Foes of the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn filed suit against Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg, and developer Bruce Ratner, saying the project involves an abusive use of eminent domain.
The legal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, alleges that Messrs. Bloomberg and Pataki have backed the proposal and guarded it from review by community boards or the City Council.
"This is a case about a conscious effort to circumvent community input and the lawful processes of open government; about the misuse of government's power to take property by eminent domain; and, ultimately, about a betrayal of public trust in service of the interests of a private developer," the legal complaint reads.
The proposed Atlantic Yards development consists of a sports arena for the Nets basketball team, and 16 towers holding 6,860 units of housing and 600,000 square feet of office space, according to the complaint. The project, as currently proposed, seizes 68 privately held properties, according to the legal complaint. The 22-acre site is in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
The plaintiffs include three homeowners, several renters, and Freddy's Bar, a well-known bar that has become a home base for those who oppose the project. In all, there are 10 named plaintiffs.
The complaint alleges that the city failed to consider any alternatives to Mr. Ratner's plan, and did not "allow for meaningful community input," according to the complaint.
The suit also makes a constitutional challenge to the use of eminent domain. In this case, the complaint claims, government seizure of private property would not serve a public use, as legal precedent requires.
"The taking of plaintiffs' properties here violates that stricture because the Project itself was conceived by Ratner, and is being driven by his needs, motives, and vision, not those of the public at large," the complaint said.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Matthew Brinkerhoff, said at a press conference yesterday, that the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London could prove a setback for his case.
"That case did erode some of the rights we are interested in," Mr. Brinkerhoff said. "Not withstanding Kelo, this remains unconstitutional."
Supporters of the Atlantic Yards project say the development will create jobs and they point out that as many as 2,250 of its housing units available to low- and middle-income families.
"You cannot simply not have development," Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday from Staten Island, when asked about the lawsuit. "We need housing, we need jobs."
"There are people that want to stop this project in Brooklyn for, I would argue, either misguided, or myopic, or selfish reasons," Mr. Bloomberg said. " We think the project is something that Brooklyn and this city really needs, and Bruce Ratner is as good a developer as you can find."
With the suit, the plaintiffs ask a federal judge to intervene to stop the state from taking their property, in the event that the project is approved by the Empire State Development Corporation, a state agency.