New York court stalls second phase of Brooklyn arena project

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2011 9:18 PM
New York court stalls second phase of Brooklyn arena project

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Supreme Court on Wednesday stalled the second and much bigger phase of a huge arena-residential complex in Brooklyn, ordering an updated environmental review that includes public hearings.

The grass roots group that sued the developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, to halt or modify the Atlantic Yards project said the court decision is a "golden opportunity" for Governor Andrew Cuomo to overhaul the costly project.

A spokesman for the Democratic governor had no comment.

The Atlantic Yards project's first phase includes a new basketball arena for the Nets that will give Brooklyn its first professional sports team in decades and open in September 2012. Three residential buildings are included in this first phase.

In the second phase, 13 residential buildings are planned.

Judge Marcy Friedman of the Manhattan Supreme Court wrote she decided not to stay or halt the first phase, "given the extent to which construction of Phase I has already occurred."

Noting some of the developer's construction deadlines could stretch until 2035, the judge faulted the Empire State Development Corporation for using a 10-year timeline, She ordered more "findings" or reviews of the so-called modified general project plan, which is the master plan for the site.

Atlantic Yards was supposed to be completed in 10 years, explained Lawyer Jeff Baker, who represented the plaintiffs, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn. But the recession withered real estate markets and the Empire State Development Corporation, the state's economic agency, relaxed construction deadlines,

The judge said it was "premature" to stay the second phase, as it is unlikely to begin for years. But the plaintiffs can seek a court stay if the developer wants to start the second phase before environmental reviews are finished.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said: "While we disagree with the decision, it does not stop us from continuing work on the project and will not impact our current construction schedule." He added: "We've erected 50 percent of the steel for the arena."

(Reporting by Joan Gralla)