The State of New York’s top court has ruled that the State has the right to use eminent domain laws to seize property for the Atlantic Rail yards project. That means New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner, and his company Forest City Ratner can complete construction on the Barclay’s Center the new Brooklyn home of his New Jersey Nets. Completion of this project is also a key point to Ratner’s potential sale of the Nets to Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
For sports fans the Atlantic rail yards, and the use of eminent domain, have very significant place in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the 1950’s Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley wanted the State to use eminent domain laws to give him the area surrounding the Atlantic Rail yards to build a replacement for Ebbets Field. A New York City Developer at the time refused to even consider O’Malley eventually moved his team to Los Angeles and many blame him for the urban decline Brooklyn has suffered since the team left.
This time around several property owners on the proposed site sued the State claiming that the state had no right to use eminent domain for the properties because the use of the land was to benefit a private enterprise. They claim the State of New York Constitution only allows the state to use eminent domain to seize land meant to be used by the public. The Court found that the area was blighted enough that the State had every right to use eminent domain to secure the property for the new project.
The owners of the properties and their attorneys have vowed to continue their fight when an Urban Development Agency goes to a Brooklyn Court in the next step to seize the properties. However it seems like the Atlantic Yards project is for the public good, and could help restore Brooklyn to prominence.