Amy Lavine ‘07 recently made headlines for her role in uncovering potential problems with the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project, which seeks to build a basketball arena for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, as well as at least 16 high-rise buildings, in Brooklyn.
Among the issues with the project is the murky nature of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), which was created to issue $511 million in tax-exempt bonds for the arena. The BALDC was created by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and while it is technically an independent nonprofit corporation, it is functioning as a subsidiary to ESDC. Because of a dubious loophole in the Public Authorities Law, the BALDC escaped review from the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), which is supposed to review all bond issues of ESDC and its subsidiaries. Lavine, a staff attorney at Albany Law's Government Law Center (GLC) who specializes in zoning and planning law, has been working pro bono on this case with the community group Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.
After a recent public hearing on eminent domain reform with state Senator Bill Perkins, Lavine said, "The fact that Anita Laremont [counsel to ESDC] couldn't name a single other board member on the BALDC, or even state with confidence that she herself is a board member, emphasizes the need for PACB review even more. Without this sort of review you get state officials like Laremont placed on shadowy boards and making deals that they don't take seriously and that they may not fully understand." Lavine also pointed out that Laremont incorrectly described the nature of the PACB and ESDC's bonding capabilities.
Senator Perkins has asked Governor David Paterson to issue a moratorium on eminent domain until reform legislation can be enacted, which would delay the Atlantic Yards project. Perkins has also asked Attorney General Cuomo and Comptroller DiNapoli to investigate the project.
At a public meeting last month, Lavine, speaking more generally, said "We've been trying to reform public authorities for the last few years, so it's really important that we control these entities and make sure they're acting in a transparent and accountable way."
Lavine has also been advising Senator Perkins on eminent domain reform as part of her work with the GLC. A key part of the reform will focus on enacting objective blight standards, but other proposals will also be made to increase transparency, accountability and public participation in economic development projects that involve eminent domain. Forty-three other states have reformed their eminent domain laws in the past five years, and Lavine believes that reforms are necessary in New York to improve the quality of redevelopment planning and to protect the predominantly minority and low income communities that are typically the target of economic development takings.
Lavine, a 27-year-old Hudson resident, is also a nationally recognized resource on community benefit agreements and maintains a
blog on the subject.
In recognition of her accomplishments, the American Bar Association's (ABA) State & Local Government Law Section selected Lavine to receive the Twelfth Annual Jefferson Fordham Up and Comers Award this past July. The ABA presents the Jefferson Fordham Up and Comers Award each year to an attorney whose early career demonstrates significant potential in the field of state and local government law.
Lavine is the author or co-author of more than a dozen articles published in law reviews, journals and other legal publications. Among these publications are
Getting Past the Prisoners' Dilemma: Transparency and Accountability Reforms to Improve New York's Industrial Development Agencies, in the New York State Bar Association Government Law and Policy Journal,
Legal and Contractual Issues of Community Benefits Agreements, in the Zoning and Planning Law Report, and
An Arena for Brooklyn? The Controversy and Litigation Surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project, in the New York Zoning Law & Practice Report.
Before attending Albany Law School, she earned her bachelor of art degree with concentrations in ecology and fine arts at age 19 from Bard College at Simon's Rock.