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New York's top court ruled Tuesday that the state can use eminent domain to force homeowners and businesses to sell their properties for a massive development in Brooklyn that includes a new arena for the New Jersey Nets.

In a 6-1 ruling Tuesday, the Court of Appeals said the Empire State Development Corp.'s finding that the area was blighted was enough to justify taking the land.

A group of tenants and owners claim the seizure is unconstitutional. They argue that developer Bruce Ratner's proposed $4.9 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project mainly enriches private interests, while the state constitution requires public use for taking land.

"The constitution accords government broad power to take and clear substandard and insanitary areas for redevelopment," Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote for the majority. "In so doing, it commensurately deprives the judiciary of grounds to interfere with the exercise."

Ratner's proposed development includes office towers, apartments and a new arena for the NBA's Nets. A key element in his plan is selling majority team ownership to Russian entrepreneur Mikhail Prokhorov.


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