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March 14, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Wake-up Call

You thought that Saturday would be a nice day to take it easy and relax? Ha! Norman Oder is hard at work poking at your conscience and digging to discover all things "Atlantic Yards."

The Courier-Life misreads Tish vs. Dee

Here's a look at the most recent attempt by the Courier-Life to cover Brooklyn politics.

The Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt suggests, in an article headlined "Tish vs. Dee: a real battle" (click to enlarge) that Atlantic Yards won't be the deciding factor in the 35th District Council race.

But first he suggests they're evenly matched:
Political pundits are expecting an interesting battle this primary season for the 35th District City Council seat as popular incumbent Letitia (Tish) James faces popular community activist Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa.
..."It definitely will be a bruising battle," said Geoff Davis, brother of slain City Council member James Davis, who preceded James in the seat. "They both have name recognition. They both are community oriented. They both have participated in countless programs for young people and have two separate views on the Atlantic Yards project. Delia is for it and Tish James is against it."

Ok, but James is the incumbent. She's won two elections and has achieved a far different level of visibility. She crushed her opponent in 2005. Though James thinks AY is the big issue, Hunley-Adossa denies that.

Next up, an analysis of the article from The New York Times's real estate supplement about Mayor Michael Bloomberg's development schemes.

Times real estate magazine article on "Post-Bubble NYC" gets AY wrong (and boosts Bloomberg)

First, there's this needed correction:

It contains this sentence: Thousands of apartment units and a new arena for the Nets would rise on the site of the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn.

Well, there's a planned or proposed Atlantic Yards site, but there's no "site of the Atlantic Yards," because the railyard is called the Vanderbilt Yard. The project would not be in downtown Brooklyn. Other sections of the Times have fixed such mistakes, but the Times, a many-headed beast, continues to produce errors.

And there's deeper analysis as well:

The article states:
And yet his legacy is already visible on the city’s landscape. It is less sweeping, perhaps, but no less significant: he empowered the private sector to remake the city bit by bit.

This was partly a function of the way Bloomberg ran New York, a natural byproduct of his ability to govern the ungovernable city. “The perception under Bloomberg has been that New York is a good place to do business, and that’s very important for developers,” says Jonathan Miller, one of the city’s best-known real estate appraisers.

But it was also deliberate. Bloomberg is a businessman. He believes in growth and has faith in the private sector. His administration expedited permits and signed off on building designs with minimal interference. It also freed up underutilized land — old piers, elevated freight lines, warehousing districts, rail yards — either by rezoning or by threatening to employ its powers of eminent domain. In many cases it offered attractive incentives, most notably tax breaks, to encourage companies to build. The administration did its share of construction too, adding parks across the boroughs and along the city’s long-neglected waterfront and, in partnership with private developers, initiating New York’s largest affordable-housing project in decades.

Well, isn't there a big difference between rezoning, which involves some level of accountability, and threatening to use eminent domain? And isn't there a difference between both of those and turning the decision to deploy eminent domain to an unaccountable state agency like the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), as in the case of Atlantic Yards?

What's missing in this sunny passage? Democracy.

Finally, The New York Times publishes a Bloomberg News article. In doing so, The Times drops any hint of skepticism of remarks from Nets' CEO Brett Yormark.

In unskeptical Bloomberg News article (in the Times), Yormark asserts 2011 arena opening; Newark's Booker still optimistic

In publishing a Bloomberg News article quoting Nets CEO Brett Yormark's prediction of a 2011 Brooklyn arena opening--an article in which Yormark was not challenged, nor was his dubious record of predictions noted--the New York Times sports section today has sunk into the swamp.

The article fails to include the disclaimer that the parent New York Times Company is business partners with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner; such a disclosure might have served to alert editors to add a dollop of skepticism.

...

"At the end of the day, I am judged with how much revenue we can generate," Yormark tells Soshnick. "When you really break it down, it's tickets and sponsorships."

Translation: he's willing to do what it takes to generate that revenue. Including making things up.

Posted by steve at March 14, 2009 8:54 AM