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August 22, 2009

Saturday Morning Pair For Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Bloomberg runs against the MTA, even as he wants board members to not have to follow their fiduciary duty

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as part of his run for another term, is railing against the way the MTA is run. Except that he kind of likes the way the MTA is run. Norman Oder explains.

The contradiction is pretty stunning. Earlier this month, Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveiled a plan to reform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), stating:
New Yorkers depend on our subways, buses, ferries, and bridges every day. They are the lifeblood of our City. Yet our transit system is run by the MTA, and controlled by Albany. We pay the price. Join Mike Bloomberg. Demand Better Transit Now!

In other words, Bloomberg doesn't like the governance of the MTA.

Except when he does.

Bloomberg appointees have four votes on the MTA board. Governor David Paterson's six appointees have six votes. Representatives from seven suburban counties have a total of four votes. There are six other nonvoting members.

Two of Bloomberg's appointees led the argument in June that the MTA should revise the Vanderbilt Yard deal at the request of Forest City Ratner.

Paterson's appointees, in the main, followed Bloomberg's wishes.

Now Bloomberg's blaming Albany.

Sure, while the MTA system is regional, New Yorkers have an argument that there should be more city control of the New York City Transit System.

Bloomberg doesn't make that argument; he just argues for his plan (free crosstown bus service, countdown clocks on subway platforms, etc.)--a plan, as noted on Streetsblog, with no funding mechanism or any effort to reform governance.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's leading the charge against public authorities reform, changes which would require MTA board members to follow their fiduciary duty, to act in the best interests of the agency, not the officials who appointed them.

He doesn't want such improvements. He just wants control. This is the man the New Yorker called a good mayor.

Blame Courier-Life editor Kenneth Brown; he could've required fact-checking by the notorious Stephen Witt

In an open letter to the Courier-Life, Norman Oder takes the paper to task for sloppy reporting.

To the editor:

Courier-Life editor Kenneth Brown should be ashamed for continuing to publish articles by the notorious Stephen Witt without requiring the most perfunctory of fact-checking.

Witt's article "Paper of record accused of bias," published online August 17 and in print (as "Delia cries foul") August 21, took a shot at the New York Times blog The Local for stating that 35th Council District candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa has been unreachable; Witt described her as always "very reachable by this newspaper."

However, The Local also quoted editor Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, who stated, "We at The Brooklyn Paper have been astounded by the lack of response to our questions from Delia and her campaign."

The Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life share an office in MetroTech and contribute to the new BoroPolitics web site. In other words, had Witt and Brown found re-reading The Local to be too onerous, they could have walked down the hall. Had they considered any of the responses to the original story, it would have had to have been revised and improved for print.

It was not.

Witt criticized me for writing "lavishingly" of Council Member James but provided no evidence, either regarding my coverage, or that his choice of words is part of the English language.

He also slammed me for "continually criticiz[ing] any community supporters of the project," without considering whether the questions I raise are legitimate.

Why is Hunley-Adossa always "very reachable by this newspaper"? I bet it's because Witt has no interest in raising any tough questions. Those questions include:
--how much does developer Forest City Ratner contribute to fund the fledgling community organization Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), the Community Benefits Agreement signatory Hunley-Adossa leads?
–what environmental expertise does Hunley-Adossa have to run BEE, which aims to address green issues?
–why has BEE distributed more money in compensation to Hunley-Adossa than it has spent on program services?
–why does half the BEE board consist of Hunley-Adossa family members?

Perhaps most bizarrely, Witt criticized Andy Newman of The Local for singing karaoke with a staffer for James at what Newman said was "the apolitical birthday party at a bar for the blogger who does Clinton Hill Chill. At such a politically neutral event, I would be happy to sing with one of Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s staffers.”

Hunley-Adossa said she doubted that promise.

But forget singing. Witt in August 2006 gave Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner a bear hug at a press event.

If the Courier-Life is going to be so vigilant about journalistic impartiality and credibility, Witt and Brown should be looking in the mirror.

Norman Oder

Posted by steve at August 22, 2009 8:19 AM