Forest City Ratner Wins Court Victory in Atlantic Yards Battle

A federal court ruling on eminent domain handed a major victory today to the controversial $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, Forest City Ratner Co.’s master-planned development in Downtown Brooklyn. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower-court decision that Atlantic Yards does not violate the public use clause of the Fifth Amendment. A group of fourteen homeowners, business owners and tenants had challenged the legality of New York State’s efforts to take their property under eminent domain. The case is one of the biggest tests yet of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision, which broadened government’s latitude to condemn private property for uses deemed to be for the public benefit.Located on a 22-acre site, Atlantic Yards is currently slated for 6,340 housing units, a 180-key hotel, 336,000 square feet of office, and Barclays Center, a sports and entertainment arena that will serve as the new home for the New Jersey Nets starting in 2010. Half the structures in the site have either been demolished or are being demolished, according to a statement released today by the developers. Local residents and elected officials have opposed the project’s scale and potential impact on Downtown Brooklyn. Despite the setback, project opponents vowed to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. “We maintain that the government’s motivation in using eminent domain for Atlantic Yards is not to benefit the public, but rather, to benefit a single, very rich and powerful developer,” said Candace Carponter, legal director for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.