York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
Gene Russianoff, NYPIRG. 212-349-6460
Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB)
Contact: Daniel Goldstein, DDDB. 917-701-3056
For Immediate Release: March 15, 2006
Elected Officials and Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
Submit Briefs in Support of Conflicts of Interest Finding
in Review of ‘Atlantic Yards'/Ratner Proposal
NY – The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
yesterday asked the Appellate Court for permission to file
("friend of the court") brief in support of
New York Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead's decision to
disqualify a lawyer in the environmental review of Forest
City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal.
Justice Edmead based her finding of a conflict of interest
on lawyer David Paget's representation of first Forest City
Ratner (FCR, the proposal's developer) and then Empire State
Development Corporation (ESDC, the project reviewer) on the
same "Atlantic Yards" proposal.
"How can ESDC take a ‘hard look' at the environmental
impact statement for the project if it hires the very same
lawyer who is helping prepare it and has represented the developer
on the same project?" said Gene Russianoff, senior staff
attorney for NYPIRG. "The agency has a clear conflict
of interest." The original suit, filed by Develop Don't
Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) and over a dozen co-plaintiff community
based organizations, was heard and decided on February 14th.
The ESDC appealed Justice Edmead's decision and the appeal
will be heard on March 23rd at 2pm.
was right that having Mr. Paget and his firm on both sides
of the project 'has such a severe crippling appearance of
impropriety on a project of such great magnitude' that to
allow it to continue would irreparably undermine the public's
belief in the integrity of the environmental review process,"
said DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein.
NYPIRG does not have a position on whether the overall project
should move ahead. "But," said Russianoff, "we
are deeply concerned about the integrity and effectiveness
of the environmental review process, and ESDC's abdication
of its public obligations to fairly review the project under
the State's Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA)."
City Councilwoman Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette
Montgomery, and U.S. Congressman Major Owens submitted
a separate amicus brief. The Council
of Brooklyn Neighborhoods (CBN), a coalition of community
groups with the mission to provide a community voice in the
scoping and the environmental review process as it pertains
to the "Atlantic Yards" proposal, submitted
a third amicus brief.
In its amicus brief, NYPIRG said that the "public
interest served by the ESDC's environmental review of the
project necessarily diverges from the interests of Forest
City as the Project's private developer and sponsor, the clear,
dramatic conflict of interest on the part of ESDC's choice
of counsel precludes ESDC from fully meeting its obligations
as 'lead agency' under SEQRA to make decisions in the best
interest of the people of New York State."
NYPIRG noted that very often lead agencies require sponsor's
to downsize their project and/or incur higher expenses to
mitigate the environmental impacts of a proposed project.
can be found online here: http://www.dddb.net/litigation/index.html#amicus
NYPIRG is New York State's largest non-profit, non-partisan,
student-directed research and advocacy organization, NYPIRG
has 21 college campus chapter offices throughout the state;
ten of these are in New York City, including a chapter at
Pratt Institute, located in the Clinton Hill neighborhood
near the location of the proposed Project.
NYPIRG's environmental current and recent projects have focused
on improving mass transit through the work of its Straphangers
Campaign, and on environmental and public health, including
drinking water protection, notification and reduction of pesticide
use, clean air and energy, and toxic site clean-ups. NYPIRG
has actively participated in the preparation and consideration
of dozens of environmental impact statements.