Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman held a hearing in one of the litigations pertaining to Atlantic Yards, known as Peter Williams Enterprises, et al., vs. New York State Urban Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development Corporation, or ESDC). This particular hearing was confined to the technical issue of whether it would be proper to switch the venue of the case from Justice Friedman’s court in Manhattan to Justice Abraham Gerges’ court in Kings County. ESDC, the state agency being sued, asked for the transfer of venue after Justice Gerges decided issues with respect to title in the separate condemnation case in ESDC’s favor. That is something that the attorney for the plaintiff, Matthew Brinckerhoff, said would make a belated transfer such as this look bad. (It would look like forum shopping for a soft judge.)
For those of you caring about the nitty gritty details of the case we refer you to coverage by Atlantic Yards Report. (See: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 Justice Friedman limits oral argument to issue of whether case involving Development Agreement should be transferred to Gerges in Brooklyn, Monday, May 17, 2010, Tuesday at 2:30 pm: will Development Agreement get its day in court? and Tuesday, May 11, 2010, Oral argument *postponed*in case regarding call for new eminent domain findings; ESDC wants case moved to Brooklyn, says Gerges already decided issues.)
Noticing New York’s principal contribution here is to provide our court artist’s sketch of Justice Friedman. We think justice ought to be as transparent as possible. Shouldn’t photographs of what goes on in the court room be allowed? Until they are we will have to suffice with this "sketchiness."
The gist of the case before Justice Friedman (if it and when it proceeds to the merits of the case) is whether ESDC should have been allowed to rely on the all-but-entirely-fictitious determinations and findings it used (in 2006) as a predicate for its use of eminent domain (read “abuse of eminent domain”) for the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment given that those determinations and findings found that the mega-monopoly being handed to developer Forest City Ratner would be built within an expected 10-year buildout deadline, notwithstanding that the development agreement actually implementing the huge project is entirely at odds with those findings and specifies a 25-year, not 10-year deadline.
Furthermore, it is not just the inconsistency of the recently materialized development agreement’s deadlines that evidences ESDC’s bad faith with respect to its 2006 eminent domain “Determinations and Findings.” In the real world everyone knows that the 25-year deadline is subject to further extensions and that the megaproject will very probably take the 30-40 years envisioned in the remarks of ESDC head Marisa Lago. That means that the plan is for the condemned acres to lie blightingly fallow over the course of decades, a very different result from the eminent domain result that was promoted. No doubt that during that time the project will continue to change substantially.
It is probably not surprising that ESDC kept the development agreement with the 25 year time schedule under wraps when Justice Friedman was previously considering these issues.
One last thought: Should all of this really be separate and apart from the fact that ESDC somehow found the “blight” it legally needed to find to proceed with the project when everyone knows, including local neighbor Senator Charles E. Schumer, that the area is “not blighted”?