The battle over developer Bruce Ratner’s plan to build a Nets arena and a set of high-rise residences at Atlantic Yards could be headed to court. A coalition of groups opposing the Ratner plan has filed suit against Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation, alleging that a plan to demolish several buildings on the site breaks the law because it pre-empts the required environmental review. The suit also asks a judge to disqualify the law firm representing ESDC, claiming the lawyers have a conflict of interest because they once worked for Forest City.
This is the latest gambit in the fight over a project that involves hundreds of millions in public money, and which some community members say promises jobs for lower-income Brooklynites but others contend will destroy the character and affordability of the surrounding area.
The lawsuit argues that ESDC “acted illegally and arbitrarily and capriciously” when, in December, it followed the recommendation of engineers hired by Forest City Ratner and issued an emergency declaration allowing the demolition.
Forest City executive VP Bruce Bender said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon: “While we cannot comment in detail until we have had a chance to review the papers, we believe this suit is all about creating delay tactics. LZA, one the City’s leading engineering firms, found these buildings to be ‘extremely dangerous’ and to pose an ‘immediate threat to life, health and property.’ While the opponents have another agenda, FCRC will not play games with the public safety and is proceeding as any responsible property owner should and must. FCRC is focused on going through the State process and working with community and governmental leaders to ensure that the project complements the surrounding communities and that jobs and housing are created for local residents.”
A quick check of the Building Information System on the New York City Department of Buildings website indicates that some of the buildings (all of which are owned by Forest City Ratner, according to the lawsuit) have, like most buildings, had multiple violations of building and environmental codes.
At 622 Pacific Street, for example, there was a complaint in July 2003 of a partial roof collapse. At 620 Pacific, an inspector in 1996 found broken beams and a partially collapsed roof. The owners of 620 Atlantic Avenue had to pay a $2,000 fine in 2001 for failing to address a crack in the exterior wall; the same firm paid $515 in 1990 for failing to have a fire-stopping cellar ceiling at 608 Atlantic. Down at 585 Dean there were a batch of violations recorded in recent years dealing with elevator safety, among other things. On the other hand, the only complaint about 461 Dean dated back to 1922.