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NEW YORK CITY-Opponents of Brooklyn’s planned Atlantic Yards project say their plan has never been to delay the Forest City Ratner Cos. development. Instead, they say the idea is to stop it.

At least that’s what petitioning lead attorney Jeffrey Baker tells GlobeSt.com about this fourth of a series of pending lawsuits facing Empire State Development Corp., the quasi-governmental agency, and FCRC, developer of the 22-acre downtown Brooklyn site that includes a large sports arena meant to house the NBA’s Nets, currently based in New Jersey. This latest legal volley was filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

But, by holding things up in court, the group may put the brakes on the project, since there’s a Dec. 31 groundbreaking deadline for Forest City Ratner to obtain tax-exempt bond status and its $400-million branding deal with Barclays Bank on the new arena, Barclays Center. The arena has been touted as the potential new home for the Nets; the team has a deal with Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov, who will own 80% of the team contingent upon the Nets’ possible move to Brooklyn.

But in this legal go-round, the 20 co-petitioners charge ESDC with contradicting the Modified General Project Plan with a separate “development agreement” that would make the project’s affordable housing component conditioned on the availability of public subsidies.

The opponents say the ESDC’s conclusion that a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is not required for FCRC’s changed development proposal is flawed.

In a statement, an ESDC spokeswoman says the agency “carefully considered whether a SEIS would be required,” but determined in the end that it “was not required.”

An updated June 2009 ESDC technical memorandum described proposed modifications to the General Project Plan. According to the document, a schedule change to 2019 would not change the Final Environmental Impact Statement’s conclusion that the project would not result in significant adverse environmental impacts with respect to socioeconomic conditions. The memorandum also said a delay in the project’s build year to 2019 would postpone the full realization of the social and economic benefits of the completed project.

The ESDC says they expected this latest lawsuit. But, the spokeswoman says, “we will vigorously defend the lawsuit and we expect to prevail on the merits. Further, she says, “we do not expect that this lawsuit will delay the project.

Baker says that in the current suit, opponents are not arguing whether or not the project’s proposed site is blighted. However, he says the ESDC “ignored the fact that the deal has been changed so that blight will not be eliminated and this project won’t be completed til the 2030s at the earliest.”

Arguing that the Atlantic Yards project is bad for a whole host of reasons, Baker says, “we will use the courts to protect our rights when these quasi governmental agencies like ESDC are ignoring our rights.”

And to those who charge the project’s opponents are using the courts to delay, thus deter, perhaps even destroy plans for the development, Baker says, “that’s their problem. We’ve never gotten an injunction. The fact that our litigation over the years has raised significant issues, and that they’ve not been able to get financing, to the extent they [FCRC] use the political process and their connections get favored status, we’re not going to apologize for using the courts for our means.”

A spokesman for FCRC said the company had no comment at this time.

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