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October 13, 2009
New lawsuit targets Ratner's Atlantic Yards land buy
With just one day to go before New York state's top court holds its hearing on the final eminent domain case against Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, another court challenge has emerged: Four local elected officials, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the ubiquitous Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn are suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over its agreement this summer to sell land to Ratner for a cut-rate price. (An even more cut-rate price than the MTA originally agreed to, that is.) By reducing Ratner's payments without seeking an independent appraisal or competitive bidding, the suit charges, the authority violated the state Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005, which wasn't in place when the original sale to Ratner occurred, but was when the deal was rejiggered this June.
The suit is seeking to "annul" the land sale, which would, obviously, threaten to kill the entire project, which includes an arena for the Nets and a bunch of housing and office towers, though it remains unclear when or if Ratner would ever be getting around to building the other stuff. The real question now is whether another lawsuit will make it too expensive for Ratner to get bond insurance so he can start selling arena bonds this month as planned.
More on this as it develops. In the meantime, the lesson here may be: If you're going to try a legally questionable move to gain public (and private) land for your arena project, you might not want to choose a site right in the middle of one of the city's highest concentrations of lawyers.