PRESS ADVISORY: PLAINTIFFS TO ARGUE CASE AGAINST ILLEGAL
IKEA-RED HOOK LAND GRAB:
NEW YORK STATE SUPREME COURT, THURSDAY, MAY 26, AT 11AM
NEW YORK, May 24, 2005. On Thursday morning, May 26, 2005, at 11am, attorney Antonia Bryson of the Urban Environmental Law Center will argue diverse individual and business Brooklyn plaintiffs' challenge to the proposed tax-subsidized 22-acre Ikea-Red Hook project before the New York State Supreme Court, 111 Centre Street, Manhattan, Part 44, Room 581. Plaintiffs are seeking to annul and vacate the Environmental Impact Statement and the City Planning Commission and City Council approvals of the project.
Plaintiffs argue, first, that when the municipal defendants City Planning Commission and New York City Council voted to turn over the Brooklyn waterfront to Ikea in October of 2004, they illegally failed to acknowledge New York City's own master plan for the Red Hook waterfront. This is a violation of the principles undergirding the authority of New York City to engage in zoning. Second, when the Commission and the Council rubber-stamped the Ikea defendants' Final Environmental Impact Statement they failed to take the "close look" that the law requires.
Plaintiffs contend that the Red Hook, Brooklyn, waterfront is an inappropriate site for a big box store, it is distant from the already traffic-choked Gowanus Expressway, it has no subway or highway, and it has narrow cobblestone streets. The New York City Planning Commission and City Council exceeded their legal powers when they re-zoned the Red Hook waterfront site to allow Ikea to build its gigantic tax-subsidized big box store--probably the largest store in the city--with a 1400-car parking lot, destroying a number of historic structures in the process, including one of the few working graving docks in New York harbor. The City Planning Department's 1992 Waterfront Plan for the site, which has unique maritime features, and the Red Hook community's 1996 plan, developed with City Planning Department assistance and approved by the City Planning Commission, in accordance with section 197-a of the New York City Charter, absolutely forbid the siting of a big box store in the protected harbor of Erie Basin. Both plans recommend keeping this piece of the waterfront zoned for and dedicated to continued maritime activity, while allowing public access and commercial activity in another part of the peninsula, where in fact a new Fairway is about to open.
Second, plaintiffs contend that in their haste to turn the Red Hook waterfront over to Ikea, the municipal defendants also failed to give to the Ikea defendants' 1,000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) the "close look" that the law requires. Among the blatant omissions of the huge EIS with respect to traffic impacts is that it fails entirely to discuss the impact of additional thousands of automobile trips daily on the already-choked Gowanus Expressway, now undergoing reconstruction.
In addition, although on a typical Saturday there will be almost 2,000 vehicles driving to and from the Ikea store in the peak hour, and more than 11,000 vehicles during the entire day, the FEIS concludes that these automobiles can somehow be squeezed down the funnel of Red Hook's narrow streets to the waterfront with minimal adverse impact and no change to the neighborhood character. The FEIS asserts that there will be no new disruption to any part of the neighborhood, including a large, heavily-used park and recreation area just across the street.
The lawsuit seeks to annul and vacate the Environmental Impact Statement and the Planning Commission's and City Council's actions with respect to the Red Hook site, and to enjoin Ikea and the other defendants from beginning demolition or construction in connection with the project. Petitioners' court submissions have been posted on the internet, along with backgrounders and press comment, on the blog Big Cities Big Boxes, at http://www.BigCitiesBigBoxes.com.