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NEW YORK CITY-Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, has won another legal round as an appellate court upheld the dismissal of a challenge to the project. The challengers–an advocacy group known as Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and 25 other community groups–say they will appeal.

A four-judge panel in the Appellate Division, First Department, ruled on Thursday that DDDB’s suit did not set forth legitimate legal claims in challenging the environmental review on the project or the Empire State Development Corp’s determination that a two-block area included in the project was blighted. Those two blocks were not originally part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area designated in 1968, which the Atlantic Yards project spans, but were added to the project by FCRC. ESDC determined that the two blocks were candidates for renewal, and the court found that the determination had a “rational” basis.

“While we do not agree with petitioners’ legal arguments, we understand those arguments to be made largely as proxies for very legitimate concerns as to the effect of a project of such scale upon the face and social fabric of the area in which it is to be put,” the court ruled. “Those concerns, however, have relatively little to do with the project’s legality and nearly everything to do with its socio-economic and aesthetic desirability, matters upon which we may not pass. To the extent that the fate of this multi-billion dollar project remains, in an increasingly forbidding economy, a matter of social and political volition, the controlling judgments as to its merits are the province of the policy-making branches of government, not the courts.”

In a release, DDDB attorney Jeffrey Baker says the case will be brought to the state Court of Appeals “because it is the only court that is able to require a harder look at the facts, rather than blind obeisance given by the Empire State Development Corp. to the dictates of Forest City Ratner.” He adds, “This case will provide the Court of Appeals an opportunity to make it clear that judicial review is not a meaningless exercise and require agencies making blight determinations to do so for legitimate reasons and not simply to facilitate the goals of a developer with political connections.”

Calls to FCRC were not returned by deadline. Earlier this month, the company refinanced a $161.9-million bridge loan on Atlantic Yards. The loan would have been due this month, but has been extended to February 2011. In a release, Joanne Minieri, FCRC’s president and COO, says, “We appreciate the vote of confidence this refinancing represents, and we are as committed as ever to moving forward with this critical project.”

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