York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
Release Main Page
Release: March 15, 2006
NYPIRG, Elected Officials and Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods
Submit Briefs in Support of Conflicts of Interest Finding
in Review of ‘Atlantic Yards'/Ratner Proposal
MANHATTAN, NY – The New York Public Interest
Research Group (NYPIRG) yesterday asked the Appellate Court for permission
to file an amicus
("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.
Edmead 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,
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.
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.
DEVELOP DON’T DESTROY BROOKLYN
a broad-based community coalition
fighting for development that will unite our communities instead of
dividing and destroying them.
We oppose Forest City Ratner's "Atlantic Yards" proposal in Prospect
Over 5,000 members.