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Atlantic Yards Opponents Head to Court Over Project Timetable, Legal Fees

Today two longtime opponents of the project will argue that the developer won approval from the state for the project by submitting incomplete data.

Only days after the one-year anniversary of the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking, the last standing lawsuit against developer Bruce Ratner’s mega-development will hit the courts.

Today opponents will reargue in Manhattan Supreme Court that the developer won approval from the state for the Atlantic Yards project in 2009 by submitting incomplete data. And Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of two major activist groups opposed to the project, will also attempt to recoup some of their legal costs.

Lawyers for Develop Don’t Destory are suing the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, for $35,027.94 in legal fees, according to court documents. The group seeks back pay for its attorneys who spent several months challenging the decision that gave Ratner the green light to begin construction.

Opponents will also reargue that the approval of the project hinged on a timeline rooted in figures that forecast the completion of the entire Atlantic Yards project in 10 years, though subsequent data put completion of the Atlantic Yards as far away as 25 years. This extended timeline, opponents argue, was intentionally withheld from the courts to win a critical ruling shortly before the groundbreaking.

 Opponents are seeking to recoup costs over this timeline dispute, which has been before Justice Marcy Friedman several times.

Last November Friedman ruled that the ESDC intentionally hid their calculations revealing that construction could take up to 25 years, handing opponents a victory that came well after Ratner broke ground on the Barclays Center arena at Flatubush and Atlantic avenues. A month later, the state agency acknowledged that the project would not be completed in 10 years, but insisted that surrounding communities would not suffer from an additional 15 years of construction.

The petitioners will once again argue that the ESDC’s should conduct another “environmental impact statement,” this time taking into consideration the new timeline that, opponents say, will condemn the surround neighborhoods years of blight. Opponents will also ask that the court reverse the approval of the project and stay further construction until a second analysis is completed.

 As the watchdog blog The Atlantic Yards Report points out, longtime opponents of the project who once hoped to altogether stop the project are now hoping to, at best, delay arena construction in order to allow for better study of the project timetable.

And opponents say their efforts to regain legal fees are a small but significant way to hold ESDC accountable for illegal deceit.  

"This is really not about legal fees," said Candace Carponter, legal director for DDDB. "As far as I'm concerned, (ESDC) lied in court. Somebody has to stand up and it has to be a judge who says that there's a point at which a government agency should not go.”

BrooklynSpeaks, another coalition of opponents, declined to pursue a motion for legal fees because they don’t believe it has a good chance at success.

“Emotionally, I think their argument is right," said BrooklynSpeaks founder Jo Anne Simon, referring to DDDB’s case. "But in the law, the likelihood of such a request being granted is not good.”

An ESDC spokesman declined to comment for this story, saying only that the corporation doesn't comment on pending litigation.

The hearing, which is open to the public, will be held today, March 15, at 2:30 p.m. in Manhattan Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street, Part 57, Room 335.

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