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April 7, 2012

Behind the Times's Yankee Stadium story, a rather shameful failure to pursue balance and serve readers, according to an expert and parks advocate

Atlantic Yards Report

Geoffrey Croft, president, NYC Park Advocates, sends a corrective letter in response to my analysis yesterday of the New York Times's cheerleading coverage of the belated ballfields constructed next to Yankee Stadium, Yankee Stadium controversy down the memory hole: prominent coverage of belated ballfields, no dissenters heard.

His letter is pretty disturbing--and I haven't checked with the Times-- but I did ask him if he was comfortable with me publishing it, and he said yes. His main point: the Times completely ignored dissenting voices, and that's part of a pattern. (Here's more on Croft, from Crain's; be sure to check the comments.)

Unfortunately this is not what has transpired, its a lot more irresponsible than that.

On Monday I took Winnie Hu, a reporter known for her non-critical coverage of the administration, on a tour of the area. She experienced the 20- minute walk along highways and the filthy dangerous parkland along the Harlem River to get to the replacement tennis courts from the old ones that had previously been located in the community. She learned these courts - located in the South Bronx- charge up to $80 an hour. She repeatedly said how expensive that was. Ms. Hu was even told by an employee of the tennis concession that the cafe which they are building on city parkland will be for "members only. "

On our hour plus walk she was informed about the permanent loss of parkland in the community including two ballfields in the shadow of Yankee Stadium no less; she saw the parking garage that replaced a 2.9-acre ballfield which is not going to be replaced; She saw the artificial turf field built on top of a parking garage in the asthma capital of America that regularly reaches temperatures of 145 degrees and greater; she was made aware of the $300 million dollars associated with the replacement parks, not $195 million as she reported.

A week before our tour she was made aware of the our original Broken Promises report, which she said she looked at. She was given access to a few draft pages of our soon-to-be completed, updated Broken Promises report, which goes into great detail of the numerous issues associated with this project including the three-year delay in replacing some park facilities and the fact that there is not a single penny of dedicated funding allocated to maintain these parks. Unfortunately the list goes on and on.

"As I mentioned they will be on high spin mode as this has been a major embarrassment for the administration on the highest levels," I wrote to the reporter in an email a few days before our tour. "For a while Parks including Adrian weren't even allowed to respond to media inquires re: the Yankee/replacement park issues because of the all bs they got caught on. (All requests had to go through City Hall.)"

After our tour she met with seven officials from the city and people associated with the building of Heritage field who were happy to try and make the controversy disappear. The Times complied.

...

According to the New York Times, everything is swell in Yankee replacement park land. I'm happy the Times reporter thought the fields looked nice, and her reporting discovered people playing on them on the first day they were open felt the same. With the enormous taxpayer funds used to build them and the delay is this really a story, much less a front-page story? Obviously not.

They chose not to report on a story that impacts some of the poorest people in the country. This is shameful, irresponsible, but unfortunately not surprising.

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Posted by steve at April 7, 2012 3:10 PM