NEW YORK (CN) – A group of property owners and tenants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their eminent-domain appeal, in hopes that the justices will revive their Fifth Amendment challenge to the $4 billion Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in downtown Brooklyn.
Petitioners claim the project’s public benefits – including office towers, residential buildings and a $950 million basketball arena for the New York Nets – serve as a pretext for the real reason behind the multibillion-dollar project: to enrich private developer Bruce Ratner.
As head of Forest City Ratner, Ratner led the charge to transform 22 acres of urban blight into a thriving residential and commercial community.
Property owners ask the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Kelo v. City of New London, in which the narrowly divided court held that the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause does not bar local governments from exercising eminent domain, so long as the project involves a public benefit.
They argue that the project violates the Fifth Amendment’s “public use” clause, and the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the 14th Amendment.
The 2nd Circuit threw out their claims in February, finding that Ratner’s personal gain does not detract from the project’s public benefits.
“At the end of the day, we are left with the distinct impression that the lawsuit is animated by concerns about the wisdom of the Atlantic Yards Project and its effect on the community,” Judge Katzmann wrote in the circuit’s 25-page opinion. “While we can well understand why the affected property owners would take this opportunity to air their complaints, such matters of policy are the province of the elected branches, not this Court.”