Blumenfeld Development Group can proceed with a lawsuit contending that Forest City Ratner Cos. illegally ousted them from a partnership agreement to build a retail and entertainment complex next to the renovated Nassau Coliseum, according to new court filings.
Ratner and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the entity formed for the Coliseum project, last week withdrew their appeal of a 2016 ruling by a State Supreme Court justice who declined to dismiss a suit filed by Blumenfeld, of Syosset.
In his decision, Justice Vito DeStefano said Ratner’s contention that there was never a final partnership agreement with Blumenfeld was “contrary to events and circumstances.”
DeStefano allowed Blumenfeld’s suit to proceed, but Forest City appealed to the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division.
After months of depositions and subpoenas, lawyers for Ratner and Nassau Events Center, which is controlled by Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, withdrew the appeal on Jan 20.
“It’s an acknowledgment that they don’t think they can win,” said Blumenfeld attorney Ronald Rosenberg, adding that the case could head to trial later this year.
Rosenberg said Blumenfeld and Forest City attempted to negotiate a settlement in the case last summer but were unsuccessful.
Ratner spokeswoman Ashley Cotton declined to comment, citing “ongoing litigation.”
Blumenfeld and Forest City were among four companies that bid on the redevelopment of the Coliseum and its surrounding property in 2013.
After Nassau settled on Forest City and the Madison Square Garden Company as finalists, Blumenfeld signed onto Ratner’s proposal, agreeing to develop the retail and restaurant components. The two firms worked together on the project for 18 months but had a falling out over the control and direction of the development.
Blumenfeld contends Ratner tried to “usurp sole control of the project.” Forest City argues that Blumenfeld attempted to make “unilateral” changes to its plan without their approval.
The Coliseum closed in August 2015 and renovations began that October. The arena will reopen April 5 with a Billy Joel concert. Construction of the retail plaza has not begun.