Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vinson & Elkins Files Amicus Brief in Support of Petitioners in Willets Point Condemnation Lawsuit in the New York Appellate Division, Second Dept

January 26, 2012 — Vinson & Elkins has filed an Amicus brief in support of the petitioners in Serrone v. City of New York, a lawsuit challenging the City of New York’s planned redevelopment of the Willets Point area in Queens, New York.

The petitioners in Serrone, a group of Willets Point businesses and landowners, challenged the City’s redevelopment on a number of grounds, including compliance with New York environmental laws and the city’s planned use of eminent domain to take private property. The case implicates important questions about the protection of private property rights under the United States and New York constitutions, including whether there is a judicially-enforceable limit on the government’s exercise of eminent domain in cases where the government alleges that a property is “blighted” or of sub-standard condition.

Vinson & Elkins partner David Hawkins and associate Jeremy Marwell, together with co-counsel John S. Marwell of Shamberg Marwell & Hollis PC, filed the brief on behalf of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information and education about the right to own and use private property. The brief argued that the proposed taking is unconstitutional and that courts must retain an important role in articulating and policing constitutional boundaries on the government’s use of eminent domain.

Vinson & Elkins’ Condemnation and Land Use litigation group is dedicated to condemnation and land use trial and appellate work. V&E’s condemnation lawyers have significant experience litigating against federal, state, county, and local governments as well as private corporations that have been legislatively delegated the power of eminent domain. Our representation includes properties of all sizes, shapes, and uses including residential, commercial, industrial, ranch, and special purpose properties (schools and churches), as well as vacant land.

Vinson & Elkins LLP is an international law firm with approximately 760 lawyers across 15 offices worldwide. For more information, please contact Susan Peters at

Sunday, January 15, 2012

WPU to MLB: You'll Regret a 2013 All-Star Game at CitiField

What does the Great American Pastime-baseball-have in common with the un-American abuse of eminent domain, the eradication of scores of minority-owned businesses, the City's decades-long willful neglect of an entire neighborhood? Well, absolutely nothing as it turns out, but if MLB gets its way and schedules an All Star Game at CiitiField than the great American game will be colluding with a project based on lies and deception-and WPU intends to aggressively promote all of this to world-wide media, if Major League Baseball dares to hold its 2013 All-Star Game right next to our property at Willets Point.

The following letter, sent by WPU to Baseball Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig, makes clear that for a variety of reasons, MLB would be wise to consider other venues for its 2013 All-Star Game.

MLB All Star Game Letter 120114

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unconventional Wisdom

The governor made big news last week when he announced that he was selecting the Aqueduct raceway site as the location for a new NYC convention center-but not everyone thinks this is a good idea: "Still, the question is whether the Queens project makes sense, experts said. The convention business is highly competitive, and attendance is falling around the country. Most convention centers are run by public authorities at a deficit."

Add Helen Marshal to the doubters. In 2008 she approved the original Willets Point plan with the expressed purpose that it includes a convention center: "In an opinion signed today, Ms. Marshall called Willets Point “underutilized” and said it was time to redevelop the 61-acre neighborhood in the shadows of the Mets new Citi Field. But she added 11 conditions to her recommendation, calling for continued community input, more affordable housing, guarantees of a convention center..."

The removal of the convention center possibility only highlights how the Willets Point plan is really no plan at all-something that former Council member Monserrate realized back before he changed sides on the issue: "Unfortunately, the Queens Borough President chose to support this vague and noncommittal plan rather than question it,” City Councilman Hiram Monserrate said in a statement. “That's why the project's opposition continues to grow broader and deeper.”

The convention center bait and switch adds fuel to the fire of the WPU criticism of EDC's latest change of plans-a Phase 1 that was never envisioned when the city council approved the project. On January, 27th Judge Joan Madden will have the city and WPU's Mike Gerrard in court to argue the legality of this phased-in development. She should keep the convention center switcheroo in mind when she decides just what to do with the failed promises of EDC.