Forest City Ratner's controversial 22-acre Atlantic Yards mixed-use project in the heart of downtown Brooklyn overcame two major hurdles in December when it got approvals from the Empire State Development Corporation, New York's economic development agency and the Public Authorities Control Board.
If Forest City Ratner clears the remaining development hurdles, up to 60 local properties and 12 small businesses will be seized under the power of eminent domain.
Yet it probably won't play out that smoothly.
“These things can drag on for years and, unfortunately, around the country these sorts of lawsuits have caused well-intentioned urban renewal projects to die by the thousands,” says Ted Zangari, a lawyer with the Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross P.C.
The development has met with fierce opposition from local residents. In the three years since the plans for Atlantic Yards were unveiled, there have been accusations of favoritism on the part of public officials. In addition, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, one of the community groups that has led the opposition to Ratner's plan, is planning to challenge the Environmental Impact Statement on Atlantic Yards that was released last month.
For many of those involved in the current lawsuit, the issue is a matter of principle, as they believe that the area can still be redeveloped without the use of eminent domain. “Just because Bruce Ratner wants to take your property doesn't mean you have to negotiate with him,” says Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein.