Construction at Atlantic Yards will be allowed to continue after a deal was struck in court today by both sides of a lawsuit challenging development of the 22-acre Prospect Heights plot.
Calling it a "legal reality," representatives for the petitioners withdrew a motion to stop construction, but they continued to criticize how the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing development, has handled the process.
"My view is the ESDC is responding in a way that misses the major concern, which is how 25 years of construction will affect people living in the neighborhood." said Al Butzel, attorney for BrooklynSpeaks, one of the community groups that is petitioning the development.
Atlantic Yards, which is being built by developer Bruce Ratner, includes plans for a sports arena and 16 high-rise towers. Since 2003, a coalition of community groups have criticized the project's scale and environmental impact as being too great and has fought unsuccessfully to stop it. They have been particularly concerned by the use of eminent domain to claim land for the development, and by the air pollution and traffic that the arena will bring to the largely residential neighborhood.
Initially, the deadline for completion of construction, which began earlier this year, increased from 10 to 25 years, but the change came with no additional study of how the longer construction period would impact surrounding neighborhoods.
Last month the petitioners, made up of members of these communities, won a small but significant battle as a result. On Nov. 9, Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman concluded that the ESDC had in fact produced misleading results in its initial impact study. Friedman ordered the agency to file updated findings, which .
Despite withdrawing their complaint, petitioners were deeply critical of the findings after the hearing today. Jo Anne Simon, a spokesperson for the coalition, called the findings "lacking integrity" and Butzel said they were filed "irrationally."
The result of the hearing was not a surprise to either side and the agreement was made behind closed doors before the public hearing.
It sets up a scenario for a new round of court hearings and the petitioners now have less than a month to file a new petition. It will not include the motion to suspend construction.
Despite the concession, Butzel and Simon said the hearing was as good as it could have been. "The court could have ruled against us," Simon said.
"What happened today is what should have happened," Butzel said.
The new petition will instead be amended to focus on different motions but the lawyers declined to elaborate on what specifically they would be.
Forest City Ratner declined to comment and referred all comments to ESDC. Requests for comments to ESDC went unanswered.