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NEW YORK CITY-By a 6-1 margin, New York State’s highest court put its stamp of approval on Bruce Ratner’s proposed 22-acre Atlantic Yards project Tuesday morning, approving the Empire State Development Corp.’s use of eminent domain to clear the project’s footprint of resident holdouts. Despite the latest green light, opponents pledge more roadblocks to the project that has evoked the sort of passion and division not seen in Brooklyn since Walter O’Malley took the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

The ruling upholds the state’s right to use eminent domain, given the public benefits associated with the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. It also paves the way for the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corp. issuance of bonds to assist Forest City Ratner Cos. in financing the design, development and construction of the Barclays Center, an arena intended to house the Nets basketball franchise.

ESDC says while it has secured investment grade ratings, the agency is in ongoing discussions with ratings agencies and bond issuers. An ESDC spokesman says in a statement that “in addition to the investment grade rating, we anticipate there will be taxable bonds as well. Details will be released once documents are finalized.” He adds “there will be a formal mid-December closing” and “we anticipate marketing the bonds prior to that time.”

FCRC says in a statement that construction activity on the yards will continue, with the intent that the Nets will play ball in the Barclays Center in the 2011-2012 season.

Still, in its opening remarks almost immediately after the court ruling, the BALDC acknowledged that on Nov. 19, several Brooklyn community groups, along with state and local officials and individuals claiming to live near the proposed project, commenced further legal action against ESDC and FCRC. The BALDC said in its statement that while the ESDC and FCRC had prevailed in court over the course of several lawsuits, “there can be no assurance, however, as to the outcome of this action.” An ESDC spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that the agency doesn’t anticipate that this or any forthcoming lawsuits “will delay the project, including the master real estate closing and the condemnation proceeding.”

In his statement, FCRC CEO Bruce Ratner touted the fact that to date, the project has overcome almost all its legal challenges. Ratner says, “Once again the courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire city. Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago.”

Atlantic Yards, first proposed in 2003, has been promoted as an economic engine that will bring thousands of new jobs, housing units and with the 18,000-seat arena, bring the NBA’s New Jersey Nets to Downtown Brooklyn. Opponents and critics say the project–which in recent months has changed in appearance, size and financing since it was first revealed–eliminates a thriving low-density neighborhood, is poorly planned and short changes the region’s cash strapped mass transit system. But, perhaps the greatest source of controversy, and the focus of Tuesday’s court decision, is the use of eminent domain.

“We lost the battle,” says Matthew Brickenhoff of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff and Abady, the lead attorney for plaintiff Daniel Goldstein. Saying this is a multiple round fight, he tells GlobeSt.com that “if we’d have won, we’d have won the war.”

Agreeing with its partner in development, the ESDC says in its statement that it is committed as ever to seeing the completion of the project. “With this major hurdle overcome, we can now move forward with development which will accomplish its goals of eliminating blight, and bringing transportation improvements, an arena, open space, affordable housing and thousands of jobs to the people of Brooklyn and the State of New York.”

But as dissenting Judge Robert Smith, said in his official court- issued soliloquy, while the northern part of the project’s footprint can be fairly described as blighted, the southern portion, where the petitioners live, appears to be “a normal and pleasant residential community.”

As the dissenter notes, the area around the Atlantic Avenue terminal, home to the Vanderbilt Yards, has long been included in the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal footprint. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yards takes up nine acres of the project’s footprint.

And that’s one apect of the project where Brickenhoff says his group is now focused in its efforts to continue fighting. Originally appraised at $214 million in 2004, the MTA agreed to sell the Vanderbilt Yards site to FCRC for $100 million. But then in June, the MTA board granted a more flexible spending plan that would instead pay the MTA $20 million this year, and pay the remaining amount off at 6.5% interest over 20 years starting in 2012.

Among other changes, Brickenhoff says the court made it very clear that it considered itself to be bound by the record that was created in December 2006, which is three years ago, and it seems pretty clear, it would not consider, and did not consider all the changes that have occurred in the last few months, starting with the revelation that the new MTA railyard will be a downgrade from its current capacity instead of an upgrade.

Also in June, the Regional Planning Commission said the benefits to the MTA and public have been greatly diminished in a project that has been redesigned significantly since its revelation in 2006. RPA says those changes include a scaled-back rail yard that would accommodate fewer rail cars with less efficiency, a replacement of Frank Gehry’s signature architecture, and an indefinite delay in the affordable housing, office space and open space that were to provide most of the economic and community benefits.

But, once again, FCRC disagrees with such diminished sentiments. Instead, in its official statement, it says the arena and larger development are expected to create 16,924 union construction jobs and over 8,000 permanent jobs. The tax revenues that will be generated for the city and state during the construction period are expected to exceed $240 million and after construction, reach approximately $70 million a year.

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