Immediate Release: February 14, 2006
Court Judge Rules ESDC/Ratner Lawyer Has Conflict of Interest
DDDB and Co-Plaintiffs Win Case to Disqualify Lawyer Representing
Ratner and ESDC
NY - Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and twelve co-plaintiffs
won a major victory in State Supreme Court today. Honorable
Justice Carol Edmead enjoined the Empire State Development
Corporation (ESDC) to dismiss its retained attorney David
Paget who had a clear conflict of interest as he was representing
both Forest City Ratner and the public corporation charged
with an objective review of the developer's "Atlantic Yards"
Justice Edmead ruled that to protect the public interest Mr.
Paget must immediately be removed from providing services
to the ESDC on the proposed project. The judge stated that
by continuing to retain counsel with a clear conflict of interest
would harm the public interest and have a "crippling" effect
on the integrity of the review process.
"The burden is now on the ESDC, and its Chairman Charles Gargano,
to restore the public's faith in the agency's objectivity.
Until that is done we have every reason to view the ESDC,
the developer, and the review process with skepticism," said
DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.
On January 18th when the suit was filed, Empire State Development
Corporation Chairman Charles Gargano said he was unaware of
any problem. "I don't know whether we are using the same lawyer,"
said Gargano to the Daily News. "I don't know of any conflict."
DDDB legal committee chair Candace Carponter said, "The agency
is supposed to have an arm's-length relationship with Forest
City Ratner; today's decision shows that instead ESDC and Ratner
have been tied in a tight embrace leaving the public out in
the cold. ESDC and Ratner vigorously defended their right to
share lawyers claiming that they are supposed to have a collaborative
relationship. The judge didn't buy it."
The judge ruled that Ratner could demolish five buildings in
the "Atlantic Yards" proposed footprint. DDDB was seeking an
injunction on the demolitions arguing that the ESDC's declaration
of emergency–that the buildings are an imminent threat
to public safety and should be demolished–was based on
nothing but a questionable report from the developer's engineer,
without the requisite independent "hard look" by the state agency.
Ratner's engineer did not file an affidavit swearing to his
findings on the buildings. The demolition approval was made
under the watch of the same lawyer, Mr. Paget, whom the judge
ruled had a clear conflict of interest. Additionally Forest
City Ratner drew up demolition plans for the buildings in question
eight months before their structural engineer determined the
buildings required demolition.
"We disagree with the Court's decision on the demolitions,"
said Goldstein. "We believe that Ratner's public safety claims
warranting demolition, for most of the buildings, are a sham.
If the buildings are near collapse and a threat to the public
why are there no warning signs posted on the buildings and
no public protection measures like sidewalk sheds?"
Over the next few days DDDB and co-plaintiffs will consider
further action including appeal.
Carponter concluded, "our victory today and the judge's scathing
rebuke of the ESDC's defense of its conflicted attorney shows
that business as usual is bad business."
related documents and information can be found at: http://www.dddb.net/litigation
DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN leads a broad-based
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead
of dividing and destroying them.