Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards Project Ducks Lawsuit

It’s a coup for Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of the $4 billion Atlantic Yards mixed-use community, as the New York State Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by a group that had disputed the public approval process for the sprawling Brooklyn project. “It was a long wait for the decision, but it was well worth it,” Forest City president Loren Riegelhaupt told CPN today. Forest City has touted Atlantic Yards as a tool for invigorating the area by creating thousands of jobs, as well as affordable housing. The Frank Gehry-designed project will encompass 6,400 mixed-income residential units–including 2,200 affordable units–nearly 250,000 square feet of retail offerings, a 180-room hotel, eight acres of open space, as well as a new arena that is expected to be the New Jersey Nets basketball team’s new home base. Forest City is not done battling the opposition just yet. While two lawsuits by groups challenging the use of eminent domain were wrapped up last fall with dismissals by the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, another eminent domain case has yet to be resolved. The remaining lawsuit was dismissed last June and is presently being appealed. “We went before the appeals court in October; there could be a decision in the first quarter, but you never know,” Riegelhaupt said. “This is the fourth round of lawsuits we have gone through, and they all have been dismissed.”Disputes notwithstanding, Forest City has already moved forward with the development of Atlantic Yards, having kicked off demolition and pre-construction activity at the site almost one year ago. “Thus far we’ve taken down about 50 percent of the structures on the site,” he noted. “Twenty-five are down, we’re working on an additional eight now, and 28 remain standing.” While there is still a faction that is contesting Atlantic Yards, a bevy of groups have come out in support of the court’s ruling, which was issued on Jan. 11. Among the proponents is the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, which has entered into an agreement with Forest City to bring jobs, affordable housing and business opportunities to the borough.Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, a division of $10 billion national real estate firm Forest City Enterprises, owns, develops and operates properties across real estate sectors. Over the last 10 years, the company has developed approximately 6 million square feet of commercial and retail space, and presently has an additional 2.7 million square feet in the development process.