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January 21, 2011
Complaint Box | Powerless in Brooklyn
by Norman Oder
The man who launched Atlantic Yards Report as TimesRatnerReport is becoming a semi-regular fixture in the paper. This essay will also appear in Sunday's Times.
Of the boroughs outside Manhattan, Brooklyn gets the most buzz — as a tourist attraction, a “hipster brand” and an incubator of art and artisanal products. That has provoked a backlash from longtime Brooklynites and others wary of smugness from the borough’s Brownstone Belt.
However entertaining these debates, Brooklynites — and, I dare say, all of us in the non-Manhattan boroughs — share one common problem: we’re essentially powerless. We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations.
Marty Markowitz, the borough’s president and its relentless cheerleader, says that Brooklyn has nearly everything a city needs and that fulfillment will arrive when a professional sports team, the Nets, finally moves to an arena here in 2012 or 2013.
If only that were true.
Thus, Brooklyn’s powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny. While local blogs and community weeklies do their part, the latter have been diminished. After Rupert Murdoch bought the independent weekly Courier-Life chain in 2006, its rival, The Brooklyn Paper, trumpeted its independence, only to suffer the same fate — a Murdoch takeover — three years later. The papers have since moved into the same building, cut the staff and published many of the same articles. In my blog, AtlanticYardsReport.com, I’ve observed how The Brooklyn Paper has muted once-tough coverage and editorial criticism of Mr. Markowitz’s beloved arena project, Atlantic Yards, which is being developed by the newspapers’ landlord, Forest City Ratner.
The upshot? While Brooklyn may make a neat T-shirt slogan and be shorthand for culinary innovation, such a focus on consumption and authenticity gives a pass to the powers that be.
I have a Complaint Box essay in the Metropolitan section of Sunday's New York Times, now online at CityRoom, headlined Powerless in Brooklyn.
It's a bit of a departure for Complaint Box, which tends toward examinations of the nuances of such things as subway etiquette or tipping, but, given the limited space for op-eds in the paper--after all, the former City section is gone--any space is welcome. (Fun fact: they don't pay for this type of reader contribution.)
And yes, in only about 500 words, my essay is less nuanced than a longer version, so let's see how the comments play out.
Comments and responses
I will update this post with some comments and responses to them.
Posted by eric at January 21, 2011 11:01 AM