Opponents of the plan to build a basketball arena in Brooklyn have filed yet another lawsuit, as the clock ticks down on a deadline to start the long-delayed project. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.
On Thursday, Developer Bruce Ratner celebrated the topping out of the Beekman Tower, a massive residential building in Lower Manhattan.
But that type of milestone has yet to happen for another one of his high-profile projects.
Ratner's plan to to build an arena for his Nets basketball team and mix of skyscrapers over the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn is at a standstill, thanks to the economy and a long list of lawsuits.
The latest legal challenge was filed Thursday, against the Empire State Development Corporation, the state government agency that approved the project.
"Democracy should not be done in silence and behind closed doors and without input from the community," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.
Opponents claim that the agency did not properly review revisions to the plan, which is now in its third incarnation. When asked about the latest lawsuit Thursday, Ratner offered up no comment.
An official in his office, Forest City Ratner, later responded, saying, “We’re on the verge of making Atlantic Yards a reality, a reality that means thousands of jobs for a borough and city hard hit with unemployment, affordable housing and a dynamic sports and entertainment facility. It should not surprise anyone that opponents who pledged to sue early and often are still suing. It is what they do.”
The Empire State Development Corporation dismissed the challenge, too, and pointed out that another group had already filed a similar lawsuit.
In a statement, the ESDC said, "The additional claim asserted in the new lawsuit is devoid of merit. We do not expect that either lawsuit will delay the Project."
The fight over the Atlantic Yards has been going on for sometime. It's been six years since Forest City Ratner first announced plans to build a basketball arena in Brooklyn.
The biggest threat to the project is perhaps not the lawsuit that was just filed, but another challenge -- now in the state's highest court --over whether eminent domain can be used to seize homes for a private developer.
A ruling on that issue is expected soon.
For Ratner, the decision can't come soon enough. In order to receive tax-exempt financing, Ratner needs to close on the deal and begin selling bonds by the end of the year.