(CN) - The developers behind the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, N.Y. cannot wiggle out of an order forcing them to reassess how the 22-acre mega-development will affect neighboring communities, an appellate court ruled.
Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation have encountered stiff resistance in trying to build Atlantic Yards, which has been described as the largest single-source development in New York City history.
Planned to stretch across Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood, it is best known for including the Barclays sports arena that will bring the New Jersey Nets to New York.
A year after the project's announcement, the nonprofit Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) sprung up in 2004, leading 26 community and neighborhood groups in a lawsuit against the developers and state agencies behind it.
Citing the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, the organization contends that the development's skyscrapers will blot out the sun from nearby neighborhoods, while the arena will flood communities with pre- and post-game traffic surges. In sum the project would drive out local residents in a process they describe as "instant gentrification."
In June 2011, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Marcy Friedman determined that the developers' 10-year build date "lacked a rational basis," and ordered them to produce a Supplement Environmental Impact Statement into the impacts of construction delays.
A unanimous appellate court panel affirmed that decision on Thursday, stating that the developers failed to consider how those delays could cause "a scenario in which area residents must tolerate vacant lots, above-ground arena parking, and Phase II construction staging for decades."
Phase II covers construction of 11 of the project's 16 high-rise buildings.
Candace Carponter, the legal director for DDDB, released a statement urging politicians to treat the ruling as another reason to consider the group's community-based "Unity Plan" alternative.
"It has now been proven, in and out of Court, that Bruce Ratner simply cannot and will not do the job he promised the public, his supporters and elected officials," Carponter stated. "It is time to end Ratner's control of the site and move towards a Unity Plan style solution: divide the non-arena portion of the site into multiple parcels so that multiple developers can build a project that responds to the community's needs and concerns and brings true benefits, rather than pie-in-the-sky promises made to be broken."
The Empire State Development Corporation's email statement repeated many of its disputed promises of jobs and affordable housing, and added that the decision would have no impact on the project's first phrase of development.
"Although Empire State Development is disappointed with the decision, we are fully committed to building a world-class development that will bring thousands of jobs and affordable housing to Brooklyn," spokeswoman Arana Hankin said. "The decision does not prevent the arena opening this fall, nor does it affect any aspect of Phase I development, and we will continue working toward the full build-out of the project."
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