James Stuckey | Thoughts on Strategic Litigation

About

James Stuckey is a real estate developer whose primary focus has been his hometown, New York City. He has played a chief role in many of the city’s most notable projects, including creating the first ever Russian Trade and Cultural Center, which was named the Most Ingenious Deal of the Year in 1991. James Stuckey also headed the development of the Astoria Motion Picture Studio, the Citibank Center, and the Staten Island Corporate Parks.
With a resume boasting some of the most notable names in the industry, James Stuckey is no stranger to high profile projects, big budgets and impossible deadlines. Stuckey is currently the CEO and President of Verdant Properties, LLC®.

James Stuckey, former President of the New York City Public Development Corp., explains that once a real estate development idea is brought to the table, there are other obstacles to overcome.

According to James Stuckey, while the first step in any real estate project is to shape the idea, the next step is to develop a strategy to respond to those individuals who may bring lawsuits, why, and what can be done to ensure they are not successful. In the real estate realm, says James Stuckey, winning the lawsuits are the penultimate land use approvals.

James Stuckey points out that few members of the public, and an even smaller number of “decision-makers,” understand what the information in a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) tells them; and, those that do are given unreasonably short periods of time to analyze and respond to the data. According to James Stuckey, Environment Impact Statements and the EIS process have really become a tool to litigate, delay or stop a development. Unfortunately, laments James Stuckey, almost no one pays attention to the environmental impacts that are disclosed; and, in some instances, because some impacts can’t be mitigated, all that’s required is disclosure.  This is true for all land use approvals, as virtually any decision made by a public official or public body is subject to challenge in court, notes James Stuckey.

Other factors that may impact the pre-development phase, says James Stuckey, are blogs, the Internet, and instant access to information (including false information that project opponents or competitors can “create” on the web), and these have changed litigation strategies. There have also been instances where regions, states and municipalities have used litigation to block projects, steal or retain corporate tenants, and leverage infrastructure improvements, maintains James Stuckey.

During his three-decade long career, James Stuckey has seen countless lawsuits. For instance, there were dozens of suits initiated over the course of twenty years to litigate against and stop the Times Square Redevelopment. Lawsuits can focus on issues such as land use claims and environmental issues to eminent domain and first amendment rights, according to James Stuckey.

Nearly any person or group of people can bring a lawsuit to try to block a specific development, notes James Stuckey. Before Hamilton Plaza, a project in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, a group of local merchants brought a federal suit that tried to block the addition of a large supermarket to the neighborhood.

A developer must wear many hats before he can get down to business, says James Stuckey. He must endeavor to foresee all issues that may arise, determine the best course of action to circumvent these issues, and make a convincing case as to why the proposed development should be allowed to proceed, concludes James Stuckey.

James Stuckey is not only a hands-on real estate developer; he is also an educator who has served as the Dean of the New York University Schack Institute of Real Estate.

 


10 Responses

05.09.12

I bet litigation scares a lot of people, James Stuckey… i know when i see that word, it makes me cringe. You are a brave man to have to go through court cases with real estate. I hope I never have to be involved in anything like this. Thanks for sharing, James Stuckey.

James Stuckey – what a great article. Not many people realize the dangers of huge careers like this. I, too, am in real estate and there are many legal ramifications that people don’t realize. It’s good to educate the general public because not many of them even stop to think about things like this. Good post, James Stuckey. I look forward to more!

What kind of experience or training/classes did you have to take to prepare for such a career with such challenging issues, James stuckey? Sometimes I thank god that I am not involved in anything that could be sued against or brought to court. Thanks for posting this, James stuckey. It was an interesting read.

What is the shortest lawsuit you’ve ever seen, James Stuckey? I am curious because I know anything having to do with legal always takes forever. Any suggestions to speed things up, James Stuckey?

Do you have any advice for someone who is involved in litigation with real estate issues? My brother is a developer also and was fined and doesn’t really know how to handle it. Thanks ahead of time, James Stuckey, for your advice.

@Rene Lugar – Yes, litigation can be a scary word. But if you are prepared and know the right people, it won’t be so scared if you are staring it in the face. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. – James Stuckey

@Leon Millers – Litigation is a big deal, but if you know what you are up against and how to prepare for getting into any legal battles, then you can assure yourself that it won’t be as bad as you think. Thank you for reading the post – please share it with others as I am in the same boat as you. The more people are aware, the better it will be for all parties. – James Stuckey

@Louis Handle – Some of it is from personal experience and some of it was from college classes. I always thank God as well every time I can avoid a legal problem. – James Stuckey

@Richard Bundle – I would have to say the shortest was about 6 months. You definitely shouldn’t expect that, though – that was a special case. Communication and accuracy of information are keys to a speedy process. The rest is in the court’s hands. – James Stuckey

@Julian Towers – having the right people on your side is a major help. In the long run, it may cost more, but do yourself a favor and get the right people. You DO get what you pay for. Also, like I mentioned in another comment, having great communication and accurate information will help the process. – James Stuckey

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