April 23rd, 2010 — By — In News & Events

Goldstein – no longer the last man standing in the way of Atlantic Yards eminent domain

On Wednesday, April 21, one of the last remaining property owners opposing the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, Daniel Goldstein, reached a negotiated settlement with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and project’s developer, Forest City Ratner, to leave his home.  Goldstein appeared in court on Wednesday morning with his attorney Michael Rikon, OCA New York Member, for a hearing concerning eviction proceedings initiated by the ESDC, the state authority that condemned his home via eminent domain in March.  He left the courthouse with a Court-negotiated settlement and a deadline to move.  (See ABC7 video “Last Atlantic Yards holdout agrees to leave.”)

Goldstein has been both the face and name associated with the grassroots, community-based opposition to this redevelopment project as well as the legal actions against the use of eminent domain for the project.  As NY Observer reporter, Elliot Brown noted in his April 21, 2010 article, “Mr. Goldstein and other residents proved effective in holding up the project for at least a year more than Forest City ever expected with a string of lawsuits. The use of eminent domain was challenged in federal and state courts–an unusual approach that added months onto the process.”  The project will be delayed no longer as Goldstein agreed to leave his home by May 7th and two remaining business owners agreed to vacate by June 30th.

Reports indicate that Goldstein accepted a settlement of $3 million from the Empire State Development Corporation, the state-run, public authority with the power to take property by eminent domain for public purpose/use, which some describe as the “arm” of developer Forest City Ratner.  John Brennan, staff writer with NorthJersey.com, explained, “The offer [settlement] is almost six times the amount offered to Goldstein at the start of several hours of separate negotiations Thursday among Goldstein, New York State officials and Forest City Enterprises executives.”  The settlement is also nearly six times the fair market value of $510,000 that the ESDC originally offered to Mr. Goldstein, who originally purchased his condo for $590,000.  However, this settlement is far from ordinary with respect to that which a property owner would generally negotiate in a eminent domain action.  However, Goldstein’s opposition to and multiple legal battles waged against the project, the ESDC and the developer are also far from ordinary.

Since the news of this settlement hit on Wednesday, there have been commentaries from both sides of the fence particularly with respect to how outsiders view the settlement amount and their opinions regarding Mr. Goldstein and his family for accepting it.  We have to agree with OCA Hawaii Member, Robert Thomas, who blogs at inversecondemnation.com.

To characterize Goldstein as “folding” or as a sellout is to imply that he presently has options other than to go down in a blaze of righteous glory. To suggest he was bought is the height of cynicism. He pretty much lost at every step, but continued his uphill struggle long after most people of less stout fabric would’ve folded up and quit. Yet he went forward, with nothing more than the hope that the courts might listen. These comments also overlook the personal, financial, and emotional toll a battle like this can take.

(See Robert’s full post here.)

Professor Gideon Kanner offers another thought on his blog here.

The moral also seems to be that sometimes it may be cheaper to pay off a determined holdout, than to go to the mat with him. It would be interesting to learn what this caper has cost both the city and the redeveloper, considering the cost of litigation and delay,

For additional reports and commentary visit  NoLandGrab and Norman Oder’s “Atlantic Yards Report” here, here and here.

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