Atlantic Yards and the over 2,500 units of affordable housing, thousands of jobs for the community, job training programs, a new precedent for minority and women workers and contractors, and a new exciting home for the Nets,” Bender says. “We believe that the opponents’ claims are without merit and we will prevail in court. And as we have all along, we remain committed to ensuring that the Atlantic Yards development represents the best of Brooklyn.”

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