September 27, 2012

At Barclays Center plaza, sponsored by the Daily News, a Daily News banner

Atlantic Yards Report

A reward for their unflagging, unquestioning, unholy and unhinged support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.


Photo: AYInfoNYC

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Two Dailies Partnered Now With Forest City Ratner. Rupert, Whatcha Waiting For?

So the New York Times Company partnered with Forest City Ratner, using eminent domain, to build the paper's new headquarters. And now the plaza in front of the arena is proudly sponsored by the Daily News.

Does this mean Murdoch will now be friends with the enemy of his enemies? If so, see you at the AYCrimeScene events tonight.

Posted by eric at 6:19 PM

Daily News goes rogue: critics "filed 200 eminent domain lawsuits"

Atlantic Yards Report

From a not completely cogent Daily News article posted last night and headlined Barclays Center set to dazzle at Brooklyn’s new Crossroads of the World: As top acts line up to schedule a gig at the gleaming new arena, critics continue to curse its arrival:

Critics — who filed 200 eminent domain lawsuits protesting what they called a “sham” environmental review process — say the 2,250 affordable housing units promised, along with rail renovations and open space, still have not been provided.

Um, there were two eminent domain lawsuits, plus another challenging the act of condemnation.

And those suits challenged the taking of private property, not the environmental review.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps the naming rights to the "Daily News Plaza" have addled their brains (even more than usual).

Related content...

NY Daily News, Barclays Center set to dazzle at Brooklyn’s new Crossroads of the World

Here's the buried lead...

So far, only 200 of the 2,000 new jobs produced by the arena are full-time, Forest City Ratner officials conceded.

Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

September 26, 2012

NY Times Attacks Courageous Brooklyn Anti-Development Activist

by Randy Shaw

Does it really take indy media from the other coast to figure this out?

Daniel Goldstein spent years battling the Atlantic Yard Development project in Brooklyn, which saw Forest City Ratner---the development partner with the New York Times Company for its headquarters-- skirt the democratic process and every jobs and affordable housing commitment it made to the community. The rigged approval process for the mammoth project was upheld by New York’s highest court, and the Barclay Center soon opens---without any accompanying affordable housing units. The Times has apparently not forgiven Goldstein for opposing Ratner, for it ran a huge September 25 story on a neighbor’s opposition to Goldstein’s adding an extension on his single family home. Unlike Atlantic Yards, which required massive rezoning and a gift of public land to the developer, Goldstein’s project complies with existing zoning---but that did not stop the Times from analogizing opposition to his extension with Goldstein’s protests against Atlantic Yards.

Goldstein lost his activist struggle and related lawsuit, and because his home was taken by eminent domain, he was compensated to move. He relocated to Brooklyn’s South Park Slope neighborhood, likely seeking to live in peace after devoting his life to defeat a project that symbolizes---as much as any Robert Moses outrage---how New York City development interests avoid democratic control and ignore community concerns.

But after the NY Times learned that Goldstein is building an extension on his house, the paper concluded that the critic of Atlantic Yards has set off “a real estate battle of his own.” Does this new battle involve thousands marching in the streets in protest, as occurred with Atlantic Yards? Is Goldstein following Ratner’s lead and seeking massive zoning variances and public subsidies for his “development”?

The obvious answer to both question is no.

Sounds like a classic case of next- door- neighbor nimbyism. Yet the Times attempted to compare this neighbor’s opposition to the thousands of community residents who joined with Goldstein in a multi-year struggle to stop the decimation of a residential community. The Times was so committed to falsely and maliciously portraying Goldstein as a hypocrite toward development that it highlighted its story on the front page of the national edition.

I’m sure Bruce Ratner and his buddies at the NY Times Corp. are having a good laugh over the story, but neither can ignore the fundamental truth: None of Forest City Ratner’s promises about jobs and affordable housing at Atlantic Yards have been implemented, and attacking Goldstein only remind readers of this record.


NoLandGrab: In fact, the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project has only landed on the front page of The Times twice — when Goldstein reached his settlement for compensation for his home after it was seized, and now this nonsense. And people wonder if the paper has an objectivity problem? Cancel our subscription.

Posted by eric at 12:48 PM

An open letter to the New York Times Public Editor: when it comes to Atlantic Yards, the editor heading the Corrections desk denies reality

Atlantic Yards Report

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

On Saturday, Sept. 22, I attempted to get the New York Times to correct three clear, easily checkable errors in the upcoming Sept. 23 cover story in the Metropolitan section by Liz Robbins about the new Brooklyn arena, headlined In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays.

I wrote to, among other people, Senior Editor in charge of Corrections Greg Brock, last month lauded by your predecessor as leading a "powerful engine of accountability."

My experience with Mr. Brock, unfortunately, has gone in the exact opposite direction: a tendency to downplay, disavow, and evade errors, coupled with a reflexive nastiness that is unworthy of that position.

The upshot: the uncorrected errors led to a less skeptical view of the controversial Atlantic Yards project than the facts would suggest.

Please take a look at this verbatim correspondence, augmented only by graphics and slight punctuation changes.


NoLandGrab: Seriously. The Times's reticence at correcting Atlantic Yards-related errors is warped, and embarrassing.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Times' Corrections Desk, Headed by Greg Brock, Denies Reality When It Comes to Atlantic Yards

The New York Times Company, which partnered with Forest City Ratner to use eminent domain to build its new headquarters, has a problem. They are, overall, soft on their former development partner, editorially in favor of their development partner, and they have a "corrections editor" who refuses to correct clear errors of fact—errors which consistently shine a better light on the developer than the facts would and that impugn project opponents.

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

September 24, 2012

Ratner and Prokhorov's Arena is Built for a Bank, Not Brooklyn

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Some of the press gets it. Barclays Center was built for a bank, a scandal ridden one at that, and one which Mark Jacobson describes thusly in his excellent NY Mag cover story, "The Nets are owned by a Russian oligarch and will play in an arena named for a bank (which reportedly paid $200 million for the naming rights) whose senior officials in France voluntarily handed over names of its Jewish employees to the ­Nazis, a hedge just in case the Germans won the war. Oh, yeah, let's go bang a thunderstick for them."


NoLandGrab: Yay, team?

Posted by eric at 8:02 PM

Stephen Witt lets us in on some spoilers from his new novel


Brooklyn Daily
by Will Bredderman

Here's a new take on the Atlantic Yards creation myth, courtesy of the man who never let reality get in the way of his "reporting" on Atlantic Yards.

Former Courier Life reporter and longtime busker Stephen Witt says he is responsible for bringing the Nets to Brooklyn, but that doesn’t mean his second novel, “The Street Singer,” the tale of a subway performer who gets an arena built in his home town, is the story of his life . How do we know? Because reporter Will Bredderman had a chat with him about his new tome. Here’s how it went down:

Will Bredderman: So how did you get the Nets to come to Brooklyn?

Stephen Witt: I covered Borough President Markowitz’s first state of the borough address, and he talked about getting a basketball team to move to Brooklyn. So I took it upon myself to call the NBA to see if the Knicks had an exclusive on Brooklyn. I asked if there could be a new team in Brooklyn and the NBA said no, there could only be a move. But at that time, the Nets were in the finals, and they weren’t filling their stadium, so I called the Nets owner, Lewis Katz, and I asked if he’d be willing to move the team. He said he wasn’t against it, so I called Marty and I said, “Call this guy, I think he’ll move the team.” And I gave Marty the guy’s number. Marty gave me a call in February of 2003 and told me “I really think I hooked a big fish.” I wrote an article for the Village Voice about it, and that’s how it all got started. A couple months later they made the big announcement.


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder might have to start referring to him as the "delirious Stephen Witt."

Posted by eric at 1:19 PM

Brooklyn Paper/Courier-Life publish special section: "Brooklyn welcomes its new arena"

Atlantic Yards Report

Both the Brooklyn Paper and its sibling Courier Life/Brooklyn Daily, both owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group, offer a 24-page special section saluting the Barclays Center.

(I believe it's also in Murdoch's New York Post.)

Yes, there's a big ad from the arena, as well as from local businesses. Yes, there's a big ad from the arena in the regular issue of the weeklies, as well.

So it's not surprising that the content is celebratory.


Could you believe that the Brooklyn Paper published a 1/24/04 editorial by its founder, Ed Weintrob, headlined The real story is the land grab, not the Nets:

That the Nets are coming is beside the point. And that is the real story, a story masterfully buried by developer Bruce Ratner and his media shills. (When the New York Times is your real estate partner, it’s amazing the story its pages will tell — more than three pages featuring nine upbeat, luciously illustrated stories in Thursday’s edition.) The real story is that the Atlantic Yards project — and its companion Downtown Brooklyn Plan — is not about the Nets (whose stadium would occupy a tiny part of the massive site), it’s about a land grab by Ratner and his political clients, the largest, most expensive government seizure of private property for private benefit ever in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Paper was sold in 2009.


Related coverage...

Noticing New York, Isn’t That Cute?: Cover of Brooklyn Paper Special Section Fawning Over Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Arena Feints At Mention of LIBOR Scandal

The cover of a “special 24-page section” the Rupert Murdoch-owned Brooklyn Paper issued today to fawn appreciatively over the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” basketball arena feints at mention of, and almost seems to refer to, the LIBOR interest rate-fixing scandal for which the Barclays Bank name is a virtual synonym.- And then it actually doesn’t- Just the reverse in fact.

The plastered headline “Banking on Barclays” punningly/cunningly (?) evokes the presumed reliability of the banking practices behind the “Barclays” name. It does that notwithstanding that most people who actually read real news should think of LIBOR instead.

But, in truth, the Brooklyn Paper is probably not thinking in this vein: The Brooklyn Paper has never devoted one jot of ink, or even a few electrons of its web edition articles, to spelling out the acronym LIBOR and that includes the nine new feature articles inside the “special section” all of which mention “Barclays” repeatedly. . .

. . . One of them is appallingly titled: “The People’s Arena!”

Atlantic Yards Report, The "Barclays countdown" in this week's issues of Metro

Let's take a look at this week's installments of the "Barclays countdown" in the free weekly Metro. Is it just a coincidence that editorial content is coupled with copious Barclays Center advertising?

Posted by eric at 1:06 PM

September 17, 2012

Brooklyn/L magazines: "50 Things You Should Know about the Brooklyn Nets" (and the magic of ad support)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Fall 2012 issue of Brooklyn Magazine contains three pages of "50 Things You Should Know about the Brooklyn Nets," including tidbits conveyed in Nets advertising (Brook Lopez is "Batman's Biggest Fan") and that Brooklyn businesses Nathan's and Junior's will sell food at the Barclays Center arena.

One online commenter adds, "51. Barclays Center, is the web re-launch sponsor of Brooklyn magazine, hence the puff piece."

Also note the advertisement (right) on the facing page of the article, as it appears in print.

The list also appears in The L Magazine.


Related content...

Brooklyn Magazine, 50 Things You Should Know about the Brooklyn Nets

Here are some of the choice tidbits:

NO. 9 Not all Brooklyn Nets marry Kardashians. Forward Shelden Williams (#33) is married to WNBA star (and Olympian!) Candace Parker, who was also the first woman ever to win a slam dunk contest.

NO. 10 Williams was also a member of the National Honors Society. [UPDATE: Shelden Williams signed a professional contract in France, on August 28th, after the print issue in which this story first appeared went to press]


Posted by eric at 8:44 PM

NY Times Runs 3rd Article Mentioning That, Given Scandal, Promotionally Naming Subway Stations & Arena “Barclays” Is Problematic

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White follows up on today's City Room article about the MTA selling ad space — and naming rights.

Today the New York Times ran its third article including a mention of an obvious elephant in the media stream world: That promotionally christening of MTA subway stations and the heavily susbisidized Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov “Barclays,” the name of the British Bank whose name is virtually synonymous with the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal of which that bank is a big part, could be awkward. See: New Territory for Ads, With a Moving Target, by David W. Dunlap, September 16, 2012.

Barclays may, indeed, go out of business but professor Vaidhyanathan’s other “what if” is just a tad off: Barclays has already entered into a £290m ($450m) fine agreement with the United States and Great Britain for manipulating LIBOR rates. Its manipulation is already acknowledged by that agreement and the payment of the fine, but one purpose of the bank’s payment of that fine was to preclude criminal prosecution and conviction of the bank. Nevertheless, Barclays traders and possibly Barclays executives are likely to be criminally prosecuted, possibly convicted, separately.

Notwithstanding that this is the third Times article with a conceding mentioning that the publicly-financed parading of the “Barclays” name is obviously awkward, the sober observance of that fact in three articles is far outweighed by the many more celebratory articles the Times is running about the opening of the new “Barclays” center including the one featured on the front page of its special-edition Sunday Styles Magazine proclaiming Jay-Z in its front-cover caption to be civic-minded for promoting the arena, scandalous history and scandalous name “Barclays” name notwithstanding.

The Times has launched into its promotions without mention of its business relationship with the arena’s developer. Furthermore, the Times’ relentless promotion of the developer/subsidy collector’s Atlantic Yards from its unveiling forward probably tipped the balance for the materialization of a boondoggle that is costly to the public in so many ways. Such being the “Times Effect” on this issue, the clever casualness of the article’s conclusion equating of the naming of the subway transit hubs after “Barclays” with the naming of “Times Square” could be considered somewhat chilling- because there is less coincidence than implied:

Alternately, however, what if the bank and the new name show some staying power? After all, “Times Square” seems to have caught on.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, In Times article on MTA advertising, a willingness to downplay the Barclays taint

The close of a New York Times article today, published online as New Territory for Ads, With a Moving Target:

Professor [Siva] Vaidhyanathan, for one, would like to see some more restraint. He bristled at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center name. “What happens if Barclays is convicted of massive fraud in the Libor scandal?” he asked. “What happens if Barclays goes out of business?” Alternately, however, what if the bank and the new name show some staying power? After all, “Times Square” seems to have caught on.

That's a little pat, isn't it? First of all, the naming rights agreement is only for 20 years. Second, Vaidhyanathan, despite his criticism, was a little generous: Barclays doesn't need to be convicted to be tainted. It's already paid some $450 million in fines.

Posted by eric at 8:22 PM

September 16, 2012

In Sohn's Motherland, a film called Atlantic Yards (which differs from the film in PPW)

Atlantic Yards Report

Amy Sohn's dishy, satirical Motherland, a high-end soap opera set mostly in Park Slope and drenched in local detail (reviews here and here) and dark views of parenthood and marriage, has recurring references to a film called Atlantic Yards.

The film seems to have morphed from its description in the prequel, Prospect Park West, as "a thriller about gentrification and terrorism" with "a terror cell run out of a muffin shop, and a corrupt borough president funneling money to the terrorists, and then there's this weathered Seventy-eighth Precinct cop who catches on to the scheme and winds up saving the day."

Rest assured, it's not based on the actual story of Brooklyn's most controversial development project--after all, Brooklyn's current Borough President has his ethical challenges, but he's no cokehead. But the new description is kind of ominous nonetheless: The gentrification blues


Sohn's good at referencing the class and style signifiers of gentrification, as well as registering generational frustration. One veteran Park Sloper thinks:

It was a strange feeling to live in a neighborhood you could no longer afford. You were the reason values had gone up, and yet you were invisible.

In another passage, a woman who runs a chi-chi store on gentrifying Fourth Avenue reflects on her mixed feelings:

Hipsters now did beer runs on bicycles to the bars up and down the avenue. The Nets arena was going through; they had already broken ground and you could see it rising as you passed. Poor people would soon be booted out to make way for high-end retail shops. Rebecca had been part of the transformation, but it was taking off on its own. You walked down the same street a thousand times, and then one day, everything was different.

Just for the record, such trends, however representative of broader societal shifts, are also driven by policy: the state's override of city zoning to permit the arena, and the city's re-zoning of Fourth Avenue.


Posted by steve at 5:17 PM

Brooklyn Rail's Hamm: an eyesore arena named for a crooked bank, but "I’m trying to figure out how to come to terms with it" (and the logos are "pretty cool")

Atlantic Yards Report

From Ted Hamm's CityNotes column in The Brooklyn Rail's September 2012 issue, This Is It?:

It was a hot afternoon in July when I first felt the sting. As I approached my destination on the D train, the conductor announced the stop’s new name, “Atlantic Ave.-Barclays Center.” And sure enough, when I got off, the new signs on the platform were there to greet me. With little fanfare, a crooked bank had made its imprint on the most central subway stop in Brooklyn. Ouch.
The sensory impact of Barclays is just a bit larger above ground, of course. The choice of baby blue for the enormous sign on the new arena merely adds injury to the insulting use of rusty beams. In an unintentionally satirical piece in the Times, Elizabeth Harris managed to find a few admirers of the prematurely decayed aesthetic. Meanwhile, over the summer I asked at least a couple dozen folks to share their views regarding the new arena’s exterior. Rest assured that they unanimously offered variations on the immortal words of Ignatius J. Reilly: the design is indeed “a most egregious offense against taste and decency.”
Another Ratner eyesore has thus grown in Brooklyn. We don’t need Nostradamus to tell us that traffic and parking will be a nightmare, or that if everyone miraculously does take public transportation, the Atlantic Terminal and adjoining subway station will be complete chaos for the many thousands of people just going about their business. Coney Island was once seen as the preferred site for the arena by Marty Markowitz and many planners, and to this day Coney needs a year-round draw. If the Barclays Center turns downtown into a perpetual cluster-you-know-what, many folks will be longing for the road not taken.
Still and yet, I am conflicted. The arena ain’t going nowhere in the near future. My tax dollars and yours went into building it, so I’m trying to figure out how to come to terms with it. And though I’m not a Nets fan, I must admit that I find the black-and-white team logos and gear to be pretty cool. At the risk of sounding too bipartisan, I can thus understand why many folks are excited, and others dismayed, about the arena. I’m just hoping that everyone gets out of my way when I’m trying to get home.

Sure, I understand why many folks are excited, too. And I suspect that those using the arena will like it--well, at least when they get the kinks worked out.

At the same time, I also suspect that a good number of neighbors previously un-roused by the project will, by necessity, become more civically active.


Posted by steve at 5:07 PM

September 9, 2012

Jay-Z: "Civic-Minded Hip-Hop Mogul" or "The House that Hova Hyped"?

Atlantic Yards Report

I already critiqued the fawning interview/essay about Jay-Z in the New York Times's Sunday T Magazine ad-jammed supplement, but the cover line deserves notice too: "The Civic-Minded Hip-Hop Mogul Holds Court With Zadie Smith."

Civic-Minded? That sounds like a termed dreamed up by, or in syncrhonicity with, developer Bruce Ratner's p.r. advisors, who have him regularly self-reporting as a "civic developer," a gauzy term that implies a social mission rather than a calculation that something beyond the minimum--better architecture, subsidized housing, jobs (?!)--is necessary to get a project passed.

So, while the article, headlined "The House That Hova Built," says little about the Barclays Center, it is indeed, as I put it, "The House That Hova Hyped." Jay-Z is portrayed, at the arena, wearing expensive clothes--this is a fashion magazine supplement--and being cited for "civic" goals like making sure "Brooklyn" was part of the name of the Nets when they moved from New Jersey. (Civic? That's marketing.)

Some cautions

Not everybody was buying it. Shane Danaher wrote in Music is My Oxygen:

Yesterday’s New York Times profile of Jay-Z (courtesy of unimpeachable novelist/memoirist Zadie Smith) took a precariously laudatory tone toward its subject, a tack that helped both to highlight the Jiggaman’s extant qualities (of which there are many) as well as the contradictions that make those qualities such a tough pill to swallow.
The article’s cause célèbre—the opening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which will house the partly-Hova-owned New York Nets—exemplifies this apparent contradiction.
Housed in Jay-Z’s neighborhood of origin, the center will drive economic resurgence in a region long considered low on the social rungs. However, it’s hard to say whether Jay’s involvement is better described as charity or mercantilism, since he undoubtedly stands to add to his $460 million personal fortune as an upshot of the deal....

While [Smith's] optimistic view of the [latest Jay-Z/Kanye West] LP [Watch the Throne] casts it as a manifesto for community empowerment, other critics have looked with scorn on the album’s baroque materialism, especially coming as it did in the midst of the vituperative, if somewhat soft-headed, Occupy Wall Street movement.

The truth is that Smith, however talented and interesting, is not unimpeachable. neither is Jay-Z. (Oh, and the center will not "drive economic resurgence" in Jay-Z's "neighborhood of origin.")


Posted by steve at 10:33 PM

Battle for Brooklyn documentary going national, local in next six weeks

Atlantic Yards Report

As the Barclays Center opening approaches, an alternative narrative is available in the documentary Battle for Brooklyn, which will screen in New York, in cities nationally, and on national TV. (Press and reviews here.)

New York City Dates:

Wednesday, September 19 — Brooklyn
Park Slope’s Old First Brooklyn Church - presented by the Fifth Ave Committee
Tuesday, Sept 25, 9pm — Brooklyn
Indiescreen, Brooklyn
Tuesday, Sept 25 — Staten Island
ETG cafe on Staten Island Wednesday, Sept 26 — Brooklyn
Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society as part of Brooklyn Reconstructed
Thursday, Sept 27 — Manhattan
Maysles Cinema in Harlem
Bronx and Queens screenings TBA

Nationwide Dates:

Chicago, September 24, 7pm at Facets
Fort Lauderdale, September 24, 7pm at Cinema Paradiso
Washington, D.C., September 25 at West End Cinema
Seattle, September 25 at the Northwest Film Forum
Bellingham, WA, October 1 at Pickford Film Center
Dallas, October 1 at Studio Movie Grille

Nationwide screenings of the film will include a recently filmed Q & A with the filmmakers and the film’s protagonist and a discussion after the film with the audience.

On national TV

A press release:

DIRECTV's Audience Network, known for its daring entertainment programming, will take viewers a step further into the realm of the deeply provocative with the premiere of Something to Talk About, a series of socially and culturally relevant documentaries presented in association with Brainstorm Media, beginning in October exclusively on DIRECTV. In certain cities, the films will be screened in theaters starting in late September and, in select locations, will include live discussions following the screenings.
The twelve-part series will kick-off with the broadcast premiere of BATTLE FOR BROOKLYN, on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT


Posted by steve at 10:12 PM

September 7, 2012

A round-up of promotional Barclays Center tidbits in the Metro newspaper; is arena designed by Frank Gehry and in Fort Greene?

Atlantic Yards Report

From the ESPN the Magazine school of "journalism"...

The free daily Metro is offering a "tidbit daily" about the Barclays Center arena until opening day on Friday, Sept. 28.

While the tidbits seem as promotional as the sponsored special section that appeared Aug. 28, some of them have rookie errors that seem prepared not with the help of the arena's p.r. consultants but by an intern working from a not-quite-complete clip file.

(Note: the arena's not designed by Frank Gehry; he did the original design. The arena's designed by Ellerbe Becket and SHoP.)


Posted by eric at 11:32 AM

September 6, 2012

NY Times Report On Public Officials Suing On `Broadening' LIBOR/Barclays Scandal Doesn’t `Broaden' To Mention “Barclays” Center

Noticing New York

In a new article (in today’s print edition) the New York Times has continued reporting about how government officials around the country are “working intensely behind the scenes to build a case for suing the nation’s largest banks” in connection with the LIBOR/Barclays rate fixing scandal. . . .

(See: Banks Face Suits as States Weigh Libor Losses, by Nathaniel Popper, September 4, 2012.)

. . . It’s the second Times article about such government lawsuits. Once again, the article doesn’t report that local New York government lawsuits against Barclays Bank would occur, ironically, just as the New York taxpayers are providing massive subsidy for the promotion of Barclays Bank with the opening of the Ratner/Prokhorov basketball arena to which the “Barclays” name is being affixed.

Click through for more, including a quiz challenging readers to guess the difference between The Times's real estate and sports sections.


Posted by eric at 12:36 PM

September 4, 2012

OMG, where will the Nets players live? Times devotes two articles, six reporters, to investigation, promotion

Atlantic Yards Report

In a Sports section front-page story (B7) headlined Nets Will Play in Brooklyn but Will Practice and Live Outside Borough, the New York Times relies on five reporters to explore the vital conundrum, as expressed in the article's closing paragraph:

Brooklyn seems ready to adopt the Nets. It may be a while before the Nets adopt Brooklyn.

Of course the "ready to adopt" is evidenced, in the main, by the team's extensive advertising campaign--and the Times's promotion, in two articles covering at least 1.6 pages today (and nearly 3 pages a few weeks back).

Because the Nets will practice in New Jersey for two years--they're looking for a site in Red Hook--the players are mainly living in New Jersey or Manhattan. Howard Beck writes:

The team is making plans to ease the commuting strain. The Nets will provide hotel rooms in Brooklyn on game days, allowing them to hold a morning shootaround at the arena’s practice court without forcing players to crisscross Manhattan multiple times before tipoff.

And guess what, Alabama native Gerald Wallace says "I’m afraid of the city... Hopefully, I can find a driver to take me back and forth.”

So much for arena slogan of "Eleven Trains. One Destination."


Related content...

The Times loves nothing more than its development partner's basketball arena, hollow Brooklyn-themed "trend" pieces, and a chance to mention the Park Slope Food Coop. And wrapping them all in one package? Better than winning a Pulitzer!

The New York Times, Nets Will Play in Brooklyn but Will Practice and Live Outside Borough

The Nets will call Brooklyn home this fall, but you won’t find them bagging organic tomatoes at the Park Slope Food Co-op, antique hunting at the Brooklyn Flea or enjoying a pleasant fall evening on the nearest brownstone stoop. For reasons both practical and personal, the Brooklyn Nets will not be living in Brooklyn, at least for their inaugural season.

The New York Times, Nets Players May Find Brooklyn a Tempting Place to Live

For now, Nets players may be Brooklyn in name only, since they will practice and live elsewhere.

But given the chance to spend a little more time in the borough, and on the blocks beyond the Barclays Center, they might reach the same conclusion that waves of ex-Manhattanites, fresh college grads and longtime locals already have — that Brooklyn is a fairly trendy, sort of chic and all in all pretty nice place to live.

Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

September 3, 2012

When the press is lied to, shouldn't it fight back? With politics, that's started, but with Atlantic Yards, stenography too often rules

Atlantic Yards Report

The press is getting better, right? See this overview by PressThink blogger and media theorist Jay Rosen of NYU, which cites, among other things, the notably bold news headline from the Times's 8/31/12 article Facts Take a Beating in Acceptance Speeches:

Representative Paul D. Ryan used his convention speech on Wednesday to fault President Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself had helped kill. He chided Democrats for seeking $716 billion in Medicare cuts that he too had sought. And he lamented the nation’s credit rating — which was downgraded after a debt-ceiling standoff that he and other House Republicans helped instigate.

And Mitt Romney, in his acceptance speech on Thursday night, asserted that President Obama’s policies had “not helped create jobs” and that Mr. Obama had gone on an “apology tour” for America. He also warned that the president’s Medicare cuts would “hurt today’s seniors,” claims that have already been labeled false or misleading.

The two speeches — peppered with statements that were incorrect or incomplete — seemed to signal the arrival of a new kind of presidential campaign, one in which concerns about fact-checking have been largely set aside.

Yet the press not infrequently stenographically reports, without corrective comment, misleading, deceptive, or self-servingly incomplete statements about Atlantic Yards from developer Forest City Ratner.


Posted by eric at 1:34 PM

September 2, 2012

Jay-Z article from Times survives without rebuttal about gift suite, skepticism about special deals

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times buffed Jay-Z, and hardly a discouraging word was heard. I wrote a letter to the paper that somehow didn't get printed:

"With Arena, Rapper Rewrites Celebrity Investors’ Playbook" (front page, Aug. 16) could have used more skepticism about the marketing of Jay-Z. For example, in June, the Nets told the New York Post that the rapper had not only designed the 11 exclusive Vault suites, he'd purchased the first one. The Times reported, without referencing the previous promotion, that Jay-Z paid nothing for his suite, worth $550,000 a year.

In a Launch Magazine interview 8/27/12, the writer of the Times article, David Halbfinger, described feedback on the article:

It was one of the top read stories of the day and the most e-mailed and most blogged about. I know the Nets are aware of the story and besides the league’s concern about the issue of uniform colors and skin color, I think by and large they were pleased with the story. There are people in Brooklyn who are critical of the project who are somewhat critical of the piece because it’s too laudatory but not everyone is going to be happy.

Maybe "not everyone is going to be happy" because some of them noticed the lack of skepticism in the article, also cited here.


Posted by steve at 3:17 PM

Metro begins daily (advertorial-ish) tidbits about Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

Hot on the heels of the special section sponsored by the Barclays Center, the free daily Metro--the closest thing to the Ratner-sponsored Brooklyn Standard today--has begun a daily series of "tidbits" about the arena.

They're not marked as advertorial, but they're pretty darn close.The article yesterday was headlined "Barclays Center countdown until opening is on":

The new Barclays Center opens in 28 days! Metro will offer a tidbit — or two — about the new development every day until opening day.
Disappointment over a rejected request to serve liquor until 2 a.m. has turned into a bit of gloating at the realization that Barclays’ 1 a.m. cutoff means venue attendees can drink an hour later than their MSG counterparts. Barclays 1, MSG 0.
On top of that, word has gotten out that the Rolling Stones will be playing two shows in New York City in November.
In another triumph over MSG, the Barclays Center will be playing host to both Stones concerts.

For some reason, Metro seems to be channeling the thoughts of arena executives whose "disappointment" turned to "a bit of gloating." Wouldn't a real newspaper have acknowledged community concerns as well as arena executives' failure to disclose that after-hours drinking plan?


Posted by steve at 3:14 PM

August 30, 2012

Secondhand coverage of arena liquor license gets much wrong; Times wrongly claims MSG/Yankee Stadium have similar policies, cites "opponents" while Forest City calls them "neighbors"

Atlantic Yards Report

No other reporters bothered to show up at the State Liquor Authority meeting yesterday that included the Barclays Center liquor license, nor did they apparently watch the webcast, because the coverage is devoid of any quotes from the meeting or any sense why arena operators resisted--though assented to--a final cut-off of liquor sales at 1 am.

Nor did any of the coverage acknowledge the feeling of bad faith generated by the arena operators' failure to disclose the plan for after-hours service or the continuing construction violations.

The Times, perhaps relying on a clip file that claimed "die-hard opponents are still resisting [and trying to] block the arena from speedily receiving a liquor license," reported:

Additionally, opponents of the project have been complaining of an increase in the number of surrounding businesses seeking liquor licenses, which they fear will entice people leaving events at the arena to linger in the area and continue to imbibe.

Forest City Ratner, the developer for the 22-acre Atlantic Yards site that includes the Barclays Center, has played down those concerns. “Community boards and nearby residents are concerned that people could be rowdy or noisy,” Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City, said. “Obviously there are strict rules in place in terms of drinking.” The staff, he said, is trained not to serve alcohol to anyone who appears to have too much. “We want a policy that is courteous to our neighbors,” he added.

There you have it, folks. The official Forest City Ratner spokesman says "Community boards and nearby residents" and "neighbors," while the Times deems them "opponents."


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

August 29, 2012

In Metro, special section "in association with Barclays Center" sure looks like advertorial

Atlantic Yards Report

Who needs a fake newspaper when a (semi-)real newspaper will do the job for you?

I called Metro to ask whether in fact the Barclays Center sponsored the four-page coverage. (Note that the arena will not look like that because 1) the towers haven't been built and 2) the building is way larger than that, unless you're in a hovercraft with special spectacles.)

I haven't gotten a confirmation, but on the fifth page, you see, there's this ad. (Update: the one article published online later added this explanation: This article is part of a sponsored special section Metro ran on Tuesday, Aug. 28 about the Barclays Center.)

Wouldja believe that Metro quoted two people on the street, and both are excited about the arena because 1) they can walk to the arena and 2) "live sports bring such an infectious energy and cameraderie"?

Paul Zumoff is quoted in the article at bottom as saying the arena would "add value to the arena." Could he be the same Paul Zumoff who works as a real estate broker?


Related content...

Metro, One month until Barclays Center opens on Sept. 28

"There were a lot of challenges along the way," Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, told Metro. "The economy, ongoing litigation that existed here in Brooklyn for the project, the NBA lockout and an eroding fan base in New Jersey all worked against us."

"But at the end of the day, we overcame," he said. "It was Bruce Ratner’s vision that kept us all going."

NoLandGrab: Oh, please.

Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

August 27, 2012

Would private-sector version of alleged harasser Vito Lopez get "fired in a heartbeat" (as per Daily News)? Maybe not if it's Forest City and Jim Stuckey

Atlantic Yards Report

The career of Bushwick Assemblyman and Kings County Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez is gravely wounded, perhaps mortally so, and not by accusations of political chicanery, steering funds to the social service empire he founded, or ensuring that his girlfriend and a political ally, who run that empire, get paid very well.

Instead, it's an ethics committee finding of sexual harassment, which, though not a full legal proceeding, involves some investigation. Lopez denies the allegations.

As it happened, a somewhat parallel situation--it's not clear precisely how much--happened at private-sector Forest City Ratner regarding Jim Stuckey, who headed Atlantic Yards, but there was no firing "in a heartbeat" but rather some resistance at first.

Stuckey has since been sued for harassing a subordinate at NYU, and left the university; both defendants are fighting the charges, and the case is pending.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

August 26, 2012

New York Times Public Editor says goodbye without a word about Atlantic Yards/Forest City, offers dubious praise for corrections desk

Atlantic Yards Report

If the job description of The New York Times's Public Editor includes "drive Norman Oder to distraction," then the office has been a resounding success.

New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane says goodbye after two years without a word about Atlantic Yards and Forest City Ratner, despite ample opportunity to weigh in on such basic things as whether and how the Times should disclose its business relationship to Forest City, or even the glaring decision to devote such Sports section real estate to photos of Brooklyn Nets advertising.

From his column in tomorrow's paper, Success and Risk as The Times Transforms:

Two years ago, when I wrote my “why on earth” column, I suggested that the pace of change called for a re-emphasis on “transparency, accountability, humility.” Looking back now, I think The Times could do better with these.

The Times is hardly transparent. A reader still has to work very hard to find any Times policies online (though some are tucked away there), and there is still no place where Times editors speak on the issues. As for humility, well, The Times is Lake Wobegon on steroids (everybody’s way above average). I don’t remember many autopsies in which, as we assembled over the body, anyone conceded that maybe this could have been done differently.

The strong suit, though, is the corrections desk, led by Greg Brock, where thousands of errors are somehow adjudicated every year. This is a powerful engine of accountability, unmatched by any other corrections operation I have seen, and a potential foundation element for a portal where The Times could prominently display “transparency, accountability, humility.”

A failure of accountability

Actually, errors aren't always adjudicated well, nor does Brock display “transparency, accountability, humility.”

He's actually kind of a dyspeptic character when challenged, not only by me but by, for example Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog (re ACORN/pimp coverage).


NoLandGrab: Oder is doing Brock a favor in calling him "dyspeptic," since the latter's exchanges with Oder actually make him sound like a sniveling weenie.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The new Times Public Editor sees role as "smart aggregator" and "forum organizer" (which should mean more attention to public critiques)

Imagine what acknowledgment of public critiques might bring. The Public Editor would actually have had to take seriously the evidence that the Barclays Center naming rights deal was closer to $200 million than $400 million, rather than let his assistant blow me off.

Then the Public Editor would link to news that the evidence was valid.

With Atlantic Yards, as I wrote yesterday, there would be ample opportunity for further inquiry.

Atlantic Yards Report, Times quietly replaces misleading Atlantic Yards graphic, without correction

Atlantic Yards Report, Has the Bloomberg administration "built" more than 130,000 units of affordable housing? No, but that's not what the Times reported

Atlantic Yards Report, Is the arena "a month ahead of schedule"? Times stenography takes Ratner at face value

Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

August 22, 2012

The backlash to NY Mag writer's portrait of "pleasant and affable" Bruce Ratner; in 2003, sports biz reporter transcended "engaging" Ratner to note, "people are doing this to make money"

Atlantic Yards Report

The backlash to Will Leitch's big, conclusory New York Magazine Barclays Center feature ("This is no longer... an example of private might overcoming public interest") continues, thanks to the author's admission in a sidebar:

* We talked to a ton of people for this story, but without question, the most pleasant and affable person we talked to was ... Bruce Ratner. The controversial — to say the least — real estate magnate is not known for this warmth and cuddliness, but in all honesty, his aw-shucks demeanor was disarming, to say the least. (This is not entirely because he thought our son was cute, though he did and that never hurts.) We don't know if he'll be happy with everything that's in the story, but for a guy who had a whole theatrical documentary made about how awful he is, we were surprised by how likable we found him in person.

Well, "we" clearly didn't talk to enough people--not even colleagues--who might give "us" a more rounded perspective.

Turning on the b.s. detector

The thing is, journalists don't have to know about the gag orders and the broken promises and the lobbying/p.r. spending that are part of Forest City Ratner's hardball business practices.

They just should be professional and turn on the b.s. detector. For example, here's Matthew Futterman, then a sports business reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger, talking on the 12/12/03 Brian Lehrer Show:

I like Bruce Ratner very much personally. He’s a very engaging person, he’s very enthusiastic, and I think he’s sincere, he has his heart in the right place, but it’s amazing how similar he sounds to the people who wanted to build the arena in Newark five years ago, in terms of, y’know, 'we’re doing this for the community, and we’re doing this for the kids, it’s important for them.'

Doc director responds

And Leitch dissed Battle for Brooklyn, which he may not have actually watched. Director Mike Galinsky responded in a comment:

I try to stay out of the fray but I take exception to the idea that "Battle for Brooklyn" was devoted to making Ratner look bad. This kind of dismissive throw away line about our 8 years of work plays into the FCR playbook, and its simply not true. In fact major project proponent Errol Louis, on NY1's Inside City Hall, called the movie very fair, as did James Caldwell from BUILD when he saw it. As you can see from the link you posted, over 100 NY Times readers have given it an average 5 star rating and a slew of positive reviews. I'm curious to know if you saw it yourself or if you are simply quoting Bruce Ratner. What the film does do is follow the opposition, which was largely denied a hearing in the main stream press. To qoute your colleague Chris Smith from a year ago (well before the current FCR charm offensive) "Battle for Brooklyn is at its best showing how Atlantic Yards used the pretense of democracy to enrich the powerful, but how it also energized actual citizens to fight the good fight. Seeing the girders climb for the Nets' new home, though, there’s little comfort in being noble losers." Articles like yours give creedence to both Ratner's and Bloomberg's idea that "No one's going to remember how long it took. They are going to just look and see that it was done". Our goal is to explode this myth of power and try to help people to remember so this kind of corrupt kleptocratic nonsense isn't so easy to pull off next time.


Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

August 20, 2012

NY Mag on Barclays Center: battle is over, Ratner won (um, what about "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops"?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The headline on the major New York magazine feature on the new Brooklyn arena is this: Game Time: The fighting is over; Bruce Ratner’s Barclays Center is here. Now that he’s built it, will they come?


Now it's surely legitimate to ask how well the arena might sell tickets, which is the ultimate question in the subheading--though, curiously enough, one big variable is missing: the (cramped) potential for pro hockey.

But to mostly dismiss the history, the ongoing controversy, and the current challenge of operating the arena is just a little myopic. (Hint: even arena-goers might care that the Barclays Center lost its general manager and that operators will have mere weeks, rather than months, to test the building. Or that the parking doesn't quite work.)

Author Will Leitch writes:

This is no longer a public debate, or a public outrage, or a theoretical construct, or an example of private might overcoming public interest. That battle is over, and Bruce Ratner won it. It is now part of the new Brooklyn reality. It is the centerpiece of how the borough, and the city, will be seen for generations to come. It is undeniably here.

The lingering controversy

Well, yeah, it's here. As one commenter tried to remind the author, Atlantic Yards was supposed to be about "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," not merely an arena. What about the people who bought into that?

And another pointed out, there's still public outrage, but the author didn't bother to talk to anyone outside arena backers and sports folks.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

The Times, Channeling The Brooklyn Standard, Runs Free Ad Insert for Bruce Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Apparently it wasn't enough for the NY Times to devote a fluffy front page article to Jay-Z's 0.0666% ownership of the Brooklyn Nets. Three days later the paper of record became Ad Week, running a 3-page photo spread in the 8-page Saturday sports section promoting the Nets' marketing campaign.

Reminds us quite a lot of Forest City Ratner's fake tabloid The Brooklyn Standard.


Related content...

The New York Times, link

In case you missed The Times's latest photo essay, in which they forgot to disclose their business relationship with the Nets' arena builder/operator and minority owner.

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

August 19, 2012

Trying to rename Brooklyn "Forest City"? Maybe not so much, but Barclays Center, as in BCTV, and Brooklyn Nets step up

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember how roots rocker John Pinamonti, in his elegiac 2007 fight song "The Burrow," warned:

Makes me sad, yeah it's such a pity
They're trying to rename Brooklyn "Forest City"

Well, that's not so anymore. The names we hear are The Brooklyn Nets, whose promotional efforts get compounded by press promotion, and the Barclays Center, the latter named--despite Michael D. D. White's efforts in Noticing New York--mostly unsullied by the Barclays scandal.

"Visit BCTV to watch what's happening around Brooklyn and Barclays Center," the arena home page urges, referring to the in-house video channel, which of course comes with a sponsor, Ortsbo.


Posted by steve at 11:05 PM

"In Brooklyn, It’s All Nets": Times slideshow (and Sports section three-pager) about Nets marketing reinforces Nets marketing

Atlantic Yards Report

In Brooklyn, It’s All Nets, declares a 12-slide slideshow online at the New York Times's Sports section. It also occupies the top two-thirds of the Sports section front in print, plus a two-page center spread:

The Nets don’t officially step on the court in Brooklyn until the fall. But the team’s imprint is already evident, even ubiquitous, around the borough.

Well, duh, because most of the examples involve advertising.


Posted by steve at 11:00 PM

August 15, 2012

With Discordant Synchronicity The “Barclays” Center Will Open At LIBOR Scandal’s Peak: What The New York Times Is And Isn’t Covering

Noticing New York

Good news reporting needs to be integrative. You make reported news events more meaningful to your readership when you acknowledge the broader context in which those events are taking place and how they likely relate to your readership community. Compartmentalization of the news may sidestep cognitive dissonance but it is nonetheless a disservice to anyone wanting to make sense of the world.

I am thinking about this because I am thinking about how the New York Times is reporting the LIBOR interest rate-rigging scandal in connection with which the name “Barclays” has become a new shorthand synonym for how low the ethical standards of Wall Street can sink. How will the Times relate that reporting to what is relevant to residents of its home town, New York City?

A Times Search Centering on "Barclays" vs. One Centering on "Barclays Center"

If you do a search of the New York Times site for the word “Barclays” everything that comes up first is relevant to the scandal notoriously besmirching the bank’s name; see below.

Conversely, with the Barclays LIBOR scandal so prominently in news in recent weeks, if you do a 30 day search of the Times site for the term “Barclays Center,” the new Forest City Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov-owned basketball arena scheduled to open soon, and therefore destined to open contemporaneously with criminal indictments of Barclays traders, you get a list of hype and hoopla articles about the center that make no mention of the darkening cloud of the Barclays scandal; see below.


Posted by eric at 9:42 PM

The Wall Street Journal Pitches Big Fluffy Cotton Balls to Bruce Ratner

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Surprise, surprise, the world's greatest man, Bruce Ratner, gets fluffed by The Wall Street Journal:

At one point Ratner is asked if he is planning on running for office. Why would he do that, he already has far more control over NYC and NYS government then he'd have as a lowly elected official.


Posted by eric at 9:03 PM

August 13, 2012

Daily News exclusive news/advertising hybrid: John Legend will inaugurate branded Barclays Center theater

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News has an exclusive, though I wouldn't call it a scoop, headlined R&B star John Legend to christen Barclays Center intimate 6,000-seat theater: Tickets for Oct. 29 show go on sale Friday. Arena's Cushman & Wakefield Theater carved into future home of the Brooklyn Nets.

From the article:

The Barclays Center will include a new intimate theater space — and it’s set to be christened by a Legend, the Daily News has learned.

R&B star John Legend will be the first artist to open the arena’s Cushman & Wakefield Theater, a small-stage setting cordoned off within the larger venue.

Tickets for the Oct. 29 show go on sale Friday.

The micro theater — created with a specially designed curtain system — can seat between 4,000 and 6,000 guests. The full arena seats 18,200 for basketball games and up to 19,000 for larger concerts.

“It makes the stage feel like the focal point in the performance,” Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark said about the cozier space.

The thick black curtains will be stored on top of the arena’s rafters and mechanically lowered when needed for smaller events, including local music festivals, boxing matches and children theater acts.

Global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield was entitled to the naming rights for the theater as a founding partner that contributes at least $2 million a year.

Now how exactly did the Daily News "learn" this information? Yormark clearly told them, gaining bounce from the "exclusive," accompanied by two photos and a graphic, shortly before issuing a general press release.

The operative quote here is from British newspaper publisher Lord Northcliffe:

News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.


Related content...

NY Daily News, R&B star John Legend to christen Barclays Center intimate 6,000-seat theater

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

August 5, 2012

"We are finally living out our creed": "natural orator" Jay-Z shills for Budweiser, while wearing Nets cap

Atlantic Yards Report

In a December 2010 New York Observer profile of Jay-Z, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah observed that "Jay-Z is a natural orator; he can say much or nothing, and it not only sounds good, it also sounds heartfelt."

Indeed. Check out this "Jay-Z Budweiser 2012 London Olympics Commercial," which at one point shows him wearing a Brooklyn Nets cap. Synergy!


Posted by steve at 7:08 PM

August 1, 2012

Daily News columnist Hamill: "once-forgotten area of weedy rail yards... will be the entertainment pacemaker"

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Daily News columnist Dennis Hamill is not as much an abusurdist as his New York Post counterpart Andrea Peyser, though 1) that's a pretty high bar and 2) they both seem to have forgotten the 10,000 office jobs that so enthused them.

But, as in the past, he remains a reliable conveyor of developer Bruce Ratner's press releases. Today, in A whole new arena: Brooklyn's O'Malley curse begins to end in 60 days, he writes:

this once-forgotten area of weedy rail yards, empty lots and a few blocks of vital homes claimed in eminent domain will be the entertainment pacemaker of our most populous borough.

He seems to not know that parent Forest City Enterprises then-CEO Chuck Ratner called it a "great piece of real estate." Or that two-thirds of the "weedy rail yards"--the "blight" that this project was supposed to overcome--have not been developed, because Forest City Ratner has not started paying for them.


Posted by eric at 7:48 PM

July 25, 2012

What Planet Is Andrea Peyser Living on?


NY Post columnist Andrea Peyser has said some ridiculous things in her day, but her fawning column yesterday about Bruce Ratner and the Barclays Arena may take the cake. Here’s one of the gems:

When Barclays is christened this fall as home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Ratner will have pulled off the seemingly impossible. Almost single-handedly, he’ll have brought the Borough of Kings, long neglected and overshadowed by Manhattan, back to buzzworthy health.

What planet is this woman living on? Seriously. Sure, plenty of folks are now excited about the games and concerts that will come to the area in the fall, but the arena’s riding on the coattails of a bottoms-up resurgence that’s been building for many, many years and would have been plenty strong without any help from Ratner. The land where the arena’s being built was never blighted and the borough’s been getting plenty of buzz without any help from Ratner et al. For more mockery and dissection, see Norman Oder’s take(down) on AYR.


NoLandGrab: Is Andrea Peyser, the psycho arena lady who pens a column for the NY Post, nuts? Or maybe Peyser, the hater of neighborhood activists (and bike lanes), is just an incompetent, overpromoted, overzealous newspaper hack.

Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

July 24, 2012

Two of Our Favorite Brooklynites, Bruce Ratner and Andrea Peyser, Tour the Barclays Center

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

We're not certain, but we think that headline might be mocking its subjects.

A lot of bombast has been spread on both sides of the great Barclays Center battle of the past decade, but Andrea Peyser manages to take the cake as she always does, along with the amazing “photo composite” the Post put together of Bruce Ratner as ring leader.

The buzz is back! But not without alienating the poor, project-dwelling locals. How about those $30 tickets for all! Without this, there would be nothing but needles littering the borough’s beloved brownstones.

When I toured this site in 2004, it was a disgrace. It was scarred with toxic rail yards that had squatted on this spot, like a disease, for decades. Then I spied a pile of hypodermic needles.

It was long past time to breathe air back into Brooklyn. Or shut the lights and get the hell out.

Brooklyn 2.0: We’ll leave the lights on for you.


Image: NY Post

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

July 23, 2012

Advice for the New York Times's New Public Editor

The Huffington Post
by Daniel R. Schwarz

On July 16, the New York Times announced that its fifth public editor would be Margaret M. Sullivan, "the first woman to hold this position."

With the appointment of Ms. Sullivan, this is a good time to review what the public editor position has accomplished and where it has failed.

By consulting outside financial experts, the public editor must, when necessary, shine an informed light on the Times's financial relationship with both Mexican magnate Carlos Slim and with the Forest City Ratner real estate company, which now owns the entire new Times building and leases the Times's floors back to it.


Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

July 12, 2012

Getting played: media outlets take bait that demand for first three Jay-Z shows prompted two more

Atlantic Yards Report

Let's recap. In May, Barclays Center/Nets CEO Brett Yormark let slip that Jay-Z would perform five shows at the new arena.

This week, they announced three shows would go on sale. Those tickets sold quickly.

Then, a new announcement: two more shows. The media took the bait. The Daily News reported:

Due to incredible demand for presale tickets for his initial three concerts, Hova will also perform shows on Oct. 3 and Oct. 4.


Related content...

More cases in point. Like moths to an LED flame.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], BREAKING: Jay-Z Will Add Two More Nights to Barclays Center Kickoff

NY Post, Jay-Z's Barclays concerts already hot tickets

Ditmas Park Patch, Jay-Z Adds Two New Nights at Barclays Center

Posted by eric at 12:57 PM

July 8, 2012

In Brooklyn, a Friend Is a Hero in Disguise

The New York Times
by Kevin Baker

A friend of the late newspaperman Dennis Holt reveals that as a young man, Holt acted courageously during the first attempt to integrate the University of Alabama. Sadly, he clearly lost that moral compass when it came to Atlantic Yards.

Then, in 1993, a book came out that made us see him in a whole new light: E. Culpepper Clark’s superb history of the long fight to integrate the University of Alabama, “The Schoolhouse Door.” It begins with the effort to enroll a young black woman named Autherine Lucy at the university in February 1956. And there, to our surprise, was Dennis Holt.

The appearance of the incredibly courageous Ms. Lucy triggered wild rioting by Alabama students, considerably augmented by outside agitators. The mob roamed freely about the campus for hours, screaming racial epithets, setting fires, attacking a passing black motorist, and even pelting the wife of the university president with eggs and rocks when she tried to appeal for calm. Ms. Lucy was fortunate to escape with her life.

Dennis, we discovered, was president of the arts and sciences college council of Alabama at the time, “brilliant, eloquent and popular,” and the national college debate champion. Along with a handful of other brave students, he turned away a group of drunken rioters seeking to break into the university president’s residence. Dennis and his companions told them, “You’re not going anywhere.”

The next day, Alabama’s board of trustees gave in to the mob, and voted to ban Ms. Lucy from campus for her own safety. It was a dishonor that Dennis and his fellow student leaders were not willing to share. They held a public meeting, in which Dennis described the people he had kept from entering the president’s mansion as “two high school boys and a man so drunk he could barely lurch.” Turning them back wasn’t hard: “That’s all it took — just a little resistance.”


NoLandGrab: Holt made deriding the resistance to Atlantic Yards a regular, recurring theme in his columns. Guess he was afraid to stand up to Bruce Ratner's bullying.

Posted by eric at 9:53 PM

July 7, 2012

Play Their Hearts Out: youth basketball and the shoe purveyors (like Adidas, coming to Barclays Center) that are "going to do what's good for their companies" (plus: the Dwight Howard angle)

Atlantic Yards Report

Basketball, the American game, the city game, the Brooklyn game--it takes armadas of talented youth, puts them through years of effort and hope and in many cases illusion, and a select few make it to college, with a trickle going pro, earning the riches to (in many cases) vault their families from poverty.

We see the successes most often, not the casualties, though we're hardly unaware. But the casualties go deep.

According to a gripping book about youth basketball, there's a lot of collateral damage, fueled by a star-making machine of hype (recruiters' newsletters and premature Sports Illustrated coverage); manipulation (AAU coaches promising the world but more in it for themselves), and money (sneaker companies wanting a piece of the action from ever younger kids, throwing swag to coaches, who can dangle it in front of recruits, as well as events they can run and earn six figures).


Posted by steve at 6:23 PM

June 8, 2012

Brooklyn Eagle Columnist Dennis Holt Dies at 83


While many news sources report about events happening in the borough, Holt reported on the history leading up to these events and their long-term implications. While we didn't agree with him about everything (Atlantic Yards, for example), time after time he turned out to be prescient.

Holt has been called a Brooklyn treasure, like Junior's cheesecake, and dean of Brooklyn reporters. His voice will be missed.


Posted by eric at 9:24 AM

June 7, 2012

Brooklyn Eagle's Dennis Holt, dean of Brooklyn reporters, dies at 83

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Dennis Holt, longtime Brooklyn newspaper columnist and an inveterate booster of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project (and, consequently, a not-infrequent target of NoLandGrab's jibes) has passed away. While we rarely took the same side on local development issues, we're sorry to see him go. Our condolences to Mr. Holt's family and friends.

Dennis Holt, longtime columnist and staff writer for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and sister publications including the Brooklyn Heights Press, died on Thursday after complications from a fall in his home on May 14.

Mr. Holt was 83 years old.

He suffered broken ribs and a blow to the head, made worse by one of his medications, a blood thinner.

After serving many years as press advisor to a number of elected officials, including former Rep. Stephen Solarz, Mr. Holt was one of the founding editors of the award-winning Brooklyn Phoenix newspaper in 1972. In the mid-1990s, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the existing Brooklyn Daily Bulletin, Mr. Holt became a senior editor and columnist.

He was an active contributor to the Eagle family of publications until his fall, writing the "Brooklyn Broadside" column and other features.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.


Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

June 2, 2012

Journalists talk shop: the Times's selective attention, the Observer's mandate to be "less wonky," and the fuzziness of a Post reporter on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The Architects' Newspaper reports on a panel discussion regarding coverage of architecture, development, and the media.

A couple of comments were particularly intriguing. I've bolded the questions, as appearing in the transcript, and appended my reactions.

How much interest in, and knowledge of, architecture do you assume there is among your readers?

Robin Pogrebin, culture reporter at The New York Times:

I get pitched in 100 to 200 emails a day; and I feel terrible about what might be falling through the cracks. I know the bar has become somewhat higher in terms of what we write about. Why should we write about this one? That is a hard question to answer. Ideally, it is a story that has larger implications beyond just the project itself: something about it represents a trend; or there’s a controversy about it (for better or worse); or a window into architecture through another route, say, the controversy about naming of Miami Art Museum.

Pogrebin writes for the culture desk, not the Metro section, but I suspect some of the same rationale goes into coverage--and not--of large projects like Atlantic Yards. The Times does not feel compelled to cover it steadily--witness the non-coverage of the Neighborhood Protection Plan--which means understanding diminishes.

Are you pressured to cover subjects, or projects?

Matt Chaban, real estate editor and reporter at The New York Observer:

I have been told to be less wonky. I have been told to stop invoking Robert Moses. We write almost not at all about architecture except in terms of development; we do a lot of residential real estate and industry types fighting each other. I have been asked to profile architects—for example Tod Williams and Billie Tsien because of the Barnes Museum opening—but that goes in the culture section. It’s not considered hard news.

Less wonky? That's too bad.

Because only a semi-sophisticated understanding of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs would lead reporters not to swallow an unsupportable statement like City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden's claim, in the New York Times, that the Bloomberg administration blends the two.


Posted by steve at 6:52 PM

May 14, 2012

"Brooklyn native" Jimmy Kimmel to broadcast from Brooklyn, to coincide with NBA season

Atlantic Yards Report

"Late-night comedian and Brooklyn native Jimmy Kimmel is taking his show on the road to broadcast from his home borough this fall," reported the Daily News today.

"Jimmy Kimmel is heading home," said the Hollywood Reporter.

The Brooklyn Paper did a whole Q&A, far more space than it devoted to the documentary film Battle for Brooklyn.

Well, Kimmel's family moved from Mill Basin to Las Vegas when he was nine. But just like announcer David Diamante, who moved to Brooklyn at age 30, is described as a fifth-generation Brooklynite, so too can Kimmel be claimed.


Posted by eric at 4:29 PM

'Jimmy Kimmel Live' to Broadcast from Host's Native Brooklyn in October

The comedian will tape a week's worth of shows beginning Oct. 29, pegged to the inaugural season of the New York City borough's Nets pro basketball team.

The Hollywood Reporter
by Lacey Rose

Et tu, Jimmy Kimmel?

Jimmy Kimmel is heading home.

ABC’s late night host announced on Live! with Kelly Monday that he’ll be uprooting Jimmy Kimmel Live to his native Brooklyn for a week of shows beginning Oct. 29. The move is set to coincide with the inaugural season of the newly minted Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, with Kimmel broadcasting from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).


Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

May 10, 2012

So complain-y! The Times's Streisand coverage treats "neighborhood critics" as making allegations, not winning a big court case

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times, heretofore uninterested in the number of jobs at the Barclays Center arena, goes long in the CityRoom blog and in today's paper with A Daughter of Brooklyn, Now Known as ‘Barbra,’ Will Return to Perform.

This passage gives a nod to larger issues:

Because of Ms. Streisand’s identification with Brooklyn, the Streisand concert is a feather in the cap of the promoters of the arena, which will hold 220 entertainment events a year. Concerts by Jay-Z, Leonard Cohen and Andrea Bocelli are scheduled, as well as the roughly 40 home games of the newly christened Brooklyn Nets basketball team. The developers have been fighting neighborhood critics who say the crowds and traffic will overwhelm quiet small-scale neighborhoods. News of the concert was first mentioned on a blog that tracks the issue, Atlantic Yards Report.

Getting all complain-y

Isn't it unfortunate that developer Forest City Ratner has to be fighting "neighborhood critics," who sound so complain-y. The "he said, she said phrasing" sounds like another example of "the usual tumult," the Times's dismissive August 2009 phrase regarding the public process concerning the re-approval of Atlantic Yards.

The thing is, there's reason to get all complain-y.


Related content...

City Room, A Streisand Encore, 5 Decades Overdue

The concert gets its own creation myth:

Bruce Ratner, the developer of Barclays Center, said that two years ago he received a phone call from Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn’s borough president, urging him to call Martin Erlichman, Ms. Streisand’s longtime manager, about arranging a Brooklyn concert.

“He said, ‘This is possible but I have to discuss it with Barbra,’ ” Mr. Ratner recalled of his conversation with Mr. Erlichman.

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

May 6, 2012

Jay-Z and the Mushnick controversy

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Post media columnist Phil Mushnick has stirred up a huge backlash with an item in his column slamming Jay-Z (who also was pictured "riding" a bulldozer by a camera-wielding construction worker with a line to TMZ):

As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new “urban” home — why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?
Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N------s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B----hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!

Yes, this is dumb and offensive on several levels. (Does a black-and-white color scheme have a racial angle?) It's provoked a roundup of critical responses (as collected by NetsDaily).


Posted by steve at 11:03 PM

April 26, 2012

In today's Times, the lead story regards loss of $19M (or so) taxpayer funds; compare that to coverage of the MTA deal

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's New York Times, lead story, headlined Company Admits It Bilked Clients on Big Projects:

The giant construction company that worked on Citi Field, the renovation of Grand Central Terminal and scores of other high-profile projects has admitted to a huge fraud scheme in which it overbilled clients for more than a decade and has agreed to pay $56 million in fines and restitution to avoid criminal charges, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

...The scheme carried out by the company defrauded government agencies and private developers of about $19 million, much of it tax money, Ms. Lynch said at a news conference. She was joined by officials from several other agencies to announce a deferred-prosecution agreement.

But the amount is most likely far higher because prosecutors said they believed that Lend Lease conducted the practice for decades and that it extended to other companies.

So, um, some $19 million, most of it tax money, was misappropriated? That's news.

But when Forest City Ratner renegotiates a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to save much more than that--well, that's buried in an un-bylined short.

Yes, one's a crime and the other a politically freighted negotiation. But there's a similar bottom line: a cost to the public, and a private gain.


NoLandGrab: Stealing is stealing, whether it's sanctioned by government or not.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

April 19, 2012

Impact of Atlantic Yards arena, actually, will be felt a lot more when new/empty spaces get filled

Atlantic Yards Report

Has the advent of the Barclays Center really changed retail in the blocks around it?

That was the theme of a misguided Times article Tuesday, which focused significantly on gentrification-led change (see the map below, highlighting small establishments), while missing the fact that such change had nothing to do with reclaiming the enduring "scar" of the Vanderbilt Yard.

The map even missed the burger boom outlined by the Brooklyn Paper, which, that article suggests, is partly driven by the arena for Five Guys, but not for 67 Burger.

Meanwhile, the Times scanted the opportunity to address issues of accountability, such as the five-month delay in the Transportation Demand Management plan or the Appellate Division's smackdown of the Empire State Development Corporation. And that raises questions about whether local officials are prepared to address arena impacts on the residential blocks.

What's coming

While the area around the Barclays Center is changing, and there's significant retail demand for open spaces, what struck me last night as I walked Flatbush Avenue is how much more change there will be.

There are several major spaces empty, or not yet open, unmentioned in the Times's oddly-focused map....


Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

April 17, 2012

In Times Metro section, a pseudo-scandal gets far more attention than an unaccountable agency

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's New York Times coverage of a pseudo-scandal, the maintenance of a "dossier" by Governor Andrew Cuomo's staff on political reporter Liz Benjamin: 17 paragraphs.

Today's New York Times coverage of an unaccountable agency, a state appellate court's decision slamming the Empire State Development Corporation for its environmental review of Atlantic Yards: 2 paragraphs.


Posted by eric at 11:15 PM

Times focuses on retail changes near arena site, suggests blight of "dreary" rail yards transformed & "die-hard opponents" worried about liquor license (nah)

An article in today's New York Times about the Atlantic Yards project illustrates, yet again, how the Times neglects covering Brooklyn and is out of touch. Fortunately, Norman Oder points out what the Times seems unable to understand.

Atlantic Yards Report

I can't say I didn't predict that the New York Times would cover last week's appellate court ruling parenthetically, essentially dismissing an important rebuke to the state agency that has championed Atlantic Yards.

Instead, the Times's Impact of Atlantic Yards, for Good or Ill, Is Already Felt, complete with several photos, focuses on retail changes near Flatbush Avenue, some accelerated by the arena, some already in process, and pretty much ignores issues of accountability:

the reality is that the Atlantic Yards project has already done the very thing that critics feared and supporters promoted: transform surrounding neighborhoods prized for their streets of tree-lined brownstones and low-key living.

Was an arena really needed to accelerate retail along Flatbush Avenue? How about a rezoning of the few blocks zoned industrial and an effort to market the Vanderbilt Yard?


Here's the most deceptive passage:

For Forest City Ratner, the developer of the project, which was strongly backed by many city leaders, the changes are evidence that the arena has already met its goal of transforming a dreary section of Brooklyn — the Long Island Rail Road’s rail yards and surrounding industrial buildings, which the company’s spokesman described as “ a scar that divided the neighborhood.”
“That’s a sign of economic vitality, something that’s good for the borough,” said Joe DePlasco, the Ratner spokesman.

In other words, the project has successfully removed the blight that was the justification for eminent domain.

It hasn't.

Forest City Ratner hasn't even paid the MTA for the development rights to most of the railyard. It renegotiated a 22-year schedule to pay. As for the "surrounding industrial buildings," the largest (the Ward Bakery) was torn down for the interim surface parking lot (bookended by a historic district), and other large ones were condo conversions torn down for the arena (Spalding, Atlantic Arts).

Rather, the combination of the arena, and dense nearby residential populations, has driven up rents. And, as Chuck Ratner, then CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, once said, "it's a great piece of real estate" (not a "dreary section of Brooklyn"). Map from NY Times, annotations in blue


Related coverage...

New York Times, Impact of Atlantic Yards, for Good or Ill, Is Already Felt

The battle over Atlantic Yards has already raged longer than the Civil War, with eight years of protests, petitions and lawsuits seeking to halt a project that promised to reshape the heart of Brooklyn.

Even now, as the oyster-shaped basketball arena that will anchor a 22-acre housing and office complex rises against the low-slung Brooklyn skyline, die-hard opponents are still resisting. Last week they packed a hearing held by two community boards to block the arena from speedily receiving a liquor license.

But almost six months before the Barclays Center opens its doors to the Nets, Brooklyn’s first major professional sports team since the lamented Dodgers, the reality is that the Atlantic Yards project has already done the very thing that critics feared and supporters promoted: transform surrounding neighborhoods prized for their streets of tree-lined brownstones and low-key living.

Posted by steve at 9:14 AM

April 15, 2012

To NetsDaily, neighborhood concerns about the arena broadcast support area translate to "more finishing touches"

Atlantic Yards Report

This is fairly minor stuff, but it again illustrates the disdain that Net Income (aka Bob Windrem), the chief contributor to the NetsDaily blog, has for the Brooklyn neighborhood where the Barclays Center is being built.

What to him is "More Finishing Touches" links to a Brownstoner post, More AY Concerns, This Time About Broadcasting Space.

Slightly different, but, then again, Windrem once crowed, "I don’t care what happens to these people…not one iota."

And Mr. Income, not exactly a regular visitor to Brooklyn, seems to think that the site at issue, across from the arena block, used to be home to Freddy's Bar. Not so. It used to include two houses, as shown in the graphics here. Freddy's was located on the arena block.


Posted by steve at 9:56 PM

Today's Times Metro section: why no room for coverage of the Atlantic Yards decision?

Atlantic Yards

Below is the list of articles in the New York Times's New York pages today. Might the Times have room for coverage of the decision in the Atlantic Yards lawsuit? No.

Isn't a court's unanimous rebuke to the state economic development agency meaningful? Doesn't it confirm widespread concern about a lack of accountability by the state and developer Forest City Ratner, which, as the Times periodically (but not always) reminds us, was the newspaper's business partner in building the Times Tower?

An article about it would not represent enterprise journalism, which requires actual digging by reporters. All the Times had to do was to boil down a legal opinion (a day late) and add some quotes.

After all, that article on vintage trains came with two large photos. And the obsession with the red-tailed hawks, however charming, is really made for ongoing online coverage.


Posted by steve at 9:39 PM

April 14, 2012

On the wrong side of history: how, in hindsight, the Municipal Art Society should have joined the Atlantic Yards litigation, and why the press would have paid more attention

Atlantic Yards Report

Imagine where we'd be if the Municipal Art Society (MAS), the venerable preservation and planning organization that spawned the BrooklynSpeaks coalition and has advocated for Atlantic Yards reforms, had not chosen to leave that coalition when several of its members sued the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) over its failure to study the impacts of a delayed project buildout.

We might be reading a lot more about the aftermath of that suit, a severe rebuke from the courts to the state and developer Forest City Ratner, and a reminder about the lack of accountability regarding Atlantic Yards.

MAS, which has the ear of city elites (see this 8/6/06 New York Times editorial on AY or its role in debating the expansion of NYU), would have joined the press release--or sent out its own--announcing the unanimous victory April 12 in appellate court by the community coalitions challenging the state.

The New York Times, which has so far ignored the news, would have had to take it more seriously, at least in a news story, if not an editorial.

And MAS would have been on the right side of history in this case, recognizing that BrooklynSpeaks, formed in September 2006 as an alternative to the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) opposition strategy, had found negotiation to be fruitless.


Posted by steve at 5:38 PM

An editorial in the Times slamming Gov. Christie for "political bluster"--and why similar criticism could apply to the ESDC over Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

From a New York Times editorial yesterday headlined Gov. Christie and the Tunnel Project:

If you find yourself in a stopped train in a Hudson River tunnel, or in a vehicle on a choked highway, in coming years, at least you will know why. In his drive to become the darling of the cut-costs-at-all-costs Republican crowd, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey ignored real economic analysis and relied on exaggerated worst-case scenarios to kill the largest public transit project in the nation in 2010.

...Now, a report from the Government Accountability Office makes it clear that the cost-cutting talk was political bluster.

What about AY?

We're not going to see a Times editorial on the appellate court ruling April 12 rebuking the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for misleading the public about Atlantic Yards. (Why not? "Too many roadblocks and politics," to quote a certain cop.)

But someone could write this:

If you find yourself in gridlock in Prospect Heights, or hear people in the neighborhoods around the Atlantic Yards site complaining about ongoing construction in the year 2030, at least you will know why. In their zeal to get the Barclays Center arena in gear, the Empire State Development Corporation ignored real environmental analysis and relied on exaggerated worst-case scenarios to re-approve the Atlantic Yards mega-project in 2009.
...Now, a unanimous decision from an appellate court makes it clear that the agency's estimate that the project could be completed in a decade, and that the worst-case impacts had been studied, was expedient bluster.

Yes, the Access to the Region's Core project Christie killed was a bigger deal than Atlantic Yards. But the issue of public accountability is very similar.


Posted by steve at 5:35 PM

April 12, 2012

Prokhorov in Brooklyn: the conquering hero, except to one columnist paying attention

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder also rounds up the saturation coverage of The Great Prokhorov, some of which we've already covered.

Well, Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov came to Brooklyn Tuesday to look at the under-construction Barclays Center arena and pretty much conquered the fawning sports press, with one notable exception.

(Prokhorov with Bruce Ratner, in photo from the Nets' web site.)

Here are some of the headlines, which hint at the low level of actual news:

The NY1 piece is particularly egregious, since it's not "his" arena (he's junior partner to Bruce Ratner in operating a nominally state-owned facility), nor does he "foresee" so much as "aspire" or "b.s."

No AYR at the press conference

Why wasn't I there? I was told it was for "accredited media" only, so they wouldn't let me in.

Then again, Prokhorov, according to the boosterish NetsDaily blogger "Net Income," aka Bob Windrem, "appreciates bloggers in both sports and politics" and was welcomed to Prokhorov's luxury box. It apparently depends on the bloggers.


Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

April 11, 2012

As Brooklyn Paper whiffs on liquor license story, Veconi (on Patch) points out the unknowns--and how arena operators don't (yet) get it

Atlantic Yards Report

So what if the Brooklyn Paper's print deadlines might cut into coverage of Tuesday night events.

Would you believe the newspaper ignored the joint Community Board meeting last night on the Barclays Center liquor license?

It did.

(Former Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, now at The Local, did a solid job covering it.)

Instead, the newspaper brings us the news and fluff listed at right.

Patch, by the way, had a reporter there, but I haven't seen a story yet.


Posted by eric at 10:41 PM

April 8, 2012

A note from Stephen Witt (but not on AY): "I will be vigilant to be watchful against my own tendencies to have personal axes [to] grind"

Atlantic Yards Report

Readers of this blog know that I have had my differences with the notorious Stephen Witt, known for his irresponsible coverage of Atlantic Yards and, perhaps, a novel based on the Atlantic Yards saga.

Well, others have questioned his credibility. Consider a front-page apology March 8 from David Mark Greaves, publisher of the Bed-Stuy-based Our Time Press, where Witt now works as a Senior Editor:

In last week’s issue of Our Time Press, editor Stephen Witt allowed his emotions to distort his reporting and what resulted were unfair, baseless and unwarranted attacks on the Vannguard Independent Democratic Association...
To further the damage I, who had the responsibility to read the column beyond the headline, did not do my job, and as a result it went out unedited and unproofed, full of errors and rancorous opinion.
The publishers have made Mr. Witt fully aware of the disaster this is... Both Mr. Witt and I deeply apologize for the complete lack of professionalism in allowing that material to appear in the paper.

Witt, who also writes columns, has the right to write opinion--and his problematic report is now labeled "Opinion." The problem is when the opinion is based on little evidence. Witt wrote apologetically:

Henceforth, I will be vigilant to be watchful against my own tendencies to have personal axes [to] grind.


Note that no such apology about Witt's reporting ever came from the editors of the Courier-Life chain, which had a larger budget and presumably (but perhaps not) more opportunity for editing.

There Witt covered Atlantic Yards by finding bizarre angles such as letting project supporters claim that project foes were the "real land grabbers" because they moved into former industrial buildings that had been closed and then renovated.


Posted by steve at 8:55 PM

April 7, 2012

Is there a place where ideas aren't for sale? Thomas Frank says, "Money has transformed every watchdog"

Atlantic Yards Report

Thomas Frank, in the latest issue of The Baffler, Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly:

I can remember the contempt I felt when I read [Doug] Bandow’s essay, back in 2006. Of course there was a place where ideas weren’t simply for sale, I thought—it was called the professions. Ethical standards kept professionals independent of their clients’ gross pecuniary interests.

These days, though, I’m not so sure. Money has transformed every watchdog, every independent authority. Medical doctors are increasingly gulled by the lobbying of pharmaceutical salesmen. Accountants were no match for Enron. Corporate boards are rubber stamps. Hospitals break unions, and, with an eye toward future donations, electronically single out rich patients for more luxurious treatment.

Too broad a brush? Or does the Atlantic Yards saga offer some backup?


Posted by steve at 2:59 PM

April 3, 2012

Channel 13, New York’s Premier Public Television Station, Provides Promotion For The Ratner/Prokhorov Barclays Basketball Arena: What To Do About It?

Noticing New York

All right, I have to admit it. This article is structured as crescendo of rage. So the further you read the more you will find that is absolutely appalling. I am writing about Channel Thirteen's promotional endorsement of the Bruce Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov basketball arena being built where the brownstone neighborhoods of Park Slope, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Prospect Heights converge.

The very beginning of February (February 3rd) I was watching evening TV when an intrusion presented itself on Channel 13, the city’s premier public television station, a station I gratefully thank for presenting programs such as the probing and analytical issue-oriented “Frontline,” “Nova” which frequently covers environmental important subjects as global warming, “The American Experience, which provides overviews of the American past and many more public affairs oriented programs including such things as local coverage of State of the State and City and budget addresses by the governor and mayor. What intruded into my theoretically `commercial free’ public television evening was a promotion for the new publicly-harmful “Barclays” basketball arena being developed by Bruce Ratner and Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Follow the link for much more.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

March 31, 2012

Brooklyn Barclays Center Sends Ratner, Daily News Into Frenzy

New York Magazine Daily Intel
by Eliza Shapiro

Ratner, who has been unfavorably compared to a modern-day Robert Moses, has waged a long and costly battle for the space over the last decade. He is also finding an outlet for his excitement in hyperbole: “This is the first truly 21st-century building in New York City.” He also calls it "the greatest arena I've ever seen."

Sheftell likens the space to other great New York "civic spaces" like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The excitement is spreading — at least to other people with major investments in the project. "When the Nets get good, the place is going to hop," said Gregg Pasquarelli, a partner at SHoP, one of the architecture firms that designed the Center.


Posted by eric at 11:31 PM

March 28, 2012

"Brooklynized" water gets low marks in NY Mag's Approval Matrix

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Magazine's Approval Matrix doesn't think much of the Barclays Center's embrace of "Brooklynized" water devised in Florida:


Posted by steve at 6:33 AM

March 25, 2012

Times Public Editor: let's worry about an overplayed article (about Mitt Romney); the same criticism should have been operative in 2006

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Times's Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, in When Packaging Oversteps the Facts:

A NEWS article ultimately is judged on much more than its raw factual ingredients. Its points of emphasis, headline, length and position on the page combine to couch the article in a way that delivers its intended meaning and significance.

...“This is a reminder that the fairest story in the world can seem exaggerated when it’s overplayed,” added Mr. [Jerry] Ceppos, a former executive editor of The San Jose Mercury News.

The column concerns a front-page article on Mitt Romney and his passive investment in a fund that owns a company used by China to suppress dissidents.

But couldn't the criticisms--and even more of them--have been applied to the Times's misguided 2006 lead story about the phantom Atlantic Yards scaleback? That time, however, Brisbane's predecessor pronounced all OK, and failed, unlike Brisbane, to survey some other experts.


Posted by steve at 11:37 PM

March 18, 2012

The Sydney Schanberg back story: "the city's newspapers, like the big politicians," were part of "the shame of Westway"

Atlantic Yards Report

The other day, in writing about the estimable Times Metro columnist Michael Powell's understandable but still dismaying decision to steer clear of the Yonkers corruption trial, I made reference to columnist Sydney Schanberg, who crossed a line with his bosses in the mid-1980s.

The episode is instructive, though it doesn't suggest direct parallels, since Schanberg was an opinion columnist, on the Op-Ed page, while Powell is a Metro columnist, his conclusions based more firmly in reporting.

Could you imagine if the Times had an Op-Ed columnist willing to critique the paper itself? What might he/she have said about that softball interview with Bruce Ratner last week, which didn't even mention the Yonkers corruption trial that, even to a business booster like Greg David of Crain's, made the company look bad?

Or what might such a columnist say about the Times's Sunday Real Estate section, which has nothing to say to the 99%--or, in New York City, maybe the 80%.


When Greg David of business-friendly Crain's suggests that the dailies under-covered the Yonkers trial, giving Ratner a pass, that's worth noticing. And, yes, the Times has picked up coverage of the defense case. But the newspaper missed the chance to cover the Forest City Ratner in detail.

And even in covering the defense case, the Times's beat reporter missed a piece of piquant testimony regarding Forest City Ratner's due diligence: Zehy Jereis, the fixer Forest City hired for an essentially no-show job, had such nonexistent computer skills he was incapable of creating a Word document.

(The reporter had actually left the courtroom, presumably calculating, not implausibly, that he had more than enough material from Jereis's direct testimony to fill the allotted space.)


Posted by steve at 11:37 PM

March 17, 2012

CNG Watch: Brooklyn Paper/Courier-Life ignore District Service Cabinet meeting, as they reap Barclays Center advertising

Atlantic Yards Report

Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group, which owns the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, didn't send any reporters to the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting Thursday.

Is it just that the news about governmental oversight is "boring" (as opposed to, say, news about the "burger boom")? Or do the newspapers want to avoid "bad" news as they feature Barclays Center advertising? Both?

From this week's Brooklyn Paper:


Posted by steve at 11:17 PM

March 15, 2012

Powell on pause? Crusading Times columnist sits out Yonkers corruption trial (involving Forest City Ratner) that he put on the agenda

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Powell was on a roll. The Times's crusading "Gotham" columnist, who since his debut last May has challenged the mayor, the governor, and other pillars of the power structure, had Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner--tinged but not charged in two political corruption cases--in his sights.

After Powell's January 10 column (A Developer Between Legal Clouds), former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum even wrote a letter to the Times, insisting that developer Bruce Ratner "has always demonstrated the highest ethical standards and behavior."

Powell, a one-time tenant organizer and political reporter, was undeterred, despite Ratner's ties to his Times bosses. In Powell's February 14 column (Tracking the Tentacles of Corruption), he raised an eyebrow at Gotbaum's letter, suggesting that Ratner's "willingness to tuck affordable apartments into his gleaming towers [at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards] is perhaps a reasonable political tradeoff rather than a testament to his character."

Shortly after that, Powell, on Twitter reported that three Forest City executives could testify in the corruption trial regarding the developer's Ridge Hill retail/residential project in Yonkers. It passed only after a City Council Member Sandy Annabi, long opposed to the project, flipped her vote, allegedly because she had long been taking cash from political ally Zehy Jereis, who later got a no-show job from Forest City.

After that, silence.

People asked me: Why did he sit it out? Did someone get to him?

When I queried him last week, Powell said he has complete editorial freedom, but had to make some choices for his weekly column under time pressure.

Keep reading — it's well worth it.


Posted by eric at 1:08 PM

March 11, 2012

Is the Barclays Center ugly? Is that the right question?

Atlantic Yards Report

The results of a Patch poll--is the Barclays Center ugly?--are hardly scientific:


But one commenter on the Patch poll raised a larger question:

Even if the architecture was beautiful, which it isn't, it is ugly in the sense that it is a product of political corruption. A big developer takes public money, over the objection of much of the affected community, to build something we didn't need which will have many noxious effects on the community (traffic, pollution, noise, etc.), Promised benefits (jobs, affordable housing) disappear from the discussion as soon as its approved. Which poltiician is trying to get Forrest City Ratner to repay the public for the missing benefits? When did capitalism become I'll risk your money for my gain?

Those points, of course, can be debated, but the fact is this: Atlantic Yards was sold to the public as a package deal, with the overall benefits said to trump the overall costs. Any preliminary assessment, however, has to reckon with the failure to deliver that package, as well as the sketchiness of the promises to begin with.


Posted by steve at 11:54 PM

Waiting for Kimmelman: everyone's talking about the new Times architecture critic; some wonder when he'll write about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Kimmelman, the new New York Times architecture critic who seems to care more about context and urbanism than starchitects, is getting a lot of ink these days. At a panel at the Architecture Center last week, as reported in Capital New York, he--along with his predecessors--was the elephant in the room:

All of these critics said that the idea that the entire architectural press had become caught up with the star architects, and object architecture, was not accurate; but that to the extent it was true, it was a monster the Times created over the last decade or more.
...The Times' choice of Kimmelman after [Nicolai] Ouroussoff (whose name was never mentioned, despite obvious references to his tenure at the newspaper) was so extreme that it elicited from [ex-Times critic and current New Yorker critic Paul] Goldberger the idea of a pendulum, which in popular opinion about architecture has swung away from star architects, towards something closer to home. And how The New York Times, in designating its critic, has a unique power to push the pendulum either way.

The Times's inaugural critic was Ada Louise Huxtable, followed by Goldberger, then the more starchitect-oriented Herbert Muschamp and Ourossoff:

“I tried, when I followed her, to keep the sense of engagement with the city going as much as possible, and to write a fair amount about issues again of planning and zoning and so forth,” Goldberger said. “That faded from the Times for a while, and it’s a good sign that the current critic is eager to bring that back.”


The Observer's Matt Chaban praised Kimmelman for not comparing buildings to similar ones--"peg versus peg":

Kimmelman seems to care very little for these games and would rather focus on whether or not that peg fits into the hole into which it has been placed, something that really does not happen enough. The only problem is it can lead to articles that read quite a lot alike. At least that is the superficial reading.

Nevermind the fact that there are myriad projects waiting to be weighed in on—the new apartments at Atlantic Yards, or the ones at Brooklyn Bridge Park, or Frank Gehry’s new Signature Theater all come to mind. Far be it from us to give marching orders to Mr. Kimmelman, but the people are dying to know what he thinks, and these are all still projects that could be considered in the lens of cities, too.

While some critics, such as New York Magazine's Justin Davidson (pro) and the Real Deal's James Gardner (unenthusiastic if not quite con), have commented on the SHoP-designed plans for three modular towers, I'd suggest it's premature.

Why? Architecture critics have a history on commenting on plans that don't come to fruition. Maybe they should wait to see if this plan is, in fact, going forward.


Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

March 4, 2012

Why journalism is important: "to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors

Atlantic Yards Report

Jay Rosen, the NYU journalism scholar and, among other things, coiner of the very useful "View from Nowhere" observation, explains:

Why I study journalism and criticize it and try to make it better when I can figure out how.
The reason is there in this quote from Thinking the Twentieth Century, by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder. (Penguin Books, 2012)

Democracies corrode quite fast; they corrode linguistically, or rhetorically if you like— that’s the Orwellian point about language. They corrode because most people don’t care about them. Notice that the European Union, whose first parliamentary elections were held in 1979 and had an average turnout of over 62 percent, is now looking at turnout of less than 30 percent, even though the European Parliament matters more now and has more power. The difficulty of sustaining voluntary interest in the business of choosing the people who will rule over you is well attested. And the reason why we need intellectuals, as well as all the good journalists we can find, is to fill the space that grows between the two parts of democracy: the governed and the governors.

Tony Judt, who lived upstairs from me, was one of the great students of the West, and did as much as anyone I know to warn of the corrosives of his time.

Politics, I shouldn't have to remind people, extends beyond elections and legislatures to things like development projects.


Posted by steve at 9:27 PM

March 1, 2012

Times finally publishes article on Ridge Hill trial, lets flack DePlasco defend Forest City against unidentified "critics," downplays developer's dubious behavior

Atlantic Yards Report

So, after three days of testimony from Forest City Ratner officials, and a one-day grace period, the New York Times today finally publishes an article about the Ridge Hill project and Yonkers corruption, Window Into Developer’s Relentless Quest to Get a Yonkers Project Approved.

It's a serviceable, but way too truncated summary of the drama in the federal case against consultant Zehy Jereis and ex-City Council Member Sandy Annabi, which I've covered at length on this blog.

Because several days of testimony are compressed into one article--rather than publishing daily articles, even online--key details are lost. But it's just enough for the Times to be able to defend itself against charges it had ignored the project.

Leaning Ratner's way

But the ending does lean Ratner's way:

A Forest City spokesman, Joseph DePlasco, said on Wednesday that critics had focused unfairly on the developer’s role. “This is really about a company trying with great difficulty to navigate the byzantine maze of politics in Yonkers,” he said.

Well, no critics are mentioned in the article, so the Times let DePlasco leave the impression that the developer's facing a phantom.

Lame ending ignores developer's dubiousness

The article closes:

As for [ex-Forest City executive] Mr. [Bruce] Bender, he testified that he had always been hopeful that the developer would prevail in its lobbying effort.

“In my experience in over 30 years of government,” he said, “when it comes to politics, there is nothing impossible.”

That's a completely lame conclusion.

The central mystery of Ridge Hill, still extant, is why Forest City, the main beneficiary of Annabi's vote change, emerges unscathed.

The developer was not charged with wrongdoing, but it clearly behaved dubiously--details omitted from the Times coverage.


Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

February 29, 2012

What the Times put in the Metro section instead of covering the Yonkers corruption case involving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project

Atlantic Yards Report

Just in case you're wondering what articles New York Times editors decided to put in today's Metro section while continuing to avoid the Yonkers corruption trial involving Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, consider the following.

The first weighty article, in fact, appeared on the section front, as indicated at right.

Familiar Guest at a Bronx Home: An Out-of-Control Vehicle

A Season Premiere, a Falling Man and Memories of 9/11

Ex-Marine Arrested on Gun Charge Had Poor Record, Manhattan Prosecutor Says

Brooklyn Police Officer Is Accused of Driving Patrol Car While Drunk


Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

Did Forest City Ratner get "bilked" by Yonkers defendant (as suggested in 2010 Times coverage)? Trial testimony indicates the opposite

Atlantic Yards Report

You haven't read it in the New York Times, because the newspaper has chosen to avoid recent coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial (though not saturation coverage of the latest Pale Male twist).

But in the past few days, two Forest City Ratner witnesses demolished the sloppy, dishonest phrasing in the Times's 1/6/10 report, Ex-Official in Yonkers Faces Charges of Corruption.

Back then, the Times suggested that Zehy Jereis, the go-between accused of engineering Ex-Council Member Sandy Annabi's vote to green-light the Ridge Hill project, was "accused of bilking" Forest City.

Got "bilked"?

Any fair reading of the indictment and the term "bilk" should have let a sentient being conclude that Forest City did not get bilked.

Indeed, as Michael D.D. White pointed out in his Noticing New York blog, it strained credulity for the Times to report that "Forest City Ratner, a real estate firm whose specialty is collecting government subsidies through its relentless cultivation of public officials, was outsmarted" by the defendants.

It wasn't.


NoLandGrab: Funny, but The Times has never postulated that Brooklynites and New York's taxpayers have been "bilked" by demonstrator-of-"the highest ethical standards and behavior" Bruce Ratner's phony promises of jobs and affordable housing.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

February 28, 2012

The dailies ignore on the Yonkers corruption trial; what's wrong with the Times?

Atlantic Yards Report

So Bruce Bender, long the top government relations official for Forest City Ratner and former Chief of Staff for Council Speaker Peter Vallone, testifies yesterday in federal court about the developer's nearly desperate search for the vote that green-lighted the Ridge Hill project in Yonkers--a process that led to corruption charges against two others--and what do the New York dailies do?

They ignore it. (The suburban Journal News has been covering the story.)

You can almost understand the New York Post, which did have a reporter there (and did cover the testimony last week of Bender's colleague Scott Cantone), and the New York Daily News, which didn't send a reporter.

The tabloids want juicy headlines, though, by my lights, Bender's memo to lobbyist Mike Spano, now the mayor of Yonkers, qualifies as juicy insight into how development and politics really work:

"No fucking around. Get Sandy on board. Tell your brother we need help now."

Sandy would be Council Member Sandy Annabi, now on trial, and the brother would be Yonkers powerbroker Nick Spano, a longtime state Senator turned legislator with his own recent legal troubles.

What happened to the Times?

The New York Times? Well, their federal courts reporter was in the room, diligently taking notes. I'm sure he was capable of delivering a solid report. Maybe he even wrote one.

Someone decided no, maybe the same someone who decided the MTA deal Forest City Ratner renegotiated in 2009 was worth just five short paragraphs in print, or an article on the Nets' efforts to woo fans was worth 18 paragraphs.


Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

February 1, 2012

Deconstructing the latest softball Ratner interview: plans for affordable housing are even shakier than before, and Ratner's tense even with a friendly publication

Atlantic Yards Report

This New York Observer article, Waiting for Bruce: The Commercial Observer Tours Atlantic Yards Arena, is such a nada-burger that it deserves some off the cuff annotation.

The article is in italics, my commentary not. I'm not sure why it was published other than a generalized desire by the Commercial Observer, which is owned by a real estate mogul, to play nice with Bruce. (Well, here's the justification, I guess: slideshow.)

A chauffered Lexus LS sedan pulled up to the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue and out slid Bruce Ratner from the back seat. He was 15 minutes late.

In a navy suit with a merino v-neck sweater over a dress shirt with no tie and an open collar, he was also underdresed for the sunny but windy chill swirling across the $1 billion Barclays Center that his firm Forest City Ratner is well into building at the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.

“I thought it was going to be 50 degrees,” Mr. Ratner said, immediately noticing the cold.

This is what's called "setting the scene."


Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner Loses Tempter in Softball Barclays Center Interview

Such petulance just because a friendly publication's reporter was attempting to dig a wee tiny bit and perhaps broke the restrictions of Mr. Ratner's narrow interview ground rules? Of course Mr. Ratner wouldn't want to talk about anything besides the arena...because there is nothing to say about any of the rest of the phantom project.

Posted by eric at 11:40 PM

January 29, 2012

NetsDaily editor says Prokhorov's feelings toward US have been shaped by reception by Nets fans, ignores his own role as chief cheerleader

Atlantic Yards Report

.>A 1/26/12 post on Nets Daily, Did Fans' Reaction Help Prokhorov's View of U.S., West?, contains a glaringly obvious omission:

Those close to Mikhail Prokhorov say his feelings toward the United States have evolved, shaped, in part, by his experience as the Nets owner. When he purchased the team he didn't know what to expect. Would there be suspicions? a Cold War hangover?
But they say he was pleasantly surprised by reaction he got from NBA owners and particularly Nets fans. As one said, he found it all quite endearing. Now are we starting to see the product of that in his foreign policy pronouncements as he runs for Russian president? Seems so. On Tuesday he told an English language television outlet that it's time for Russia to embrace the West.

(Emphasis added)

Particularly Nets fans? The Nets fan who's led the embrace of Prokhorov is the author of that post, site editor "Net Income," aka Bob Windrem.

A 4/26/10 Times Sports Section article, headlined Russian Billionaire Is White Knight for the Nets, stated:

The NetsDaily blog has dubbed him “the Most Interesting Man in the World,” after the suave fellow in the beer commercials.

That dubbing came from "Net Income" in a 6/26/09 post.

Windrem earlier even wrote a profile for MSNBC quoting the words and work of "Net Income," but didn't acknowledge on MSNBC that he's the lead contributor to NetsDaily.

A 10/31/10 New York Times Magazine cover story on Prokhorov, headlined The Playboy and His Power Games, reported:

Prokhorov had invited anyone who couldn’t manage the rasp in the middle of “Mikhail” to call him Mike, but on NetsDaily, the premier Nets fan Web site, he quickly emerged as “Proky.” Proky was the sweet sound of salvation. The Web site editor (a 65-year-old New York-based television producer anxious to keep his old- and new-media identities separate) coined a phrase for the euphoria coursing through reader comments: the Prokhorov Effect.

Why does he want to keep his identities separate? Because he shoots from the hip and makes claims--and gets nasty--that he wouldn't do as "Bob Windrem."


Posted by steve at 10:11 PM

January 23, 2012

Times Public Editor Brisbane gingerly moves to embrace more fact-checking, offers warnings; I suggest Atlantic Yards as a subject, offer examples of misleading coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

"He said, she said?" They'd both prefer truth to "news."

New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane, fresh off his "Truth Vigilante" exploration, yesterday gingerly surveyed the new media world of dedicated fact-checking outlets/efforts. He pronounced himself somewhat chastened:

Newspaper journalism’s traditional way of dealing with spurious claims, meanwhile, isn’t satisfying readers. Often derided as the “he said, she said” approach, this method entails finding and quoting someone to counter a claim, thereby offering a form of balance but no resolution. This sufficed in the past, for many at least, but now many readers are asking for more aggressive rebuttals.

I heard this loud and clear last week when I asked readers on my blog whether they wanted more fact-checking in straight news articles and they said, resoundingly, yes.

James Fallows, author of “Breaking the News” and a national correspondent for The Atlantic, told me it is incumbent on reporters to correct falsehood, not just balance it.

I posted a comment:

If the Times is going to do some non-political fact-checking, why not start with the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, where so many facts promulgated by elected officials and the developer are supremely questionable, and the newspaper too often acts as a stenographer?


Posted by eric at 1:24 PM

January 18, 2012

NPR and PR Blitz

by Michael Galinsky

This morning on NPR I heard two stories within moments of each other that have a direct connection to “Battle for Brooklyn”. The first was a story about the St. Louis Rams, and the fact that they will likely leave St. Louis for a city with deeper pockets. The second was about how the majority of millionaires in China are looking for a way out, and that many are doing so via the EB-5 program.

It seems every story seems to point back to an abuse of the government/business relationship cycle. Yet the vast majority of these pieces don’t acknowledge this reality, and bury the lede by following the script. This is what Occupy is about. Perhaps the tide is turning, though the PR blitz is in full effect, so it remains to be seen whether or not people can take back the power.


Related content...

NY Daily News Sports ITeam Blog, Occupy Wall Street has been a boon for 'Battle for Brooklyn'

We wrote a few months back how "Battle for Brooklyn," the critically praised documentary about the fight over Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, reflected the anger and frustration that prompted Occupy Wall Street. Now, Press Action, a D.C.-area website dedicated to news analysis, reports that OWS has been a boon for "Battle for Brooklyn."

Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

January 16, 2012

Some "Truth Vigilantism" toward a 2005 New York Times account of AY arena costs

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder, the Charles Bronson of truth vigilantes, injects a little sodium pentathol into a 2005 New York Times story.

I didn't start writing about Atlantic Yards until late 2005, so I'll apply some retrospective "Truth Vigilante" treatment to Stadium Games: Give and Take And Speculation; What the Teams Want And What the City Gets, a 1/16/05 New York Times articles about the proposals then in play:

Nonetheless, the mayor and Gov. George E. Pataki are on the verge of approving three new sports sites -- a football stadium for the Jets, a baseball stadium for the Yankees and a basketball arena for the Nets -- that will require a combined public investment of at least $1.1 billion.

It is not easy to assess precisely what the taxpayers will get out of their investment, which is equivalent in cost to a major Manhattan skyscraper or 25 schools with 600 seats each. In part, that is because the economic benefits are based on studies commissioned by the teams themselves, and promoted by the government sponsors of the projects.

What about AY?

So, what did it say about Atlantic Yards?

The Nets arena in Brooklyn will require a public investment of about $200 million and the condemnation of several blocks of housing and stores. New York will get a basketball team back from New Jersey and an arena with a public garden on top that is intended to serve as an anchor for a residential and commercial development. The arena could also be used for high school or college games.

Well, the public direct investment is nearly 50% higher now, while there are numerous other subsidies and opportunity costs, leading the New York City Independent Budget Office, in 2009, to pronounce the arena a net loss for the city.

The public garden? Long gone.

Arena as anchor for residential and commercial development? Not so much. Maybe leverage for subsidies.


Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

January 15, 2012

Looking beyond the Brooklyn Brand(s)

Atlantic Yards Report

In Time for Brooklyn (and its Fans) to Go Beyond the Brand, in City Limits' new Brooklyn Bureau, Marilyn Gelber of the Brooklyn Community Foundation wrote 1/5/12:

But justifiable pride of place should not make us reluctant to look deeper and examine serious challenges to Brooklyn's well being.

...Right now in the media there are two Brooklyns: the Brooklyn of artisanal cheese shops and the Brooklyn of murder and mayhem.

While we love that there's no shortage of ink on how “cool” Brooklyn is, there's an egregious lack of reporting dedicated to civic and social issues in what would be the nation's fourth largest city. We're not comfortable with the idea of Brooklyn being split apart by income disparity and selective investment, and the general media paying attention to just a sliver of what's happening here.

So the Brooklyn Bureau will not only offer new reportage across Brooklyn put also publish a series of Neighborhood Profiles for each of Brooklyn's 18 Community Districts, produced by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College.

In the spring, that will lead to "the first ever Borough-wide Brooklyn Trends Report, examining the strength of our collective local economy, housing stock, health and healthcare, public safety, education system, environment, and the arts."


Posted by steve at 7:27 PM

'Battle for Brooklyn' Debuts At Artisphere

Clarendon-Courthouse-Rosslyn Patch

Here is a glowing review for the Atlantic Yards fight documentary "Battle for "Brooklyn" as it plays just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.

Ratner and his company Forest City's $2.5 billion Atlantic Yards project is set to bring the New Jersey Nets to the borrough of Brooklyn, along with several massive residential towers and a mess of mixed-use buildings.

To accomplish this, Ratner wages an impeccable but ethically questionable PR campaign and -- thanks to political favoritism and an array of dubious tactics -- is able to comdemn an entire neighborhood, execute a hefty landgrab by way of eminent domain, and receive a sweetheart deal from the Mass Transit Authority as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer kickbacks and subsidies.


Michael Galinsky, who directed the documentary with Suki Hawley, adds further perspective.

But "Battle for Brooklyn" is not only about eminent domain abuse and crony capitalism but also the failure of mainstream media. Throughout the film, it's clear that Forest City/Ratner press releases routinely win out to any fair journalistic depiction of the struggle.

"It's as much about media as it is about anything else," Galinsky said. "Many New Yorkers who've seen the film told us they felt like they slept through this whole ordeal." That's because very few outlets were willing to tell this story in real time.


Posted by steve at 7:15 PM

January 14, 2012

Another columnist enraptured by the Jay-Z & Beyonce baby: "it’s a nice diversion to think about a child born with a silver spoon"

Atlantic Yards Report

The notorious Stephen Witt, opening in his Our Time Press column on Blue Ivy Carter, writes:

Although I don’t shoot at the same baskets or pay the same taxes, I’m as bubbling over with joy as the average schmo over Jay-Z and Beyonce finally having a little bundle of joy.

Did the average schmo (beyond faux schmo Denis Hamill) really care? Or just the schmo who hugged Bruce Ratner?


Posted by steve at 10:26 PM

The Times? An advocate for readers, or a stenographer for politicians (and others in power)

Atlantic Yards Report

Clay Shirky, in the Guardian, has a wise follow-up to the "Truth Vigilante" question:

The immediate fallout from [Public Editor Arthur] Brisbane's question will be minor – no paper in the United States, not even the Times (as its editor partially concedes), has enough staff to express continuous skepticism about political speech – but there may yet be a lasting effect to be reckoned with. Having asked, in a completely innocent way, whether the Times should behave like an advocate for the readers, rather than a stenographer to politicians, the question cannot now be unasked. Every day in which the Times (and indeed, most US papers) fail at what has clearly surfaced as their readers' preference on the matter will be a day in which that gap remains uncomfortably visible.

And that includes when politicians are talking about Atlantic Yards--and when developers do so, as well.


Posted by steve at 10:18 PM

Things to do Jan. 11 - Jan. 18

The Washington Post
By Jillian S. Sowah

“Battle for Brooklyn,” the acclaimed documentary tells the story of the Atlantic Yards project—Bruce Ratner’s billion-dollar plan for a massive Brooklyn development including 8 million square feet of new apartments, offices and stores, centered on a basketball arena for the New York Nets. 8 p.m. Friday, 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday, Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $7. 703-875-1100.


Posted by steve at 10:16 PM

January 13, 2012

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

The New York Times
by Arthur S. Brisbane

God, these guys just don't get it, do they?

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.


NoLandGrab: No, Times, you should just keep your heads firmly up your arses, regurgitate the b.s. spewed by your "development partner," devote a single graf to an "opponent" or "critic," and call it a day. Jeezus.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Times, the "Truth Vigilante" uproar, and the journalism of verification

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante? wrote New York Times ombudsman Arthur Brisbane, occasioning nearly universal shouts of "yes," including from his colleagues, all dissected interestingly by Jay Rosen on his Press Think blog.

No one mentioned, as far as I can tell, former executive editor Bill Keller's useful formulation of "the journalism of verification," which is the newspaper's job. And while most of the discussion today concerned political coverage, we should remember that the Times has fallen short so many times regarding Atlantic Yards, such as:

Atlantic Yards Report, Rethinking the role of news ombudsman: "aggregate, curate, debate" (which would mean linking to sites like AYR)

Journalist and author Dan Gillmor, in What a 21st Century News Ombudsman Should Do: Aggregate, Curate, Debate, responds to the Times's "Truth Vigilante" dust-up and a Washington Post column by commenting:

These pieces highlighted how strange the ombudsman’s job has become, and why I think it needs to be updated in this networked age. Here’s how I’d change it, and I hope both of these men will consider at least adding some of these ideas to their portfolio. There would be two main approaches: aggregation and conversation.

Posted by eric at 12:24 AM

January 11, 2012

Prokhorov on NetsDaily? Sure, but not that MSNBC profile by Robert Windrem, aka "Net Income"

Atlantic Yards Report

Citing news articles and even coverage in Russian (via Google Translate), NetsDaily, via chief editor "Net Income," does not typically hold back in its coverage of Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Except, curiously enough, there's been no mention of Monday's MSNBC profile by Robert (Bob) Windrem, aka Net Income. Maybe that's because Windrem was quoting himself. Or because Windrem was described merely as a "senior investigative producer for NBC News and a Nets season ticket holder."

He's a lot more than that. Windrem knows he has to stay professional.

His pseudonymous alter ego--not so much. His lust for a new arena for his favorite team--"NI is the biggest Brooklyn fan on this website," one commenter observed--means that, too often, the end justifies the means.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Daily News columnis Hamill, always happy to buff the Brooklyn Nets, salutes Jay-Z, ignores "ethical pickle"

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill, who thinks the Brooklyn Nets can give Brooklyn a soul, swallowed Forest City Ratner promotional spin, and saluted those building the arena, deserves notice for his celebratory column yesterday.

The headline: Jay-Z's hardknock life in Marcy Projects paves way to a better life for daughter Blue Ivy Carter: Beyonce and Jay-Z's newborn gets a New York welcome into the world.

You see, Hamill back in December 2002 met Jay-Z when the "shy and humble" rapper was reading to fifth-graders--JAY-Z GIVES KIDS GIFT OF EXAMPLE--and remains quite impressed.

The "ethical pickle'

Jay-Z's a reader, and that fueled his writing skills and helped get him out of the projects, Hamill related back in 2002 and again yesterday. Yes, a dedication to reading is an admirable thing, and it allowed Jay-Z to build on his skills and gifts.

But Jay-Z, in case Hamill needs a reminder, also exited the projects because he was a drug dealer, and that, as writer Sam Anderson once put it, "the ethical pickle at the core of the Jay-Z myth."


Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

January 10, 2012

A shout-out for AYR from NY Times columnist Powell

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, New York Times columnist Michael Powell, who wrote this morning on the curious role of Forest City Ratner in corruption cases--beneficiary, but unscathed--has read some pieces in this blog.

Hence this tweet:

If only more people at the Times were reading.


Posted by eric at 9:54 PM

January 9, 2012

A profile of Prokhorov on MSNBC by Robert Windrem, who does not acknowledge he's also "Net Income," chief editor of Nets Daily

Atlantic Yards Report

Who knew? We never had "Net Income" pegged for being a real journalist!

So who wrote the stylish, reasonably thorough, and only slightly skewed profile on MSNBC's Open Channel, dedicated to "investigative reporting by NBC News," headlined Meet the NBA tycoon and rapper's friend who could be president of Russia.

One Robert Windrem, described as a senior investigative producer for NBC News and a Nets season ticket holder.

Simply describing him as a "Nets season ticket holder" is just a tad inadequate. He's also Net Income, the ubiquitous, prolific pseudonymous main editor of the NetsDaily web site.


NoLandGrab: Windrem also triples as "Bobbo," the insulting, factually deficient sometime-commenter to Atlantic Yards Report posts.

Related coverage..., Meet the NBA tycoon and rapper's friend who could be president of Russia

"The most interesting man in the world?" Windrem needs to get out more.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

January 8, 2012

Horse-race coverage of sports, politics, and business--and an egregious AY example

Atlantic Yards Report

From a 1/3/12 column by Reuters media columnist Jack Shafer, Presidential campaigns, sports writing, and the fine art of pretending:

The jobs of political reporters and sports writers are almost identical: Determine who is ahead and who is behind; get inside the heads of the participants; decode the relevant strategies and tactics; and find a way to convert reader interest into sustainable enthusiasm.

And that extends also to business:

[Washington Post reporter Paul] Farhi, who has reported on business, sports, politics, and the media, says business coverage also obsesses on winners and numbers. “Maybe all journalism is about success and failure, and we see it more clearly in sports,” he said.

And, I'd argue, that misses meaning.

The Times on AY

Remember the New York Times's horse-race analysis in the 6/9/05 article headlined Unlike Stadium on West Side, an Arena in Brooklyn Is Still a Go?

While the Brooklyn plan still has hurdles, its progress so far is providing an object lesson in how to navigate big projects through the often treacherous and choppy waters of New York state and city politics. In the Brooklyn project, backers have aggressively courted the local community since the project's inception, trying to placate those who could be its most aggressive foes. Perhaps most important, they have reached out to Mr. [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver.

(Emphasis added)

Object lesson? Not anymore. Nor for a long while.


Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

January 6, 2012

FCR's Gilmartin tells Crain's that shutdown of facade fabricator will not cause delays. How will the other steel plates be delivered? They're not saying.

Atlantic Yards Report

The ever-penetrating Crain's New York Business gets Forest City Ratner on the phone to say that, never mind, nothing's wrong. In Barclays Center developer says show will go on, Crain's reports:

The developer of the Barclays Center arena in downtown Brooklyn says that the year-end demise of the company that is fabricating the weathered steel for the arena's distinctive façade will not result in any construction delays. ...“We are concerned when any of our partners has problems, but we don't believe it will affect our construction schedule,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, referring to steel fabricator ASI Limited having gone out of business. “We can still continue with construction.”

Of course they can still continue with construction. The question is where they get the specially fabricated, pre-weathered steel. It's not an off-the-shelf product. Crain's continues:

Ms. Gilmartin said that a large portion of the weathered steel had already been erected. She couldn't immediately say how much still needed to go up. She added that Forest City is working to insure the steel will continue to be made and to be delivered to the site in a timely fashion, but declined to offer details.

That's plenty vague; they won't say how much work is left, and they won't say how they'll get the steel. Of course it's possible that ASI Limited will reopen, which is likely the best-case scenario, and all will work out. But it's also possible that the construction schedule, which has already slipped, as I reported this morning, could slip more.


Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

December 31, 2011

AY down the memory hole: Times says arena will "undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a year-ahead front-page article in tomorrow's Metropolitan section, the New York Times offers a three-paragraph summary for Brooklyn, mostly about Atlantic Yards:

When the sports arena that anchors the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project finally opens in September, after more than eight years of lawsuits and construction delays, it will undoubtedly transform Downtown Brooklyn.

Downtown Brooklyn? Didn't the Times more than five years ago acknowledge in a mega-correction that Downtown Brooklyn was an inaccurate designation for the project?

In a 4/17/11 article about living in Prospect Heights, the Times included Atlantic Yards and the arena site within the bounds of the neighborhood. See graphic at right.

(Arguably, the northern and western edges of the arena site, which border wide avenues, might extend Downtown Brooklyn. But walk down Dean Street from the surface parking lot on the southeast block of the site, and enter from Dean Street? That's not Downtown.)

Also, was it merely "more than eight years of lawsuits and construction delays"? What about Forest City Ratner's desperate search for new capital, from a Russian oligarch seeking to burnish his image to Chinese investors seeking green cards?


The initial paragraph continues:

But will the 19,000-seat Barclays Center, soon to be home to the Nets and host to Jay-Z, the circus and 200 other events a year, help its neighborhood become an epicenter of entertainment and commerce, as most officials predict? Or will it be a vortex of traffic, trash and other civic headaches, as some residents fear?

So it's "most officials" vs. "some residents"? What if it's both?

After all, what "most officials" predict is not exactly a stretch, since an arena, by definition, attracts certain kind of entertainment and commerce.

And won't it create a vortex of traffic, as the Times itself has warned, as well as other untoward local effects, as Atlantic Yards Watch regularly documents?


Related content...

The New York Times, What to Expect in New York in 2012

Posted by steve at 6:05 PM

The Atlantic Yards meme gets a boost in 2011, with more coming from a journalist's novel

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote in March how a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority used the term Atlantic Yards--a marketing term for a 22-acre project, some of which is still in private hands--for the agency's 8.5 acre Vanderbilt Yard.

In April, one of the MTA's watchdogs similarly used the term Atlantic Yards to describe the property the agency marketed.

And in a manuscript

You'd think that a journalist writing about Atlantic Yards would know better, but not the notorious Stephen Witt, who's written an AY novel called The Street Singer. The Daily News gave it unaccountable publicity earlier this month, but not until AY opponent Patti Hagan gave me the hard copy of the article did I see an excerpt from the manuscript, which included this:

"Thaddeus Hoover," I said, suddenly recognizing the name. You're the guy who wants to bring the Nets to Brooklyn and build an arena at the Atlantic Yards."

"No, I'm the man who will build the arena and bring Brooklyn its first major professional sports team since the Dodgers left for California."

As Tad spoke, I though about Goody Brats saying Hoover was sucking up the neighborhood. It was kind of funny. Here I was having a drink with the land grabber himself.

Put aside the not-so-naturalistic dialogue and the Zelig-like wish fulfillment--Witt did once enthusiastically hug Ratner--and remember, Atlantic Yards was not a place.


Posted by steve at 5:54 PM

December 29, 2011

AY down the memory hole: Capital declares Kuntzman's Brooklyn Paper "got massive mileage out of the Atlantic Yards saga"

Atlantic Yards Report

From Hey Honeys! 'King of Brooklyn' Gersh Kuntzman heads off to academe, to instruct young gumshoes, in Capital (tagline: This is How New York Works), about the Gershification of the Brooklyn Paper:

It also meant transforming what was already a well-respected community publication, with its informative re-caps of local board meetings and dutiful coverage of provincial affairs, into the type of scrappy news product that could command the interest and respect not only of its neighborhood constituents, but of those media elites across the river.

“What I did,” said Kuntzman, more modestly, “was, I took a very, very strong paper, I cut the story length in half, and I added a kind of tabloid brashness."

And nothing was lost?

What about AY?

Writes Joe Pompeo:

Apart from the bottled water wars, some other classics from Kuntzman’s Brooklyn Paper canon, outside its signature beats like bike lanes and local development (it got massive mileage out of the Atlantic Yards saga), include the horrific geese-slaughtering of July 2010, the infamous 6-year-old sidewalk chalk vandal of Park Slope, and the editor’s rather racy real estate porn spoof...

Here's the comment I tried to post:

The Brooklyn Paper "got massive mileage out of the Atlantic Yards saga"?

Here's what the BP hasn't covered:

-Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from immigrant (mostly Chinese) investors seeking green cards via the EB-5 program.

--Borough President Marty Markowitz's willingness to shill for that effort by making a video claiming that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

--Forest City Ratner's unwillingness to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the much-promoted Community Benefits Agreement.


Related content...

Capital, Hey Honeys! 'King of Brooklyn' Gersh Kuntzman heads off to academe, to instruct young gumshoes

Posted by eric at 9:27 AM

December 20, 2011

Times gives lavish space to puff piece on new Nets announcer, ignores "sordid history" (by the way, he says cigars are healthier than cigarettes)

Atlantic Yards Report

Sure, Kim Jong-Il is dead, the Eurozone economies are in shambles, and it's an all-out race to the bottom among Republican presidential hopefuls, but whoa — get a load of that new Nets PA announcer's hair!

Number of paragraphs about Atlantic Yards in front-page New York Times article yesterday about EB-5 projects that stretch the rules: 1.

Number of paragraphs in Sports section article today about new Nets announcer David Diamante: 21.

A bit of a puff piece

The Times article, headlined New Nets Announcer Shows Flair and Hair, lets him describe his various jobs and hobbies--motorcyclist, DJ, surfer, boxing announcer. He's got long dreadlocks...


Related content...

The New York Times, Nets Announcer Shows Flair and Hair

Diamante was not among the original 400 prospective announcers who auditioned for the Nets in September. After learning of the tryouts, he contacted Nets representatives and was included in the final round of 20 announcers in October. He got the job, signed a multiyear contract and last week announced his first game with the team, at its current home in Newark.

NoLandGrab: Yet one more example of the flawed process surrounding Atlantic Yards.

The Brooklyn Paper, Brooklyn man to be the voice of the Barclays Center

The team will get a side benefit from hiring Diamante, who is active in charities in his spare time, most recently including holding an auction that raised more than $18,000 for Treasure Island Pre-school in Bay Ridge.

“I try to live my life like that,” Diamante said. “You have to be a good neighbor.”

The Nets have been struggling to be just that as the controversial Barclays Center nears completion. But Diamante thinks that any lingering hard feelings will disappear once the team hits the hard wood.

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

December 18, 2011

Battle for Brooklyn

John Likes Movies

Some would argue that activist documentaries don't have a place in today's world, what with the 24-hour news cycle souring any notion of a smart but slanted discourse. Battle for Brooklyn, however, is a fine example of how to sell someone on a point of view without hammering them over the head with it. The film's points are cogent, and they're presented in a very compelling manner. Yes, it takes sides, but after seeing the film, you'll understand why. The issues shown involve a great deal of passion, and though it might be too late to stop the Atlantic Yards project, one can only hope people take notice and don't let something like this happen again.


Posted by steve at 5:40 PM

December 6, 2011

Brooklyn writer pens 'The Street Singer,' a novel based on the Atlantic Yards arena project

Author Stephen Witt's fictional take includes characters based on developer Bruce Ratner and rapper Jay-Z

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

Reality-based reporter Erin Durkin reports on a new book by an Atlantic Yards beat reporter not so grounded in reality.

The Atlantic Yards project has inspired a musical, a movie - and now a madcap book by a reporter turned novelist.

Stephen Witt, who covered the project for local papers for years, penned “The Street Singer” - a self-described roman a clef combining his own early years in New York with a gonzo take on the $4.9 billion Prospect Heights project.

“I got into journalism originally because I loved creative writing,” said Witt, who is looking for a publisher for the manuscript but plans to put it out by next spring through his own publishing company if he doesn’t find one.

The book follows a flat-broke subway musician who stumbles into contact with a high-powered developer named Thaddeus Hoover - a thinly veiled take on developer Bruce Ratner.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The notorious Stephen Witt writes a novel based on Atlantic Yards

The notorious Stephen Witt, known for his tendentious articles in the Courier-Life chain and now Our Time Press, is writing a book based on Atlantic Yards--a novel--and the Daily News thinks it's newsworthy.

Here are a couple of lines from the Daily News article:

“I got into journalism originally because I loved creative writing,”
....Witt said he found the project’s twists and turns better suited to an off the wall fictional take than a scholarly account. The story unfolds over six months leading up to the groundbreaking for the new Nets arena, but takes some artistic liberties. “It’s definitely a gonzo telling of it,” Witt said.

Um, he's been taking some artistic liberties all along.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

November 27, 2011

What Oscar Snub of “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Might Tell Us About A Misplaced Losing-the-Battle (and War) NY Times Bet

Noticing New York

Just like much of its Atlantic Yards fight coverage, the New York Times has given short-shrift to the Oscar-nominated film concerning this fight, "Battle for Brooklyn". This blog post concludes by noting what the bad result is when the Times fails to do good reporting on local issues.

In that regard we are only talking the documentary film world reporting on the real world. But the Oscar race is a clue to a bigger real world story. That bigger story is about how the New York Times could become a significantly greater paper by setting aside its misplaced bet that it can get away with sidestepping proper coverage of important local news stories like Atlantic Yards or Columbia University’s the similarly problematic use of eminent domain to take over West Harlem or. . . the list of stories goes on. It is a long one because everything is connected.


Posted by steve at 3:23 PM

Have You Looked in "Our Time Press" and Found the Fine AY Reporting? Not a Witt

Atlantic Yards Report, A response to Stephen Witt, and a letter of support

The latest issue of Our Time Press contains a letter from me in response to a column by the notorious Stephen Witt. It begins:

In his column about Atlantic Yards in the Nov. 17 issue, Stephen Witt writes that that “For doing this”--consistently seeking out the views of project supporters--"opponents of the project and their media mouthpieces, including Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder, continually blasted me.”

The issue isn’t whether Witt seeks out other views, it’s that he’s an irresponsible and unreliable writer.

But there's another letter, from the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, one of those who's views Witt embraces:

I just read your column in the Our Time Press. I appreciate your consistency. I know that is has not always been easy for some individuals to be supporters of the Atlantic Yards Project. Thank God that there are individuals who believe in the benefits for the community that this project will accrue.

Well, there's belief, and then there's proof.

Atlantic Yards Report, Scoop? Forest City considering Navy Yard as modular site

The notorious Stephen Witt has a purported scoop in the latest issue of Our Time Press, as the 11/25/11 article Ratner eyes Brooklyn Navy Yard for Atlantic Yards Construction is labeled "Exclusive."

It begins:

Developer Forest City Ratner is looking at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as one of three possible sites to manufacture modular units of the Atlantic Yards project, according to a source with knowledge of the project.
“The Brooklyn Navy Yard is close to the site and it would be kind of cool given its history of ship building,” said the source, adding that the other site is also in Brooklyn and the third site is in Queens.
When finalized the manufacturing site will construct prefabricated units for the world’s largest modular constructed building at 32 floors on the Atlantic Yards site. It will also be utilized for the other 14 other residential buildings proposed on the $4.5 bill project.
The source said that surprisingly there are still quite a few manufacturing sites around the city, and modular construction will bring manufacturing union and trade-union jobs.
The site will also serve the construction needs around the city, the country and perhaps globally,” the source said.

Is this news? A week earlier, Forest City told the Wall Street Journal it was looking at three sites, in Brooklyn and in Queens.

So the only "news" is that the Navy Yard is a potential Brooklyn site. That's hardly a surprise, as the New York Times, in its initial report on Forest City's modular plans last March, mentioned Capsys, a modular builder at the Navy Yard.

And who's the "source with knowledge of the project"? I'd bet that the "source," who provided other self-serving quotes, was Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco.

Posted by steve at 3:06 PM

November 25, 2011

Former Courier reporter hits the big time!

Brooklyn Daily
by Joanna DelBuono

Former Courier Life reporter extraordinaire [NLG: ?!] Stephen Witt has finished his second novel — and this one is going to be a blockbuster. No, that’s not a dig at Witt’s first novel, “American Moses,” but his new one, “Street Singer,” is set in the tumultuous saga of the Atlantic Yards mega-project, which Witt covered from its inception. “Street Singer” is Hemmingway-esque — no, not because it’s the greatest book of all time or features lots of drinking in Paris, but because its such a thinly veiled look at the intrigue surrounding the deal that brought the Nets across the river from that other state. Spoiler alert — “Street Singer” follows subway musician Jason Spirit (he’s based on Witt, by the way) through the seamy backroom deals, on the hustings with the anti-project rabble, and into the offices of Russian oligarchs. Yikes!


NoLandGrab: "Yikes!" has been our precise reaction to most of Witt's writing about Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

November 20, 2011

From GQ: Jay-Z's path from the streets to high society (and what about fronting?)

Atlantic Yards Report

As one of the 2011 GQ Men of the Year, Jay-Z is designated King. Alex Pappademas observes:

Take Watch the Throne, on which two grandiose motherfuckers explore the theme of grandiose-motherfuckerdom from vastly different perspectives, stacking dubstep on top of opera on top of Otis Redding, triumphalism on top of sorrow on top of more triumphalism, striving for a sound as vast and strange as the world they've come to inhabit. It's glorious and obnoxious and pointedly self-aware, and it was more fun to argue about than any hip-hop record since, I don't know, Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak or Jay-Z's widely jeered Kingdom Come.

The gist of a lot of those arguments: In an economic moment as bleak as this, is it not sort of a dick move to drop an album—even a great one—about what it feels like to be richer than a fifteenth-century pope? On what turned out to be the day of a stock market crash? Even the Watch the Throne T-shirts were limited-edition Givenchy and sold for $300.

...Watch the Throne is an honest record about trying to find your moral compass when insane wealth and success have knocked down every boundary that once gave shape to your world. Write what you know, y'know?

He credits Jay for making it from the 'hood:

Nearly every rapper tells a version of that story. But nobody tells it better or to a wider cross section of the population—children, rap nerds, corporate America—than Jay-Z. No hip-hop artist who owes his credibility to the street has moved farther beyond it and into the rarefied air of twenty-first-century high society than Jay has. But at 42, he remains, precedent-defyingly, a rapper people still care about, because he's managed to frame all his achievements—his front-office stint at Def Jam, his ownership stake in the NBA franchise soon to be known as the Brooklyn Nets, the $150 million deal with LiveNation that's said to rival Madonna's, even the pop star he put a ring on—as we-shouldn't-be-here victories for a kid from public housing, and for hip-hop, too.

Fair enough. It's just that he's running interference for some of the people making false promises (it is alleged) to Brooklynites from the neighborhoods he left.


Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

In Our Time Press, questionable coverage of the latest lawsuit

Atlantic Yards Report

The notorious Stephen Witt, now writing for Bed-Stuy-based Our Time Press, has produced his coverage of the lawsuit filed earlier this week: Another Atlantic Yards lawsuit: Allegations that training program does not bring union jobs as promised.

There's no mention of the issue of unpaid wages, but a "he said, she said" focus on whether jobs and union cards were promised to 36 trainees in a highly selective program. Witt writes:

But both FCR and BUILD officials said union cards were never promised, and charged James, state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and longtime foes of Atlantic Yards are behind the lawsuit. They also said their opposition is a major contributing force behind the lack of jobs as promised by the CBA.

...[BUILD's James] Caldwell said his organization has placed close to 400 people from the community with jobs, many on other FCR developments, and that the downturn in the economy has caused the build-out of the Atlantic Yards project to be much slower.

...[Forest City spokesman Joe] DePlasco said there are about 800 people currently working on the Atlantic Yards project...

Of these workers, 410 are city residents including 174 from Brooklyn, of which 67 are from Central Brooklyn...

DePlasco said of the 36 people that went through the BUILD pre-apprenticeship training program, 19 were working in property management, retail or construction-related positions as of September this year.

All that is irrelevant to the question of whether the 36 people, who began the program in August 2010, were promised jobs and union cards. After all, some of those 19 people have jobs at McDonald's


Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

How Could The Times Get Yet Another Story (In Addition to Atlantic Yards) So Wrong: OWS Evicting Bloomberg as Defender of Free Speech

Noticing New York

Noticing New York has frequently covered and criticized the grossly inadequate, misleading and biased coverage that the New York Times has provided with respect to the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards megadevelopment and associated issues such as the abuse of eminent domain that is also occurring elsewhere, like Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem.


Heretofore the Noticing New York thesis about such atrocious coverage by the Times was that it was all the more insidious and dangerous because the paper of record is, in otherwise confidence-inspiring ways, head and shoulders over other newspapers in New York City, even all the rest of country. The Times dereliction with respect to the Atlantic Yards family of issues seemed to be a willful and conscious choice related to a deal the Times knowingly made with the devil when it attempted to buttress itself financially (while garnering some attention-grabbing cultural surface glitz) by partnering with real estate developer and subsidy-collector-specialist Forest City Ratner to use (abuse?) eminent domain to build a New Times Square headquarters building.

The problem is, as pointed out in prior Noticing New York articles, you cannot selectively cast a blind eye to the misconduct associated with the city’s biggest boondoggle because everything is connected. You cannot expect to elide the evils of Atlantic Yards in your pages because it leaves holes in your paper-of-record stories about everything else. Do you want to report about the Brooklyn Borough President's shady capitalization on conflicts of interest involving charities created for that purpose? There’s a gaping hole in this tale you tell unless Atlantic Yards gets featured front and center.


Posted by steve at 9:44 PM

November 19, 2011

15 Documentary Features Advance in 2011 Oscar Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The documentary about the Atlantic Yards fight, "Battle for Brooklyn" has deservedly been short-listed in the competition for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Beverly Hills, CA (November 18, 2011) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 84th Academy Awards. One hundred twenty-four pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:

  • "Battle for Brooklyn" (RUMUR Inc.)
  • "Bill Cunningham New York" (First Thought Films)
  • "Buck" (Cedar Creek Productions)
  • "Hell and Back Again" (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
  • "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
  • "Jane's Journey" (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
  • "The Loving Story" (Augusta Films)
  • "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" (
  • "Pina" (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
  • "Project Nim" (Red Box Films)
  • "Semper Fi: Always Faithful" (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
  • "Sing Your Song" (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
  • "Undefeated" (Spitfire Pictures)
  • "Under Fire: Journalists in Combat" (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
  • "We Were Here" (Weissman Projects, LLC)

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.


Posted by steve at 10:22 PM

November 18, 2011

Ratner's modular tower release and the mostly compliant press: an FAQ on timing, misdirection, jobs, the lack of larger apartments, and Ratner's astounding admission

Atlantic Yards Report

There are plenty of news outlets simply repeating Bruce Ratner's news releases on plans for housing units for the Atlantic Yards project, but only Norman Oder digs deeper to reveal the continuing story of the project as a series of deceptions and promises not kept.

Well, Forest City Ratner yesterday announced plans for Building 2, a 32-story, 350-unit tower with half subsidized apartments--the world's tallest modular tower--and the press piled on.

They just didn't answer all the questions.

Why were the renderings released yesterday?

No report explained that. There's no financing for the first building. The modular plan isn't final.

I'd bet that the release was strategized to deflect any lingering attention from the lawsuit filed two days earlier by construction workers charging they didn't get promised jobs and union cards after going through a selective training program mandated by the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement.

And to put pressure on construction unions. Remember, Ratner stopped building the Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street) midway to renegotiate with the unions.

What kind of pressure?

Well, Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building Building and Construction Trades Council, said, in a statement, "We are in the process of attempting to reach an agreement on modular construction that will work for the building trades and Forest City in an effort to create permanent employment opportunities for our members,"

Is Ratner definitely building modular?

Not at all. "We intend to do it modular," he told the Wall Street Journal, but said the decision isn't final. Indeed, you have to watch his language. In November 2009, after the state eminent domain decision, Ratner said they had the "intent" to move the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn for the 2011-12 season.

Didn't the permit application describe a non-modular process?


Did any press outlet mention that?

Not yet.


Does this announcement represent an about-face by Ratner? The Daily News said "project opponents saw another about-face by the developer." The Times quoted Council Member James, "who denounced what she described as the growing distance between the promise and the reality of Atlantic Yards."

It's another example of journalists pitting Ratner against "opponents" and maintaining what Jay Rosen calls the "View from Nowhere," the false middle, the inability to do any analysis. Actually, Bruce Ratner said it himself, that "existing incentives" don't work for high-rise, union-built affordable housing.

He said that?

Yup. Of course, he proposed--and the state approved--high-rise, union-built affordable housing.

Does that mean all the promises about Atlantic Yards residential rental towers, and the approval of those promises, were bogus?

Uh, yeah.


Related converage...

The L Magazine, Yup, It's a Prefab High-Rise for Atlantic Yards

Fort Greene - Clinton Hill Patch, Design Revealed for Atlantic Yards' Pre-Fab Tower

International Business Times, Forest City Ratner, SHoP Unveil Atlantic Yards Tower [PHOTOS]

Gothamist, Sorry, Brooklyn: This Is What Atlantic Yards Is Supposed To Look LIke

WNYC, Atlantic Yards Tower Design Revealed

The Wall Street Journal, Ratner Goes 'Modular' in Brooklyn

Daily News, Apartment tower at Atlantic Yards will be built in a factory

The Brooklyn Paper, Unions, aesthetes dunked as Ratner plans pre-fab building at Yards

New York Post. Atlantic Yards building with ‘Legos’

Curbed, Here's a Glimpse at the World's Tallest Prefab Condo Tower

Smart Planet, NYC SHoP Architects take modular construction to new heights

Crain's New York, Bruce Ratner’s breakthrough

NY1, Plans For Atlantic Yards Modular Tower Unveiled

Media Bistro, Details Released for ShoP’s Atlantic Yards Residential Buildings, Will Include World’s Tallest Modular Tower

Posted by steve at 6:52 PM

November 17, 2011

The "Modern Blueprint" and the Triumph of Marketing over Memory

In an alternate universe, a Brooklyn newspaper columnist could have filed this dispatch yesterday.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder imagines a world in which news outlets actually out a little effort into their reporting.

The "Modern Blueprint" and the Triumph of Marketing over Memory

The walk is little more than a mile, but on Tuesday it connected two very different worlds. At lunch hour outside Brooklyn's Borough Hall, there stood a snazzy new trailer, complete with blinking video screens, that was dubbed, in overweening form, "The Experience." A vehicle in service to commerce.

The goal: to sell tickets and suites to the opening season, beginning next year, for the Brooklyn Nets in the new Barclays Center.

Fans and downtown office workers/visitors lined up to shoot baskets, egged on by an animated announcer and DJ, hoping to win a free t-shirt. The Nets Dancers, well-toned lasses in bodysuits, clapped appreciatively. Brisk young men, trim and energetic, hawked season tickets.

One inquiring Brooklynite, hearing the tab was some $4500, shook her head in disbelief, only to be reassured that less expensive seats would someday be available. Others, the ones chosen for quotes by the Nets' fake news service, were more enthusiastic.

At 2 pm, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the wind-up doll of Atlantic Yards support, emerged from his office. He joked about being too short to play basketball among the celebrated hoopsters at Wingate High School.

“Everything we’ve seen about the team has shown it’s a ‘Net positive’ for Brooklyn,” Markowitz said, in words dutifully captured by the Nets' scribe. “It’s something you have to experience for yourself, and – thanks to the EXPERIENCE – now we can.”

About a mile away, there was a less scripted, less corporate event, one that did not lure the reporters from the city's three dailies who were watching Markowitz.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

November 15, 2011

Brutally weird: Times covers lawsuit against BUILD/FCR amid longer article about promotional event for the Nets

Atlantic Yards Report

So, former supporters and construction trainees of Atlantic Yards Community Development Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development) held a press conference today to say, basically, we were robbed (because promised union memberships and project jobs didn't pan out, leading to a lawsuit), and how does the New York Times cover it?

In the 11th paragraph of a 19-paragraph CityRoom post headlined Nets Hold a Rally Amid a Lockout and an Uncertain Season.

My comment (not yet posted):

The framing of the lawsuit--as a subordinate item amid coverage of a far less meaningful promotional event involving the Nets--disserves readers. It deserves its own article, and the juxtaposition is awkward.

Though Caldwell said trainees had signed a waiver of payment, at the press conference--not attended by the Times--a lawyer for the plaintiffs said that such a waiver was unenforceable, and that the workers had to be paid.

As for DePlasco's numbers--that "19 of the trainees found jobs in property management, retail or construction related positions"--the issue is: how many got the union jobs that the plaintiffs said were explicitly promised? (Some are working at McDonald's and Planet Fitness. Only one is working at Atlantic Yards.)

One of the reasons we didn't learn these statistics earlier relates to another issue raised in the lawsuit: Forest City Ratner's failure to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement.


Posted by eric at 11:14 PM

November 13, 2011

Journalism or advertising? Daily News promotes next Nets promotional event for new mobile marketing tool, claims "luxury suites are already half-gone"

Atlantic Yards Report

There's another piece of journalism-as-advertising in today's New York Daily News, headlined NBA lockout aside, Nets working hard to sell New York on next season's team, Barclays Center & Brooklyn.

What's the mark of success? "About 50% of their 100 suites — average price $250,000 — are already sold," declares the Daily News. The headline deck states "luxury suites are already half-gone."

Except that was the approximate number in July, too.

More puffery

The other piece of news? A preview of a media event:

On Tuesday, the Nets roll out their latest fan-friendly attraction: “The Experience,” a state-of-the-art, interactive, souped-up and hooped-up mobile marketing tool.

The 40-foot-long trailer, with hardwood floors inside and a rooftop deejay booth, offers fans everything from a touch of Nets history to a chance to buy gear to an opportunity to fire jumpers at a regulation-height hoop.

Music pumps from speakers up high, while the trailer’s back end is set up to serve food and drinks to fans — just around the corner from an electronic scoreboard.

...Nets General Manager Billy King and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will unveil “The Experience” on the plaza outside Borough Hall.

How often has the Daily News covered, say, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's dishonest shilling for Forest City Ratner's effort to recruit Chinese immigrant investors seeking green cards? Never.


Posted by steve at 10:49 PM

November 7, 2011

Journalism or advertising? Inaccurate NY1 piece posits that "Barclays Suite Showroom Has Robust Sales"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on a ridiculously hollow bit of "news."

Let's take a closer look at the 11/3/11 NY 1 item headlined Barclays Suite Showroom Has Robust Sales.

Despite the headlined, there's no evidence in the piece that the sales are robust. We learn that "The Nets sales group says it has sold half of the available suites since they went on the market in March."

That's not true. Actually, suites went on sale three years earlier, in 2008. They had sold some 26 suites--about one quarter of the current total--by May 2008.

By July of this year, they had sold "close to half" of the 100 suites, according to Crain's. So in three years they went from one-quarter to about one-half. That's not so robust.

Journalism or advertising?

The rest of the piece is an advertisement, letting us know the strategy of those promoting the arena....


NoLandGrab: Honestly, Barclays Center suite sales have so far been more bust than robust.

Related content...

NY1, Barclays Suite Showroom Has Robust Sales

Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

November 6, 2011

The Civilians turned ULURP into a song. Now ProPublica tunes up redistricting and hyrdrofracking.

Atlantic Yards Report

So, remember when The Civilians, for their musical play In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards, produced a song about ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) to help explain the difference between city and state oversight?

They were ahead of their time. (So much for the Brooklyn Paper's scorn.)

Turns out that Pro Publica, the nonprofit public interest journalism organization, has begun to produce catchy song videos to help audiences ease into complicated topics like redistricting and hydrofracking. Examples below.

Click through and give a listen.


Posted by steve at 5:14 PM

November 3, 2011

Paper of Record?

Battle for Brooklyn

We're sure the business relationship between The New York Times and Forest City Ratner Companies has nothing to do with this. Right? Surely, it's just a coincidence. Right?

About a month ago we screened our film “Battle for Brooklyn” in Bellingham Washington. After the film I mentioned to people that they could support the film by writing reviews on the NY Times readers review section. At that point we had 12 powerfully positive reviews and a five star rating (based on 84 votes). A couple of days later I checked to see if anyone had written a review. There was a new review, but the site now said that the film had 29 ratings and a 1 star. Obviously something was wrong.

I contacted a friend at the NY Times to see if he could help. He got the run around for a few days, but was finally told that it was a data issue. Apparently, when they ported the data from one place to another it went cockeyed. At this point I wrote to the film editor, who had been contacted by my friend about the problem. I asked, if they couldn’t fix the data right away, that they make a note on the page to let people know that the data was inaccurate. I was told it was “out of their hands.” Apparently its a “product development” issue.

I understand that data problems happen. However, once the data is published, it becomes an editorial problem. In the age of crowd sourced information, where does responsibility for erroneous information lie?

After three weeks of waiting for the problem to be fixed, I finally contacted the public editor. I was told that they would look into it. That was one week ago.


NoLandGrab: As Atlantic Yard Report's Norman Oder has often pointed out, given the business relationship between FCRC and The Times (the former developed the latter's headquarters building a few years ago), the paper should be exacting in its coverage. Yet today, nearly eight years after the Atlantic Yards project was announced, they were still erroneously locating it in Downtown Brooklyn. More like the Paper of Wreckord.

Posted by eric at 11:43 PM

Easton, Postrel Win Bastiat Prize

Future of Capitali$m
by Ira Stoll

Atlantic Yards is winning awards! Sort of.

Tom Easton of the Economist and Virginia Postrel of Bloomberg split the $50,000 award for the Bastiat Prize for Journalism, which was awarded Wednesday night at a dinner in New York.

Damon Root, an editor at Reason magazine, won the $10,000 Hoiles Prize, in part for a piece on the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn headlined The Great Basketball Swindle.


Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

November 2, 2011

Compressing the story, and getting it wrong: the Real Deal on Ratner's Atlantic Yards comeback (and was FCR spokesman accurate in saying first building will start this year?)

Atlantic Yards Report

From an 11/1/11 article in the Real Deal headlined Climbing back to the top: A look at some of real estate's most impressive comebacks:

Indeed, just when Atlantic Yards -- the 22-acre combination housing development/basketball stadium -- seemed dead, developer Bruce Ratner got the project back on track, partly by dropping starchitect Frank Gehry's pricey design for a more prosaic one from SHoP Architects. Ratner, who runs Forest City Ratner Enterprises, also eliminated much of the previously planned housing from the site, won some key lawsuits and even paid his chief antagonist, Daniel Goldstein, founder of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, $3 million to relocate.

Much of the opposition was directed at plans to use eminent domain to remove homes and businesses that stood in the way of the project.

Critics might not be mollified by the changes at the project, which broke ground last year. To wit: The arena, promised as a model of urban integration, will be flanked by several parking lots, and might not look that much different from any suburban basketball arena. Still, it will have at least three apartment buildings, according to Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco. He said construction on one of those building will begin this year. And, he said, the arena is on track to open in time for the 2012 NBA season.

Probably the most interesting statement here is DePlasco's claim that construction on one of the buildings will begin this year, especially since Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams said September 26 that groundbreaking will be in the first quarter of 2012.

Compressing the story, and getting it wrong

But it's also interesting to see how the story gets compressed.


Related content...

The Real Deal, Climbing back to the top: A look at some of real estate's most impressive comebacks

It was on, then it was off, and now the new Nets basketball arena is on again -- albeit in a severely truncated form. Brooklyn residents have been buzzing about the fact that, after years of protracted legal battles, the arena is now quickly taking form at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

October 30, 2011

What's the press for? "To hold those in power accountable." But a lack of attention or sustained coverage diminishes accountability.

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Brooklyn Book Festival Sunday, September 18, I attended a panel featuring three journalists, all Pulitzer Prize winners.

One, Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica ("an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest"), observed, "The primary function of the press is to hold those in power accountable."

That's a justification for First Amendment protections, but that doesn't mean the press consistently recognizes that watchdog role.

That issues arises in the book Bad News: How America's Business Press Missed the Story of the Century, about the failure to anticipate the financial crisis, despite significant evidence that it was looming.

And yes, there are some observations that apply to Atlantic Yards.

The impact of under-coverage

In an essay titled "Missing the Moment," Ryan Chittum, who writes about the business press for Columbia Journalism Review, observed:

It's easy to find perfectly fine stories than demonstrably wrong ones, especially in the top tier of the financial press. But the hardest part of journalism is the picking of priorities. A news organization can only cover so much. What was left out or under-covered is as much a part of the story of how the press performed as what made the papers.

What about Atlantic Yards: Did the New York Times cover the oversight hearing led by state Senator Bill Perkins? The failure to conduct a market study regarding blight? The delays in the release of the Development Agreement? Even Forest City Ratner's role in Marty Markowitz's fundraising?


Posted by steve at 11:16 PM

October 25, 2011

New New York Times architecture critic expresses concerns for urbanism, not just in "buildings as sculptures" (and what will he say about the arena?)

Atlantic Yards Report

After Herbert Muschamp and Nicolai Ouroussoff, known for their admiration of starchitects and especially Frank Gehry, the New York Times named Michael Kimmelman as architecture critic. And, though some questioned his background as an art and culture critic, Kimmelman has delivered, at least in his initial reviews, far more context than his predecessors.

So, will Kimmelman visit the Barclays Center next year and only assess the sightlines from upper bowl seats, the view of the scoreboard from Flatbush Avenue, the weathered steel panels, the plethora of branding, and the curious oculus?

Or will he see the impact of a parking lot one long block on a residential neighborhood, the effect on pedestrians of narrowed sidewalks, and the impact of a zoning override allowing an arena to face residential neighbors across narrow Dean Street?

Will he point out that the oculus exists because the much-touted Urban Room does not, and the Urban Room was supposed to be part of a tower that remains unbuilt? And that that tower was vital to the state and city's optimistic-to-the-point-of-irresponsible economic projections?


Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

October 23, 2011

Oddly, New York Times Movies page now has Battle for Brooklyn at 1.5 stars. But all the written reviews are positive.

Atlantic Yards Report

How could it be that the Atlantic Yards documentary Battle for Brooklyn, which got 14 unanimously positive written reader reviews on the New York Times movies page, end up with a 1.5 rating (up to 5) from with 35 votes, as indicated in the document posted at bottom?

It doesn't make sense to me, nor to the filmmakers, who tweeted about it on October 11, generating an acknowledgement of a yet-uncorrected computer glitch.


Something's wrong with the Times's system. Of the 14 written reviews, all (including mine) of which originally had four- and five-star ratings, only two now have star ratings associated with them.

In other words, the system stripped out those positive votes. That allows the aggregate weight of votes not associated with written reviews to take precedence. And votes not associated with written reviews don't deserve more weight, as they require less thought.

According to the film's Facebook page, the Times acknowledged an error with the data, but has not yet fixed the problem.

As with news coverage of Atlantic Yards, I'll repeat my formulation: because of the parent company's business relationship with project developer Forest City Ratner, the Times has an obligation to be exacting in its coverage of Atlantic Yards, and it has not met that obligation. Battle for Brooklyn - Reader Reviews - NYTimes


Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

October 22, 2011

Another book imagines that Walter O'Malley sought a spot "in the Atlantic Yards"

Atlantic Yards Report

As shown at right, in A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace, baseball great Ralph Branca (with his co-author) imagines that there was a place, in the 1950s, called "Atlantic Yards."

There wasn't. And it wasn't where Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build, either.

Nor will the Barclays Center cost $4 billion. That was once the tab for the entire Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by steve at 3:36 PM

October 12, 2011

Atlantic Yards Media Actors

Urban Media Archeology

Before I get into the project proposal, if you know anyone who has participated in the Atlantic Yards dialogue (attended community meetings, made art about it, whatever) please get in touch! The more possible map points the better. coopd033@newschool


I propose to map the media actors who cover and have covered the development of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. My research will span from 2003, when the Newark Star-Ledger first reported Bruce Ranter’s plan to purchase the New Jersey Nets and move them to a new development in Brooklyn, to present, about one year from the completion of Atlantic Yards’ symbolic focus, Barclays Center. Relevant map points would include, where applicable to individual actors: the actor’s home residence, work site, places of convergence with other actors (meeting sites, sites of press conferences, locations of land being constructed/demolished/affected, etc.) interpreted within the context of media and communication.

As a start, some actors I’d include would be: bloggers like Norman Oder (Atlantic Yards Report), Steve and Lumi (No Land Grab), contributors to Atlantic Yards Watch (which is backed by civic organization BrooklynSpeaks), Aaron Naparstek (The Naparstek Post), Jonathan (Brooklyn Views, now dormant) and The Footprint Gazette (now dormant); the 52 members of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn advisory board; photographers Tracy Collins, Adrian Kinloch, Jonathan Barkey and artist Peter Krashes; filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky (Battle for Brooklyn) and Isabel Hill (Brooklyn Matters); the owner/curator of Flickr’s Atlantic Yards Webcam; The Civilians’ theater performance of “In The Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.” Moving out from individual actors, I’ll map the meeting places of relevant institutions and committees, such as the Empire State Development, Forest City Ratner, the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and sites of community hearings, protests and other discussion forums. Certainly the Manhattan home of The New York Times tells a story, a property partially owned (42%), managed and developed by Atlantic Yards’ developer Forest City Ratner. The Atlantic Yards project was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons (S20E08)—does that have a ‘place’?

For the URT project, I’ll map important sites of Atlantic Yards media actors, with supporting materials they’ve put forth into the Atlantic Yards media network. The photographer Tracy Collins lives here, for example, just three blocks from the construction site (hypothetically), and her studio is over here, and here’s a few of her photos, placed in the locations they were shot.


NoLandGrab: Steve and Lumi? Map THIS, blog boy.

Seriously, we'd be happy to help, and we'll start by pointing out that Tracy Collins is a dude.

Posted by eric at 5:09 PM

October 7, 2011

NetsDaily: happy to have anonymous readers sling nastiness at Goldstein, but no opportunity to weigh in on Yormark's controversy (updated with change)

Atlantic Yards Report

NutsDaily is at it again.

The website NetsDaily, popular with team fans, team brass, and some sportswriters, earlier this year was questioned by a reader for including the seemingly tangential news that Nets Board of Directors Chairman Christophe Charlier was sending singer (and prep school classmate) John Forte on a Russian tour, helping him rebuild his life after prison.

"read the banner…most comprehensive," wrote the main contributor to the site, who goes by the name Net Income, pointing the commenter to the banner: "The most comprehensive source for news about the New Jersey Nets."

NetIncome was eager to link earlier this week to an unflattering and thinly-reported article in the Daily News about Atlantic Yards foe Daniel Goldstein, but not, of course, to any of the follow-ups that cast doubt on the original story.

NetIncome has claimed "I have won Four Edward R. Murrow awards in my professional life so I have some credibility." Thing is, he's done so while using his name. The blog pseudonym lets him avoid responsibility.


NoLandGrab: Only four? He's more deserving of a bunch of these.

Related content...

Bergen Record, Lawsuit against Nets exec thrown out

Looks like Yormarketing Genius has raised his game to a new level.

A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought against Nets CEO Brett Yormark by an ex-girlfriend who alleged that he fraudulently induced her to have an abortion.

Reyna Purcell of Upper Saddle River said in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that she became pregnant shortly after she started dating Yormark in October 2010.

Purcell said that she wanted to have a child, but that Yormark told her he would end the relationship if she gave birth. She also alleged that Yormark promised to stay in a relationship if she got an abortion.

Purcell, 34, got an abortion in February, but “shortly thereafter [Yormark] immediately terminated the relationship with the plaintiff and has never spoken to her again,” the lawsuit alleged.

NoLandGrab: We feel awful for Ms. Purcell, but really, she's probably the only person surprised at the way her relationship with Yormark played out.

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Brooklyn Paper Blocks Links Re City Rules NOT Requiring That Hi-Decibel Late Night Construction On The Ratner/Prokhorov Arena Be Done At Night

Noticing New York

In an Atlantic Yards Report story we read that the Brooklyn Paper today published an article headlined "Noises on! Barclays Center construction now 24-7-365" that contains the following language, “City rules require that the work be done at night, when traffic is lightest,” leading the reader to infer that city rules are requiring that ALL of the work now being done at night during the now 24/7 schedule must be done at night. That’s not so.

What was more startling however, was reading in the Atlantic Yards Report story that when Atlantic Yards Report’s Norman Oder twice tried to provide corrective comments to the article via the Brooklyn Paper’s “Reader Feedback” feature, his corrections were blocked. (See: Thursday, October 06, 2011, Brooklyn Paper covers after-hours construction but suggests that all of it is required to be done at night. Not so.)

Into the breach we went with a Noticing New York test of the Brooklyn Paper’s correction- censoring block. Here is our comment and our diagnostic of the situation.


Posted by eric at 11:49 AM

October 2, 2011

Daily News claims Goldstein "disses neighbors" by pursuing as-of-right renovation/addition

Atlantic Yards Report

The Daily News article today hyped as an "exclusive," Daniel Goldstein fought the Atlantic Yards project, but disses neighbors with his own construction, reminds me of the tabloid reporter described in The Submission, Amy Waldman's new 9/11 novel:

A tabby all the way--that's what she was. She had no ideology, believed only in information, which she obtained, traded, peddled, packaged, and published, and she opposed any effort to doctor her product.

So Goldstein, a co-founder of Develop Don't Dstroy Brooklyn, bought a new house in Park Slope and planned a renovation and addition. His neighbors don't like it, according to the Daily News:

Next-door neighbor Kathryn Roake, 59, says Goldstein's 18-foot, three-story addition to the back of his building will block the light to her beloved fruit and vegetable garden.

She and another neighbor also think that construction will damage their houses.

What's missing

Here's what's missing from the article: whether Goldstein's plans violate zoning in some way, or whether he's requested a variance from the Department of Buildings.

No, and no.

Nor was any evidence offered showing that the addition would, in fact, block the sun, despite the Daily News's conclusory caption:


So the Daily News elevated a garden-variety dispute into a tabloid story.


Related coverage...

Daily News, Neighbors fuming as anti-Atlantic Yards activist Daniel Goldstein plans large addition to new home
By Erin Durkin

The Brooklyn activist who led the resistance to the Atlantic Yards project has angered his new neighbors with a construction project of his own.

Daniel Goldstein, whose Prospect Heights condo was seized by eminent domain to make way for the new Nets arena and 16-tower project, bought a new home in Park Slope earlier this year - and neighbors are seething over his plans to build an addition.

Posted by steve at 10:42 PM

Auditions for Nets' announce spot generates coverage in four news outlets; ESD chief's performance ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post assigned two reporters for a 10/1/11 article headlined Nets’ loudmouths: Wacky tryouts for PA gig. Two Daily News reporters were responsible for Talking their way in: Hundreds seek job as new voice of the Brooklyn Nets.

Radio station WNYC offered a slideshow and NY1 produced a report.

It's a lot easier to report a cute feature like this than to try to keep tabs on the government agency responsible for Atlantic Yards. None of the outlets covered the meeting in Brooklyn last Monday in which Kenneth Adams, CEO of Empire State Development, defended the project and deflected questions.


Posted by steve at 10:39 PM

September 30, 2011

"Jay-Z Rocks the House"? Brooklyn Paper stays sunny side up

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper, ever eager to boost Atlantic Yards, this week informs us that "JAY-Z ROCKS THE HOUSE."

Well, maybe he will when he plays the Barlcays Center next year, but his promotional presentation on 9/26/11 lasted less than two minutes, and was, in the words of a Times hoops writer, "brief and anticlimactic."

I called it "an anticlimax for news," too.

Of course the Brooklyn Paper didn't bother to report on the curious statements made by developer Bruce Ratner or Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Or the meeting Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams had that same night with Brooklyn elected officials.

Or the glaring discrepancy between the rules that trucks at the Atlantic Yards site are supposed to follow and their actual performance.


Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

September 26, 2011

Bread and Circuses

Battle for Brooklyn

Filmmaker Michael Galinsky has a must-read post on the Battle for Brooklyn web site that juxtaposes the manufactured media nonsense of today's "Brooklyn Nets" announcement with the relative lack of coverage of the provocative, aggressive and violent tactics being used by the NYPD against protesters on Wall Street. It's powerful stuff, and we can't really do justice to it with an excerpt, so we'll just bring you the comic-diversion portion.

Click thru to read it all.

Today I went down to a tent on the plaza of the Atlantic Center mall to see Jay Z make a “surprise” announcement that he will do 8 shows at the arena and that the team will be called the Brooklyn Nets. It was a total bread and circus moment. While there are hundreds of people protesting on Wall Street there were hundreds of press people at this press event dutifully reporting the dominant narrative that they were led to. When I pointed this out to press people they didn’t see the irony.

When I first arrived (at the wrong location) I saw Marty Markowitz talking to an ABC news reporter.

I offered Marty a copy of the film. He refused to take it and told me that it was propaganda. I explained that I made the film and asked if he had seen it. “No, but I have had plenty of people tell me that it’s propaganda.” I told him that I took offense at that notion as I had taken great pains to make it even handed. I asked him again if he was sure that he didn’t want a copy. He did not. I didn’t film this exchange because I had no ill intent. I sincerely wanted him to have a chance to view the film. I offered one to the reporter as I had filmed him at the ground breaking. He didn’t want one either. Then Marty yelled at me that they didn’t have to take one.


Posted by eric at 3:11 PM

September 22, 2011

Adding context to coverage of the MSG renovation; will that come with Barclays coverage too?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times Dining section article yesterday on the upgrade in food offerings at Madison Square Garden, headlined At Madison Square Garden, it’s Hey, Getcher Lobster Roll, contained this piece of welcome context:

The Garden is being renovated without state or city subsidies, although it will continue to benefit from its longtime property tax exemption. To pay for the work, the Garden has said that the cost of Knicks season tickets will jump an average 49 percent, and Rangers seats will go up by 23 percent. Twenty new courtside-access suites (fitted with bathrooms and fireplaces) have a yearly rental fee of about $1 million each; all are spoken for. Their food spectrum will be drawn from Mr. Vongerichten’s suite menu and the other upscale concessionaires.

Will the future coverage of the Barclays Center, describing all the ways the Nets are trying to play to the public, mention the subsidies, tax breaks, naming rights and luxury suites behind the new building?


NoLandGrab: Yes! All Dining Section coverage of the Barclays Center is sure to add that context.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

In China, the Times points out, a state agency has a built-in conflict; in Brooklyn, a not dissimilar conflict gets a pass

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article yesterday headlined Anger and Suspicion as Survivors Await Chinese Crash Report, about a rail crash involving a high-speed train that killed 40 people and injured 191, described the delay in releasing an official investigation.

The China Railways Ministry, the Times pointed out, has two million workers and has significant power:

It owns the railways it regulates, a built-in conflict that critics say encourages corruption, endangers safety in the name of profit and hinders accountability. Its safety data are not publicly released. It runs its own court system and, until recently, its own police force.

A built-in conflict? What about the conflict involving a state agency that partners with developer Forest City Ratner on the Atlantic Yards project and also oversees that project?


NoLandGrab: Easy answer — the China Railways Ministry is not the development partner of The New York Times.

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

September 20, 2011

"Nets bring new playground to Canarsie school"? Actually, they paid 1/8 of the cost, but neither NY Post nor NY1 notice

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not enough that Bruce Ratner is "quietly" helping a blind teenage Sudanese ex-slave. Now he's leveraging taxpayer funds 7-to-1 to "bring" us playgrounds, too!

What if more reporters receiving press releases had taken "antimanipulation" in school?

We wouldn't get headlines like this, from the New York Post's Brooklyn blog yesterday.

Or like this, from NY1:

What did the Nets bring?

Though the Nets played a part, they didn't "bring" the playground. They paid only 1/8 of the cost.

Of course, those reading the vague Nets press release would have had to ask about the role of the Barclays Nets Community Alliance in the "refurbished playground it has funded at P.S. 276 in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn."

(Emphasis added)

Click through to read the God's honest truth press release.


Related nonsense...

The Brooklyn Blog [], Nets bring new playground to Canarsie school

NY1, Nets Score Big With New School Playgrounds

Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

September 17, 2011

A Ratner obituary (reprinted from 50 years ago) in the Times

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday's New York Times featured the advertisement below. It appeared on the page opposite the page containing obituaries. That also meant it was on the page of the Sports section that included the section's sole article about pro basketball.

"Well-Known Cleveland Philanthropist" Harry Ratner, of course, was the father of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.


Posted by steve at 7:02 PM

What Would Jane Jacobs Say?


This week, Modern Library is publishing a silver anniversary re-issue of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” complete with a new introduction of Jason Epstein, the book’s original editor. To honor the occasion, MetroFocus looked at some of the contemporary local players in the world of urban planning through the lens of the late Jane Jacobs:


Daniel Goldstein, resident and activist in Brooklyn

Goldstein fought to stop the construction of the Atlantic Yards project, the largest redevelopment plan in recent New York history. The project was a perfect storm of private sector might and political will. In 2003, developer Forest City Ratner announced his plan to buy the Nets, move the team to Brooklyn and build a $2.5 billion development in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn.

On the Jane Jacobs’ scale: The similarities between Jacobs and Goldstein are easy to spot, though he does not share her taste in large black spectacles and bangs. Goldstein rallied his neighbors against a powerful developer that used eminent domain to seize private property, staged protests and kept a detailed blog about the Atlantic Yards Project. Similarly, Jacobs led a grassroots campaign in the early ’60s to nix Robert Moses’ plan to build a highway that cut through Lower Manhattan. However, in her case, the battle was won. Goldstein’s story is chronicled in “The Battle for Brooklyn,” a new documentary by Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky.


Posted by steve at 6:50 PM

September 11, 2011

Do sports heal? Fans split on "a lot" vs. "a little" (so what do civilians say?)

Atlantic Yards Report

As part of a package of 9/11 coverage, in Do sports heal?, ESPN the Magazine polled readers--by definition, fairly intense sports fans--and found, as the graphic below indicates, a plurality said sports helped a lot, another significant chunk said sports helped a bit, and nearly one-fifth said it made no difference.

I suspect that civilians less interested in sports expect lesser healing. I'd also bet that respondents to ESPN skew male and younger rather than female and older.

This blog entry goes on to quote several comments made for the online version of ESPN the Magazine Online and then points out a summary of the different opinions.

On reading the above, it strikes me that the two camps aren't that far apart. There are those who believe that sports serve as distraction to help with healing. And there are those who believe that sports serve as distraction to simply provide a time out in the healing process.

Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, in today's The sports world offered a needed break in the days after 9/11 tragedy, encapsulated those two camps:

We talked a lot in those first days 10 years ago about what sports could do and what it couldn't and how it might help us feel just a little bit better about things. We would see during the World Series how true that was, when we would try to escape the horror of downtown Manhattan with uptown baseball in the Bronx that will never be forgotten.

Tino's home run. Brosius' home run. Derek Jeter becoming Mr. November one night after midnight. It is impossible to believe that the old place was ever louder than it was on those nights and in those moments, when sports wasn't an escape so much as it was a way for us to trick ourselves into believing that the world was the way it had been on Sept. 10. And Sept. 9. And Sept. 8.

...Sports mattered as much as it ever had in those days and not one bit more than it should have.


Posted by steve at 9:46 PM

The New York Times Takes an Editorial Position on the Subject of Encouraging Competition and It’s Inconsistent With Its Position on Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Here's an item from the past week.

Last week the New York Times ran an editorial premised on the widely held assumption that a competitive market is good and should therefore be fostered by government. The editorial endorsed the Justice Department’s opposition, with a antitrust lawsuit it just filed to block “AT&T’s $39 billion attempt to buy the nation’s fourth-largest carrier, T-Mobile.” See: Protecting Innovation and Competition, September 1, 2011.

The Times provided a bromidic analysis of why the government action supporting competition is desirable:

The merger poses a clear anticompetitive threat. Not only would it give AT&T more than 40 percent of the market, it would take out a scrappy and innovative rival that competed profitably by offering cheaper service plans and took risks others would not.

But providing lip service to bromides is not the same as intellectual analysis or the deeper thinking necessary to achieve a consistent or intellectually honest world view. At the same time that the Times is spouting off about the presumed benefit of economic competition it has supported the quashing of competition for Forest City Ratner, the real estate developer and governmental subsidy collector with which it partnered to create its new Times headquarters.


Posted by steve at 9:42 PM

September 10, 2011

Before deciding to move (with subsidies) to One World Trade Center, Condé Nast apparently considered Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In One World Trade Center: Making the Freedom Tower safe for Condé Nast., part of New York Magazine's special 9/11 Encyclopedia issue, there's a curious mention of... Atlantic Yards:

Around the time the Port Authority gained control of the building in 2006, Condé Nast executives began to discuss the future of their magazine empire. Condé’s lease at 4 Times Square was set to expire in 2019, and its broker, Mary Ann Tighe of CB Richard Ellis, worked with [Chairman Si] Newhouse to develop options...

For its role in remaking Times Square, Condé Nast had been rewarded with tax breaks, giving it an annual rent of about $40 per square foot. In looking for a similar deal, ­Newhouse’s team even pushed into outer boroughs, touring Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, addresses in Long Island City, and locations along the Jersey City waterfront. One morning in the fall of 2009, [Port Authority Executive Director Christopher] Ward got the call he’d been waiting for: Si ­Newhouse told him he wanted to tour ground zero. Months later, outlines of a deal emerged.

It's hard to imagine that Condé Nast would have left Manhattan--after all, don't some of their biggest magazines rely on close relationships with the fashion industry?

Note that broker Tighe has a longtime relationship with Forest City Ratner and bought a piece of the Nets (though I'm not sure she still has it). So either she was just doing Bruce Ratner a courtesy or someone thought the AY office space--with extra subsidies?--could have been spectacularly affordable.


Posted by steve at 7:41 PM

August 25, 2011

A tale of two Brooklyn Paper front pages

Atlantic Yards Report

What was once known as TimesRatnerReport might now be better known as BrooklynPaperReport. Norman Oder highlights some of the latter's recent fumbles in its Atlantic Yards coverage.


Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

August 22, 2011

Heritage of "Journalistic Enterprise and Courage" Duly Noted: The Modern Day New York Times Meets and Likes Its Boss Tweeds

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White with a spot-on essay about The Times — boy, have they a-changed.

(Above, an 1872 Harper’s Weekly drawing by Thomas Nast of Tammany Hall Boss Tweed and Horace Greeley influential publisher of the New York Tribune, modified somewhat with the modern faces of Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. and real estate partner and developer Bruce Ratner.)

A few days ago the New York Times complimented itself on its editorial page for the paper’s historic “journalistic enterprise and courage” in covering and eventually bringing to an end the corruption of Tammany Boss William M. Tweed. (Editorial: The Man Who Helped Stop Boss Tweed, August 17, 2011.)

The Times concludes in good parable style by teasing out the following moral:

Today’s media landscape is obviously very different. But some things are unchanged. Scoops are still exciting; even more rewarding is helping to ensure civic honesty.

One might infer from all of this that the Times is promoting itself as still interested in scoops and the rewards of ensuring “civic honesty.”

Only one problem: Yes, no doubts some things are “obviously very different” (while human nature being what it is “some things are unchanged”) but the closest analogue to the Tweed Court House scandal of the 1870s in present day New York City is clearly the Atlantic Yards scandal, and when it comes to Atlantic Yards the Times is interested in neither scoops nor the rewards of ensuring “civic honesty.”

In fact, it is far worse. The Times editorial about its exemplary handling of the Tweed scandal makes the point that “Tweed forces” tried to buy off the paper, offering “$5 million — equivalent to $100 million today” to “George Jones, this newspaper’s founding publisher” to back off and refrain from publishing its scoop. In 1871 the Times didn’t accept the offer, but in this century the Times was offered an integrity-compromising deal it did accept: The Times got to benefit financially from the questionable use of eminent domain (many would shout "abuse") and from partnering with Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, when the Times built its new headquarters building. Since that time the Times has not been critical of, or informative about, the abuse of eminent domain or about Forest City Ratner misconduct. They have also not been informative or critical about the bad urban planning that the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-project and the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" basketball arena represent.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

August 21, 2011

Battle For Brooklyn Movie Review

By Brent Simon

This reviewer recommends that his readers see the documentary "Battle For Brooklyn" because, even though the film exposes some unpleasantness, "it can sometimes be bracing, in a good way, to be confronted by the ugliness of reality on its own terms, in broad daylight."

A powerful movie about an important and little-reflected-upon topic, “Battle For Brooklyn” is a telling snapshot of (offscreen) political maneuvering, and the tossed-around wrecking-ball weight of corporate might as it relates to individual rights. Americans would be wise to heed movies like this one, because when politicians talk about corporations being people or citizens, they’re certainly not referring to equal-footing status. More money, after all, just equals more “free speech,” and more “rights.”


Posted by steve at 3:20 PM

August 20, 2011

Interviews with "Battle for Brooklyn" Documentarians

Here are further insights in the documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" from the team that made it.

LA Weekly, Film Battle For Brooklyn: Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's Documentary Has Echoes in L.A.'s Football Stadium Controversy
By Sarah LaBrie

Galinsky says his focus on the human aspects of the project was a calculated attempt to "retake the narrative for the community." He hopes to present information to the public in a way that newspapers, hampered by the economy, no longer can. "No publications have the resources to deal with complex issues. The developer sends out a press release. The opposition -- when it finally forms sends out a press release -- and they treat them as equals."

Ultimately, he says, he wants to force people to think more deeply about what they read. He hopes Battle for Brooklyn will raise awareness of the downsides of development and the danger of eminent domain abuse, which allowed Ratner to build in Prospect Heights without community input. Although the L.A. stadium project doesn't involve eminent domain, he says, it does stand to pose environmental and economic risks to residents of downtown Los Angeles. By publicizing the project as a source of revenue for the city and for tax payers, Phil Anschutz and his company are being purposely disingenuous.

indieWIRE, INTERVIEW | Michael Galinsky Takes the “Battle for Brooklyn” Across the Country"
by Bryce J. Renninger

When crafting this film, how did you know what story you wanted to tell?

We were concerned with not making a film that felt like an activist film, but we were following activist in a verite way. We decided this film was about [Dan Goldstein] when we realized he was the one guy who was not gonna sell out. Dan was gonna lose his home and his whole way of living in the world. This is a large community fight, but we decided to tell it through one character. Earlier, we loaded the film up with other subjects and it got really boring.

How has the response been with all those involved?

We took pains not to involve ourselves in the fight. In a way, the film is about eminent domain, about kleptocracy in government and special interests working together to do things that benefit themselves. Errol Louis, who wrote about the Atlantic Yards project glowingly in the Daily News, thought the film was fair, which we were worried about. The people who know the situation well think we went easy on the government and the developers. We had a lot more about the corruption, but it became so overwhelming to people. It depressed them too much. The film, as it stands, really paints the government and the developer in a negative light. They colluded together. We were a little nervous. It didn’t represent everyone in the fight against Atlantic Yards, and it wasn’t a pedantic strident story of their fight, but they’ve really gotten behind it.

Posted by steve at 3:43 PM

More Los Angeles Notices for "Battle for Brooklyn"

In L.A., they're learning from the totally tubular documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" that eminent domain abuse and Bruce Ratner are grody to the max.

LA Weekly, Battle for Brooklyn
By Ben Mercer

The documentary opens with a title-card definition of eminent domain," and a scene of last holdout Goldstein standing up to the goons patrolling his condo building's rooftop. Instances of project-proponent doublespeak follow: Podium-banging Nets owner/AY developer Bruce Ratner invokes "the royal 'I'"; Sen. Chuck Schumer says job creation "enervates." [sic] him; a Forest City Ratner VIP appears to spin displacement as a grand American tradition. Goldstein and friends propose less invasive alternative footprints, and then contest the legality of the state seizing their "blighted" property, at seven years' worth of rallies and hearings.

Thompson On Hollywood, Indie Doc Double-Header: Battle for Brooklyn, Darwin Show Two Sides of America

They say you can’t fight City Hall, but you wouldn’t know it watching Battle for Brooklyn... There’s so much sparring in Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s new documentary about New York’s Atlantic Yards project that you’ll think you’ve stumbled into a screening of The Fighter . The opposing sides — the project developer, Forest City Ratner, and a grassroots organization that wants to sink said project, Develop Don’t Destroy — canvas, rally, plot, meet, speak, and, yes, battle over what city councilwoman Letitia James calls “the soul of Brooklyn.” It’s a credit to the filmmakers that Battle for Brooklyn convinces you they’re fighting for even more than that.

Eminent Domain Report, Eminent Domain Documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" Makes its Way to Los Angel
By Brad Kuhn

Do public agencies make low-ball offers? Are areas that are designated as "blighted" really so? Is eminent domain for redevelopment "Un-American"? Is there any point to fighting City Hall? No matter how you feel, this movie may evoke some strong emotions. If you can't make it to see the documentary, but want to know more, I'd suggest checking out Robert Thomas' blog post covering the case in detail.

Posted by steve at 2:41 PM

August 16, 2011

New Jersey county reverses stance on lone-bidder jail deal on which the Times (and then a Senator) focused

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's New York Times, Reversing Course, Officials in New Jersey Cancel One-Bid Immigrant Jail Deal:

NEWARK — In a sharp turnaround, officials in Essex County, N.J., announced Monday that they would not accept the sole bid on a contract to run a 450-bed immigrant detention center after questions were raised about the transparency and fairness of the bidding process.

The lone bidder was an affiliate of Community Education Centers, a private detention company whose executives have close political ties to Gov. Chris Christie and the top elected official in Essex County, Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.

The county appeared to give special treatment to Community Education, though its record in housing immigrant detainees is checkered. After The New York Times reported on the contracting process last month, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey wrote to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ask senior officials to review the deal.

In a telephone call Monday afternoon, James R. Paganelli, Essex County’s counsel, said the county would put out another request for bids in the fall to attract more bidders and better terms. He called it “a business decision” and said the allegations of improprieties played no role. “We want to foster competition, because that makes everybody sharpen their pencils and we hope to get better rates from people,” he said.

...Reporters pressed Mr. DiVincenzo and his staff on possible shortcomings of the bidding process: The county did not actively seek out other bidders, a common practice in government contracts, and its 23-day deadline on the multimillion-dollar bid was unusually short.

On 7/28/11, I pointed to the similarities between this situation and that of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, which was seemingly assigned to Forest City Ratner early on, 18 months before an RFP.

One difference? This time, the Times paid attention.


Posted by eric at 9:59 AM

August 14, 2011

Today's correction: Times identifies Civilians' play about AY as concerning "the Navy Yards development in Downtown Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

From the Arts section of today's New York Times, in the column headlined The Week Ahead: Aug. 14 — 20:

Charles Isherwood
The New York theater troupe THE CIVILIANS is summering in the Berkshires. The company, which specializes in documentary theater pieces drawn from extensive interviews, is creating its new show on the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Although it is also based on real experience, “YOU BETTER SIT DOWN: TALES FROM MY PARENTS’ DIVORCE” nevertheless represents a departure for the company.
Instead of foraging for material in the public sphere, as it has in previous shows like “Gone Missing,” a cabaret musical about all the things that people can manage to lose, and “In the Footprint,” which chronicled the conflict over the Navy Yards development in Downtown Brooklyn, the company is using the life stories of its own members as the raw material.

Actually, "In the Footprint" is about Atlantic Yards, which is in Prospect Heights--and, at the western tip, arguably would extend Downtown Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 10:28 PM

August 13, 2011

Whither the Times's architecture chair? New occupant, art critic Kimmelman, coming, as "conventional wisdom" about Ouroussoff concerns detachment from NYC, notably disembodied AY critiques

Atlantic Yards Report

In the New York Observer, Jonathan Liu's essay, Times Art Critic Michael Kimmelman to Take Over as Paper’s Architecture Critic, does a good job of sketching the importance of the post, occupied by just four critics since 1963:

The late Herbert Muschamp (he passed away in 2007) took over in the early 1990s... Muschamp celebrated favorites like the Bilbao Guggenheim with the florid prose and omnivorous interests that might best be called fin de siècle.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, a Muschamp protégé, has held the post since 2004. He announced his resignation June 6. A month later, The Times named his replacement, Michael Kimmelman, the paper’s chief art critic, who will be returning to New York from four years in Europe. Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Kimmelman, who takes the reins at the end of this month, doesn’t have formal training in architecture, or much of a track record as an architectural critic. He will continue to cover art...

“[Kimmelman’s] profiles of architects have been very good, but they aren’t criticism." [said the critic and historian Alexandra Lange] "But his hiring is insulting for the sense one has that The Times doesn’t think it is worth spending a whole salary on an architecture critic...”

Why it matters, and why AY matters

Liu writes:

For Ms. Lange, “the power of the Times critic job is in the fact that their reviews may be the only architecture criticism many people read. This is still true.” Yet when future generations consider the Ouroussoff Era, the defining text—assuming they still use Google—may be Alexandra Lange’s.

He refers to her "devastating takedown," headlined “Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough,” in the February 2010 Design Observer, a dissent that "has become more like conventional wisdom."

And what was the centerpiece of Lange's critique? As she wrote (and I excerpted):

Exhibits A and B in this critique are Ouroussoff’s reviews of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. It was unclear from his first review whether Ouroussoff had ever been to Brooklyn, so grateful did he think we should be for the services of (Los Angeles) architect Frank Gehry.


Posted by steve at 11:14 PM

Update #83: LA- Brooklyn- DVDs


Here's an update from the producers of the documentary "Battle of Brooklyn."

Hello All

Lots of exciting news to report:

DVD's went out this week to those of you who responded to our request for addresses.

Battle will have it's last screening at BK Heights this MONDAY (not Wed. this week ) as we need the print for Los Angeles- though it should run again soon- we will update you about that- it's been doing well enough to keep running for a long time. We will be there for q and a and we will have posters for sale!!! Those just came in.

We are geaing up for our visit to LA to launch Battle. The film runs at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills.

Daniel, Shabnam, Suki and I will be at the Friday and Saturday 720 screenings- we will also likely be at the 5:00 ones as well.

Fri: 5:00, 7:20 & 9:45
Sat: 12:20, 2:40, 5:00, 7:20 & 9:45
Sun: 12:20, 2:40, 5:00 & 7:20
...Mon-Thu: 5:00 & 7:20

Please help us spread the word. LA is a tough town we know- but this film is more relevant than ever with the City Council's recent approval of a Stadium Deal based on ridiculous financial and job projections.
Out of 750 articles about the deal- only 1 I found was anything but a press release restatement.


Posted by steve at 11:05 PM

August 12, 2011

Atlantic Yards "flying up"? On Brian Lehrer, a weak update

Atlantic Yards Report

The arena's rising, sure, but the development is not flying up in the slightest.

Guest host Jami Floyd, who displayed the unfortunate tendency to laugh at things not so funny, like the rat problem around the Atlantic Yards site. Guest Brown suggested, erroneously, that Chinese investors seeking green cards for purportedly job-creating investments  were investing "in the arena."

As I commented, they're investing in something called the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project," which is replacing a land loan and will go to infrastructure (and possibly other things).

Of course potential investors were told they were investing in the arena, but that was deceptive.


Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

Taking the Times to task for its EB-5 coverage, again

Atlantic Yards Report.

The Times opened up comments on its curious article today on Chinese investment in New York.  Almost nobody commented on the EB-5 angle, which seemed shoehorned into the story. My comment again took the Times to task...


Posted by eric at 7:11 AM

August 11, 2011

Times article on Chinese investment in New York whiffs on Forest City Ratner's EB-5 venture

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-page article in today's New York Times, headlined As Investors, Chinese Turn to New York, stunningly maintains the newspaper's see-no-evil posture toward Forest City Ratner's questionable recruitment of investors seeking green cards.

The Chinese putting money into Atlantic Yards--'scuse me, the "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure Project"--aren't making real investments. They're buying green cards for themselves and their families, allowing their children to be educated in America.

They're supposed to create jobs. No jobs would be created.

Would the Chinese money support residential and office towers? Forest City's partner in China told the investors they were putting money into a basketball arena. That's why Forest City sent Darryl (Chocolate Thunder) Dawkins to China.

More recently, Forest City executives have said the money would be used to refinance a land loan, as well as pay for infrastructure. Or that they haven't decided.


Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

August 10, 2011

Coming from City Limits: Brooklyn News Bureau

Atlantic Yards Report

An announcement of a new Brooklyn news source, as noted below, that "will spotlight media-deprived communities like Central Brooklyn, as well as immigrant groups and areas undergoing change."

It's a welcome addition to the media ecosystem, but $50,000 a year over two years can only go so far. Perhaps the initial funding will generate additional support.

Click thru for the full announcement.


Posted by eric at 6:45 PM

August 8, 2011

From The L Magazine's Best of Brooklyn: "Best Local Blog" is... this one

Atlantic Yards Report

From The L Magazine's The Best of Brooklyn, the cover package in the issue dated August 3:

Best Local Blog
Atlantic Yards Report
Many might have given up on fighting the Atlantic Yards development, seeing it as a lost cause, an inevitability. But Norman Oder's watchdog blog, now in its sixth year, is still attacking the project—its false promises and environmental costs, as well as its credulous media coverage—several times a day.

By the way, no one told me about this, beforehand or after publication. I learned of it when I picked up a copy of the print magazine two days ago.


NoLandGrab: Let us be the first to congratulate Atlantic Yards Report for unseating NoLandGrab as best local blog, a title we held for six years running.

OK, actually, we've never been named Best Local Blog. Maybe we oughta launch "The Grabbies."

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

August 6, 2011

Sycophantic Daily News real estate correspondent, calling Ratner "charming" and "admirable," deems Beekman Tower something the developer has "given" to New York

Atlantic Yards Report

The percentage of New York Daily News readers who can afford an apartment in Forest City Ratner's Beekman Tower (aka 8 Spruce Street aka New York by Gehry) is rather low--only 13.7% have six-figure incomes, and you need more than $100,000 to afford monthly rents of $3040 for a studio--and a lot more for bigger apartments.

But that didn't stop real estate correspondent Jason Sheftell, in yesterday's Inside Gotham's newest skyscraper, New York by Gehry, from planting Herbert Daughtry-like encomia on developer Bruce Ratner:

Ratner, the building’s developer, dressed in a simple, short-sleeved, pinstriped button down and black pants, is not like other developers who give cities $800 million projects like this one. He’s charming because he’s smart. He’s admirable because he gets things done. He’s controversial because he thinks big. Best of all, he’s human.

“I was riding the elevator the other day, and the person riding up with me kept thanking me,” says Ratner, who developed MetroTech pushing Brooklyn as America’s top downtown destination 25 years ago. “He wasn’t thanking me because he loved living there or loved the building; he was thanking me for the job. A job is the beginning and end of how a person feels about themself. I am thankful we can give jobs, and I’m thankful what this building means to lower Manhattan.”

(Emphases added)

Um, Ratner didn't "give" the project to New York. Rather, Ratner took advantage of Liberty Bonds, allowing tax-free financing without the attendant requirement of affordable housing.

As for the jobs Ratner "gives," well, some Brooklynites are not convinced.

By the way, the article contains no mention of architect Frank Gehry's role in--and removal from--Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 11:01 PM

August 4, 2011

The inconsistency of the New York Times editorial page: Islanders owner should build new arena on his own, but request that Ratner "pay his own way" forgotten

Atlantic Yards Report

Is the New York Times editorial page consistent when it comes to public subsidies for sports facilities? Of course not.

An editorial in yesterday's New York Times was headlined Voters Nix $400 Million Hockey Tix:

Voters in Nassau County, showing far better sense and grasp of arithmetic than their elected leaders, have rejected a scheme to raise their taxes so their county could borrow $400 million to build a new hockey arena.

The Times, sounding like it's channeled the collected works Neil deMause, observes:

1. The deal stunk. That’s usually so when governments throw money at sports teams. Mr. Mangano was asking for a 4 percent tax increase, an estimated $14 to $58 more a year per household, in return for gauzy promises of new jobs and tax revenue...

...3. If [Islanders owner] Mr. [Charles] Wang needs a new arena, let him build it. Last we checked, professional sports was still a private (and highly lucrative) business, not a public utility.

What happened to "Mr. Ratner should pay his own way"?

All well and good, but the Times is not exactly consistent. Remember the newspaper's stance in a 3/27/05 editorial headlined A Triple Play for New York Teams:

But the city and state are each supposed to contribute $100 million to build streets and sidewalks and prepare the site for development. That's unnecessary: Mr. Ratner should pay his own way.

(Emphasis added)

That position was forgotten in all subsequent editorials.


Related content...

The New York Times, Voters Nix $400 Million Hockey Tix

Posted by eric at 10:30 PM

August 3, 2011

Journalism of verification? Times Public Editor concurs that confirmation by Nets/Ratner (without document or Barclays) sufficient to report naming rights deal still worth "nearly $400 million"

Atlantic Yards Report

The Times, they're not a-changin'.

Is the Barclays Center naming rights deal really worth "nearly $400 million," as the New York Times reported 7/19/11? There are many reasons for doubt.

However, as in the past, the office of the New York Times Public Editor, the independent, newspaper-paid readers' representative, has given its blessing to the Times's inadequate reporting.

In this case, the Public Editor accepted as sufficient evidence assertions by the New Jersey Nets and Forest City Ratner, despite much circumstantial and documentary evidence that the deal was worth less, including a report by an FCR-commissioned consultant valuing the deal at $200 million, the loss of architect Frank Gehry, and two renegotiations.

Worse, the Public Editor's office, failing to understand the basic nature of deal, told me that the Times had "checked with both parties involved in the transaction," the Nets and Ratner.

Actually, I responded, those two are one side of the deal; the counter-party is Barclays Capital.

Was that taken seriously? No. I was blown off.

So much for the "journalism of verification," the distinguishing factor, according to Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, between his newspaper's work and bloggers' journalism of "assertion."


NoLandGrab: In which case, we can surely expect a Times front-page story any day now about the 15,000 construction workers building the Barclays Center — as verified by Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark.

Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

August 1, 2011

When it comes to Nassau Coliseum coverage, Times reporters express skepticism for sports facility projections, give prominence to critic saying emphasis on sports distracts from real estate deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's Times article, $400 Million Plan on Nassau Coliseum Goes to Vote, contained a couple of astonishing paragraphs.

First, a declaration, sans caveat, that projections are generally overblown:

As cities like Cincinnati, Houston and Seattle have learned, the construction of stadiums and arenas almost always costs more than expected, rarely produces the economic benefits initially promised and can saddle local governments with tens of millions of dollars in debts, driving holes through budgets.

Ok, so why did that Times, at the arena groundbreaking last year, uncritically quote outlandish statements about Atlantic Yards benefits?

The article closes with a gimlet-eyed view of what's at stake:

“[Islanders owner Charles] Wang wants to make money and [County Executive Ed] Mangano wants to save the Islanders,” said Clifford B. Sondock, the president of the Land Use Institute, which opposes the project. “Ed and Charles have made this an issue of the Islanders when it is really a real estate deal.”.

And what about "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops"?


Posted by eric at 10:09 PM

July 30, 2011

Cliche alert: AP hoops writer suggests Bruce Ratner "remembers" the days of the Dodgers in Brooklyn. Nah.

Atlantic Yards Report

Brian Mahoney, NBA writer for The Associated Press, reports, in Nets hard at work building toward Brooklyn move:

"Brooklyn certainly deserves the best of entertainment there is to offer,'' [Bruce Ratner] said.

Ratner remembers when Brooklyn had it, when the beloved Dodgers played at Ebbets Field and top musicians performed at the Paramount. He believes the Barclays Center will bring back what's been missing.

"Sports and entertainment are such a part of our lives in this country. People who say, 'Well, it's just an arena,' they're really not right,'' Ratner said. "It's a physical structure. More than that, it's a part of ourselves, it's part of what entertainment is and everyone loves entertainment.''

(Emphasis added)

Which is, why, of course, that the project was sold as "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," with the added layer of starchitect Frank Gehry.

Does Ratner really remember the "beloved Dodgers" in Brooklyn? He was a 12-year-old Clevelander in 1957, when the team left for Los Angeles.


Posted by steve at 3:59 PM

In an alternate universe, Nets GM Billy King, suburban Philly resident, compares AY arena setting to Chicago's United Center; sports stenography ensues

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets General Manager Billy King, along with paid pitchman Albert King, a Brooklyn native and former Net, hosted basketball writers Wednesday at the under-construction Barclays Center.

King, who lives in suburban Philadelphia and spent a good chunk of his professional career in that city, made a stunningly uninformed comment, equating the Atlantic Yards setting to the setting for the United Center in Chicago, suggesting that the impact of the arena would be similar.

Chicago vs. Brooklyn

The United Center is located on a 46-acre parcel. The Atlantic Yards arena is located on a, what, six-acre parcel?

The United Center is located in a non-residential area west of the Chicago Loop. The Barclays Center will abut neighborhoods that have predominantly low-rise and mid-rise residential buildings.

The arena, yes, will bring changes to Brooklyn, notably event-related retail and entertainment. But there's no comparison to Chicago. (Nor, really, to L.A., but that's a different story.)

Still, the press lapped it up, as dutifully chronicled by NetsDaily, whose chief blogger, NetIncome, perhaps aiming to avoid the "Leni Riefenstahl of the New Jersey Nets" tag, did cite one of the numerous press reports of a protest by disaffected former project supporters.


Posted by steve at 3:57 PM

July 29, 2011

A paean to the New York Times in a New York Magazine cover story; missing is any recognition how the Times fails to cover Brooklyn (and AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Magazine cover story praising The New York Times provokes a little cold water from Norman Oder.

The article could have gone further to analyze how coverage of New York has been diminished.

Now the Times gives tougher scrutiny to Baghdad than to Brooklyn.

I'm not saying the Times doesn't publish Brooklyn feature, trend, and real estate stories. I'm saying their Brooklyn bureau is far smaller than their Baghdad bureau. And there's no priority on continuity and institutional memory.

And that leads to Atlantic Yards coverage (by a newbie to AY coverage) like the article I dissected 7/19/11, featuring lousy reasoning (why is it Atlantic Yards "opponents" are the only ones asked about the public interest?), basic factual errors (no, Sen. Chuck Schumer's promised 10,000 jobs had nothing to do with construction), and perfunctory wave at a complex controversy (Forest City Ratner's questionable use of the EB-5 program for immigrant investors).

Shouldn't the Times do a better job?

And isn't there another reason: Shouldn't the Times, given the parent company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner, in building the Times Tower, be exacting in its scrutiny of the developer?


Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

What if Rupert cared? A few Atlantic Yards story ideas (!) for the New York Post (or other tabloid)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder must have eaten some crazy mushrooms last night.

What if... in some kind of alternate universe, media mogul Rupert Murdoch made Atlantic Yards a special priority?

After all, as Azi Paybarah reports in this week's New York Observer, Rupert’s Post Game: His Royal Pie-ness Story on Page SShhh, the New York Post responds to its owners whims and directives. And the Post, not surprisingly, played down a great tabloid moment: the pie in the face Murdoch received when testifying before the U.K. Parliament.

Herewith, a few Atlantic Yards story ideas that could fit in the limited space and short attention span of the Post (or other tabloid):

  1. Baldfaced lying! Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, on tape, claims that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."
  2. Scandal shift! Darryl Greene, whose role in the Aqueduct "racino" was so toxic it helped scotch the bid he was part of, continues as minority contracting consultant for Atlantic Yards.
  3. Convenient amnesia! Despite obligations to fund an Independent Compliance Monitor to evaluate the Community Benefits Agreement, Forest City Ratner has not done so.
  4. Delusionary behavior! Forest City Ratner, as if in some time warp, continues to maintain that tax revenues, as well as jobs, will be delivered as promised.
  5. Stunt! What might it be like for a few thousand arena-goers to walk down residential Dean Street, with its narrow sidewalks, from the surface parking lot to the arena? (Send a few hundred flash mobbers down the block!)


Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

July 28, 2011

Where were you in 2005? Times's skeptical coverage of jail bid in New Jersey contrasts markedly with willingness to downplay parallel issues in Vanderbilt Yard bid

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-page (in the New York edition) article in today's New York Times Metro section is headlined Political Links and a Jail Bid in North Jersey.

That skeptical piece contrasts notably with the Times's coverage of the process by which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority sold rights to develop its Vanderbilt Yard.

Consider, for example, the Times's perfunctory news brief, headlined Metro Briefing | New York: Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Proposals Sought and published 5/26/05, in its entirety:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking competitors for the development of its Atlantic Yards site, and has set a deadline of July 6 for proposals. A proposal by Bruce C. Ratner to build 6,000 housing units and a stadium for the Nets basketball team on the site has already won endorsements by the city and the state, which have each offered to pay $100 million for site improvements. But Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority, said yesterday that the agency had decided to consider other proposals in part because of its experience with its West Side railyards, which became the focus of a bidding war before an agreement was reached to sell the property to the New York Jets. Mr. Kelly said he knew of no other bids that were being prepared for the Atlantic Yards site. Thomas J. Lueck (NYT)

(Emphases added)

The MTA never had an Atlantic Yards site, nor could other bids have been prepared for "the Atlantic Yards site," which is 22 acres, while the Vanderbilt Yard is about 8.5 acres.


Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

July 25, 2011

An open letter to the New York Times's Public Editor: a false equivalence between Atlantic Yards promoters and "opponents," and the dubious claim of a $400 million arena naming rights deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Dear Mr. Arthur Brisbane,

I'm sure you're aware that some of us who read the Times closely take issue with the newspaper's coverage of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Indeed, last August, I posted a comment regarding Atlantic Yards in response to your debut column.

I don't say that the Times, by virtue of the parent company's partnership with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner on the Times Tower, is in the developer's pocket. But I do think that business relationship obligates the Times to be exacting in its coverage, and the newspaper regularly falls short.

I write regarding the July 19 article headlined online as Atlantic Yards Arena Takes Shape, but Protests Carry On and in print as "An Arena Rises at Last, But Protests Carry On."

My critiques are collected here, but I want to make one general point, about a false equivalence between Atlantic Yards promoters and "opponents," and one specific one, regarding the Times's credulous acceptance of the claim that Barclays paid a record $400 million for naming rights, despite significant evidence to the contrary.


Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

July 21, 2011

Maybe Murdoch has a light touch with the Brooklyn weeklies he bought, but the change in Atlantic Yards coverage has been profound

Atlantic Yards Report

Reports WNYC, Fearing a Heavy Hand, Outer-Borough Papers Find Murdoch Has Light Touch:

When News Corp – which owns the New York Post and Wall Street Journal - bought community newspapers in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn in 2006, 2007 and 2009, respectively, media watchers were worried they'd be reshaped as conservative Murdoch mouthpieces.

But several former staffers at The Brooklyn Paper and TimesLedger newspapers say the marching orders never came — and the neighborhood papers that now make up the Community Newspapers Group at News Corp continued to make their own decisions about editorials, endorsements and reporting, according to former employees.

About Atlantic Yards

The piece concludes:

The Brooklyn Paper, formerly a fierce watchdog on the Atlantic Yards project has become less aggressive since the 2009 sale, [Norman] Oder alleges, but he isn't sure whether or not that is attributable to News Corp.

"“I do see less of a focus on hard news," he said. "There is a lot of softer news. It's hard to say if that is Murdoch or just a sign or our times. When weekly newspapers like Brooklyn Paper were stronger they did more aggressive reporting."

I don't think my comment is so much an allegation as a (well-founded) argument.


Posted by eric at 12:09 PM

July 19, 2011

Times article on arena rising finally mentions Friedman decision, acknowledges reasons for opponents to "complain" (but doesn't analyze the public interest); essential narrative is Ratner's triumph

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder conducts an excellent step-by-step vivisection of yesterday's New York Times story on Atlantic Yards.

The New York Times today finally does mention the important judicial ruling last week, only to give it short shrift in a wide-ranging article focusing on the under-construction arena.

It was initially headlined online as After Years of Delays, Atlantic Yards Arena Begins Taking Shape, later amended to Atlantic Yards Arena Takes Shape, but Protests Carry On, and in print as "An Arena Rises at Last, But Protests Carry On."

The article, despite rounding-up criticisms and mention of the documentary Battle for Brooklyn, maintains an overall narrative of triumph: the fact that an arena's coming. After all, the photos all illustrate construction, not community impact.

My criticisms include:

  • the suggestion that only "opponents" should care about the public interest
  • the downplaying of the significance of last week's court decision
  • the Times's acceptance of undocumented claims regarding naming rights
  • the Times's portrayal of Forest City Ratner's response to the rat problem
  • the Times's unquestioning description of the developer's use of the EB-5 program
  • the calculation of construction jobs
  • the downplaying of the value of the documentary Battle for Brooklyn
  • the shorthand description of Daniel Goldstein's settlement


Posted by eric at 9:21 AM

July 18, 2011

Another reason why the Daily News and Times should have covered the lawsuit: it (again) demolishes Ratner's claims of continuous legal victories

Atlantic Yards Report

Perhaps the simplest reason, among many, for the New York Daily News and New York Times to cover the latest Atlantic Yards legal decision, is that the reportage serves to rebut Forest City Ratner's recurring, but long incorrect, claim that the project has continuously prevailed in court.

(A more complex reason would be that, however the decision fails to slow ongoing construction, it represents a rare case in which a New York State judge overrules a decision by a government agency, declaring that it does not pass the minimal "rational" basis test.)

A spoon-fed reporter

As more reporters new to the Atlantic Yards controversy write about it, they are vulnerable--especially if lazy and/or pressed for time--to simply regurgitating the developer's spin.

"[Bruce] Ratner was a perfect 35-for-35 in judicial decisions throughout the eight-year process," wrote New York Daily News Sports Writer Stefan Bondy in his 6/11/11 article headlined Bruce Ratner finds vindication as Nets' new digs take shape in Brooklyn, but residents still angry.

Except he wasn't a "perfect 35-for-35." It's doubtful there were 35 decisions and Ratner had already lost a few, including a decision last November in which state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman slammed the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for "yet another failure of transparency."

A record of reliance on Ratner

Press outlets and even government officials have regularly reported the Ratner claims and on 5/21/08, Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab complied a scorecard that came out 11-3 in favor of Ratner, not 18-0, as was claimed by Bruce Ratner, repeated by the ESDC's Avi Schick, and cited by the New York Times (18 rulings "in Mr. Ratner's favor").

On 2/26/09, the Times quoted an "elated" Ratner as saying, “Once again the courts have decided in favor of Atlantic Yards." On 11/25/09, the New York Post reported that Forest City Ratner bragged that the court record was 24-0.

The Times's DealBook blog on 12/17/09 reported that "Atlantic Yards has won a string of court victories." On 3/1/10, the Times cited "a long line of legal victories."

The truth is a little more complex.


Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

An unsigned defense of Yormark (and criticism of me) in Arena Digest

Atlantic Yards Report

An unsigned 7/17/11 article in Arena Digest, Debate continues over new Nets arena, is surely written (or influenced) by the pseudonymous NetIncome (aka Bobbo), the dyspeptic and prolific main contributor to NetsDaily.

The article purports to be a summary but bears a project-affectionate slant, with a few digs at me.

A "matter of process"

It begins:

The new Brooklyn arena for the relocating New Jersey Nets (NBA) continues to generate controversy; community activists opposing Atlantic Yards won a court decision but failed to persuade a judge to stop construction on Barclays Center.

...However, she did not halt construction on the first phase of the project, nor did she halt progress on the second phase, which will include surface parking and more.

...really the win in court last week was more a matter of process being reviewed than any decision on the merits of the project.

Winning the court decision is pretty significant without having to stop arena construction, which was unlikely. Surface parking is part of Phase 1.

And the case was never about the merits of the project, it was about whether the environmental review was sufficient. The judge said it wasn't--a highly unusual intervention.


Related coverage...

Arena Digest, Debate continues over new Nets arena

NoLandGrab: "Net Bobbo's" lack of transparency is a perfect metaphor for the lack of transparency in the Atlantic Yards backroom boondoggle.

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

Looking at the Crain's coverage of Atlantic Yards economic benefits: another bad example of "he said, she said" journalism

Atlantic Yards Report

As with The Real Deal's remarkable puff piece on Bruce Ratner, published last May, yesterday's article in Crain New York Business, Barclays Center takes shape at Atlantic Yards: Eight years after it was proposed, the arena is selling tickets. presents a dismaying example of what press scholar Jay Rosen criticizes as

“He said, she said” journalism, in which "No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story" and "The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them."'

The Crain's article, which I addressed in full yesterday, is a particularly bad example of that, since it positions the "he said, she said" claims about economic benefits in a rather illogical manner.


Posted by eric at 10:11 AM

Another reason to distrust the New York Daily News's editorial today: a dishonest photo

Atlantic Yards Report

Today's Daily News editorial, which I dissected here, was accompanied by a photo of two thirds of the railyard--in other words, perhaps a quarter of the overall Atlantic Yards site.

The other part of the arena--not stadium, as Borough President Marty Markowitz would remind people, is being built on pieces of residential/commercial Pacific and Dean Streets.

In other words, the photo is as dishonest as the editorial.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

News Flash: Daily News Editorialists are Willfully Ignorant and Create Own Atlantic Yards Reality

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

What a surprise: after the news side of the paper ignored last week's big legal victory for the community against Atlantic Yards the Daily "News" editorialists continue to ignore reality and facts in their effort to carry water for Mort Zuckerman's cohorts in the real estate lobby—Forest City Ratner.

Norman Oder takes a look at their self-delusional drivel...


Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

July 17, 2011

Crain's article on arena calls documentary "latest insult," relies on ever-spinning Yormark as main source

Atlantic Yards Report

In Crain's New York Business today, Barclays Center takes shape at Atlantic Yards: Eight years after it was proposed, the arena is selling tickets. is full of holes, but at least makes a token effort to admit a contrary view.

"Latest insult"

The article begins:

Rising at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, the new home of the New Jersey Nets has survived lawsuits, neighborhood protests and a severe recession. The latest insult is called The Battle for Brooklyn, a documentary critical of the project that opened recently to favorable reviews.

Why exactly is the film, called Battle for Brooklyn (no "The") an "insult"? Couldn't it be a complicating factor in the heroic narrative preferred by Crain's and the New York Daily News?

Meeting preliminary goals

The article continues:

But eight years after developer Bruce Ratner proposed bringing the Nets to the borough as the anchor of the vast Atlantic Yards redevelopment, executives at the $1 billion Barclays Center have turned their attention to the next stage: making sure it turns a profit.

Despite competition from Madison Square Garden, which is being overhauled, and other arenas like the new Prudential Center in Newark, the Barclays Center is having no trouble meeting its preliminary goals, according to Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark.

Images of the recently completed designs for corporate suites and public areas have just gone on display in the center's midtown showroom as sales efforts ramp up in advance of a September 2012 opening. The 18,000-seat arena has sold close to half of its 100 corporate suites.

If they've sold close to half of the suites, let's say the number is 47.

That's 12 more than one year ago, when the total was 35--not bad, but hardly out of the woods.

But we don't know what those goals were, and how they've changed. After all, as of three years ago, there were supposed to be 130 suites, not 100.

Some people get tired of the Yormark half-truths, but if you click on the link below, you'll see that Norman Oder is is on the case to dissect each and every distortion.


Posted by steve at 4:53 PM

Flagrantly ignorant, Daily News calls arena rising "huge plus for an underused neighborhood," ignores latest legal decision

Atlantic Yards

It's no surprise that the New York Daily News, which has cheerleaded at every step for the Atlantic Yards project, would run yet another supportive editorial, today headlined The new Nets' arena rising in Brooklyn is shaping up as a huge plus for an underused neighborhood.

And it's no surprise that that the editorial would be flagrantly ignorant. Indeed, while it would be more defensible to argue that the arena might be, overall, good for Brooklyn--though that would require analysis of costs and benefits--it's "brutally weird" to call it a plus for a neighborhood that, according to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), will experience "significant adverse impacts."

Click on the link to get the complete picture of how truly stupid today's Daily News edtiorial is.


Posted by steve at 4:35 PM

July 16, 2011

No coverage of Atlantic Yards ruling in the Times; on AY, have they done "just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way"?

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm still surprised that the New York Times, which last November belatedly covered (Judge Rebukes State Agency Over Atlantic Yards Timetable, online only) the precursor decision in the ongoing lawsuit, hasn't covered the more dramatic next step, in which Justice Marcy Friedman further rebuked the agency and ordered a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

Meanwhile, the Metro pages of today's print Times contain an article about performing the cancan on Bastille Day, another about a missing historic street sign in Jackson Heights, and a four-reporter investigation into Dominique Strauss-Kahn's weekend concert-going in the Berkshires.

Commenting on the Wall Street Journal's coverage of its parent company's scandal in the U.K., Times columnist Joe Nocera today observes that "The Journal did just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way."

Couldn't that observation be applied to the Times's coverage of Atlantic Yards, being developed by Forest City Ratner, which partnered with the New York Times Company on the Times Tower?


Posted by steve at 5:13 PM

Ratner gets sports magazine to agree that latest version of arena may be country's best

Atlantic Yards Report

The arena promotion continues. SportsPro Magazine, in its July 2011 The Next special report on stadiums & venues, declares the Barclays Center one of the top ten over the next decade.

“I honestly believe,” says New Jersey Nets minority owner Bruce Ratner, “that in America we do sometimes build an arena with some semblance of architectural taste, and architecturally it’s great.”

Few would disagree with such an appraisal of the forthcoming Barclays Center, future home of the Brooklyn Nets. Its designers at the award-winning SHoP architecture firm have presented what might be the most ambitious and aesthetically pleasing indoor arena ever constructed in the United States. Their assured touch, says Ratner, is apparent “in and out” of the venue.

Except that's what Ratner would have said about the original design by Frank Gehry, whom he once said "is for me an idol."

As noted, the arena itself is by Ellerbe Becket, and thus a cousin to that firm's many NBA arenas, such as the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The "facade" is by SHoP.


Posted by steve at 4:57 PM

AY down the memory hole: two reports that SHoP is the designer of the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Daily News, 7/15/11, East River Waterfront Esplanade opens in style:

[City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda] Burden selected a plan from SHoP Architects, the New York-based studio known as the architects of the Barclays arena in Brooklyn.

From SportsPro Magazine, The Next Generation, July 2011:

Few would disagree with such an appraisal of the forthcoming Barclays Center, future home of the Brooklyn Nets. Its designers at the award-winning SHoP architecture firm have presented what might be the most ambitious and aesthetically pleasing indoor arena ever constructed in the United States.

As No Land Grab's Eric McClure pointed out, "Uh, didn't Ellerbe Becket design the inside of the arena?"


Posted by steve at 4:55 PM

July 14, 2011

Looking at Friedman's ruling: no coverage in the Times or Daily News, no press mentions of delay in consideration of the Development Agreement

Atlantic Yards Report

So how big news was a judge's decision yesterday ordering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Phase II of the Atlantic Yards project and criticizing the state agency for "arbitrary and capricious" reliance on a not-believable ten-year buildout?

Judging by the coverage, only moderate. The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, among others, covered the story.

The New York Times and New York Daily News, pouring resources into the horrible killing of an eight-year-old Brooklyn boy, passed on the story.

Will they get to it today? The Times's commercial real estate reporter, Charles Bagli, is on leave, and the Brooklyn bureau is tiny. The Daily News's main reporter on Atlantic Yards, Erin Durkin, had three bylines in today's paper, all worthy stories: on Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg, Marty Markowitz's concert series, and St. Ann's Warehouse's bid for the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The New York Observer, its main Atlantic Yards reporter on vacation, missed the story. The Brooklyn Paper hasn't covered the story yet, either.

The missing history

And almost nobody, it seems, remembers the withheld Development Agreement--crucial, as I wrote yesterday, to the case.


Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

July 12, 2011

The Serious and Not So

Toronto Standard
by Bert Archer

An appraisal of the New York Times documentary Page One includes this bit of understatement.

[Norman] Oder’s reporting on the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, and on the Times’ coverage of it, seems also quite serious, though you’d be forgiven for thinking the guy’s an utter wonk (which he almost certainly is).


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

July 10, 2011

The BAM-arena alliance, illegal parking, and construction progress: the role of p.r. in controlling the narrative

Atlantic Yards Report

Much of the coverage of Atlantic Yards by New York media could be charitably characterized as "lackluster." This post ponders the lack of media coverage and the influence of the Ratner publicity machine.

The establishment of the web site/project Atlantic Yards Watch, the presence of web sites chronicling Atlantic Yards like No Land Grab and AYR, and the opportunity to present photos and web videos means that the mainstream press should notice what's going on.

They don't always do that, but, after the Daily News published an article yesterday, two television reporters were quick to follow up. It was a fairly digestible story, with lots of visuals.

What's missing?

There's lots more not yet covered regarding Atlantic Yards.

For example, what about Forest City Ratner's failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor?

Or Borough President Marty Markowitz's lies in the effort to help Forest City Ratner raise cheap capital from immigrant investors interested in green cards?

Reporters overmatched?

Sure, it's hard out there for a reporter. “We’re all wire service reporters now," Theresa Agovino of Crain’s New York Business said in December 2009, according to the September/October 2010 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, a reference to the push for quantity over quality.

They too often don't have time to think, and that makes them vulnerable not just to p.r. pitches--that's part of the journalistic menu--but also the full packaging of the pitch. (Quick, did anyone actually analyze Forest City Enterprises' self-serving press release about saving on its debts? No.)

Shaping the debate

John Sullivan, in his ProPublica investigation and co-published in the May/June 2011 issue of Columbia Journalism Review, PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms, pointed toi the growing number of p.r. people and shrinking number of reporters, writing:

The dangers are clear. As PR becomes ascendant, private and government interests become more able to generate, filter, distort, and dominate the public debate, and to do so without the public knowing it. "What we are seeing now is the demise of journalism at the same time we have an increasing level of public relations and propaganda," [Robert] McChesney said. "We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country."

That said, with Atlantic Yards, there are numerous leads to follow that are not hatched with the cooperation of "dark genius" Joe DePlasco. It's time for journalists to do their job. Or no


Posted by steve at 5:31 PM

Fox News, WPIX follow up, find illegal parking at site; Atlantic Yards Watch shows Atlantic Avenue "lot" and "funeral director"; will AY District Service Cabinet address parking issue?

Atlantic Yards Report

Following up on the Daily News's coverage of illegal parking around the Atlantic Yards construction site, MyFox New York took a look, and their report, below, is pretty damning.

Beyond that report, Atlantic Yards Watch followed up, pointing out that construction workers have "expanded the locations they park illegally onto Atlantic Avenue, apparently closing off part of a travel lane to create their own free parking lot," as shown in the photo taken yesterday.

Another set of photos shows the wide array of strategies used by illegal parkers, including the daily deployment of a funeral director's card. That was captured in video shot by WPIX, at bottom.

Enforcement issues

There are a couple of problems here. First, as I wrote this morning, someone has to enforce parking regulations when the police flout them.

Off-street parking?

Second, as Atlantic Yards Watch points out, Forest City Ratner and Empire State Development Corporation said at a 6/28/11 meeting that the number of construction workers had not risen to the point where the developer was supposed to create off-street parking.

But construction workers seem to be creating their own illegal on-street parking spaces--and, as the video below shows, they're glad that parking rules aren't being enforced.

District Service Cabinet meeting July 14

Perhaps these issues will be discussed--and resolved--at the fourth meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, to be held July 14 at Borough Hall at 9:30 a.m. (I'm aiming to reconfirm this.)

The District Service Cabinet brings together affected agencies, community board representatives, the Borough President's Office and the developer. Questions from the public cannot be posed at the meeting but can be funneled through the community boards, City Council Member Letitia James's office, and the Borough President's Office.


Posted by steve at 5:24 PM

July 4, 2011

Times assigns eight staffers to story about Brearley School head's departure; what about covering EB-5?

Atlantic Yards Report

I read with incredulity a 7/2/01 New York Times article headlined Quick Exit of Private School’s Leader Puzzles Parents.

Sure, Times readers are interested in the fate of the city's most prestigious private school for girls. But the Times article, attributed to two authors, also cited five other reporters and a researcher as contributors.

Eight staffers, one story.

It makes me wonder: what if the Times had assigned eight reporters to the EB-5 story--Forest City Ratner's dubious effort to raise $249 million from immigrants interested in green cards--rather than dismiss it in two paragraphs, as was done in March?


NoLandGrab: The New York Times — fair and balanced?

Posted by eric at 10:35 AM

July 3, 2011

Another correction request sent to the New York Times: is the arena in "downtown Brooklyn" or near it?

Atlantic Yards Report

As far as The Times is concerned, Bruce Ratner appears to be building the world's first fully portable arena.

In the 6/30/11 article headlined (online) In Alliance, Nets Arena to Offer Arts, the Times reported: Now Atlantic Yards, the development that will bring the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, will also be a cultural center.

However, the Times has previously identified the location of Atlantic Yards as being in Prospect Heights. As noted in a 4/27/06 correction:
Because of an editing error, an article in The Arts on Tuesday about Frank Gehry's design for the first phase of the Grand Avenue development project in Los Angeles misstated the location of the proposed Atlantic Yards project that Mr. Gehry is designing in Brooklyn. (The error also appeared in sports articles on Feb. 9 and April 11, in the City section on Jan. 15 and in several articles in 2003, 2004 and 2005.) It is on rail yards and other land in Prospect Heights and on a block in Park Slope; it is not in Downtown Brooklyn, although it is near that neighborhood.

This "downtown Brooklyn" error has occurred several times since then, though most references in the Times have been accurate.

Here is my quick survey of articles requiring corrections.


Posted by eric at 10:04 AM

July 2, 2011

More on the BAM-arena plans: "you have to be suspicious of anything Ratner might be telling you"

Atlantic Yards Report

We're still waiting for some more coverage on the BAM-arena plans revealed in a spoon-fed New York Times exclusive--the New York Daily News and Brooklyn Paper have yet to weigh in, though the New York Post and many others ran an anodyne AP story.

But "[t]he bottom line is that you have to be suspicious of anything Ratner might be telling you," writes Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White in Cultural Circus? Mr. Ratner’s Attempt to Rechristen His Arena A “Cultural Center.”

He takes off from some previous reporting, including how I pointed out that incredible claim that the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music would together create a new cultural district.

He points out that, while "Ratner describes circuses as part of the commonplace perception people generally have of arenas from which he wants to move away," BAM's Karen Brooks Hopkins contradicts Ratner by suggesting performances can be "large nouvelle cirque kind of work."

The role of the Times

White writes:

Is it a problem that the New York Times fills its pages as the passive conduit for Ratner hype? In reviewing the documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Noticing New York noted the film’s reporting of “The New York Times Effect,” which is to say that which the New York Times deigns to include in its pages “sets the agenda” virtually defining reality to a large extent for the rest of the press and that what gets reported in the Times thereafter almost invariably passes down the media food chain.

...By the time the story was boiled down to the short squibs broadcast by WNYC virtually any detectable warning of the PR bogusness of the whole affair had been eliminated.

Rather, he suggests, the Times should have analyzed the "press manipulation," including possible “good news” timed to counter a potential construction workers' strike, or the arena operators' efforts to fill seats at the arena that hasn't come close to the 225 annual events once promised or the 200-plus currently promised.

One correction, one missing one

The online article states:

Correction: July 1, 2011

An article on Thursday about an alliance between the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barclays Center, the arena being built in downtown Brooklyn, misstated the title for Joseph V. Melillo of the academy. He is its executive producer, not executive director.

Of course, the entire article needs a conceptual correction, but do note that the Times has agreed that the arena is being built in "downtown Brooklyn," not, as the Times once agreed in a mega-correction, as part of a project being built in Prospect Heights.


Posted by steve at 5:09 PM

July 1, 2011

Opinion: Don’t Let Atlantic Yards Developers Control the Narrative

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Michael Galinsky

Speaking of circuses — Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker and regular contributor to The Local Michael Galinsky weighs in on the Atlantic Yards media circus.

Yesterday I was quoted in a The New York Times article about a new benefit that the Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is touting. Bruce Ratner and the Brooklyn Academy of Music plan to partner on big-spectacle art events at the Barclays Center. I was asked how I thought the community would react.

What struck me, however, was the fact that once again the developer was putting out a story that would show them in a good light, and that any questions about their position were relegated to the end of the article. I was pleased that I was given the chance to discuss the issue, but saddened to imagine that the concerns of the community would be buried below the fold, and that the pattern of the developer controlling the narrative would go on.

When something was happening that the developers couldn’t control, such as the 2006 environmental impact hearing, they trotted out some Nets basketball players and held a press conference in a government building (that they built) across the street from the impact hearing. I was prevented from shooting that conference, as you can see in the clip above.

This press conference seemed to be more about distracting the media from the real discussion that was taking place across the street. By trotting out several basketball stars, the publicity company was able to get the “credentialed media” to pay less attention to the discussion about the environmental impacts of the project. Because they didn’t feel that they could trust what I would do with the footage — I was not credentialed or working for a mainstream news organization — I was shut out. I think their concern was that I might not stay on message.


Posted by eric at 10:12 PM

June 30, 2011

NY Times Tries to Buff Ratner Image With "News" of Arena Alliance With Tone Deaf BAM

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So this, apparently, is what The Times deems to be front page arts newsworthy: Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Academy of Music board member, former BAM board director, minority owner of the Nets, majority owner of a basketball arena and roughly 18 acres of a demolition zone/interim surface patking lot is, maybe, going to allow the Brooklyn Academy of Music to hold "three or four shows a year" in the taxpayer subsidized billion dollar arena named after Barclays.

Newsflash for The Times: just because your business partner comes to you with an exclusive story doesn't mean it is anything more than a press release. And pretty much the only time Bruce Ratner himself will talk with The Times or any reporters is when his company feeds you the news.

Speaking of irony, as Bruce Ratner does below, isn't it just a wee bit ironic that the Brooklyn Academy of Music is so tone deaf about the Atlantic Yards project?


Posted by eric at 8:08 AM

June 28, 2011

Atlantic Yards ‘Rat Tsunami’ Plagues BroBos

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

What the hell is a Brobo?

As if the traffic and sports bars weren’t bad enough, the construction of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project has triggered an all-too-apt infestation of Rattus norvegicus in neighboring Prospect Heights and Fort Greene.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Observer makes fun of rat complaints, claims "hysteria has reached such epic proportions"

So, Matt Chaban of the New York Observer, who can be a decent reporter, didn't attend the meeting last Thursday about rat problems in the area around Atlantic Yards.

But he had to write about it, so today he applied a little 'tude, headlined Atlantic Yards ‘Rat Tsunami’ Plagues BroBos [Brooklyn Bourgeois Bohemians or Brownstone Brooklyn], providing a list of the complaints, ending with:

  • Two stolen Bugaboos, with babies attached.

O.K., so we made that last one up, but the hysteria has reached such epic proportions, it seems possible. After all, The Brooklyn Paper is worried about the hantavirus infecting BroBos this summer if things don’t get better. Given their weak constitutions, it is bound to be a deadly epidemic.

My comment

As I commented:

Matt, this is really beneath you.

If you'd attended the meeting, or read the coverage (including mine) more carefully, you'd know that many of the people affected have been there more than 40 years, and that they represent a spectrum of ethnicity and class.

So the Bugaboo reference is not just a cheap laugh, it's way, way off.

As is making fun of people who are plagued by rats.

Posted by eric at 10:17 PM

"Battle for Brooklyn" and "Page One: Inside the New York Times" Make Powerful Companion Pieces

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If you've seen the new documentary film "Page One: Inside the New York Times" and have yet to see "Battle For Brooklyn" (or vice versa) there is a compelling argument that you should see both as the movies make powerful companion pieces.

Both films address the question of what can happen when the New York Times is not around to do its job.

"Battle for Brooklyn" is screening at Cinema Village in Manhattan (showtimes and tickets are available here.)

Michael D.D. White has published an extensive discussion of the two films on his Noticing New York blog, and though it is a long read, we deem it a must-read—especially as it hones in on some very questionable reporting and editorializing during the weeks when the Vanderbilt railyards were put out for bid in a phoney request for proposal by the MTA.


Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Another press valentine for Amanda Burden: Wall Street Journal profile of City Planning Commission Chair ignores Atlantic Yards example

Atlantic Yards Report

In a 6/23/11 article headlined Champion of Cities: With New York's High Line park expansion, Amanda Burden's urban revitalization efforts set a model for the world, the Wall Street Journal reports:

This elegant blonde with a mellifluous voice is steelier than one might expect, a useful trait for someone who is spearheading Mayor Michael Bloomberg's far-reaching effort to rezone nearly a quarter of New York City and reclaim the city's waterfront. Her populist achievements span all five boroughs and include zoning for new affordable housing in East Harlem, Brookyln and the South Bronx, as well as the massively popular High Line, an abandoned railroad track that has been transformed into a popular tourist destination in the once-gritty meatpacking neighborhood, which has seen commerce move in and property values soar in the past decade.

Chairing the City Planning Commission since 2002, Burden, age 67, has revolutionized its role in the city, transforming a once-sleepy bureaucratic agency into an activist department championing good design by using zoning as a weapon to enforce her vision.

My comment:

This valentine to Amanda Burden neglects some of more complicated aspects of her legacy, such as the city's willingness--presumably not embraced by the City Planning Commission, but with no opportunity to publicly protest--to let the Empire State Development Corporation oversee the Atlantic Yards project, with no role for the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Meanwhile, Burden has been a loyal foot soldier for Atlantic Yards, even though it does not represent the Jacobsian mantle she embraces.

10/12/06: Planning Chair Burden claims Jacobsian mantle, discards it for AY
1/15/07: Times profile of planning chair Burden maintains AY myth, suffers curious cut
10/19/09: Two profiles of Amanda Burden make and miss the same points about City Planning (and Atlantic Yards)


Posted by eric at 10:46 AM

June 27, 2011

“Page One: Inside the New York Times” Reviewed; Plus The “New York Times Effect” on New York’s Biggest Real Estate Development Swindle

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White takes an epic look at Page One, the new documentary about The New York Times, framed by the paper's failings in covering its development partner's massive Brooklyn boondoggle and viewed in parallel with Atlantic Yards documentary Battle for Brooklyn. It's none to easy to summarize, so click through and have a read.

Especially fascinating: White's recounting of The Times's Atlantic Yards coverage during two crucial months in 2005.

When it comes to “The Times Effect” on local reporting and Atlantic Yards, the biggest real estate project proposed in New York City, some of the most important events occurred in a 60 day window of time May 24, 2005 to July 27, 2005 shown about a third of the way through the film “Battle For Brooklyn.”

On May 24, 2005 New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the “MTA”) put out a perfunctory RFP soliciting bids for the railyards it was planning to transfer to developer Forest City Ratner. The 42 page RFP was a palpably insincere gesture. It allowed only an absurdly short 42 days for response. It was 42 pages whereas the MTA’s comparable later RFP for its Hudson Yards railyards site ran 1,369 pages. Doubtless, all the city’s big developers correctly perceived that, as a political matter, they were NOT supposed to bid against Forest City Ratner because even though the public property of the railyards had never been bid, this was viewed as a done deal.

The Times briefly reported (May 26, 2005) the issuance of the MTA’s RFP but printed nothing picking up on its bogus character. The bogus character of that bid deserved to be major story. The brief report of the RFP came several days after the Times ran a story under a press release-style headline touting that the Ratner project would theoretically provide lots of affordable housing: Brooklyn Arena Plan Calls for Many Subsidized Units, by Michael Brick, May 20, 2005.

Goldstein’s concern about how the Times was promoting the Ratner project virtually as if its was an extension of the Times existing real estate partnership with Ratner was well founded and prescient. On July 5, 2005, the day before the MTA board planned to approve the project, not expecting the pending Extell proposal in response to its solicitation, the Times published a front-page article about the Atlantic Yards project (Instant Skyline Added to Brooklyn Arena Plan, By Diane Cardwell), when Frank Gehry's new design sketches were released exclusively to the Times. In an accompanying "appraisal" the Times architectural critic effused over the fantasy design (An Appraisal: Seeking First to Reinvent the Sports Arena, and Then Brooklyn, by Nicolai Ourousoff).

The very next day, July 6, the day of the intended MTA approval, the Times followed with another largely complimentary story about Ratner’s plans: Brooklynites Take In a Big Development Plan, and Speak Up, by Robert F. Worth, July 6, 2005. The day after that the Times had to run a story about Extell’s competing bid, “tailored to address some of the major criticisms of the Ratner proposal.” Its headline?: Brooklyn Plan Draws a Rival, and It's Smaller (by Diane Cardwell, July 7, 2005.)

Does it look like the Times stories were being selectively tailored by the Times to help the Ratner project? Certainly, Ratner knew the schedule for various events related to the bid during this window, not that it would have been appropriate for public officials to have been feeding him all these details. Ratner was therefore in a position to, in turn, feed appropriate stories to the Times.


Posted by eric at 11:59 AM

The demise of the New York Times's once-routine Forest City Ratner disclosure (as mandated by the Public Editor), and another reason why it's meaningful

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times has much less frequently been appending a once routine disclosure to its articles about Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. And that's meaningful for a reason I haven't previously stressed.

Consider, for example, the 6/24/11 blog post headlined In Brooklyn, the Rats Move Out Before the Nets Move In. No disclosure appeared, though an 11/25/09 article, Ruling Lets Atlantic Yards Seize Land, contains such a disclosure:

The company, which was the development partner for the Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company...

Disclosure dropped

No did such disclosure appear in the 6/16/11 review of the new documentary Battle for Brooklyn, the 3/17/11 article headlined Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, and, more crucially, a 3/18/11 article headlined With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project.

Why was that more crucial? Because, as the headline suggests, the Times itself is responsible for part of the new attention and, as I wrote, the Times soft-pedaled a key issue: Forest City Ratner's apparent exploitation of the federal government's EB-5 investment immigration program.

Importance of disclosure

There are at least two significant reasons why disclosure is important, and one of them I haven't previously stressed.

The more obvious reason is that disclosure puts readers on alert, as well as reporters and editors, that Times coverage should be exacting--and sometimes it isn't.

The other is simply that it should put readers, reporters, and editors on notice that Times coverage should appear in the print paper, not, as with the article on rats, relegated to the City Room blog.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: Times web site erases attribution to Public Editor Byron Calame's call for the paper's full disclosure of ties to Ratner

Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

June 26, 2011

CNG issues "Brooklyn 200," including Forest City Ratner, Nets Basketball, and the Barclays Center

Atlantic Yards Report

The Community Newspaper Group, publisher of the Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life, has issued a new promotional supplement, Brooklyn 200, "celebrating the places and things that make Brooklyn special," with capsule descriptions.

It's not surprise, given that newspapers are in tough shape, that they produce such questionable products. (Quick, is there any correlation between full-page feature articles on a selected few of the 200 and advertisements bought by those subjects of feature articles?)

Among the 200, as detailed below, are Forest City Ratner, Freddy's Bar, Nets Basketball, and the Barclays Center.

And Marty Markowitz is the only person on the list, getting special mention in the category of "force of nature.

Questionable choices

There are other opportunities for raised eyebrows.

Why a mini-profile of the Brooklyner building but not the Brooklyn Flea (or Brownstoner)? Brooklyn Kickball but not the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory? Downtown law firms like Cullen and Dykman and Goldberg and Cohn, but not South Brooklyn Legal Services or Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation? Nine auto dealers but no one retailer selling bicycles or organization working on transportation policy?

Forest City and Freddy's

The treatment of Forest City Ratner is fairly straightforward, and refers to Atlantic yards as "controversial," locating the arena--unlike in the official promotional material--in Prospect Heights.

The Freddy's listing cites "its impassioned fight against the Atlantic Yards project."

(Click on all graphics to expand.)

The Barclays Center

The under-construction arena gets described as "already changing the face of the borough."

Nets Basketball

Would you believe that "there's no doubt that wen the Brooklyn Nets first hit the hardwood at the Barclays Center, they'll take the floor with the support of an entire borough"?'

You might start subtracting people afflicted by rats.

Marty Markowitz

Would you believe that even Marty Markowitz's "biggest opponents will admit that [he] is"unceasingly dedicated to trying to make Brooklyn a better place to live"?

Maybe except when he's lying about support for Atlantic Yards.


Posted by steve at 7:23 PM

CounterSpin radio show: Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers talk about the media (including me)

Atlantic Yards Report

Susan Saladoff on Hot Coffee, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky on Battle for Brooklyn

CounterSpin (6/24/11-6/30/11)

This week on CounterSpin we're talking about two new films which, while journalism is not their central subject, directly engage news media's influence and real world impact as a critical part of the stories they tell....

Also on the show: Battle for Brooklyn tracks the takeover of a New York neighborhood by a real estate developer and the efforts to resist it by community members, one man in particular who becomes the last person in his building not to take a buyout. The same events and players appeared in the corporate press too, and viewers can see the difference when voices that usually appear in the last paragraph are given central place. We spoke with Battle for Brooklyn filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky.

I'll note that the radio show (the interview starts at 12:48; also see links to audio at DDDB and NLG) begins with the host noting that "a man" at the end of the film comments that, had the media done their job, this would have been a fair fight.

That "man" is me. Later in the interview, Galinsky names me and points to my role, and the lingering, under-covered EB-5 story.

The entire interview is worth a listen. And the film is still playing.


Posted by steve at 7:08 PM

June 25, 2011

Behind the Brooklyn Paper's "world's best Cyclones coverage"

Atlantic Yards Report

How does the Brooklyn Paper manage "the world's best Cyclones coverage"?

Well, the page in print (which contains an article that starts on the front page) is "brought to you by Municipal Credit Union," which bought what looks to be a one-sixth page advertisement on the page, and perhaps also pays for the banner at top. MCU bought naming rights to the baseball park, so there's some syntergy there.

And the half-page advertisement on the bottom of the page, while hawking air conditioners, does contain a promotion for Cyclones tickets.

You can't blame a local newspaper, in a struggling environment, for seeking creative ways to bring in revenue.

But you can't help thinking that, without the advertising, the level of coverage might be lower. And maybe there'd be space for more Atlantic Yards coverage.

All of which leads to the question: what happens when the Barclays Center opens?


Posted by steve at 8:59 PM

June 19, 2011

Help Battle for Brooklyn Go National -- See the Movie Today, Sunday the 19th at Cinema Village

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

We know there is a lot of competition for your time, but WE URGE you to see Battle for Brooklyn today, Sunday the 19th, at Cinema Village in Manhattan. (Purchase Tickets Now)

While the Friday turnout was amazing, Saturday's was not as good as expected. It is crucial that there are large audiences on Sunday.

So, it is urgently important that you see this riveting film today, and that you call your friends and urge them to see it today as well.

If the screenings are packed today then the film will continue to play in New York and expand throughout the country. If the film does not do well today, it won't get far outside of New York.

It is vitally important that this remarkable film about our community's fight is seen by a wide national audience. By telling the story of our fight against Atlantic Yards, it tells a dramatic and universal tale of resistance to corrupt, top-down development and collusion between government and corporations against the interests of the community. It takes direct aim at kleptocracy and it shows that the most important things in life are worth fighting for. It is a film that deserves a wide audience.

>> CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS. Tickets also available at the box office. The showtimes are: 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9:15.


Posted by steve at 3:31 PM

"Battle for Brooklyn": In breaking news, Goliath beats David

By Andrew O'Hehir

In the movies, when David fights Goliath, we generally know who's going to win. In real life, of course, it tends to be the other way around, as the compact and fascinating documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" demonstrates. Compressing a seven-year civic struggle over a massive redevelopment project in the center of Brooklyn, N.Y., into 93 minutes, Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's film spins a compelling tale about the value of individual and collective resistance, even as it makes clear where power in our society really resides. Along the way, "Battle for Brooklyn" tells the story of a love affair and a new family, and reminds us that even billionaires are not omnipotent.


Posted by steve at 3:30 PM

June 18, 2011

"Battle For Brooklyn" -- Go See It

The documentary "Battle For Brooklyn" is now playing at Cinema Village in Manhattan. All of these people liked the film and you probably will, too.

New York Magazine, Chris Smith on the Atlantic Yards Documentary Battle for Brooklyn

The film isn’t objective, which is fine, and appropriate: Atlantic Yards was never a fair fight. Launched during the boom years, with aggressively pro-business politicians running the city and the state, Atlantic Yards has used strategic heaps of money and a crafty marketing strategy (Brooklyn pride! Frank Gehry! Affordable housing! Jobs, jobs, jobs!) to churn relentlessly forward, even surviving the one serious threat to its existence, the great recession. What Battle for Brooklyn can only hint at, however, are the crucial political alliances that have kept Atlantic Yards alive; Mayor Bloomberg, Ratner, and the other key establishment players apparently didn’t deign to sit for interviews. That’s fitting, too, given the façade of a “public” process used to approve the massive project.

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist, Battle for Brooklyn

Daniel Goldstein lives in a remodeled building on Pacific Street that is similar to many in New York City’s five boroughs. Priced out of the Manhattan market (I am only making a guess that this was the case for Goldstein, a graphic artist), they settle in working-class neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Long Island City and elsewhere to enjoy a roomy apartment or loft with the latest amenities. When Ratner offers the occupants of Goldstein’s building a million dollars each to move out, they take the money and run. Goldstein, a 30ish young man with a rebellious streak as pronounced as I have ever seen, decides to remain and fight. After joining Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB), he begins to spend more time organizing people than on his career. His passion for the cause (and perhaps other incompatibilities) leads to the break-up his engagement. But all is not lost. He finally hooks up with and marries Shabnam Merchant, an Indo-American woman who is as dedicated to the cause as he is.

Arrayed against them and their neighbors are an enormously powerful and ruthless bloc consisting of Ratner, his top executives, and a rogue’s gallery of politicians, including the buffoonish Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz. They portray the project’s benefit in such glowing terms that you would think that they were on some kind of social uplift mission rather than a typical real estate boondoggle. Ratner is a truly despicable figure, who naturally enough became a member of Bard College’s Board of Trustees. Leon Botstein has a particular flair for recruiting limousine liberals such as Ratner, who will be sitting alongside Stuart Resnick at board meetings. Resnick is the owner of a number of “enlightened” New Agey type products like POM juice and Fiji water that put profits over sustainable development., battle for brooklyn: social movements, countermovements, and the urban growth machine

A couple of weeks ago I saw Battle for Brooklyn, a new documentary by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley,* at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. The documentary tells the story of Brooklyn activists who fought against a real estate development planned in the the old Atlantic Yards site that ceased hundreds of homes through eminent domain in order to build a business complex and a new arena for the New Jersey Nets. Told from the perspective Daniel Goldstein, one of the community organizers leading the protests, the film provides a rare and in-depth look at the internal workings of a social movement, chronicling the emotional highs and lows as well as the process of tactical decision-making. It’s a fascinating film for a number of reasons, and I can’t recommend it enough.

mybrooklyn, Battle for Brooklyn

Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s new documentary Battle for Brooklyn unfolds right down the street from where we’ve been shooting My Brooklyn for the past four years. I had a chance to see the film last night at Cinema Village and highly recommend it to anybody interested in urban planning, land use, and the increasing use of eminent domain for private profit. By following Daniel Goldstein’s fight to stay in his apartment, and Develop Don’t Destroy‘s efforts to bring some sanity to the planning process, Battle for Brooklyn exposes the corrupt decision-making process behind the Atlantic Yards Project as well as some great public relations strategies (my favorite being a theater piece that takes place in front of Freddy’s bar before it is demolished). City Council member Tish James comes off really well against a cast of city politicians and developers the film skewers pretty squarely. Go see it while you can!

Posted by steve at 1:59 PM

June 17, 2011

What happened to the Brooklyn Paper on Atlantic Yards? Three meetings this week result in no coverage (so far)

Atlantic Yards Report

There were three important Atlantic Yards-related public events in the past week, with my coverage linked:

--a meeting June 11 on governance reform sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks, local elected officials, and others
--a forum June 14 on traffic changes sponsored by Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corporation
--a session June 15 on reviving the alternative UNITY development plan, sponsored by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, local elected officials, and others.

The events drew healthy crowds, more than 100 people for the latter two.

The hyperlocal web site Patch (owned by AOL, operating in several Brooklyn neighborhoods) covered all three events (governance, traffic, UNITY), while reporters for the Brooklyn Downtown Star, the New York Times's The Local, and others also attended some events.

Where was the Brooklyn Paper?

Maybe this explains it:

Why is Atlantic Yards no longer an important story for the Brooklyn Paper?

It's impossible to say for sure, but perhaps the newspaper's marketing alliance with the Nets (click on graphic below, from the paper's daily update last month, to enlarge) has an impact.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

June 13, 2011

Some back story on the Daily News's friendly Ratner interview today: no questions about Goldstein

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News sports reporter Stefan Bondy produced a suck-up interview with Bruce Ratner today, and while he did quote Ratner opponent Patti Hagan, he nonetheless declared the arena "Bruce Ratner's triumph" and otherwise skated over any countervailing evidence.

And Hagan, at the Brooklyn Film Festival June 3, offered a little back story about Bondy's interview, as shown in the video below.

"You might be interested to know I got called by a Daily News sports reporter a couple of days ago," she recounted, "who said that he had been able to have an interview with Bruce Ratner, and the one thing that Bruce Ratner said, on agreeing to be interviewed, was that no questions could be asked--the name Daniel Goldstein could not be mentioned."

Actually, Goldstein is mentioned in the story, but it doesn't look like Bondy asked Ratner about Goldstein.


Video: brokeland11217 via YouTube

Posted by eric at 10:13 AM

June 11, 2011

Brooklyn Paper suggests Battle for Brooklyn is "exhaustive new docu-ganda"

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Battle for Brooklyn an "exhaustive new docu-ganda," as per the Brooklyn Paper's summary (which is more positive than not)?


It's not exhaustive--that's impossible--and, while there are legitimate bones to pick with some of the directors' choices, that doesn't make it propaganda.

And shouldn't a newspaper that can produce headlines and stories like "Bruce breaks ground at Atlantic Yards site" (right) be a wee bit careful throwing around "ganda" terms?


Posted by steve at 9:50 PM

Watch List Highlights, Friday, June 10, 2011

The Municipal Art Society of New York

A new film opens June 17 chronicling another large redevelopment of importance to New Yorkers: the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The eight-year-in-the-making film Battle for Brooklyn is an intimate and behind the scenes look at the seven year struggle over the Atlantic Yards project. It makes its theatrical debut starting June 17th at Cinema Village in Manhattan. Get your ticket.


Posted by steve at 9:47 PM

New videos from Tracy Collins; One Minute Voices from Dean Street

Atlantic Yards Report

Photographer and videographer Tracy Collins, a Dean Street resident, has begun "One Minute Voices,"a series of one-minute, casual, interviews with people who live and work in the neighborhood of the Dean Street Block Association (DSBA), 6th to Vanderbilt Avenues, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York. (He invites further interviews; contact him at tc[at]3c[dot]com.)

A retailer

Abdul operates the Dubai Mini Mart at 6th Avenue and Dean Street, directly catercorner from the Dean Street entrance to the arena.

"The neighborhood is changing for the good," he says, "but sometimes you see these rats running around here." Construction slows his business 20-30%, he says, so he's thankful to neighborhood residents who still patronize his store.

The store was recently renovated, and a new sign is coming. They've had the store for five years, and the neighborhood has improved, Abdul says, citing new arrivals. (In other words, I'd bet, gentrification.)

Unexplored: how long the store's lease is and whether and how it would be converted to an establishment more directly keyed to arena crowds.

A resident

Doug Stone, a 17-year resident of Dean Street near Carlton Avenue, says people are happy in the general, the Dean Street playground has improved, Vanderbilt Ave "is rocking... and it feels really good."

However, he says there's "a lot of uncertainty and anxiety" re the arena. "I think that plopping down a big arena like a giant flying saucer... is definitely going to change things. I am persuaded that the arena was a bad process and a bad decision... It might contribute to the coffers of various entrepreneurs... but as far as this neighborhood, I'm pessimistic that it's going to be a net positive."

Stone says he hopes that, in five years, "we can all say that he was wrong," but he's not optimistic. "The arena will have impacts that we literally cannot predict."

I'd add that the path from the 1100-space parking lot on the block bounded by Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues will go along residential Dean Street, where the sidewalk narrows to less than six feet in places.

Click on the link to take a look at the video interviews.


Posted by steve at 9:42 PM

June 10, 2011

New FCC report: "independent watchdog function" of press "at risk at the local level;" Brooklyn hyperlocal journalism gets barely a mention

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on a new FCC study on the withering of local media outlets.

There's barely a mention of what was once called the country's bloggiest place:

The most frequent criticism of the teaching hospital model is that student journalists are a source of cheap labor and actually end up displacing their professional counterparts. The students are willing to work for “free,” earning course credit at a time when professional newsrooms are eliminating staff to cut costs. One former editor, Peter Scheer, wrote, “Does it make sense for [J-schools] to be subsidizing the accelerated dislocation of one generation of their graduates to make room for a younger generation of their graduates? In the investment world this is called a Ponzi scheme.” But Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, responded that students are doing journalism that newspapers no longer can. “With the typical metro news editor looking at a half-empty newsroom, the question isn’t whether to cover local issues with journalism students or veteran reporters, it’s whether to cover local issues with journalism students or not at all,” Lemann says. CUNY’s dean, Steve Shepard, admits that his students are “very cost effective,” but adds that without them the hyperlocal journalism in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene and Cobble Hill neighborhoods “wouldn’t get done.”

Um, that's Clinton Hill, not Cobble Hill.

And I wouldn't say that The Local, while doing some useful work, is exactly leading the pack. Nor is its hyperlocal work particularly oriented to accountability journalism, though that does crop up.


Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

June 9, 2011

Old Yankee Stadium and 4 Ballparks That Should Never Have Been Torn Down

Bleacher Report
by Rick Weiner

A column about lost ballparks makes the old Atlantic Yards/Vanderbilt Yard/Ebbets Field replacement error.

As the team's success increased so did the demand for tickets. With a small seating capacity and little-to-no available parking, then-Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley was prepared to build a new ballpark at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, one that would be able to accommodate the growing fanbase.

Noted developer and then-Commissioner of Buildings in New York City Robert Moses was opposed to O'Malley's plan and instead wanted the new stadium to be built on land in Flushing, Queens.

We all know how this story ends.


NoLandGrab: Yeah, it ends with us pointing out that "Atlantic Yards" is an arena and some 18 acres of vaportecture brought to us by Bruce Ratner, while the "Vanderbilt Yard" is an MTA rail-storage facility. O'Malley actually wanted to build his new ballpark on the site occupied by Bruce Ratner's infamous malls.

Posted by eric at 9:30 AM

June 7, 2011


A|N Blog
by Julie V. Iovine

According to an in-house memo, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff is “moving on” at the end of this month.

The sweet but short memo about the critic—who this year submitted his own Pulitzer nomination package—was sent around this morning from culture editor Jonathan Landman. Ouroussoff’s plan, the memo said, is:

to write a book about the architectural and cultural history of the last 100 years, “from Adolf Loos’s Vienna and the utopian social experiments of post-revolutionary Russia to postwar Los Angeles and the closing years of the 20th century,” as Nicolai describes it.

The question is will the readers [miss him], too? The sporadic critic was known more for chasing down exotic locations and predictably championing all things Californian than analyzing local conditions and his even-handed voice sometimes had us all missing the impassioned harangues of his predecessor, Herbert Muschamp.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Architecture critic Ouroussoff leaving New York Times to write book about architecture, aiming for "social and political context"

According to the Architect's Newspaper, citing an in-house New York Times memo, Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff will leave at the end of this month to write a book that, in the words of his boss, "aspires to put a century of architecture into the kind of social and political context he always aimed for within the more limited constraints of newspaper writing."

I posted a comment, noting that both Ouroussoff and Muschamp, alas, did a terrible job writing about Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. (In other words, he missed a lot of social and political context.)

Given that the project is being developed by a firm that partnered with the New York Times Company on the Times Tower, you’d think Times critics might be careful in covering the Brooklyn project exactingly. That was not to be.

Posted by eric at 1:15 PM

June 5, 2011

Up Close With Diana Williams


Daniel Goldstein and Michael Galinsky are interviewed about the Atlantic Yards Fight on the release of the documentary "The Battle For Brooklyn."


Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

ArtBridge holds competition for art to be displayed on Atlantic Yards site sidewalk shed; here are some examples they won't pick

Atlantic Yards Report

As noted in the Brooklyn Eagle and NoLandGrab, ArtBridge is holding a contest for artists to have their work displayed on a 400-foot long sidewalk shed along one side of the Atlantic Yards site.

(As NLG points out, the location is not "the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.")

Here are a couple of AY-related art exhibits that I'm sure won't get picked:


Posted by steve at 11:18 PM

News and Reviews of "Battle for Brooklyn" Continue

The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn's Ongoing Battle
By Williams Cole

This is an interview with Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky on the release of their documentary "Battle For Brooklyn."

Rail: So how is the Atlantic Yards Project pivotal—realistically and symbolically—to the changes in Brooklyn over the last decade or so?

Galinsky: Incredibly pivotal. As George Will points out in the movie, all the city officials were saying this area is blighted and we have to redevelop it. But, really, they wanted the land because it wasn’t blighted. It was probably the most valuable piece of property in Brooklyn! And yet they’re getting to lease it for a dollar for one hundred years. A dollar for one hundred years! I mean, it’s absurd, and then they’re not paying any taxes.

Countdown to Main Street, Main Street Fete

Friday night. Main Street, Brooklyn. DUMBO seems too cool to have a Main Street, but there it is. I'm going to 37, Powerhouse Arena, a bookstore/event space, for a party celebrating the New York premier of "Battle for Brooklyn," at the Brooklyn Film Festival. I had seen cuts of the film, but the final version, with diagrams and music and storyline, starts off very hard and never lets up. It tells the story of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its 7 year fight to stop Bruce Ratner's ill-conceived Atlantic yards project. "It's like David and Goliath," says attorney Norman Siegel, "but you know, sometimes David wins." At the end of the film, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is chortling, "No one will remember how long it took." But we are watching the film, and we remember. I finger the leaflet in my pocket inviting me to a meeting June 15th to see the Unity Plan for the area. I plan to go. I want to see what Marshall Brown, Ron Shiffman and the other collaborating urban planners are proposing. The film's wonderful hero, Dan Goldstein, and brilliant heroine, Shabnam Merchant, are tenacious, ethical and beautiful. I learned a lot and look forward to seeing it over and over. In the meantime, at 37 Main Street, the activists and the film crowd rub shoulders in one of the moments of festivity in which we catch our breath and refuel for the next round in the fight., Movie Review: Battle For Brooklyn

There have been other films about eminent domain. For a fictional comedic take on the subject you can't do better than Australia's The Castle, which tells the story of a Melbourne family's challenge to a Kelo-like taking of their home. Welcome to Asbury Park is a documentary about New Jersey property owners resisting the taking of their homes. It also looks like the Kelo story will be coming to the small screen in a Little Pink House movie.

But until Battle For Brooklyn, there's never been an attempt to chronicle the massive scope of an eminent domain story -- the film takes place over seven years, itself an accomplishment -- and with such intimacy. For although the film is framed by the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, its heart is a character study of Daniel Goldstein, the property owner who became the opposition leader, and who by the film's end remains the sole "holdout" among his 130 neighbors.

And that's where Battle For Brooklyn excels. It allows us to witness Mr. Goldstein's evolution from a bewildered property owner to sophisticated spokesman and property rights activist. In the era of reality television we have become accustomed to often-too-revealing and all-too-polished looks into the personal lives of others. Yet, Battle For Brooklyn feels different.

Posted by steve at 10:47 PM

June 4, 2011

More Coverage for the opening of "Battle for Brooklyn"

Dissent, The Epic Battle Over Atlantic Yards
By Norman Oder

The sprawling saga could merit a miniseries; Battle for Brooklyn, the propulsive ninety-three-minute documentary from Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley—Brooklynites known for the 2002 doc Horns and Halos, about an ill-fated George W. Bush biographer—chooses a narrower lens. With reality show-like intimacy, the film focuses on Daniel Goldstein, a graphic designer turned DDDB spokesman, the sole owner in his condo building to refuse a buyout. We see Goldstein find himself over six years as an activist, alternately invigorated and unnerved. The David-and-Goliath portrait can be compelling, but it avoids some gray areas, and sometimes Goldstein’s personal story displaces needed context. The directors explain that they’ve crafted a film that’s more character driven than information driven. Still, the title suggests some sweep, and the film scants Brooklyn’s gentrification, the reason FCR’s repeated, if questionable, promises of affordable housing have had such heft.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would do the same exact thing,” Goldstein declares in the film’s opening lines, as a camera-from-the-sky captures the denuded project footprint, with ominous music in the background. “If I wasn’t going to fight this project, which was hitting my home and my neighborhood, what would I ever fight for?”

j.b. spins, BFF ’11: The Battle for Brooklyn

At each juncture, the fix is obviously in for the so-called “Atlantic Yards” project. State commissioners vote on the proposal despite having no familiarity with the actual details, while members of the city council cannot be bothered to hear out its critics during committee hearings. Indeed, besides Brooklyn city council member Letitia James, New York City’s politicians do not come out looking well in Battle. The arrogant standoffishness of Mayor Bloomberg is hardly surprising, but those who see Battle at national festivals will be dismayed by the clownishness of Brooklyn Borough President Marty “Party” Markowitz. (Unfortunately, New Yorkers can attest, what you see is typical of the three term incumbent.)

Over the course of Battle, viewers will pick up a heck of an education in New York state land use law, but not at the expense of the film’s central drama. At its core, this is a film about a man fighting for his home and a community struggling to stay intact. However, the policy implications of the Atlantic Yards boondoggle are obvious. Forget about property rights. Evidently, if New York’s state and local governments decide your home or business could be better utilized by someone else, they can flat-out take it. If they have to game the system with bogus declarations of “blight,” then so much the better. After all, it depresses the property values, which in turn means they can offer drastically less compensation.

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

ArtBridge: Works in Progress


Artbridge, which describes itself as "the Chelsea-based nonprofit that transforms underutilized city spaces into canvas for the work of emerging artists ," is trying to find something to fill its third installation by holding a contest for artists. The winner will have her artwork displayed on a 400-foot long sidewalk shed along one side of the Atlantic Yards site.

Art-making is a transformative act. Pigment mixed with medium becomes paint, that paint, when applied to canvas becomes “art,” that art, when we see it on gallery walls or in the public realm, alters the world around us.

The construction process can in many ways be seen as a mirror of the artistic one; breaking ground, reconfiguring it, reinterpreting space to make it new.

With this in mind we invite Brooklyn-based artists to submit visual works that riff on, reference, or reveal something about the artistic process for consideration for our latest public installation, ArtBridge: Works in Progress,” to be installed in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn in early Fall of 2011.

NoLandGrab: Although Prospect Heights is not "in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn," ArtBridge seems to unconsciously understand the Atlantic Yards Project. With a 20 year build out period, "work in progress' describes AY all too well. Also, mirroring the way project supporters hoped that nobody would oppose Atlantic Yards, the page announcing the contest proudly proclaims: "All Brooklyn Artists -- Submit Today!"


Related coverage...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Artbridge Announces Call for Entries For Atlantic Yards Installation

Posted by steve at 10:28 PM

May 29, 2011

Court fight: Story of the battle over a basketball arena opens Brooklyn Film Festival

Daily News
By Joe Neumaier

It would be hard to find a better movie to open this year's Brooklyn Film Festival than "Battle for Brooklyn."

The rousing, engrossing documentary will screen at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema on Friday. It chronicles the conflict that began in December 2003 when real estate developer Bruce Ratner announced plans to build Atlantic Yards, a shopping and arena complex where the relocated New Jersey Nets will play, smack in the middle of Prospect Heights.

The troubled project — scheduled to open in 2012 — split city residents. Presented as simply a renovation of unused rail yards, it would eventually displace almost 1,000 residents and businesses, some of whom had been there a half century or longer.


Related coverage... Nets Daily, Battle Over, But Not Divided Opinion

Posted by steve at 9:48 PM

May 28, 2011

New documentary 'Battle for Brooklyn' details the fight over the Atlantic Yards project

Daily News
By Michael O'Keeffe

The Atlantic Yards documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" makes its U.S. debut this Friday at the Brooklyn Film Festival. This rundown of the film mentions unseemly behavior by some of the project supporters.

Forest City Ratner vice president Bruce Bender, pointing to a map as he tells the filmmakers which blocks will be seized for the project and which blocks will remain intact, comes across as dishonest and arrogant as the Bush administration officials who brought us the Iraq War. He's a man without empathy, completely unable to comprehend why residents and businessmen would be reluctant to step out of the way so his company could reap big profits.

Marie Louis of BUILD, a purportedly independent Brooklyn group that supported the project, continues to insist on camera that BUILD is a volunteer, grass-roots organization even after being confronted with tax records that show it received millions of dollars from Ratner.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz reduces himself to a cartoon character as he invokes Junior's cheesecake and the long-gone Brooklyn Dodgers to explain why Ratner needs to take homes and businesses to build an NBA team. "He shed so many tears for the Dodgers going to La-La Land," AY foe Patti Hagan says in the film. "He's shed no tears for the one thousand people he wants put out of their homes."


Posted by steve at 10:39 PM

May 23, 2011

Forget traffic changes and rats at AY District Service Cabinet, free fare incentive generated news for Post and Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards Report

It's kind of bizarre that, to two newspapers, the main news emanating from last week's Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting concerned not the meat of the discussion--such as traffic changes and rats--but an issue mentioned as an aside and expected to be discussed at a future meeting.

The Post on May 20 published 'Net'roCard on track for Brooklyn hoops fans and today the Brooklyn Paper published Take the train to the game — and then inside.

It's hardly news that arena sponsors aimed to connect game tickets to MetroCards--after all, Chapter 19, Mitigation, of the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement describes a free fare incentive.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

Show me the monkey! Upcoming film treats include Brooklyn doc, return of Woody Allen, and apes

Daily News
Joe Neumaier

Atlantic Yards is nothing to look forward to, but it looks like the documentary of the fight against it is.

Early next month will see the perfect combination of movie and event, and not just because of a title. The opening-night selection of "Battle for Brooklyn" at the Brooklyn Film Festival — screening June 3 at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema (and opening at Cinema Village on June 17) — will be a form-and-function moment in which directors Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's absorbing, important documentary will unspool in the borough it captures in transition.

The movie, about the fight by Prospect Heights resident Daniel Goldstein and community advocates to halt the Forest City Ratner firm from using Eminent Domain to relocate residents in order to build the Atlantic Yards development has heart, soul and chutzpah. (Insert your own punchline there about the Yards' future tenant, the New Jersey Nets.)

Feisty but fairly reported, "Battle" chronicles not only the resistance to the change but also the origins of an advocacy group − Brooklynite Goldstein's evolution from apartment owner to activist, and the life changes that arrived along with it − and the way New Yorkers rally when it's time to fight.

Like last year's doc "The Vanishing City," about the de facto purchasing of Manhattan blocks by corporate landlords, the movie will resonate with those who worry for the city's soul.

The time line that drives "Battle for Brooklyn" makes it as urgent as any Hollywood thriller. The fact that its real-life ending sits not far from the Brooklyn Film Festival's backyard makes it even more gripping, and gut-wrenching.


Posted by steve at 5:00 AM

May 15, 2011

Brooklyn Paper offers packaged-by-Nets story: Brook Lopez excited by arena! (plus: an intern discloses snark effect at paper)

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the Brooklyn Paper still hasn't written about Forest City Ratner's dubious efforts to raise money from immigrant investors via the EB-5 program, but the paper did muster the energy to cover a handed-to-them, pictures'n'all, media event: the visit of Nets center Brook Lopez to the arena site and a couple of Bergen Street businesses.

The article, headlined Nets Lopez was the ‘center’ of attention on Bergen Street began:

The New Jersey Nets don’t move to Brooklyn until next October, but one of the team’s stars couldn’t wait that long to take a look at his future home.

Um, that's what Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, and Devin Harris were also prompted to say by their bosses, who later disappeared them.

Note that the article, at least in the initial version posted this morning, quotes a "Baum" with no first name; that would be Nets spokesman Barry Baum. The photos come courtesy of the Nets. While the article doesn't mention when the visit happened, it was Wednesday, three days ago.

A happy businessman

The final quote comes from the owner of hot dog emporium Bark, Josh Sharkey:

“The arena is definitely positive for us,” Sharkey said. “It’s going to be a big improvement for the area.”

Shouldn't food and beverage purveyors commenting on the arena get an asterisk? Of course they--at least most of them--will think the influx of thousands of people would help their business.

Whether Sharkey has the wisdom to comment on the arena's impact on "the area" is a whole 'nother story.

Excited locals?

Note that, according to the Nets' web site, "Brook couldn't go five steps between Bark and the arena site without someone shouting encouragement or asking him to sign."

The photo accompanying that caption shows the featured "someone" to be a construction worker.

Click on the link to get some background on the author of this Brooklyn Paper story.


Posted by steve at 2:17 AM

In the video of Brooklyn photobloggers, still some Atlantic Yards echoes

Atlantic Yards Report

I missed the sixth annual Brooklyn Blogfest Thursday night, but the few reports I've seen suggest it was a congenial and less fraught scene than last year's Absolut kerfuffle. The keynote speaker was blog maven Jeff Jarvis. (Here's a report from the Brooklyn Eagle.)

Brit in Brooklyn photoblogger Adrian Kinloch has posted his video tribute to Brooklyn photobloggers, shown at the event.

A few AY mentions

Though Atlantic Yards, a focus of the relatively limited Brooklyn blogging in the early years of the Blogfest, has receded in relative prominence, I feel compelled to point to two Atlantic Yards photos that made the montage, from which I took screenshots.

At :08, the very first photo in the video, Jonathan Barkey shot State Sen. Marty Golden, developer Bruce Ratner, Borough President Marty Markowitz, at the MetroTech tree lighting last December:

At :54, Tracy Collins captured Markowitz last October looking skeptically at some information proffered by yours truly regarding his putative trip to China to pitch Atlantic Yards to green card-seeking investors:


Posted by steve at 2:04 AM

May 11, 2011

Truth in the Age of Snark
by Michael Galinsky

Battle for Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky posts an interesting and well-worth-reading essay on separating fact from fiction.

In the age of the internet snark is much more important than fact to a disturbing degree. “Reputable” news gathering organizations seem to be devoid of fact checkers and editors are loathe to issue corrections even when the stated facts are clearly wrong. Snark is employed to tell the story the “reporter” sets out to tell, rather than having to do the work of finding out the story. While it is obviously more fun to be snarky than it is to be right, the end result is an extremely fluid relationship to the truth.

When powerful PR people push forth inaccuracies, like projected job numbers and fiscal benefits, it’s nearly impossible to get corrections. With very straightforward facts it should be simple to get a correction, but it never is. With our recent documentary about the Atlantic Yards situation, “Battle for Brooklyn” we have chosen not to focus on the nitty-gritty details of the story, but we have taken great pains to make sure that our facts, when put forth, are correct. We consulted with Atlantic Yards Report blogger, Norman Oder, as we finalized the cut. Norman has been the Don Quixote of fact checking over the past six years. He drives the editors (and us) a little crazy, but if all media (and particularly news media which presents itself as dealing in facts) takes a pass on paying attention to the literal truth, we start to get into very murky water.

Recently we showed a rough cut of the film at a legal conference focusing on condemnation issues. We were surprised to find that the condemning judge and the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESDC) attorney that led the condemnation legalities were in the front row (this is a fact). After the movie the judge had kind words for the film. The condemning attorney did not. In fact he demanded a special session the next day to clear up issues with the film. The following day at his special session it seemed that he only wanted to attack Daniel’s character. He discussed confidential negotiations that he had held with Daniel’s lawyer in order to paint Daniel as a greedy holdout. The following day Daniel’s lawyer emailed me the non-disclosure form that this lawyer had signed previous to his discussion.


Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

May 10, 2011

Xanadu- Governor Christie’s Ode-ious “Yes We Khan” Moment

Noticing New York

(Above: “Xanadu” from “Citizen Kane” - “cost: no man can say”- and “Xanadu” the mega-project in New Jersey, - more costs now being assumed by the New Jersey taxpayers- both from wikipedia.)

Suppose the New York Times proposed a contest for readers to write a poetic ode about a huge, over scale, garishly designed and questionably subsidized mixed-use project critically integrated with a sports complex: Do you think the readers might respond with lacerating lyricism questioning the judgement, priorities and profligacy of public officials?

Well, the New York Times did, and its readers did, only the contest was not held with respect to the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly handed out to Bruce Ratner (the Times business partner in building the new Times building). The contest was held with respect to New Jersey’s stalled Xanadu project recently rescued from financial insolvency by Governor Chris Christie.

May 3, 2011, the Times declared a winner: Prevailing Poet Is Decreed in Meadowlands Ode Contest.

Here for reference is the opening stanza of the original Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

The declared winner was Steve Schoenwiesner of Montclair, N.J., for his two-stanza entry, one stanza of which is reproduced below:

For Xanadu did Christie-Khan
A stately subsidy decree.
While tracks below a river, planned,
Were scuttled, fundless, by this man
A blight revives tax-free.


Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

May 8, 2011

hotdocs 2011 part i

Steve Munro

Battle for Brooklyn ****

Directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, USA

Living in a city whose government was recently taken over by politicians whose recipe for success is to sell everything in sight, I just had to see Battle for Brooklyn. This film follows a 7-year battle by residents and businesses against redevelopment to make way for a new basketball stadium and many, many condos.


The pattern here is distressingly familiar: a sports complex, a team of dubious value, a developer who needs government help to achieve his goals, governments that are more interested in money and good news than in preserving neighbourhoods. The legal and political issue at the heart of the story is the abuse of powers of “eminent domain”, or as they are known in Canada, “expropriation”. If the state uses its power to force the sale of land for any purpose, then no neighbourhood is safe from intervention on behalf of a developer whose project is deemed “a public good”, and the opportunities for corruption are obvious.


Battle for Brooklyn is a cautionary tale about the results of government and private interests conspiring together against the public. This film, at a neighbourhood scale, is a fitting complement to Hot Coffee (on the systematic limitation of corporate liability) which I saw later in the festival.


Posted by steve at 1:21 AM

Brooklyn Film Festival, Rooftop Films Announce Premiere of Battle for Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Phoebe Neidl

Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF) and Rooftop Films are proud to announce the US Premiere of Battle for Brooklyn, a controversial look at the Atlantic Yards project.

The film will open the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival on June 3 at Brooklyn Heights Cinemas at 8 p.m. The film will be also shown as a part of the Rooftop Films Summer Series on June 9 in Fort Greene Park. Prior to both Brooklyn screenings, the documentary had its world premiere at the Toronto HotDocs festival on April 30.

“We are extremely excited to be working with such strong Brooklyn institutions that have supported us for over a decade,” said Directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky.

“Directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, BFF alumni, have been working on this project since 2003 and we are proud to give voice to a Brooklyn community that has been fighting with limited resources and without much external support an enormous battle to save their own homes,” said festival director Marco Ursino. “We are also excited about the collaboration with Rooftop Films. Battle for Brooklyn is an important documentary that belongs to the community and we feel that this partnership will ensure a truly broad outreach.”


Posted by steve at 1:18 AM

May 2, 2011

A List of Reasons Lovers of New York Should See “Bill Cunningham New York,” A Documentary About Photographing New York Fashion

Noticing New York

Never mind six degrees — The New York Times is never separated from Forest City Ratner by more than a couple degrees.

You can still catch the documentary “Bill Cunningham New York” in New York area theaters. The sweetly charming Cunningham, a man of extraordinary magnanimity of spirit, is a beautiful nerd, a man who, by giving himself over entirely to his obsession with fashion, achieves a singular greatness few of us can ever hope to achieve. With his two contrasting photographic features appearing weekly in the New York Times, Cunningham meticulously and with relentless energy chronicles the upper echelon fashion at New York’s exclusive charitable soirees and, also, more important, street fashion.

Among the several reasons Michael D.D. White urges us to see the film are these:

• The way that charity event life meshes with money and power (and therefore, the astute will extrapolate, politics and political agenda.)

Whither the New York Times? The future of the city, at least for the time being, is probably inextricably linked with the New York Times. As Cunningham’s work now and over the years has mostly been for the Times the film provides a valuable window into the culture of the paper, including a scene with Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger (called "Pinch" because his father was nicknamed "Punch"). A lot of the film is shot inside or just outside of the New Times building that the Times, employing eminent domain, built in a business partnership with Bruce Ratner, the notorious politically-connected subsidy collector reviled for Atlantic Yards, (a mega-project the Times refrains from criticizing or scrutinizing).


Posted by eric at 9:12 PM

May 1, 2011

On NetsDaily, time travel regarding AY documentaries

Atlantic Yards Report

From yesterday's NetsDaily:

Meanwhile Back in Brooklyn...

Amidst news that yet a third sports bar is planned opposite Barclays Center, a long-awaited documentary about the struggle of local landowners and tenants to stop the arena and Atlantic Yards has debuted at the Brooklyn Film Festival. "Brooklyn Matters", which at times had trouble getting funding, describes itself as "an insightful documentary that reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and planning principles to try to push their own interests forward."

The Brooklyn Paper which was first an opponent and then a proponent of the project, gave it a mixed review saying on one hand ""Brooklyn Matters" is a clever invective that will preach to the converted — the Atlantic Yards opponents who are its likely audience — a sermon they already believe: Atlantic Yards is bad" but on the other casting it as "an engaging head-butt to developer Bruce Ratner, the Empire State Development Corporation, Mayor Bloomberg and former Gov. Pataki." So there.

That mixed review was published 1/27/07.

The new film is Battle for Brooklyn, which debuted in Toronto last night and will debut in Brooklyn in June.


NetsDaily posts an update, apparently in response to my earlier post:

Meanwhile Back in Brooklyn...

Amidst news that yet a third sports bar is planned opposite Barclays Center, a long-awaited documentary about the struggle of local landowners and tenants to stop the arena and Atlantic Yards has debuted at the Brooklyn Film Festival. "The Battle for Brooklyn", which as the New York Observer notes had as much trouble getting funding as the project itself. An earlier version of this item confused "The Battle for Brooklyn" with an earlier documentary, "Brooklyn Matters".

What's the difference between the two? The Observer: "unlike Brooklyn Matters, this doc appears to be less of a polemic meant to sway the public against Ratner and the Nets than a swan song for a battle lost. Maybe they could screen it on the Barclays Centre Plaza when it opens next year."

The Observer reported:

It took almost as long for Bruce Ratner to get his Atlantic Yards project through the huge community fight as a movie about that fight to get made.

That's a reference to time, not funding. And it's Battle for Brooklyn, not The Battle for Brooklyn.


Posted by steve at 10:16 PM

Hot Docs: Battle for Brooklyn

Spacing Toronto

Here's a review of "Battle for Brooklyn" as the film is shown in Toronto's Hot Docs international documentary film festival.

Battle for Brooklyn follows the seven-year fight of Brooklyn resident Daniel Goldstein and a group of community activists coalesced under the banner “Develop, Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” against the massive Atlantic Yards mega-project. In 2003 billionaire developer Bruce Ratner and his firm, Forest City Ratner, announced a plan to buy the New Jersey Nets basketball team and relocate it to Brooklyn. With starchitect Frank Gehry on board and millions in public subsidies, Ratner unveiled the goliath Atlantic Yards development - comprising not only a basketball arena but also sixteen high-rise buildings, housing luxury condominiums, office and retail space – to be built over the disused Brooklyn rail yards as well as parts of a long-existing and densely-populated local neighborhood. So began seven years of community protests, legal actions, and political bargaining, culminating with the State Supreme Court’s enactment of eminent domain, the subject of this compelling and important documentary about corporate power and the production of urban space.


Posted by steve at 10:04 PM

April 5, 2011

As media pile on to Post's questionable scoop, Bloomberg defends Ratner; get ready for request for additional subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post's questionable, conclusory article yesterday, based on SEC worst-case warnings, drew unskeptical follow-up in Gothamist, New York, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and others.

Even the Star-Ledger, in Nets' Brooklyn project reportedly could be scaled back, chose to trust the Post's framing of the story rather than the facts its reporters noted.

Bloomberg professes optimism

In Mike believes Atl. Yards hoopla, the Post followed up:

A confident Mayor Bloomberg insisted yesterday that the housing and commercial component of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards complex won't be scrapped, saying he was certain that developer Bruce Ratner is proceeding as planned.

"I talked to Bruce Ratner as late as 30 minutes ago, and let me tell you, he thinks his business is going very well out there and he's very optimistic about Atlantic Yards," Bloomberg said.

Except Ratner's business isn't going very well; that's why he sold 49% of 15 retail properties.

Nor is the project proceeding as planned; after all, Bloomberg's own administration--at least under the recently-departed HPD head--denied additional subsidies for the first tower.


Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

March 26, 2011

In Our Time Press, the notorious Stephen Witt hails Ratner's modular plan, cites support from Caldwell of BUILD

Atlantic Yards Report

The notorious Stephen Witt is now writing for the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Our Time Press, but his m.o. remains the same.

In Build Atlantic Yards in Bedford-Stuyvesant (from this issue), Witt writes:

If developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) wants to prefabricate all planned 16 high-rise buildings in his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project that’s fine with me as long as most of the factory work stays in Brooklyn.

And a good place to start looking for a site to build modules components of the skyscrapers that will be trucked and bolted together on the 22-acre site starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection is in Bedford- Stuyvesant.

This is a version of an argument made by Crown Heights residents (and then-Daily News columnist) Errol Louis, as expressed at a forum in September 21006: "If they’re going to get a billion-dollar TIF [tax-increment financing] deal in Rensselaer County, I think where I live, in Kings County, if somebody wants to bring a billion-dollar deal there, with way too much paid per job, in my neighborhood, where there’s a lot of unemployment, personally, I would say, ‘You know what? I’ll take that.’”


The article closes:

The announcement came as the mostly wealthier and white opponents of the project continue to decry it. Interestingly, some of these people have made opposing the plan a cottage industry and have already benefited from the project.

Caldwell said he finds it interesting that opponent bloggers never even try to tell both sides of the story, and continue to demonize anyone that tries to see both sides of the coin.

“I was just at Cataldo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue and the owner told me how he is doing a great business from arena construction workers,” said Caldwell.

“The bloggers and people against the project don’t talk or write about the positive economic impact the arena has already had in the area,” he added.

As McClure comments:

Ouch. But we thought it was the wealthier and white proponents of the project who were benefiting from the project — that is, until the Feds swooped in.

The other night, as it happens, I was talking to someone who lives on the Prospect Heights/Crown Heights boundary. Nobody in her building--mostly poorer and black (to use the converse of Witt's term)--supports Atlantic Yards.

Maybe that's a limited sample, but Witt's sample is just as limited. And everyone he cites is making money from Atlantic Yards. Maybe he should consider the other side of that coin.


Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

March 24, 2011

Whither the New York Times? Noticing New York Comment Respecting a Manhattan Institute Sponsored Debate

Noticing New York

The Times is having a harder and harder time not covering Atlantic Yards. That’s partly because Atlantic Yards is a bigger story than the paper has heretofore rightfully acknowledged. Basically, I think there was a decision at the Times made, albeit in the necessarily amorphous and unstated way that decisions would have to be made in such a news organization, to relegate Atlantic Yards, and more specifically the governmental misconduct and impermissible cronyism associated with Atlantic Yards, to the status of an official non-story within its pages. But the story won’t go away.

With new revelations like the Forest City Ratner pattern of being involved in the bribery of government officials, the recently unveiled ambition to make Atlantic Yards the densest forest of modular units in North America and EB5 program abuses in selling green cards to the Chinese solely for developer benefit the Atlantic Yards saga is a constant poster child for malefaction. But what the Times most misestimates is the extent to which the Times story interrelates with the coverage of the national and local stories it editorially believes it should be covering vigilantly.

I believe that the Times made a miscalculation that Ratner, as a financial buddy, could be off-limits for critical pieces- but not puff pieces- (Its own little behind-the-scenes deal with the devil), but that indulgences would come (in the good old religious sense of buying indulgences to recover from sin) via its moralistic vigor on national issues. But there is no such line to be drawn. Everything is connected. (This is one of the points of an epically idiosyncratic Noticing New York piece currently in the works: Adding A few More Off Topic Notes (Or Are They Really?).)

(* You encounter a similar Jekyll and Hyde split with Michael Ratner: On the one hand he is a defender of intentional human rights coordinating with the likes of Naomi Wolf and on the other he is feathering his nest with political contributions to now-indicted state senator Carl Kruger, no doubt with the intention of keeping the money flow from his brother Bruce Ratner off the radar screens)

The Times can’t write about race relations without observing the context in which white men like Ratner have attempted manipulate those concerns for their own financial advantage. The Times can’t cover Bloomberg and his potential run for president without observing how he favors awarding the development of big swaths of the city to a small in-crowd of connected developers. The Wall Street shenanigans covered by the Times very popular op-ed columnist Paul Krugman echo in the goings on with respect to Atlantic Yards as do all the Times stories about the accelerating redistributions of wealth from the middle class to the upper echelons.

The list of what the Times is missing by failing to make connections goes on ad infinitum. It also all relates to the question asked by the title given to the St. Francis evening debate: “Is the New York Times Good for Democracy?” The Times seriously hamstrings itself with respect to covering the big story on American Democracy by failing to adequately cover Atlantic Yards.


Posted by eric at 11:29 AM

March 21, 2011

"Gray Lady Down," a debate on the Times, and an AY mention

Atlantic Yards Report

Having read William McGowan's book Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of The New York Times Means for America, I knew it does not address such relatively local issues at Atlantic Yards (built by the Times Company's business partner on the Times Tower, Forest City Ratner), but instead more ideological issues such as gay marriage, immigration, the Duke "rape" case, and the war on terror.

So McGowan didn't bring up Atlantic Yards during a debate last month with Michael Tomasky, American editor-at-large for the Guardian, at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. (Tomasky's main point was that the allegedly halcyon days of the past featured flawed coverage, especially in scope, of a different stripe.)

I think the issue is somewhat murky. I have no doubt that the editorial page is committed, by virtue of the "spirit of the Times" (aka Sulzberger), to supporting Atlantic Yards, or, at least, keeping its mouth shut about dismaying details.

Is the Metro desk in the tank? I don't think so--and I can't let myself think so. But the Times has done, on the whole, a lousy job covering Atlantic Yards.

Editors make choices, and the Times has chosen to put far less energy into looking carefully at Atlantic Yards than at a number of other issues. Meanwhile, the Sports section laps up Nets publicity.


Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

March 20, 2011

Times devotes seven reporters to Kruger-Turano investigation; what if they applied same resources to Forest City Ratner's EB-5 venture?

Atlantic Yards Report

In A Senator’s Shadow Family, the New York Times today assigns seven reports to look at the complicated relationship between accused (of corruption) state Senator Carl Kruger and the Turano family, who live in an over-the-top house in Mill Basin:

In the days since the criminal complaint was filed on March 10, the four central characters in this drama have declined to talk extensively to reporters. But interviews with two dozen people who know them, along with previously undisclosed court and city records, reveal a strange symbiosis. Mr. Kruger vaulted the Turanos into his spheres of power and influence, prosecutors say, landing Dorothy a plum job and, later, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into her sons’ bank accounts to finance a $200,000 Bentley and pay down a $1.2 million mortgage.

The Turanos, in turn, provided the senator companionship, and prosecutors say the brothers helped conceal his growing payoffs from lobbyists and corporations.

Imagine what seven reporters could find if they looked into Forest City Ratner's EB-5 venture, to which the newspaper finally devoted space--all of two paragraphs--this week.


Posted by steve at 10:13 PM

Seven years ago, Brooklyn Paper house ad touted "the most complete and honest coverage" of Atlantic Yards and "changing face of Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

From a house ad in the 3/20/04 Brooklyn Papers (now the Brooklyn Paper):

2 massive Urban Renewal projects would change the face of Downtown Brooklyn forever — turning both quaint and gritty neighborhoods into high-trafficked walled communities, and massively impacting life in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

The proposed Nets arena is just a small part of the master plan, the most expensive Urban Renewal and property condemnation in Brooklyn’s history.

Only The Brooklyn Papers has asked: Is this the Manhattanization of Brooklyn ... or the “depeopling” suburbanization of our streets?

Are these projects good for Brooklyn?


Looking back

In retrospect, I'm not sure the question was Manhattanization vs. suburbanization, though it's more the former.

Rather, it's whether the public sector would prove to be a tenacious defender of the public interest, or whether the project would be steered by the developer, with cheerleaders like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz bending over backwards to help.

The Brooklyn Paper did an aggressive job covering Atlantic Yards, though that's diminished since the newspaper was bought by Rupert Murdoch in 2009.


Posted by steve at 9:45 PM

March 19, 2011

Look at the graphics: Times devotes less space to EB-5 controversy than to puff pieces about Nets promotions

Atlantic Yards Report

Size does matter.

Yesterday, the New York Times briefly mentioned Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from immigrant investors, as if no questions or controversy were connected.

I've scanned the print article, to contrast the amount of coverage with the significant space the Sports section has devoted to covering Nets promotions of dubious value...

Yes, Metro is different from Sports, but people read the Times as a whole.

(And, I should add, today's Times has a Metro section feature on the move of Freddy's from Prospect Heights, displaced from the arena block, to an address that's either the South South Slope, Greenwood Heights, or northern Sunset Park: The Transmigration of a Brooklyn Saloon. It's not uninteresting, but it's also soft news, not hard news that requires some analysis.)

The two paragraphs the Times devoted to EB-5 are also dwarfed by a Sports section photo of Nets dancers and a puff piece about a promotion for tax time.


Posted by steve at 11:44 PM

Two Times headline tweaks, softening the political impact of the modular tower plan

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not uncommon that newspapers publish articles with web headlines that differ from headlines that appear in print, given the constraints of the latter.

And it's not uncommon, given the fluid world of web-first publishing, the web headlines change as well.

Still, it's worth pointing out the apparent softening of provisional New York Times headlines over the past two days.

Union concerns not played up

As I wrote March 17, the article headlined in print as "Atlantic Yards Plans to Build Tallest Prefab," and online as Prefabricated Tower May Rise at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards, at point had a different web headline, with a tougher slant: "In Brooklyn, a Prefabricated Tower May Anger Unions."

In other words, the story tilted from an emphasis on the political context of the decision to a more gee-whiz approach to technology.

The article yesterday, headlined online as With Federal Case and Modular Building Plan, New Attention for Atlantic Yards Project, and with a similar headline in print, at one point was headlined online as "Atlantic Yards Developer Draws Criticism from Unions," as the screenshot indicates.

As it happens, the union angle wasn't the main thrust of the piece, which was a (somewhat wimpy) round-up. But was there more criticism from unions that ultimately didn't appear?


Posted by steve at 11:41 PM

Ratner Gets Press, More To Come?

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In the aftermath of the major New York Times piece revealing Forest City Ratner's plans to minimize union labor by using modular construction for the first residential tower, the media have started to take a second look at the deception and corruption that are the hallmarks of Atlantic Yards.

Patch takes a look at the outraged union reaction in Brooklyn who sound all but ready to break out the inflatable rat for the corner of Dean and Flatbush. And then the Times itself followed up with a broader look at the Atlantic Yards bait-and-switch.

But as Norman Oder points out, there's still another really big story here that the major media has yet to nail: FCR's borderline-fraudulent sales of green cards to Asian investors in return for investment dollars. The EB-5 program is meant to create new jobs in the U.S., but as the Times reports:

MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner, said that when it received final approval from the federal government, the $249 million would be used to pay down a land loan for the project and additional work on the railyard.

How many new jobs does paying off a loan create? And wasn't the railyard work already required under the master plan? Oder, ever generous to his colleagues, actually sets out a complete roadmap for coverage of this scandal-in-the-making, in the comments section of the Times' follow-up article. It's a story about a well-intentioned Federal program that Ratner has turned into yet another form of corporate welfare, based on hawking U.S. green cards like memberships in a time-share resort. Journalists, please start your engines.


Posted by steve at 10:25 PM

From Columbia Journalism Review: A Sports Myth Grows in Brooklyn: New basketball arena won’t occupy the site the Dodgers sought

Atlantic Yards Report

I've been writing about the "same site" myth for years and, in a 2/17/08 post suggested that the New York Times's failure to correct a persistent error would have consequences. Indeed, it has.

Columbia Journalism Review today publishes my online article, A Sports Myth Grows in Brooklyn: New basketball arena won’t occupy the site the Dodgers sought:

Journalists who write about the new basketball arena rising in Brooklyn, scheduled to house the basketball Nets in 2012, frequently invoke the borough’s last major league team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, who left in 1957 for Los Angeles. They sometimes cite a seeming spiritual link: the Barclays Center arena is said to be located exactly where a successor to Ebbets Field could have emerged.”

A half-century earlier, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had hoped to build a new home for his team on the same site,” writes Zack O’Malley Greenburg in Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office, officially published March 17. (Jay-Z’s an investor in the Nets, hence a chapter on the Atlantic Yards project.) The Ebbets Field connection has been brought up by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, cited by a journalism professor and author on a book on the Dodgers, and even entered an ongoing exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

The problem? It’s a myth. The stadium would have been located across a wide avenue. While the myth has appeared in multiple media outlets, I believe that The New York Times, which many researchers treat as a reliable source, bears significant responsibility.

The error has appeared at least five times in the Times


Posted by steve at 10:00 PM

March 13, 2011

The cognitive dissonance of the Daily News: cheering Atlantic Yards, slamming Albany corruption, giving slack to Kruger's partner Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

It wasn't so long ago that the New York Daily News, on 12/17/09, was cheering the Atlantic Yards arena:

Even more important, the Atlantic Yards plan calls for building 6,400 housing units, a third of them affordable, on a tract that has been fallow for half a century. Those will take time. Right now, it's enough that we end the dark half-century that began with the defection of the borough's Dodgers and enjoy all the jobs that building the arena will create.

That contained a big lie ("fallow" tract), a medium lie ("all the jobs"), and a ridiculous claim (that the half-century had been "dark").

A corrupt capital

Today, the Daily News is shocked, shocked at the political shenanigans behind the project, in an editorial headlined Crooked Carl Kruger wallowed in Albany's corrupt pork-barrel slush-fund ways:

The million-dollar corruption case lodged against Brooklyn state Sen. Carl Kruger did more than depict him as the personification of sleaze. It also shed invaluable light on the Legislature's cavalier slush-fund culture.

An FBI listening device showed just how much money an individual lawmaker can control - and just how routinely a legislator can dole it out, without accountability or sound judgment, to special friends.

This particular transaction unfolded in December, when Kruger fielded a call from Forest City Ratner honcho Bruce Bender - a client of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who had allegedly bribed Kruger for help on other matters.

Bender was seeking an amazing $15 million: $9 million for a bridge related to his company's Atlantic Yards project, $2 million for a retail center in Mill Basin and $4 million to renovate a skating rink in Prospect Park.

As it happens, Bender's wife sits on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Kruger laments that he has but $4 million to offer and asks, "What do you want done?" adding, "I guess the park. F--- the bridge."


But it takes two (or three) to tango--aren't Kruger's partners deserving of criticism? Wasn't it Bender who said "I don't mind fucking the bridge"?

Blame the legislature?

The editorial concludes:

But this is slimy business as usual in Albany, where pork accounts are so numerous that Senate officials couldn't be quite sure on Friday which account the $4 million came from or where it ended up.

Prosecutors have warned for years that this secretive, unaccountable spending is guaranteed to breed corruption. They were right. Individual lawmakers have no business grabbing and doling out slices of pork. So, from now on, for as long as the Legislature insists on gorging, these grants will be known as Kruger Money.

Shouldn't the Daily News stress that part of the "slimy business" is Forest City Ratner's effort to evade a $14 million obligation it assumed to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge?


Posted by steve at 10:47 PM

March 4, 2011

Media meme #2: about that "indie rock" petition for Prime 6; the author can't be found and the whole thing may be fake

Atlantic Yards Report

We've been played, folks.

Neighbors' concerns about Prime 6, the "sports bar," club, or simply nightlife spot with an entrance on Flatbush Avenue and a backyard extending into a residential block, has turned into a huge donnybrook about 1) bars capitalizing on the arena and 2) places attracting a "hip-hop" crowd.

The first seems at least partly true. Evidence for the second relies mostly on an online petition urging that the bar switch to "indie" rock, a petition so precious that it generated numerous parody signatures, and a petition in response urging "Jennifer McMillen" to move to the Hamptons. And lots of pile-on coverage.

Except no one, save the Wall Street Journal, tried to find McMillen, who's not listed in the phone book or in any database. And the Journal couldn't find her, and suggests the kerfuffle is based on a falsehood:

It was provocative stuff, especially for a famously liberal and oft-mocked Brooklyn enclave. Except it might not be true.

At a recent meeting, most locals who turned out in force to air gripes about the establishment—tentatively called Prime 6 and tentatively set to open in May—didn't know a Ms. McMillen. Efforts by The Wall Street Journal to find a person with that name in New York City were unsuccessful.


Related coverage...

The Wall Street Journal, Brooklyn Venue Sparks Debate

Residents insisted none of their concerns had to do with any playlist at the spot, planned for Flatbush and Sixth avenues, just a few blocks from the Atlantic Yards development, which includes a new basketball arena for the Nets.

"I care about the 4 a.m. closing hour," said Michael Rooney, an attorney.

"No one—even among the most concerned neighbors—said anything about hip-hop music. That's a complete invention with racist overtones," said Steve Ettlinger, a writer and Park Slope resident of 26 years. He thinks the petition must be a hoax.

NoLandGrab: So the question is this — is "Jennifer McMillen" just a prankster having some fun, or is there something more sinister and calculated going on here? Like an effort to tarnish people opposed to the overriding of zoning rules that typically prevent an enormous sports arena from being built immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods?

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

Media meme #1: why is the Barclays Center naming rights deal reported as "nearly $400 million"?

Atlantic Yards Report

How exactly are sports reporters still reporting that the Barclays Center naming rights deal resembles the $400 million deal announced in January 2007?

Consider the cliche-ridden USA Today article headlined New Jersey Nets go global to help domestic image. (No, it's not about EB-5.)

The article begins:

New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark looked at Brooklyn and saw the world, a melting pot of humanity.

He also saw a world of opportunity for the Nets as the franchise planned its move to Brooklyn starting with the 2012-13 season.

Yormark began an aggressive pursuit of international brands the Nets could partner with, scoring a lucrative 20-year naming-rights deal worth nearly $400 million for the Brooklyn arena with Barclays, the London-based banking and financial services giant.

How does the reporter know the value of the naming rights deal?

Because the $400 million figure was promoted relentlessly by the Nets and Forest City Ratner, and repeated dutifully by journalistic outlets like the New York Times.

What about the cut?

The cut in the agreement, to $200 million and unspecified "certain fees," got covered in a few media outlets. The Times barely covered the story; it referred to "an additional sum" and later reported the Nets claimed "that the bank’s total annual payments, including fees for other rights, remain unchanged."

No evidence was cited. The available evidence, as noted at bottom, suggests otherwise.


Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

February 27, 2011

A profile of the guy whose firm produced Ratner's brochures: "Josh is highly motivated by making profit"

Atlantic Yards Report

The 2/22/11 profile in Capital NY, How former liberal operative Josh Isay became the default paid-media guy to the New York establishment, concerns SKDKnickerbocker, once known as Knickerbocker SKD.

It's an interesting piece of inside baseball, but without an attempt to evaluate the content of the firm's work. The press does such evaluation with certain political ads, but not (despite my argument) with the firm's misleading brochures for Forest City Ratner.

The article notes:

Both the corporate and the political clients ostensibly benefit from the same essential asset: Isay’s knowledge of how reporters, politicians and regulators process information.

And that's why the press should take the message seriously.


The article lists several clients, but not FCR:

In addition to NYSE, the firm has been hired by a host of corporate and union clients, including Thor Equities, the firm that sparred with the city over the redevelopment of Coney Island; the Rudin family, which controls some 14 million square feet of real estate in New York City; Genting New York, a subsidiary of the Malaysian gambling giant that won state approval to install slot machines at the Queens Aqueduct; and Education Reform Now, the Joel Klein creation that’s battling teacher unions in New York. (Anita Dunn, Isay’s partner in D.C., is advising a group with a similar agenda: Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst.)

Meanwhile, Isay seems to have worked at one time or another with all of the best-known politicians in New York City...

The bottom line

Here's the bottom line regarding Isay's choice of political clients, which likely applies to corporate clients, as well:

Certainly, he will not feel constrained by any sense of partisan duty.

(As one of Isay's consultant friends put it, "Josh is highly motivated by making profit, which is fine.")


Posted by steve at 7:03 PM

February 19, 2011

New York Times devotes investigative resources to Park Slope Food Co-op "scandal," ignores EB-5 story

Atlantic Yards Report

This is pretty rich or, rather, brutally weird. Yesterday, the New York Times devoted two reporters and some 1100 words to an article headlined At a Food Co-op, a Discordant Thought: Nannies Covering Shifts:

So the allegation by a Park Slope blog last week that some members were sending their nannies to fulfill their work shifts has raised eyebrows and debate among the granola-and-strollers set of greater Park Slope, and smug satisfaction among those who would rather go to Key Food.

The allegation, by a blog "which goes by a name that cannot be printed in this newspaper" (Fucked in Park Slope), was worth a follow-up, a perfect story for, say, the old and departed City section.

But the coverage seems disproportionate to the Times's willingness to ignore Atlantic Yards. Meanwhile, there's a blog that kinda did some reporting about Forest City Ratner's attempt to raise $249 million from immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 program.


Posted by steve at 4:18 PM

February 17, 2011

Credulous Daily News columnist Denis Hamill asserts "Atlantic Yards" dream real for Ratner, buys into Ratner spin, fails to check facts

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes apart Denis Hamill's love letter to Bruce Ratner.

Denis Hamill, the Daily News's most prominent Atlantic Yards apologist, today pens a fabulist valentine to Bruce Ratner, headlined Atlantic Yards and the Nets Barclays Arena dream real for Bruce Ratner - after 7-yr. nightmare.

First, let's check the headline. The arena might be happening, but Atlantic Yards isn't very real at all. Hamill couldn't be bothered to check, but the much-ballyhooed affordable housing is yet again delayed.

And instead of taking ten years, as Ratner repeatedly promised, the project more likely would take 25.

But that's not why--I suspect--Forest City Ratner reached out to the convenient Hamill. They need to sell some suites, and some sponsorships.

Read on for Oder's line-by-line takedown.


Posted by eric at 11:11 AM

February 14, 2011

Good Bye!

Found in Brooklyn

Lisanne McTernan is hanging up her blog, Found in Brooklyn. Godspeed, Lisanne!

I do believe that this will be F.I.B's last post. I would like to thank you all for stopping by because you people out there are the only reason I have kept it up for the past year or so. There were times when I was really into the blog but now unfortunately it has become more of an obligation and that's no fun at all. I think I prefer to be a blog reader rather than a blog writer. I started F.I.B in retaliation to a blog (which shall remain nameless) that I thought was godawful and these days I think F.I.B has been going in that direction as well. This blog started as a photography blog and I also wrote more about music and personal stuff. It took a different turn when I learned that they wanted to build condos in my neighborhood of Gowanus and it became more politically active in a local sense. While I am still interested in local political action, I just can't keep it up via the blog anymore. Between the Gowanus and the Atlantic Yards, I think I'm tired. The Gowanus has gotten it's Superfunding (yay!), Bruce Ratner has gotten his stadium (boo!) and life goes on. Now the big issue is Coney Island and I don't think I have the heart to cover that anymore although I will continue to be active in that fight. Besides there are people who do a way better job than I ever could, just check out the list to the right. I have met many cool people through the blog and have connected with my community in a way that probably wouldn't have happened without it. Thanks to all the other blogs for giving me mucho blog love through the years via linkage and all that, I have always appreciated it. Anyway I am babbling..I'm not accepting an Oscar here! When I started this blog I would of never thought it would go for four years, it's been pretty much the only consistent thing in my life-thanks for reading!

*This photo is the first photo I ever posted and variations of the same area of the block have been on F.I.B countless times. (Four years later those metal things next the fire hydrant are still bent)


NoLandGrab: Click here for links to some of the Found in Brooklyn stories we've posted over the years.

Posted by eric at 10:48 AM

February 12, 2011

Battle of Brooklyn eminent domain documentary preview at ALI-ABA 2011

We have just heard that a documentary concerning the Atlantic Yards Project (we have discussed AY numerous times on this blog, including here and here) will be previewing at the ALI-ABA Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation course next week in Coral Gables, FL. If you have not registered, there is still time and here's another reason why this course is so unique.


Battle of Brooklyn chronicles the seven year fight to stop the use of eminent domain in the single densest development proposed in U.S. history, the infamous Atlantic Yards Project.

Screening times:

Wednesday Feb 16th: 5:30pm - Hyatt Regency, Coral Gables

Friday Feb 18th: 5:30pm - Hyatt Regency, Coral Gables

Running time is 90 minutes.

*The filmmakers will be present to discuss the film Thursday during the 5:30 Participant Reception and Friday following the screening. Note: the film also features ALI-ABA faculty presenter and NYC attorney Norman Siegel.

Attorney for the property owners, Michael Rikon says: "The Battle of Brooklyn is a very important film because it graphically shows how disenfranchised property owners are when confronted with condemnation...This is the best narrative of eminent domain abuse ever made. It is a must for any one seriously interest in Urban Planning."


Posted by steve at 4:52 PM

Jay-Z's Atlantic Yards Cash-In

The L Magazine

Jay-Z is already an investor in the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, a co-owner of the basketball team coming to play there, but he just figured out a way to make a little more money by exploiting the residents of his home borough. The Nets recently retained the services of Transition, a "branding firm," to burnish its image. According to an Ad-Age article published Wednesday:

Translation is charged with speaking to a variety of constituencies surrounding the Nets' move from New Jersey, including potential new season-ticket holders, current season-ticket holders, longtime fans of the team, local businesses and, perhaps most important, to a vocal though now dwindling group of citizens who have long opposed a new arena in Brooklyn...

The article continues, "Expect Translation to...utiliz[e] rap star Jay-Z." What it doesn't mention is that Jay-Z owns a stake in Translation.

A commenter at the tireless Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report pointed out the connection, linking to a Times article from two years ago about Jay-Z's investment in Translation Advertising, a part of Translation Consultation and Brand Advertising.

Oh, it's like when the Bush administration gave all those contracts to Halliburton.


Posted by steve at 4:50 PM

February 9, 2011

Looking for local coverage of Markowitz's fine

Atlantic Yards Report

On Monday, the dailies reported that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was fined by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009.

The Brooklyn Paper hasn't reported that news yet, though yesterday it offered a tough story about Markowitz's objectification of women in public comments--a point I raised in my coverage last week of the State of the Borough address--and today covers the news/photo op involving the visit of Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas to Borough Hall.


Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

February 6, 2011

A random, off-kilter Atlantic Yards reference in fiction

Atlantic Yards Report

If Amy Sohn's dishy novel Prospect Park West offers some amusing references to Atlantic Yards, Adam Dunn's recently published Rivers of Gold, a dystopian, near-future (2013) fictional vision of New York, pushes AY off kilter:

Within forty minutes, Dr. Zuckerman's Z was on its way to the police impound on Eleventh Avenue (a half-cleared yard left fallow since the city's Atlantic Yards renovation project collapsed in '08) where it would stay lost for a month.

Well, Atlantic Yards isn't a city project, nor a renovation project, nor located on Eleventh Avenue in Manhattan, nor collapsed.

But it must have a dystopian ring of some sorts.

Here's an enthusiastic review of the book from the Washington Post.


Posted by steve at 8:32 PM

February 5, 2011

The Brooklyn brand proceeds, to gin

Atlantic Yards Report

Marty Markowitz, in his State of the Borough address Thursday, had a section about the Brooklyn Brand:

It has been clear for several years that Brooklyn is now a brand unto itself. But what does that brand represent? NBC news anchor Brian Williams had a humorous take on the concept during a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show with Joe Scarborough. Let’s take a look.

[Video of Brian Williams joking about New York Times discovering Brooklyn]

He’s right. If you’re looking for anything artisanal, sustainable, locally grown or made by hand, Brooklyn’s got it. And now, so does the world. The Brooklyn brand is available from the shores of Manhattan, home of the Brooklyneer bar, which carries Brooklyn-made foods, to Tokyo, where you’ll find the new Brooklyn Parlor, serving up beers from Brooklyn Brewery and a genuine Brooklyn Burger.

And they “absolutely” value the Brooklyn brand in Sweden, home of Absolut vodka. When the company decided to market a New York-themed vodka, they didn’t choose Absolut Bronx (sorry, Ruben!) or Absolut Queens. Nope, they went with Absolut Brooklyn, using a bottle designed by Brooklyn’s own Spike Lee.

And yesterday the New York Times told us about the battle between two Brooklyn gins, Breuckelen and Brooklyn:

Manhattan may have a namesake cocktail, but Brooklyn is playing muse to two rival gins. And the existence of both Mr. Santos’s Brooklyn gin and Mr. Estabrooke’s Breuckelen gin provides an unusually clear — you could even say distilled — example of just how much the symbolism of that borough has changed and just how potent its branding potential is perceived to be.

Tellingly, neither man has deep roots in Brooklyn, or called it home until the last few years. Brooklyn these days is an identity divorced from ancestry or actual time served.

So maybe it won't be quite as hard to sell the Brooklyn Nets. But those "brownstone" and "loft" suites will remain a stretch.


Posted by steve at 2:55 PM

February 3, 2011

Please give us all the facts next time, Lizzie

The Sports ITeam Blog []
by Michael O'Keeffe

There's a good story - "Boom Town and Bust City: A Tale of Two New Yorks" - in The Nation's Feb. 14 edition that examines how the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer thanks to the Great Recession.

But author Lizzie Ratner fails to note that her family has been one of the winners in the economically anxious times.

Ratner's father is Bruce Ratner, the Nets minority owner and Atlantic Yards developer who has received hundreds of millions of dollars in state and city subsidies and tax breaks. And let's not forget that the MTA sold Bruce Ratner prime real estate in central Brooklyn for the Barclays Center for a bargain-basement price - $150 million for land that was appraised at almost $215 million.

Lizzie Ratner, by the way, has been listed as an officer in Forest City Ratner-related companies involved with Atlantic Yards. So has her uncle, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner has been a hero to many people who care about civil and human rights, but you have to wonder why he's opposed to throwing Palestinians out of the West Bank but does’t seem to care when Brooklyn residents are thrown out of their homes for a basketball arena.

So when you're standing on a dirty, overcrowded subway car, when you have to pay yet even more money for your Metrocard, when you read that Gov. Cuomo is hacking education and Medicaid funding, it may be some consolation that Lizzie Ratner of The Nation knows the score.


NoLandGrab: Michael O'Keeffe is being too generous — Papa Bruce is paying only $100 million for the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard. And when paying in one lump sum became a little onerous for Ratner, the MTA sweetened his already syrupy deal by allowing him 22 years (at a below-market interest rate) in which to pay it off.

Posted by eric at 10:51 PM

January 26, 2011

For Times, arena returns as a sports story, sourced to Ratner, who claims, “Brooklyn has been waiting for this, really, since the Dodgers left"

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is once again a sports story, and the only sources for the New York Times's New Arena for the Nets Is Sprouting in Brooklyn are developer Bruce Ratner and uber-marketer Brett Yormark.

In response to some not-so-informed comments by former point guard Jason Kidd, who didn't think the arena was happening, and perhaps (as per NLG) a not-so-flattering article telling us Nets tickets are going for pennies, the Times tells us:

After several years of legal wrangling and the economic downturn, the Barclays Center is finally and firmly on the way after ground was broken last year.

“It got delayed so much and there were so many false starts, ‘I think we’re there, I think we’re there,’ and then the economy got bad and this thing happened and that thing happened, so unless you read carefully, you don’t realize how far along it is and that it’s really on its way,” Ratner said.

Well, it's on its way, but exactly how far is not completely clear. A more independent source, a consultant to the bond trustee, has indicated that a meeting on schedule disputes was to happen last month, and that substantial completion had been nudged back from July to August 2012.

Remember, back in November, 2005, Scott Turner of Fans for Fair Play savaged the relevance of Dodgers nostalgia in the context of the Atlantic Yards saga, contrasting owners, their devotion to sports, their commitment to local fans, the players, ticket costs, and commitment to local businesses, among other things.


Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

Required Reading for Brooklynites of a Political Persuasion: What’s Happening to Our Borough? Brooklyn, NY Blog
by Ellen Freudenheim

In case you missed them, two important pieces were published in the past few days about Brooklyn. Not about restaurants and places to spend money, but about Brooklyn's fundamental direction--and the power of big developers to literally shape the landscape of a borough that so many call home.

"We're Essentially Powerless"

Sunday's New York Times published a powerful piece calling out Brooklyn's lack of political muscle. Brooklyn civic activist Norman Oder (who, as author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, certainly has had a birdseye view of power politics in Brooklyn) says, "We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations." His conclusion? Putting it mildly, "Brooklyn's powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny."


Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

January 21, 2011

Complaint Box | Powerless in Brooklyn

City Room
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,, 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.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times Complaint Box essay: Powerless in Brooklyn (without meaningful local government and broad-based media, civic organizations)

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 11:01 AM

January 20, 2011

In Brooklyn, hyperlocal news gets a boost with Patch (but we need much more)

Atlantic Yards Report

The nature of the local new media is changing and, for Brooklyn, there may be some promise in Patch, the AOL-funded enterprise that's hiring do-it-all editors (without offices) in communities around the country--800 so far, with a goal of 1000.

The editors are assisted by freelancers and other contributors and, in Brooklyn at least, form a bit of a network. Right now there's a Prospect Heights Patch, Park Slope Patch, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch, Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill Patch, and Bed-Stuy Patch.

What, no Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg? Maybe those communities were seen as already "taken" by the Brooklyn Heights Blog and culture blogs like Free Williamsburg. (Disclosure: I've done one freelance piece for Patch.)

Not just news

Patch, self-described as "your local source for news, events, business listings, and discussion," got some semi-skeptical treatment in a New York Times article January 17--an article that ignored Patch in New York but pointed out that the company is focusing on relatively affluent suburban towns that can generate advertising.

Indeed, Patch strikes me as optimized for small communities that don't have a newspaper to cover key local institutions like the school board and mayor's office. (See, for example, the comment by Ann O. at the bottom of this CJR post.)

Brooklyn lacks such cohesion--even the community boards stretch beyond a single community--so the match is inexact.

And Patch is still feeling its way. I'm not sure what an article on "Rent is Too Damn High" candidate Jimmy McMillan shilling for a New Jersey car dealership was doing on the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Patch. Then again, Patch did a nice job covering the memorial for former District Leader Bill Saunders--and no other news outlet bothered.


Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

January 17, 2011

Washington Post re-launches Fact Checker column; CJR says every reporter should evaluate truth; what about KPMG's report to the ESDC?

Atlantic Yards Report

The Washington Post has re-launched its Fact Checker column that previously concentrated on the presidential campaigns and "will focus on any statements by political figures and government officials--in the United States and abroad--that cry out for fact-checking."

Writes Glenn Kessler:

But we will not be limited to political charges or countercharges. We will seek to explain difficult issues, provide missing context and provide analysis and explanation of various "code words" used by politicians, diplomats and others to obscure or shade the truth.

The Post will use the Pinocchio Test, which includes:

  • One Pinocchio: shading of the facts, but no outright falsehoods
  • Two Pinocchios: significant omissions and/or exaggerations, without necessarily a formal error
  • Three Pinocchios: significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions
  • Four Pinocchios: whoppers

Unalloyed truths--they will get "our prized Geppetto checkmark."

And in New York?

There's a crying need for such a service in the New York media; to my knowledge, fact-checking has been deployed mainly when checking claims in political advertising.

But what if the media decide to check, say, KPMG's report to the Empire State Development Corporation on the condo market? I give it four Pinocchios.


NoLandGrab: We prefer to call our Pinocchios "Yormarks."

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

January 15, 2011

Yormark claims "disbelief that the Dodgers left... has been passed on from generation to generation"

Atlantic Yards Report

On ESPN, True Hoop J.A. Adande listens to New Jerseyan Brett Yormark pontificate on Brooklyn:

I chatted with Nets CEO Brett Yormark about what the arena means to Brooklyn, why the Nets need a superstar, the building of the brand and a man he calls Michael -- that would be Mikhail Prokhorov.

“I’ve been engaged in this whole move for about six years,” Yormark said. “I’m in Brooklyn quite often, if not daily. The disbelief that the Dodgers left [in 1957], that underserved nature with respect to sports and entertainment, has been passed on from generation to generation."

Not so. He needs to get out more.

As I wrote in March 2009, Michael D’Antonio's revisionist biography of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner,and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, put Dodgers nostalgia in perspective, blaming it on Roger Kahn’s book The Boys of Summer.


Posted by steve at 11:44 AM

January 12, 2011

"Shocking news": Observer floats lightly-sourced claim that Apple is looking for store near arena location; what about the EB-5 story?

Atlantic Yards Report

Yeah, and LeBron James is going to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the first Frank Gehry-designed Apple Store, which will also contain 300 units of affordable housing.

The New York Observer claims it's broken "some shocking news recently and nobody noticed," because only subscribers to the new Commercial Observer Now tri-weekly newsletter got it.

The headline in the Observer is iRatner! Apple Digging Atlantic Yards for First Brooklyn Store, but the story--likely based on a real estate broker--is more vague:

With plans dashed for a fifth Apple store on 34th Street late last year, sources say the tech behemoth is now setting its sights on a location near the proposed Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn, future home to the Nets basketball team.

Since last month, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been informally chatting with potential landlords, including Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, about leasing options in the area, a source with ties to Forest City Ratner told The Commercial Observer on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Observer and others have steered clear of some other "shocking news," such as the admission, by a firm with ties to Forest City Ratner, that its agents are misleading potential immigrant investors about an EB-5 investment in Atlantic Yards tied to green cards.


Related coverage...

The Commercial Observer, Apple Mulling Atlantic Yards Store

"They've been very gun shy, the Apple people," said the source, who refused to be identified because the person was not given clearance to speak publicly. "They're focusing on the arena area right now, but there's no space. But it's the only place in Brooklyn that's super visible, close to trains and about as close as you can get to a 24-hour community in the borough."

Spokespeople for Forest City Ratner and Apple did not immediately return calls Wednesday.

If you're wondering how these fanciful stories sometimes take on a life of their own, here's how...

Curbed, Atlantic Yards to Get Brooklyn's First Apple Store?

Gothamist, Brooklyn Teased With Talk of Atlantic Yards Apple Store

Posted by eric at 12:26 PM

January 8, 2011

A letter to the editor gets published by the Courier-Life, but mention of my blog and EB-5 series gets excised.

Atlantic Yards Report

So I wrote a letter to the Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life chain in respond to the year-end round-up.

The Brooklyn Paper doesn't have a letters page this week, but the Courier-Life does. However, the paragraph that mentioned my blog, italicized below, somehow got excised. So much for serving the readers.

Also, oddly enough, they changed my rhetoric from "Shouldn't Brooklynites care?" to "Brooklynites should care." (They also changed "committed by" to "committed to," which misleads.) At least we know that a two paragraph letter from the editor's father in the Westchester suburbs merited a four-column headline.

The original letter:

I was amused to read, in your year-end round-up, a fanciful tale involving me on the final night of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom. I was less amused to recognize that the Brooklyn Paper has not covered some important Atlantic Yards news, notably Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from immigrant investors seeking green cards.

Shouldn't Brooklynites care that Borough President Marty Markowitz, in a video message taped for potential investors in China, claimed that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"? Shouldn't Brooklynites care that tax money already committed by city and state agencies is apparently being used to help calculate the jobs "created" by such investors? Shouldn't Brooklynites care that the spirit, if not the letter, of a federal immigration program is being violated?

The tape of Markowitz's statement and extensive coverage of this controversy appears in the "Anatomy of a Shady Deal" series on my Atlantic Yards Report blog (

Norman Oder Park Slope


Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

January 5, 2011

Village Voice jettisons Wayne Barrett, fellow investigator Tom Robbins resigns, local journalism loses (for now) institutional memory, watchdogs

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, just a few hours after I finished the amazingly (and disturbingly) detailed 1988 book, City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York, by Jack Newfield (R.I.P.) and Wayne Barrett, did I learn that Barrett had been laid off from the Village Voice for budgetary reasons and that Tom Robbins, the other Voice investigative reporter with deep knowledge of the city and state, had resigned in solidarity.

(Voice editor Tony Ortega disagrees with the latter interpretation.)

Wrote Barrett in his valedictory:

It never mattered to me what the party or ideology was of the subject of an investigative piece; the reporting was as nonpartisan as the wrongdoing itself. I never looked past the wrist of any hand in the public till. It was the grabbing that bothered me, and there was no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the loot.

The greatest prize I've ever won for the work I've done in these pages was when Al D'Amato called me a "viper" in his memoir. Chuck Schumer, who ended D'Amato's reign after 18 years, ascribed his victory in a 2007 memoir to a story I'd written a decade earlier that devastated the incumbent Republican. What Schumer didn't say was that as soon as Hank Morris, Schumer's media guru, went up with an ad based on my revelations about D'Amato, Arthur Finkelstein, who was running D'Amato's 1998 campaign, aired a commercial about Schumer's near-indictment and flashed my nearly two-decade-old clips breaking that scandal on the screen as well. I was the maestro of a commercial duel.

I've cited Barrett and Robbins periodically, including Barrett's amazing (and criminally ignored) report on Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's reason for never getting tough on Mayor Mike Bloomberg (that museum Thompson's wife leads and Bloomberg has funded), or Robbins's description of Bloomberg's "Velvet Coup" in getting term limits overturned.

Neither turned their attention to Atlantic Yards, rich if complicated fodder, and that's another piece of luck for Forest City Ratner. (Was it because of lingering sympathy for ACORN? Too many other juicy targets?)

Their role at the Voice

I've been inspired by Barrett and Robbins, who come to conclusions and opinions--unlike reporters constrained by journalistic convention--but only after doing the reporting.

“The reporting I do I believe is very objective,” Barrett told WNYC. “After I’ve reported a story, I am allowed, unlike people at dailies, to frame the reportage in a piece that contains opinions. But it’s the reporting that shapes the opinion. It’s not the opinion that shapes the reporting.”


Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

January 2, 2011

The Battle of Brooklyn Trailer

The Battle of Brooklyn explores the poorly understood phenomenon of eminent domain abuse. A feature-length documentary from filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley, and David Beilinson, this film investigates how real estate developers, local government, community activists, and the media have clashed over the largest single-source development project ever proposed in New York City. Widely known as the Atlantic Yards project, this undertaking has for the past four years been a major source of contention as local residents resist a billionaire developers attempt to use eminent domain to seize their homes and businesses. Done in the name of “development,” schemes such as this one eviscerate private property rights and make a mockery of the Fifth Amendment–and yet they freely exploit lucrative taxpayer subsidies, easements, and tax abatements.


Posted by steve at 7:36 PM

December 25, 2010

In novel Prospect Park West, "Atlantic Yards" is a screenplay about terrorism and a character has the arena on the brain

Atlantic Yards Report

Amy Sohn's dishy novel Prospect Park West, optioned to be a mini-series starring Sarah Jessica Parker, has gotten lots of buzz for her satirical take on motherhood and Park Slope, with the park, the food co-op, the Park Slope Parents listserv, house envy, and more serving as the backdrop.

(See local reviews pro and con from FIPS and OTBKB.)

There are numerous real people and places in the book, but Atlantic Yards watchers may notice a few stretches:

Lizzie and Jay's brick walk-up [on Park Place] was between Vanderbilt and Underhill, in the footprint of the developer Bruce Ratner's proposed Nets arena, which meant that it might be knocked down in order to build the arena.

Actually, the project footprint doesn't go beyond Dean Street south to Park Place, nor does it go east of Vanderbilt Avenue.

Atlantic Yards, the film?

More entertaining is the name of the screenplay being written by Stuart Ashby, an Australian actor married to Melora Leigh, a Park Slope super-couple based loosely on Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly:

"Atlantic Yards. It's sort of a thriller about gentrification and terrorism."

"What's thrilling about gentrification?"

"Well," he said, "ultimately it's more about the clash between different types of people. There's a terror cell run out of a muffin shop, and a corrupt borough president funneling money to the terrorists, and then there's this weathered Seventy-eighth Precinct cop who catches on to the scheme and winds up saving the day. She's a woman. And I'm trying to figure out a way to work in that rape on the ball fields."

Well, you could probably get a good screenplay--Russian billionaire, Chinese millionaires, obsessed Borough President--involved in the real Atlantic Yards.

Ratner on the brain

There's also an entertaining moment in which a zonked-out Melora, unable to find a cab or orient herself homeward, winds up walking north in the Slope after a show at Southpaw:

Up Fifth Avenue, she could see the lights of the Atlantic Terminal mall.

What an atrocity. How this Ratner idiot had gotten permission to build it, she had no idea. When Heath [Ledger] was alive, he and Michelle [Williams] had gotten her and Stuart to sign on to the Develop-Don't Destroy advisory board. Even though Frank Gehry was supposedly going to design the arena, if Bruce Ratner was behind it, it was bound to be ugly.

Why was she thinking about the feasibility of the Nets arena at a time like this?

Good question. Maybe it sticks in too many people's minds.


Posted by steve at 8:55 AM

December 24, 2010

In the Brooklyn Paper, editor insists that the newspaper's covering Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

In a very interesting phone interview (Vito speaks — sort of!) with Vito Lopez, in which the beleaguered Assemblyman urges the Brooklyn Paper to cover affordable housing issues--good idea--editor Gersh Kuntman asks,"Assemblyman do you really think we aren’t covering the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Yards and other issues?"

Lopez says he doesn't read the paper, but I do, and I can say--sorry to sound like a broken record--that the Brooklyn Paper doesn't cover Atlantic Yards all that much any more.

Yes, there's some good stuff about the census in this week's issue, and the Paper covers Atlantic Yards news when it emerges via press release and yes, it's shorthanded, but...

Did the Brooklyn Paper cover the Empire State Development Corporation board meeting December 16 in which a 25-year project buildout was deemed not to have significant impacts or the subsequent court hearing December 22?



Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

December 22, 2010

A developer (not Ratner) described as "in full marketing mode"

Atlantic Yards Report

There was an unusually skeptical close to an article in yesterday's New York Times headlined Council Approves West Side Apartment Towers:

Work on the new buildings may not begin until 2012, the developer said.

“It will be the capstone for the newest and most vibrant neighborhood in the city,” Mr. [Gary] Barnett said, in full marketing mode.

What about AY?

If only reporter Charles Bagli made similar observations when he covered Atlantic Yards. Consider this quote from an 11/25/09 Times article headlined Ruling Lets Atlantic Yards Seize Land:

Mr. Ratner called the court’s ruling a “light-switch” kind of decision for the long-stalled project. “I look at this as the last major hurdle; now we can proceed as we’ve wanted to for the last three years,” he said on Tuesday. “The courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire city.”

As I pointed out at the time, the courts had not made such a thing clear; they deferred to the Empire State Development Corporation rather than conducting any fact-finding.


Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

December 19, 2010

Thinking about the press: David Cay Johnston on "news on the cheap;" Jay Rosen on "radical doubt"

Atlantic Yards Report

Who's covering Atlantic Yards any more?

From David Cay Johnston in Neiman Reports, It’s Scary Out There in Reporting Land: ‘Beats are fundamental to journalism, but our foundation is crumbling.’:

Far too much of journalism consists of quoting what police, prosecutors, politicians and publicists say—and this is especially the case with beat reporters. It’s news on the cheap and most of it isn’t worth the time it takes to read, hear or watch.

Like, um, this?

A reporter's job?

NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen quotes Michael Massing on New York Times Reporter Judith Miller:

Asked about this, Miller said that as an investigative reporter in the intelligence area, “my job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal.”

Rosen adds:

That’s not getting the story wrong. That’s redefining the job as: reflecting what the government thinks.

"Radical doubt" and Atlantic Yards

Rosen connects the dots to WikiLeaks:

Radical doubt, which is basic to understanding what drives [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange, was impermissible then. One of the consequences of that is the appeal of radical transparency today.

You don't need "radical doubt" to question some aspects of Atlantic Yards. Entry-level doubt would suffice.


Posted by steve at 10:01 AM

Journalism 101: false dichotomies when it comes to Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Students at Columbia Journalism School produce a web site of local coverage called City Beats. One recent BUILD-centric article, headlined Atlantic Yards project needs further review, shows a student journalist falling for a false dichotomy:

November 9th was a great day for the Brooklyn residents who want to see the Atlantic Yards project reevaluated, but it was an awful day for Lloyd Mathews.

State Supreme Court Justice Marcy S. Friedman ruled that the $4.9 billion Forest City Ratner development project, known as Atlantic Yards, needs further review. To critics of the project, it means a progress; to Mathews, the decision means his job prospects are uncertain.

...Despite the potential benefit of more jobs in Brooklyn, opponents also take issue that the Community Benefits Agreement was designed without public input.

Let's rewrite that:

...Despite the potential benefit of more jobs in Brooklyn, opponents also take issue that the Empire State Development Corporation operates with little oversight.

ad absurdiam....

...Despite the potential benefit of more jobs in Brooklyn, opponents also take issue that Prospect Park shouldn't be used for a new development.


Posted by steve at 9:45 AM

December 11, 2010

The Brooklyn Paper tally: two Ratner/Nets announcements, no coverage of EB-5

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, the Brooklyn Paper covered the debut of a Russian-language web site for the Nets.

This week, we learn that the circus will come to the Barclays Center.

It's easy for a newspaper to cover such press releases, and while the information may be worth sharing, is it more important than:

  • the new seven-year potential delay in Phase 1 of the project?
  • Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz's astonishing words in China?

The answer is no.

Both of the latter stories are connected to Forest City Ratner's attempt (my series) to raise a $249 million no-interest loan from Chinese investors seeking green cards under the federal government's EB-5 visa program, thus saving the developer perhaps $191 million.


Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

December 10, 2010


The New York Times

The Times has been correctin' up a storm this week, but still doesn't seem interested in Forest City Ratner's green cards-for-cash program.

The Arts

A Critic’s Notebook article on Wednesday about political theater based on real events, including the show “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” misstated the circumstances under which Daniel Goldstein, an opponent of the Atlantic Yards project portrayed in the show, lost ownership of his condo in a building that needed to be emptied for ground to be broken. While he did receive $3 million in a settlement, the State of New York took the condo under eminent domain. He did not sell it. (Go to Article)


Posted by eric at 7:22 AM

December 9, 2010

Wikileaks and the role of Documentary

Battle of Brooklyn filmmaker Michael Galinsky draws some parallels between the Wikileaks controversy and Atlantic Yards.

I’ve been pretty much ignoring the wikileaks mess because I know that if pay attention I’ll get infuriated. I understand that governments need a certain level of secrecy to function properly. So when I first heard about some of the diplomatic cables being released I cringed a little. In some ways these releases seem vindictive and counter productive in terms of bettering relations among nations. On the other hand, as a documentary filmmaker, working without support or credentials, my hackles are raised by the way Assange is being attacked by both governments and the media. Still, I tried to avoid paying attention because all of the focus on Assange takes away from the very legitimate concerns of those who want to hold governments and the military accountable when they cross the line. When soldiers accidentaly kill innocent people, even when following protocol, it’s important that we have the right to discuss it. Knowing that there are consequences for our actions gives us a reason to be more careful.

Last night, while going through footage for our current documentary, “Battle of Brooklyn” I came across the footage embedded below. The occasion was a hearing on the environmental impact statement about the Atlantic Yards project in 2006. This hearing was supposed to be an opportunity for community residents to air their concerns about the environmental impacts of the proposed project. I was filming the crowds outside the event when a publicist instructed me to head across the street to a press conference being given by the developer. I was extremely excited because I knew that I needed the developer’s point of view to keep my documentary balanced. some parallels between the Wikileaks controversy and Atlantic Yards.

I ran across the street and got set for the fun to begin. After about 10 seconds another publicist told me that I had to leave. I explained to this gentleman that his colleague had instructed me to come over, but as you can see in the footage he made it clear that the event was only for credentialed media. What made this particularly galling to me was that the publicity company organizing the event was owned - or at least previously owned - by documentary filmmaker Dan Klores.

There is no question that Mr. Klores is a very talented filmmaker, and I would hope that he understands how important the free flow of information is to telling even-handed, complex stories. I also understand that he now has very little to do with the day to day running of the organization that bears his name. Last year, while discussing a recent film on the radio, when questioned about the project, he made statements in support of it. While I believe that he has every right to support the project, I object to the fact that the company bearing his name worked diligently for 7 years years to obstruct the flow of useful information.


NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that Forest City Ratner is the company that claims: "When it comes to sharing information with the public and governmental bodies, there’s no such thing as too much, as far as we are concerned."

Posted by eric at 4:57 PM

December 8, 2010

Anatomy of a Shady Deal: Norman Oder Takes A Close Look At Ratner's Quest for Money in China

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

While The New York Times publishes its third article about The Civilians' extraordinary production of "In The Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards" (and we congratulate The Civilians for this deserved accomplishment and the rave reviews the play has been receiving) Norman Oder has been running an extensive series on Bruce Ratner's shady cash for green cards scheme otherwise known as the EB-5 program. The Times has not once made mention of this highly questionable use of the little-known immigration program.

It is a complicated issue which boils down to this: The Ratner crew and its public and private enablers are gaming this federal EB-5 immigration program by making stuff up, deceiving potential Chinese investors, double counting and wildly exaggerating job numbers all to pump up the developer's bottom line rather than benefit the public.

In other words: The usual, only overseas.


Posted by eric at 10:02 PM

A theater critic lectures The Civilians on journalism regarding "In the Footprint." He has a point. Maybe the Times should follow it, too.

Atlantic Yards Report

As per normal, Norman Oder covers a story with a bit more nuance than we do.

This is kind of rich: New York Times theater critic Jason Zinoman pens a Critic's Notebook column for tomorrow's paper, When News Events Are Retold Onstage, raising (reasonable) questions about the balance in The Civilians' IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, then lectures solemnly about the value to a documentary theater company of "the rules taught in journalism school."

Well, if the New York Times were following "the rules taught in journalism school," it might be giving paying attention to stories like state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman's decision last month rebuking the Empire State Development Corporation for "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" regarding Atlantic Yards.

Instead, we got a blog post a day later.

If the Times were doing its job, we might see some coverage of Forest City Ratner's attempt to save some $191 million--a conservative estimate-- by marketing green cards to Chinese millionaires enticed to invest in an arena that doesn't need funding.

If the Times were doing its job, we might have seen a dollop of skepticism in the Times Magazine 10/31/10 cover story lionizing Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the new Nets owner.

Instead, in the last month, we've seen two feature articles and a review regarding The Civilians, as if Atlantic Yards is ovah, history, an arts story. Nah.


NoLandGrab: Oder also points out that The Times barely covered, and only belatedly, Forest City Ratner's $1.5 million bailout of ACORN — something In the Footprint skips over, too.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

When News Events Are Retold Onstage

The New York Times
by Jason Zinoman

The Times, which has failed in its coverage of Atlantic Yards in so many ways, thinks The Civilians should be more "balanced" in their staging of In the Footprint. Say what?

If the company uses tools of journalism and benefits from the authority of real reporting, does it have an increased responsibility to journalistic standards? Is it enough to aim for the essence of truth, or should its artists also be concerned about conflicts of interest or that famously elusive virtue, balance?

In reviving the debates over a plan to reconfigure 22 acres of urban landscape in Brooklyn, displacing residents and small businesses in the process, “In the Footprint” expresses a range of viewpoints, but make no mistake: the way its material is edited, expressed and contextualized belies a passionate perspective.

“In my work, I don’t think about balance,” Steve Cosson, who wrote and directed “In the Footprint,” said in an interview. “I think more about conflict. To have a good conflict in a real-life story, the opposing perspective needs to be equally strong. I try to make that conflict as difficult to solve as it is in real life.”

Judged by these standards, the show succeeds much more often than most examples of its genre, but not as much as it could. The arguments by those opposed to the Atlantic Yards are more fleshed out than those in support of the project, partly because they are based on actual interviews, while major players on the other side, like the developer Bruce Ratner and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, did not agree to talk. Their lines were taken from public events, making them seem remote. Instead of being played by actors, they are represented by symbolic props. (Mr. Bloomberg is an empty suit.) In a show that humanizes a wide range of real people, they are figures from a morality tale.

Atlantic Yards supporters generally come off as defensive, while the opponents are reasonable and endearingly ordinary.


NoLandGrab: Gee, could that possibly be because we're right, and they're all in on the fix? Get back to us when you run a story on Bruce's magical mystery EB-5 China tour.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM


The New York Times

The Arts

A theater review on Nov. 24 about “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards” misstated the name of the rail yards that the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn is to be built over, in part, and also referred incorrectly to them. They are the Vanderbilt Yards, not the Atlantic Yards, and they are still used by the Long Island Rail Road. They have not been abandoned.

A listing of credits with the review misspelled the surname of an opponent of the project who is played by Colleen Werthmann. As the review noted, she is Patti Hagan, not Hagen. (Go to Article)


NoLandGrab: There, New York Times. Doesn't that feel better?

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

December 1, 2010

Blogger says new book doesn't give full story on ACORN's support of new Brooklyn arena

The Sports ITeam Blog {]
by Michael O'Keeffe

"Seeds of Change" by John Atlas has earned favorable reviews since it came out a few months ago. But in a lengthy and detailed analysis, Atlantic Yards Report blogger Norman Oder says the book about ACORN, the anti-poverty group that's become a favorite target of Republicans, is rife with errors and omissions when it comes to the organization's support of the Nets' Brooklyn basketball arena and the rest of the massive Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by eric at 10:26 PM

When "low six figures" makes the Times (a new Nets sponsor) and when it doesn't (the failure to hire a monitor for the Community Benefits Agreement)

Atlantic Yards Report

From today's print New York Times, Nets Add Zippo as Team Sponsor:

The Nets and Zippo announced on Tuesday a sponsorship deal that includes courtside advertising, advertising on local radio broadcasts, and ads on the Nets’ English and Russian-language Web sites. The one-year agreement is thought to be worth “low six figures,” according to an industry executive.

Funny, but the Independent Compliance Monitor Forest City Ratner was supposed to hire to oversee the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement required a payment of $100,000 in escrow, and presumably annual fees, as I reported Monday.

Sounds like "low six figures," as well.

Not that the Times deemed it worthy of coverage.


NoLandGrab: "Zippo" is also the number of stories in The Times we can recall about minor sponsorship deals involving any metro-area team not partly owned by its headquarters development partner.

Posted by eric at 7:46 PM

November 30, 2010

Meaningful news on timetable lawsuit and CBA failure, meaningful press avoidance

Atlantic Yards Report

Was it meaningful that two coalitions of civic groups just asked state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman for a stay on Atlantic Yards construction?

Sure. It's a longshot Friedman will stop the arena, but the petitioners--coalitions organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks--have to be taken seriously.

The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) knew that the project could take 25 years but only studied the impact of the official ten-year construction period.

So the ESDC must either appeal Friedman's stinging November 9 ruling on the project timetable or, more likely, produce a document that claims that a 25-year buildout would create no more burdensome impacts than the ten-year one.

Given the track record of ubiquitous environmental consultant AKRF, which always produces the reports its clients want, it's likely such a document can be finessed.

But it's also likely that document will be highly questionable. After all, the state never studied the impact of an "interim" surface parking lot that could last for decades.

Press avoidance

And publications like the Brooklyn Paper and New York Observer, which readily covered the Forest City Ratner press release last week that steel had arrived at the arena site, have so far ignored the latest story on the lawsuit.

The only news outlet to cover it so far is the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, via Ryan Thompson (FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin's favorite reporter), who called the decision an "unusual, but possibly meaningless, legal victory."

No, no matter what happens, it's not meaningless.

Journalists and others who think the Atlantic Yards story is ovah simply have closed their minds.


Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

November 26, 2010

Two front pages, two weeks apart, two AY stories

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper cover this week. (Click on images to enlarge.)

The Brooklyn Paper front page two weeks ago.

Draw your own conclusions.


Posted by eric at 11:12 AM

November 24, 2010

From theater critics, "In the Footprint" draws mostly raves; no one agrees with Brooklyn Paper's claim that play would "appall" project opponents

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, after a dubious pan by the Community Newspaper Group's Gersh Kuntzman (oddly and hastily endorsed by the Observer) and my mixed but appreciative review, theater critics are pretty much raving about IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, by The Civilians.

The key review, from the New York Times's Charles Isherwood, sums it up:

This simple, scruffy-looking but smartly put-together production, written and directed by Steve Cosson and featuring songs by Michael Friedman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”), is as fresh, inventive and frankly as entertaining as any new work of musical theater to open this fall.

TheaterMania's review calls the show "often-compelling" though it acknowledges the challenges:

There's a lot of matreial here to squeeze into 100 minutes, and while director Steven Cosson does an admirable job, the staging can feel unfocused.

Critic Aaron Riccio writes on his That Sounds Cool blog:

It is also one of the year's most sincere, clever, and enjoyable shows, period.


Related coverage...

The New York Times, A Brooklyn Civics Lesson, Offered in Word and Song

As subjects for musical comedy go, it would be hard to fathom anything less promising than the legal intricacies of the concept of eminent domain. Or, for that matter, the socioeconomic diversity of the crazy quilt of Brooklyn neighborhoods. The great Stephen Sondheim himself might find it tricky work to make lyrical magic of the relationships among the various civic entities charged with approving land-use deals in New York City.

Yet these matters are rhapsodized in song with style and wit in the spirited new show from the Civilians, “In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards,” which opened on Monday night at the Irondale Arts Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, within a demolition ball’s swing of the site in contention.

It is not hard to discern where the sympathies of the show’s creators ultimately lie. Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president who was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the multibillion-dollar redevelopment proposal, is depicted as a yapping basketball. Frank Gehry, the renowned architect whose signature pencil-shaving design for the arena is represented by a twirling disco ball, is heard pontificating fatuously about his “iconic” buildings in Spain and Los Angeles and the tower he refers to as “Miss Brooklyn,” one of more than a dozen in the original plans.

As for Bruce Ratner, the prominent developer behind the project — let’s just say that should anyone offer Mr. Ratner a pair of tickets to the show, he would be wise to decline. Mr. Ratner might be marginally more welcome at a Nets game in New Jersey this season.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Atlantic Yards: The Musical

...the real stars of the show are local residents, who were interviewed by The Civilians, a self-described investigative theater company that incorporated the neighbors’ words into the script and into lyrics.

“I felt that a play could tell that story in a different way than a newspaper article or journalism,” said Steve Cosson, the director and co-writer. “Since a play is social and it brings an audience in, and it’s a community experience, I just think there’s a particular value to the art form.”

WNYC Radio, Atlantic Yards Gets Musical Treatment

For this production, the actors were also the reporters. Greg McFadden plays half a dozen characters, including Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz and architect Frank Gehry. He interviewed all the people that he plays on the show and said he tried to absorb everything, from their beliefs to the rhythm of their voice. “It’s nerve racking to portray someone who is a real person and who is going to come see what you’re doing with their words and their cause and their life really,” he said. “So you try to be as faithful as you can to them.”

Cosson says that if the play sounds too much like reality, well, that is the idea. “It’s not a satire, it’s not a sketch comedy, it’s all authentic. It’s all people represented by actors, but real people are fascinating idiosyncratic creatures.”

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

November 21, 2010

Jay-Z's new book Decoded is anthology, catalogue, memoir of his creation of a persona; no AY; bio next year should dig deeper

Atlantic Yards Report

So, is there anything about Atlantic Yards, and his fractional ownership of the Nets, in Jay-Z's new book Decoded?

Not really, at least according to my quick skim of the book at the bookstore. It's not an autobiography. The New Yorker, covering Jay-Z's recent appearance at the New York Public Library, described the book as "part memoir, part carefully annotated lyrics anthology, and part visual catalogue."

Click on the link to read about the Shawn Carter and the cultivation of his alter-ego, Jay-Z.


Posted by steve at 11:32 AM

November 20, 2010

A letter to the Courier-Life (and Brooklyn Paper) on coverage of the Friedman decision

Atlantic Yards Report

Uneven coverage in the New York media, in general, and in the Brooklyn Paper specifically, continues to prevent an understanding of the issues surrounding the Atlantic Yards project.

I sent this letter to both the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, which published identical articles, in the Brooklyn Paper as Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing.

There's no Letters page in the Brooklyn Paper, but my letter is published this week in the Courier-Life under the headline "Nervy claim."

Note that italics indicate words added by the editor, while bold indicates words in my original letter that were not published:

Your recent coverage described the state Supreme Court's decision slamming the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for its questionable behavior regarding the Atlantic Yards timetable as a "meaningless victory" for Atlantic Yards foes ("Yard foes win a big case," Nov. 12).

That's rather conclusory. Neither the ESDC nor developer Forest City Ratner made such a claim. In fact, a day after the decision, an executive from Forest City Enterprises, FCR's parent company, seemed somewhat unnerved as he discussed the issue. (See my coverage at

It's unclear at this point whether the ESDC will appeal the decision--and have to further defend its behavior--or whether the agency will produce a document that asserts that a 25-year buildout (as opposed to the ten-year buildout that was studied) would have little impact on the community around the project site. Either tack invites more litigation.

As Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman noted, courts typically defer to administrative agencies, but "judicial review must be 'meaningful." In this case, a meaningful review meant that the corporation's delay in releasing the Development Agreement it negotiated--an agreement kept under wraps until just after a crucial court argument--didn't get a pass.

Evidently, And that meant that someone official agreed that the process behind Atlantic Yards was just a little fishy. That's meaningful.

Norman Oder Park Slope

Oder, a journalist, writes the Atlantic Yards Report blog.

The slight edits--the omission of my credits--serve to diminish my authority a bit.


Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

November 15, 2010

What's different today from Jane Jacobs's time? The Village Voice, and the journalistic milieu

Atlantic Yards Report

I've written periodically about The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, by Roberta Brandes Gratz.

When the book was issued in the spring, Gratz spoke at a bookstore in SoHo and, at one point, recalled the battle to stop Robert Moses from building a highway through that then-transitional neighborhood.

"There was a very important element, which we don't have today, and that was the Village Voice. Mary Nichols of the Village Voice was totally in [Jane] Jacobs's camp," Gratz said. "Because the daily press paid very little attention to these issues. The Voice was out there, so the press was on top of it."


Posted by eric at 8:09 AM

November 14, 2010

From Bed-Stuy stoops, 21 years later, to Absolut stoops

Atlantic Yards Report

Seeing the posters advertising Absolut Brooklyn via an idealized version of Brooklyn stoops (and reading Clay Risen's kinda-late meditation in The Atlantic's food blog, How Spike Lee and Absolut Vodka Sold Out Brooklyn), I was reminded: stoops were crucial to Lee's most enduring work, Do the Right Thing, which emerged in 1989, a time when Brooklyn was much rougher.

Set in a Bedford-Stuyvesant subject to very little gentrification, the stoop was not just the neighborhood porch but also where conflict played out. As one description of the plot has it, "Da Mayor walks by Mother Sisters' stoop, and the lady denounces him as a drunken fool."

Then there was another stoop-side confrontation, as described in this teaching guide:

Buggin' Out shows up, declaring that Mookie is "the man." As he turns to go on his way, a white property-owner wearing a Boston Celtics shirt accidentally steps on his Nike Air Jordans. Yo! YO! This white man is lucky that "a black man has a loving heart."

Does this have anything to do with Atlantic Yards? Only in the macro sense: some people (on both sides of the conflict) are shaped by 1989, and others by 2010.


Posted by steve at 12:21 PM

Two letters on the Times Magazine's Mikhail Prokhorov cover story

Atlantic Yards Report

So, how many letters did the New York Times Magazine publish today regarding its generous profile two weeks ago of Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov?

One, and it was an attaboy.

Letter: The Playboy and His Power Games

Chip Brown’s article about the New Jersey Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, was fascinating, but it omitted a strand of the billionaire Russian’s life story that could have been illuminating. In addition to his roles in banking and industry, Prokhorov has been president of the Russian Biathlon Union for over two years, and he is credited with turning around a moribund organization tarnished by doping. It would have been interesting to read more about Prokhorov’s work in that sport, since the Nets seem to be in need of a similar reversal.

Williamstown, Mass.

My letter

Here's a letter they didn't publish:

The profile of Russian billionaire and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ("An Oligarch of Our Own," Oct. 31) fails to answer who, exactly, is "us" (other than a Nets fan who was unwilling to reveal his name).

As to whether Prokhorov has "the cash to save a reeling franchise," consider--unmentioned in the article--that the oligarch has more to spend thanks to the subsidies, tax breaks, and eminent domain for the new arena (of which he owns 45%), which also will raise the value of the team. Had Prokhorov been the team's owner before the Atlantic Yards project was approved, it would have been much tougher to have justified all that governmental help.

The article suggests that Prokhorov, in trying to build a winning basketball team, faces heavy "pressure to live up to expectations." Prokhorov bought the team in order to become a household name in North America and open up investment opportunities. The Times's mostly uncritical article has already helped him live up to those expectations.

Norman Oder

The writer, author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, is writing a book about the project. In June 2010, he wrote an essay for the Times, "A Russian Billionaire, the Nets and Sweetheart Deals."


Posted by steve at 12:16 PM

November 13, 2010

In Brooklyn Paper, Shake Shack and racist cabby seen as bigger news than court ruling slamming ESDC on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

There you have it. Among the articles the Brooklyn Paper considers more important than this week's Atlantic Yards court decision are ones concerning the arrival of Shake Shack and the arrest of a racist cabby.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper is sure to tell us the court decision is unimportant:

The state agency overseeing the Atlantic Yards mega-development purposefully withheld information on the project’s timetable to avoid having to reexamine the project’s negative impacts, a judge ruled on Tuesday in what appears to be a meaningless victory for foes of Bruce Ratner’s project.

As I commented:

It's curious that the Brooklyn Paper can so confidently assume that this is a "meaningless victory." The day after the decision, an executive from Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of developer Forest City Ratner, was somewhat unnerved as he discussed the decision. He didn't call it "meaningless."

Note that the deck beneath the YARDS FOES WIN A CASE headline is even more conclusory than the text: "Judge says state lied, but ruling won't change a thing."

Battle over?

By the way, the article in the companion Courier-Life chain, on p. 16, is paired with a longer feature article on The Civilians' play In the Footprint.

The article begins with an inaccurate claim:

The battle over Atlantic Yards may be over, but it's still brewing on stage.

Yes, the battle to stop the arena from construction is over, and most (but clearly not all) of the legal fight is over. And, yes, activism has diminished. But the controversy is not over.


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

November 11, 2010

Why was the court decision on the Development Agreement so late? It wasn't the petitioners' fault

Atlantic Yards Report

Oh, snap.

Too Little, Too Late: Atlantic Yards Opponents Finally Win a Court Case, reports the Observer.

Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing, suggests the Brooklyn Paper.

Neither publication bothered to cover the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) belated, delayed release of the Development Agreement in January, nor the oral arguments in the case in January and June during which the document was very much at issue.

(Updated and corrected: the Observer didn't cover the oral argument in January, but the Brooklyn Paper did, though I earlier said it didn't.)

Had they bothered to do their job, they and others in the press might have recognized that the reason this new decision might be "too late" is because the ESDC didn't play fair, not because those filing suit were delaying things.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

November 10, 2010

Despite official efforts to downplay news, Friedman decision represents severe rebuke to ESDC; why did several news outlets ignore it?

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking in March, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg soothingly declared, "[N]obody's going to remember how long it took, they're only going to look and see that it was done."

The official line regarding yesterday's ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman seems similar: "Nobody's going to remember how it got done, they're only going to look and see that it was done."

“Nothing was announced today that’s going to impact construction,” Jeff Linton, a spokesman for Forest City Enterprises, parent of Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner, told Bloomberg Business Week.

An Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) spokeswoman--who didn't respond to my queries--told the Brooklyn Paper that the agency was “reviewing today’s ruling, which does not enjoin construction taking place on the Atlantic Yards project.”

Why it's important

Well, it won't stop current construction, but it could impact future construction. And, despite the Brooklyn Paper headline (Yards foes win a big case that will not likely change a thing), the case will, at the very least, provoke the ESDC to issue more findings justifying its ten-year timetable.

That timetable is less and less defensible--and that could lead to additional lawsuits, possibly affecting Phase 2 of the project. The upshot: people can and will very much remember how it got done.

Also, despite attempts to downplay the ruling, it's news when a judge rebukes the ESDC for "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency" and "totally incomplete representations" in legal papers.

In other words, the agency in charge of economic development in the state behaves somewhat like a guy on Craigslist trying to rent you an apartment he doesn't quite own.


Posted by eric at 9:53 AM

November 6, 2010

Times finally corrects error claiming Ratner took possession of entire AY site

Atlantic Yards Report

From a September 28 New York Times City Room post headlined Latest Design Is Unveiled for Atlantic Yards Plaza: This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 5, 2010

An earlier version of this post stated inaccurately that Mr. Ratner had taken possession of the entire 22-acre Atlantic Yards site. Because condemnation is taking place in phases, he has possession of only a portion of the site.

It shouldn't take so long to get such a simple correction made.

The back story

When the article emerged, I filed a online comment that evening regarding the error.

The next day, I filed an official request for a correction through the proper channels and wrote to reporter Charles Bagli directly. He acknowledged the error but, for whatever reason, no correction emerged.

On October 24, I posted another comment regarding the error, as I wrote October 28.

Today I wrote to the Public Editor, with copies to the news desk in charge of corrections and the reporter. That did the trick--without having the Public Editor intervene.


Posted by steve at 12:25 PM

October 31, 2010

In promotional "Brooklyn Tomorrow," architect Pasquarelli hailed as Barclays Center savior; he says arena's in a "residential neighborhood"

Atlantic Yards Report

After taking an Atlantic Yards hiatus in 2009, the infamous Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial published by the Community Newspaper Group, publisher of the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, again puts Atlantic Yards on the cover, as it had in the 2007 and 2008 issues.


The Table of Contents pulls no promotional punches regarding p. 14: "Barclays Center: Architect Gregg Pasquarelli will be remembered as the man who saved basketball in Brooklyn."

The letter from the editors, Vince DiMiceli and Gersh Kuntzman, further assists developer Forest City Ratner (who just happens to be the two newspapers' landlord) citing "our exclusive interview with the man who saved the Barclays Arena (the focal point of what we're sure is to become America's Downtown)."

The focal point of America's Downtown? Even for a promotional real estate publication, that's a double stretch. The arena would extend Downtown Brooklyn to the southeast.

And no one's going to mistake the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, even with the new temporary plaza Pasquarelli's designing, as America's Downtown. Not even New York's. Does America's Downtown feature Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls?

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper hasn't touched the story about Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million by hawking green cards to Chinese investors.

Click on the link below to read about an "exclusive" interview with architect Gregg Pasquarelli and see how he boasts about designing a building for which he only did the facade work.


NoLandGrab: The publicity machine put in place to promote the Atlantic Yards project at least made some sense as part of an effort to get the project approved. Any hype generated now is just an indication of how bad this project is.

Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

October 30, 2010

Regan Jaye Fishman on KingCon II

Talking with Tim

A panel about Atlantic Yards will be part year's KingCon II, an independent comic, animation and illustration convention being held November 6 and 7 at the Brooklyn Lyceum. The blog's author interviews KingCon II's co-organizer.

O’Shea: The second panel to be also held on Thursday (at 9 PM), what can you tell me about it?

Richmond: [The second panel is] The Wants of the Few: Atlantic Yards, Comics and the Changing Face of Brooklyn

Was it the right place?

Was it the right time?

Was it the right process?

Atlantic Yards continues to fulfill the major media expectation of Brooklyn as a backwater where the people don’t matter.

Laws that seem pretty clear are ignored.

Captains of industry (well real estate) rule the day.

The common man is marginalized so that they an tear down middle class housing to build rich person housing while promising that they “might” throw a bit of affordable housing out there. All at the promise of more tax revenue that is clearly a bald-faced lie.

Judges make rulings that only seem appropriate if you believe everyone is already in the bag since the rulings grasp at any straw to not actually deal with the issues at hand.

Kind of make comics irrelevant if the actions of the leaders and monitors of gotham are already that much of a caricature.

And, lastly, where is the urban grit and spit in your eye that propelled comics to a position of status anyways? Will everything look like a cheap glass tower that charges ore for less?

Maybe the comic industry should start the pullout from an urban psyche if that urban core is just like Des Moines.


Posted by steve at 7:07 AM

October 28, 2010

Does Ratner have “possession of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards property”? No, but the request for a Times correction is a month old

Atlantic Yards Report

This isn't big news, but it's an example of how errors in the "Paper of Record," however basic, need correction, given that they could mislead readers and researchers, as with the yet-uncorrected claim that the arena would be built "on the railyards."

A 9/28/10 New York Times City Room post, headlined Latest Design Is Unveiled for Atlantic Yards Plaza, claimed that the entire 22-acre site was controlled by the developer:

Seeking a correction

I posted a comment that day saying it wasn't true, given that several properties (e.g., houses on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, the P.C. Richard building on Site 5) are controlled neither by the state nor the developer, and that eminent domain is supposed to proceed in at least one more phase.

I filed an official request for a correction through the proper channels and wrote to reporter Charles Bagli directly. He acknowledged the error but, for whatever reason, he and his editors have been unable or unwilling to get it corrected.

Meanwhile, the Times today publishes corrections that tell us that the first name of the daughter of an artist recently profiled is Ona, not Oona and that the surname of a customer of a designer is Rattazzi, not Ratazzi.


Posted by eric at 8:50 AM

October 26, 2010


Every once in a while, it's important to remind people that Atlantic Yards is still not a place. It's a project, a marketing slogan, it has a footprint, even — but there's still no physical "Atlantic Yards."

Gothamist, Guess The Year: Model Edition

If you can figure out what's going on here, you may be able to guess the correct year. Put your best guesses in the comments, and we'll update later with the answer, more details and photos.

UPDATE: These photos were taken in 1955, and are of a model of Ebbets Field. When the Brooklyn Dodgers outgrew Ebbets, club owner Walter O'Malley announced plans for a privately-owned domed stadium at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, but New York City Building Commissioner Robert Moses wanted the city to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows instead—the team eventually chose Los Angeles over Queens, and the original field was demolished in 1960.

NoLandGrab: Wrong on two counts! O'Malley wanted to build his stadium across the way from the Vanderbilt Yard, on a site now occupied by Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Center mall.

The New York Times, Making Construction Beautiful in Brooklyn

Mauricio Lopez’s “Color Mesh,” one of four designs selected in a recent city competition aimed at beautifying construction sites, had its debut on Monday on a construction fence at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

NLG: "At the Atlantic Yards project site" we'd accept. "At Atlantic Yards," not so much.

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

October 24, 2010

To ESPN, the biggest thing about the (non-turnaround) Nets is still their owner, likened to the omnipotent Galactus

Atlantic Yards Report

In ESPN The Magazine's preview issue on the National Basketball Association season, each team is represented by a comic book cover rendering.

It's notable that, among the 30 teams, only four don't feature players dominating the image: the New Jersey Nets, with Mikhail Prokhorov (right); the Charlotte Bobcats, with player-turned-owner Michael Jordan; the Indiana Pacers, with player-turned-president Larry Bird; and the Dallas Mavericks, with flamboyant owner Mark Cuban.

The text


Mikhail Prokhorov is many things to many people: billionaire entrepreneur, playboy, and new owner of the Nets. But to Marvel, he's Galactus, an omnipotent figure with infinite resources and a voracious appetite for devouring worlds. Prokhorov took over the Nets in May, and the team already has a new GM (Billy King), coach (Avery Johnson) and arena (Newark's Prudential Center). But Silver Surfer Devin Harris remains. Can Prokhorov's team turn around last season's 12-70 mark? He's not that powerful--yet.

Some caveats

First, some people, like Matt Taibbi, might add the term "gangster" to the description of Prokhorov.

Also, it's misleading to conclude that Prokhorov is fully responsible for the changes cited. Longtime GM Rod Thorn decided to leave, precipitating the search for a replacement, and the team had had interim coaches last season.

And the interim move to Newark had been in place since last March.


Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

From the Village Voice's Best of New York: Prokhorov, Stoudemire, and Markowitz

Atlantic Yards Report

The Village Voice "Best of New York" issue reflects diminished journalism.

In the category of Best Oligarch - 2010, we get (of course) Mikhail Prokhorov:

We're sorry that recent Russian émigré Mikhail Prokhorov couldn't sign LeBron James, even though he was rich enough ($13.4 billion) and tall enough (six-foot-eight) to look the hoops star in the eye. But give the guy a break: The owner of the New Jersey Nets (soon to be the Brooklyn Whatevers) is still the world's second richest Russian, the tallest of the world's richest, and one of the youngest of the top 100 (he's only 45). Talk about a guy who fits in well with our homebred corporate piranha: Prokhorov made his billions by feasting off Russia's helter-skelter, mostly illegal, and highly immoral conversion from merciless Communism to merciless capitalism. Now if he can just translate some of that money into a winning team.

In other words, winning will make us forget

There is also an entry classifying Amar'e Stoudemire as the Best Jewish Athlete - 2010, even if the evidence for his Jewishness is thin at best.

Finally, the entry for Marty Markowitz (Best Between-Acts Concert Entertainment - 2010) pokes fun at Brooklyn's Borough President without an indication of an understanding of the BP's role.

Wingate Field in Bushwick is the place to be every Monday night during the summer, when the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series brings through a cavalcade of old-school hip-hop, soul, gospel, and r&b stars. (This year featured Parliament/Funkadelic, BeBe & CeCe Winans, and an epic set from Salt-N-Pepa.) The free shows lure in thousands of lawn-chair-toting nostalgia enthusiasts in need of between-act cajoling, and for that, thank God, there is Marty Markowitz. We have no idea what being Brooklyn borough president actually entails other than emceeing these things (there's a weekly summer series at Coney Island, too), but we can confirm that it does involve inviting to the stage a motley crew of City Councilmen, radio DJs, preachers, wayward Applebee's employees, and assorted other yahoos. All of them have their charms, but none can compare with ol' Ramblin' Marty himself, soothing an oft-restless crowd in dulcet tones, never failing to enthrall even when he's announcing that Aretha Franklin canceled the show she was supposed to play there next week. It's infuriating at first, but eventually you come to regard it as a virtuoso performance: No one on earth kills time with more grace than Marty Markowitz. He is the Picasso of stalling. Go watch him paint sometime. Bring a chair.

Ah, it takes a certain kind of ignorance to say "We have no idea what being Brooklyn borough president actually entails other than emceeing these things."

For Markowitz, such cheerleading duties actually represent a large part of how he's defined the relatively powerless post, but it's not the only model.


Posted by steve at 8:23 AM

October 16, 2010

So, how was Atlantic Yards massaged for the media? Ask DKC

Atlantic Yards Report

Would you like to help break up a lively Brooklyn neighborhood on behalf of a billionaire developer? If so, you might enjoy a career in public relations.

The public relations and marketing firm DKC (formerly Dan Klores Associates) is proud of its work on Atlantic Yards, as summarized in a case study.

(They're leaving out brochure-maker KnickerbockerSKD, now known as SKDKnickerbocker, now home to former Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt. And we can't forget the role, as I explained 11/1/05, of "dark genius" Joe DePlasco, a DKC managing director.)

From the DKC site

Forest City Ratner

DKC was retained by Forest City Ratner Companies, one of the country’s leading developers, to prepare the groundwork for a Frank Gehry-designed development in the Atlantic Yards near downtown Brooklyn.


The cornerstone of DKC’s strategy was a community and media awareness program consisting of outreach to local advocates and activists around affordable housing, public space development, sustainable development and other community and design benefits.

DKC handled all messaging for the development over the next four plus years, including media materials, local, national and international, along with all media events, including everything from individual reporter walking tours to international press conferences with Frank Gehry and the landscape architect Lauri Olin.

result highlights

In addition to dealing with all levels of media, DKC arranged for numerous editorial board and opinion meetings, ultimately winning support for the project from the New York Times, Daily News, New York Post, Newsday and Crains. DKC also secured coverage of the project throughout the United States and in outlets in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan, among many others.


Posted by steve at 7:30 AM

October 14, 2010

Some props from the Observer on the EB-5 story, but more reporting is needed

Atlantic Yards Report

While I appreciate that the New York Observer's Matt Chaban was willing to recount the high points of my EB-5 coverage, and I appreciate the observation that my "frustration with the media for ignoring the story is understandable," that's not quite enough.

The government agencies backing this plan, the developer, and the New York City Regional Center need to show their math regarding the ten jobs that each of 498 investors is supposed to create or save.


Posted by eric at 7:37 PM

October 13, 2010

A profile in the Observer: "Brooklyn's Angry Man" (and the absence of the Times on the EB-5 story)

Atlantic Yards Report

On September 21, when news that I was leaving my job to write a book about Atlantic Yards surfaced, the New York Observer covered it in their Real Estate blog.

They told me they wanted to run a piece in print, but that didn't happen, as Lockhart Steele, he of the nationwide Curbed ambitions (appropriately) merited precedence as The Player. (Moi?)

However, my coverage of the EB-5 controversy apparently was enough of a hook for them to return to the idea of a print article, so this week we have Brooklyn’s Angry Man: Norman Oder Plans to Keep Up the Fight.

I wouldn't say I'm keeping up the fight so much as continuing to dig.

In closing

The close of the piece references my expectation that news about the project would slow down, and how it hasn't:

That was before Mr. Oder broke one of his biggest scoops ever, a plan by Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, to arrange thousands of green cards for Chinese investors to drum up $249 million for the project, using a program known as EB-5. Mr. Oder revealed how the numbers on the program do not add up, as well as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's planned trip to China to stump for it. Mr. Markowitz canceled after the Post re-reported Mr. Oder's findings. And yet the only other outlets to pick up on it were the Journal and the Daily News (and the story may have been leaked to the Journal before Mr. Oder's post to steal his thunder).

The Transom asked Mr. Oder to name his favorite restaurant. He arched his eyebrows and responded, "Totonno's, in Coney Island."


"Come on!" he declared, becoming momentarily exasperated. "You should be writing about the EB-5 scandal, not Norman's favorite fucking restaurants."

I'm not sure the Observer should accept that I "revealed" how the numbers don't add up. I'd rather they do some reporting and come to a conclusion.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Brooklyn’s Angry Man: Norman Oder Plans to Keep Up the Fight

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Norman Oder was standing at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street in Prospect Heights last Saturday explaining the cappuccino test. "I have a friend that says if you can get a cappuccino within one block, the area can't be blighted."

He was referring to Atlantic Yards, the 22-acre project that will include a new arena for the Brooklyn Nets and possibly 6,400 apartments, assuming the developer, Bruce Ratner, can find more financing for the $4.9 billion project. Mr. Ratner had acquired much of the land between here and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues based on the argument that the area was blighted. With the backing of the state and the attendant threat of eminent domain, he forced a number of businesses and homeowners out, though not before a seven-year fight.

Mr. Oder led the Transom on a brief stroll down Dean. He knows the place well, having written 3,980 posts—and counting—on his Atlantic Yards Report, the blog he launched in September 2005. He is accustomed to giving tours, operating a company that leads them all over Brooklyn, though far less often since the blog took off.

"I'm motivated by my recognition that reality as I understand it does not comport with what's being represented," he said. "It requires skepticism and what may be perceived as advocacy journalism. I argue the opposite, that taking a lot of this at face value is a dereliction of duty."

He points to the lead Metro story in a recent Times about the drinking habits of MetroNorth riders compared to LIRR riders. "What the fuck?" Mr. Oder said. "That could be a cute little blog post, but why that needs to take up prime real estate in the paper, I don't know. It's a dereliction of duty."


NoLandGrab: Oder is not so much angry as he is aghast at the failure of any mainstream media outlet to blow the lid off the biggest land-grab scam in New York's history.

Photo: Jonathan Barkey

Posted by eric at 11:27 AM

October 11, 2010

Noting One Oddity, The Times, in Another, Neglects Obvious Explanations: Ratner’s EB-5 Green Cards Sale; A Reason For the Nets To Go To China, And. . .

Noticing New York

Why are the Nets going, as the article reports, to China and Russia? Though the article pronounces it odd that they are going abroad and then spends most of its time tendering possible explanations, it passes up taking a crack at the possible explanations that would seem to be the most logical, but perhaps also the most impertinent to mention.

Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report specifically mentions this particular Times sports story (“The Sports section, however, is all over the Nets' trip to China.”) in writing about how the Times has avoided reporting on the scandalous sale of green cards in China by Ratner and Prokhorov to finance their nets arena.

The sports section may be “all over the Nets' trip to China” except that it isn't reporting that the likely explanation as to why the Nets owners have made it a priority for the Nets to go to China is the EB-5 green cards the owners are selling to the Chinese, something the Times apparently doesn’t want to report about. Also not mentioned is that New York state and local government officials have been expecting to tag along with Ratner to sell the U.S. issued green cards with him in China.

We have a question for the Times: If, in their estimation, now is not the time to report on the EB-5 green card selling scandal and the dark not-so-secret back stories relating to Prokhorov’s wealth, then when will those things be discussed in the gray lady’s pages? Maybe it is just that the Times reporters, sports reporters and others, are not able to read Chinese. The answer then would be to hire a Chinese translator which is what Mr. Oder did and the reason he has consequently been able to keep breaking new gripping stories in his series about the EB-5 scandal.

What are New Yorkers left to do when the Time sidelines itself this way? Here's one thing we can tell you: If, as the Times reports, “The Nets are creating a Russian-language Web site” then New Yorkers are all going to have to hope that Mr. Oder opens his wallet up one more time for another translator, a Russian one. If he doesn’t, with the Times asleep, we will probably miss out on some major news stories that matter a great deal to our city’s local politics.


Posted by eric at 11:37 AM

Times Covers Nets Fluff Instead of Bruce Ratner's Green Cards for Cash Deal in China

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Bruce Ratner's ol' friend, The New York Times, is looking the other way when it comes to a Ratner story involving local, federal and international intrigue — the scamful green cards for cash trip to China Ratner is taking with the Empire State Development Corp. You know, the story Norman Oder has been blowing out of the water the past few weeks (and the one the Daily News and the Post haven't totally ignored.)


Posted by eric at 11:14 AM

October 10, 2010

AY Report: NYTimes and Brooklyn Paper Asleep At The Wheel For EB-5 Story

Atlantic Yards Report

Where's the Brooklyn Paper on the "green cards for investors" story? And the Times?

There's been a lot of news about Atlantic Yards in the past week or so, including coverage by the New York Post of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's planned (and aborted) trip to China in support of Forest City Ratner's "green cards for investors" scheme, and the New York Daily News of the claims behind the scheme and the construction jobs at the site.

The New York Times, which has a tiny Brooklyn bureau and a real estate/development reporter far more concerned with Stuyvesant Town, has ignored the stories. Dismaying, but not surprising.

It's more surprising that the Brooklyn Paper (and its now-mirror, the Courier-Life chain) has missed those stories.

(The EB-5 story has been picked up by a couple of blogs devoted to the topic.)

Selective coverage

It's not that the Brooklyn Paper doesn't cover Atlantic Yards--the lead story this week (PDF) is on crowd control at the planned plaza--it's that they're way behind others.

Once upon a time (2007) the Brooklyn Paper earned awards for its aggressive coverage of Atlantic Yards. Not anymore.

Is it the ownership by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation? (How can it be--after all, the Murdoch-owned Post has covered the story.)

Atlantic Yards fatigue?

Failure to read other newspapers and blogs?

Short staff?

Unwillingness to cover stories that others break first? (If so, that's just not serving the reader.)

Times criticizes Paladino for creating only 25 direct jobs, still ignores EB-5 story regarding Atlantic Yards, with zero direct jobs

From a New York Times editorial yesterday headlined Mr. Paladino and the System, a critique of Republican gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino:

A look at his record as a developer shows that he has been an eager recipient of just the sort of government largess he so bitterly condemns and a generous contributor to politicians who can best do him favors.

His flourishing real estate business was stoked with tax breaks, multimillion-dollar state leases and government land giveaways.

...He won $3 million in tax reductions for his renovations, but, as The Daily News recently reported, only 25 jobs were directly created. His campaign has said that that does not count the jobs indirectly produced by his tenants, but a large number of those tenants were state agencies, which have paid him tens of millions of dollars in rent over the years.

Ok, and what about the low-cost or no-cost financing sought by Forest City Ratner, which, as the Daily News recently reported, won't directly create any jobs?

The Times has ignored the entire EB-5 story.

Posted by steve at 9:23 AM

October 9, 2010

The power of the press


Here is an examination of how the mainstream media did such a poor job of covering the Atlantic Yards fight.

In 2010 it is time for us, as a society, to take a hard look at the role of the news media in our political and financial systems. After 7 years of following the Atlantic Yards development project I am troubled by both the print and TV media’s inability or unwillingness to engage in any level of real reporting on this story.

When Forest City Ratner’s project was announced in Dec of 2003 we were compelled to start our documentary because everything that we read was simply a regurgitation of press releases. Not one reporter looked to urban planners or others in government who might be able to respond critically to the information flowing from the developer and their government partners. In the days following the announcement of the project I talked to many of my neighbors about what was really going on, but I had no luck finding out useful or credible information. Those 7 long years ago, blogs were far from being a significant source of information and Facebook had not been launched, and as such the web was not a very useful source of information. The developer had staged a fancy press conference complete with pop stars (jay-z), sports stars (Bernard King), and starchitects (Gehry) in order to distract people from the enormity of what they were proposing. It worked.


When the project was announced, one of the main complaints by those opposing it, was that all of the developers promises were unenforceable. They also objected to its massive scale, enormous government subsidies, lack of public process and oversight, and the abuse of eminent domain. However, all of these complaints were waved away by saying that the project would bring enormous benefits.

Now the land has been seized, the streets have been closed, the subsidies have been given, and when the developer admits that he doesn’t plan to build the press barely covers it, and only as part of a story about the unveiling of a private plaza at the site.

Click on the link to get a fuller picture of how the press stood on the sidelines regurgitating press releases, virtually forcing others to get the story of the Atlantic Yards land grab to the public.


Posted by steve at 8:12 AM

The Next Generation - Cristina Cacioppo, Mark Rosenberg & Marco Ursino pick New York City's emerging filmmakers

New York Press

This round-up includes the documentarians who are working to finish their opus dealing with the Atlantic Yards fight.

Michael Galinsky & Suki Stetson Hawley
Husband and wife Michael and Suki have been making radical shoot-from-the-hip fiction and documentary films since the mid-90s, landing films in festivals, theaters and on TV without losing their filmmaking integrity and ceaseless energy. Their latest project is “The Battle of Brooklyn,” a feature documentary about the controversial Atlantic Yards development. Without overt editorializing, the film highlights the fallacy of the developers promises, the co-opting of the neighborhood, and the immanent doom represented in eminent domain.


Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

September 30, 2010

Local Blogging, Both Skeptical and Elegiac

City Room
by J. David Goodman

The blog of The New York Times, which never has any problem getting access to the developer of its headquarters building, recognizes that some others do.

But as Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report keeps discovering, angering the powers that be can also lead to annoyances in the real world: Sometimes they won’t let you into their news conferences. In the latest instance, Mr. Oder reports that he was kept from attending the unveiling of new designs for the Atlantic Yards project on Tuesday.


NoLandGrab: Perhaps if The Times had ever bothered to take a hard look at Atlantic Yards, they might find themselves on Norman Oder's side of the velvet rope.

Posted by eric at 12:39 PM

September 29, 2010

Traffic-free plaza unveiled, with bollards (despite NYPD claim), but the big story concerns Ratner's timetable admissions; the Times whiffs

Atlantic Yards Report

Barred from the press conference, Norman Oder instead evaluates media coverage of Bruce Ratner's big plaza reveal.

The big news yesterday, led by the Brooklyn Paper and WNYC, was not the publication of oddly traffic-free Barclays Center plaza designs with a new subway entrance and the giant oval oculus at the center (remember, there's a meeting tonight at 6 pm), but Bruce Ratner's admission he has no timetable for the project.

As WNYC's Matthew Schuerman pointed out, "the city, state and Forest City all conducted or commissioned economic impact analyses that assumed a 10-year build out."

(I've previously pointed out that such analyses, such as the one conducted by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, depend on an over-optimistic ten-year time frame. And note the "vaportecture" in the official renderings, by SHoP Architects.)

And, Schuerman noted, "Ratner’s associates repeatedly used the 10-year time frame in talking to the press and the public." (I also pointed to Ratner's 2010 contradiction of his 2008 op-ed as well as a changing story regarding the first tower. But I wasn't allowed into the press conference.)

New York Magazine's Chris Smith also noticed that the contrast between the "unveiling" of a plaza versus the planned office tower, as well as the suspended timetable.


Posted by eric at 9:12 AM

Times looks into tainted past of Paladino aides; what about the New York City Regional Center, in charge of EB-5 visas?

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article about the Republican nominee for governor, Carl Paladino, is headlined Paladino Has Aides With Tainted Pasts:

But some of the people whom Mr. Paladino has recruited to run his campaign are plagued by brushes with the law and allegations of misconduct, an examination of public records shows.

His campaign manager failed to pay nearly $53,000 in federal taxes over the last few years, prompting the Internal Revenue Service to take action against him. An aide who frequently drives Mr. Paladino on the campaign trail served jail time in Arizona on charges of drunken driving.

Another adviser has been indicted on charges of stealing more than $1 million from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s re-election bid last year. And Mr. Paladino’s campaign chairwoman left a local government position amid claims that she had steered $1 billion in public money to a politically connected investment manager.

Sure, that's worth covering.

But what about the questionable past of one of the two Managing Principals of the New York City Regional Center, the private company that has been delegated (like other private companies) to process immigrant investors under the EB-5 visa program? Shouldn't one of the "Billboard Boys" get some scrutiny?


Posted by eric at 8:32 AM

September 25, 2010

Times still not sure whether arena would be "near" Downtown Brooklyn or in it

Atlantic Yards Report

The TImes continues to be thick-headed as regards Brooklyn geography.

From the today's New York Times, Nets Discuss 4-Team Deal to Acquire Anthony:

The Nets are scheduled to move to a new arena in downtown Brooklyn in two years, placing them squarely in competition with the Knicks. Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, would provide instant star power and credibility and set up a rivalry with Stoudemire, his good friend.

From the Corrections box in the 4/27/06 New York Times:

Because of an editing error, an article in The Arts on Tuesday about Frank Gehry's design for the first phase of the Grand Avenue development project in Los Angeles misstated the location of the proposed Atlantic Yards project that Mr. Gehry is designing in Brooklyn. (The error also appeared in sports articles on Feb. 9 and April 11, in the City section on Jan. 15 and in several articles in 2003, 2004 and 2005.) It is on rail yards and other land in Prospect Heights and on a block in Park Slope; it is not in Downtown Brooklyn, although it is near that neighborhood.

A 9/12/10 Times Arts article said "near downtown Brooklyn."

A 6/30/10 Sports article said "in downtown Brooklyn."

A 6/26/10 Sports article said "in downtown Brooklyn."

A 5/20/10 Sports column said "near downtown Brooklyn."

C'mon, can't they get this straight?


Posted by steve at 8:50 AM

New Ad by Brooklyn-Bulldozing Company Barclays Shows City as Personalized Amusement Park

The Measure

Here's an indication that, instead of building a good name, Barclays will generate lots of ill will by having its name put on the new Nets arena.

Barclays, the company that now owns the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic (where it's begun building its Barclays Center), premiered this new ad earlier in the year, in which the British financial firm outlines its vision of urban design. The insinuation that New York City is your own private plaything pretty much makes sense coming from a company that's been handed a multi-billion dollar site by city agencies. Go Nets!

Barclays does not own the Atlantic Yards development, but the state did fail to derive any money paid by Barclays to Forest City Ratner for naming rights. Despite the factual mix-up, there's no mistaking the anger in this post.


Posted by steve at 7:33 AM

September 22, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report’s Plan to Turn the Development’s Story into a Book

by Steve Delahoyde

We’ve posted our fair share about the trials and tribulations of the seemingly always rocky creation of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards development, from the early protests to Frank Gehry‘s removal to the disregard for public design reviews and the lawsuits that have nearly shut it all down at times. But as often as we’ve written about the project, we can’t hold a candle to Norman Oder, the man behind the Atlantic Yards Report, a blog that, since 2006, has laboriously chronicled all the many ups and downs the development has been through. Thanks to a tip from a reader, we were passed along the news that Oder has decided to quit his job as news editor of the Library Journal to concentrate on turning his blog about the Yards into a book. Though he doesn’t yet have a publishing deal for it, he’s striking out on his own in order to tell the story of this storied development.



Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Norman Oder to Give Full Time to Atlantic Yards Book (No, He Hasn't Been Giving Full Time)

In a column on Library Journal, where Norman Oder does his day job, the Atlantic Yards Report creator and sole proprietor announces that he is leaving his journalistic duties at that publication to work on the definitive book about the Atlantic Yards epic.

We wish you, Mr. Oder, all the discipline you need and all the best in your pursuit of this massive endeavor.

NoLandGrab: Only DDDB knows as well as NoLandGrab how valuable Norman Oder has been to the Atlantic Yards fight. For the former, he unearthed numerous stories that fueled and aided their opposition; for us, he's provided about a quarter of our content.

Posted by eric at 10:12 AM

September 21, 2010

Norman Oder Quitting Day Job to Write Definitive Atlantic Yards Book

NY Observer
by Matt Chaban

Matt Chaban, another reporter who's done some good Atlantic Yards reporting of his own (until recently at The Architect's Newspaper), covers the man who's set the bar on Atlantic Yards coverage impossibly high.

Since he launched The Atlantic Yards Report in 2006, Norman Oder has written 3,747 blog posts on the contentious Brooklyn development project. It's probably enough to fill an encyclopedia, let alone a lowly paperback.

But that is exactly what Mr. Oder is setting out to do, when he announces later today—in his 3,748th post—that he is leaving his full-time job (that's right, he's got a day job) at Library Journal to dedicate himself to writing a book about Atlantic Yards.

"I think the story needs to be told," Mr. Oder said in his demure way. "It's been told in dribs and drabs. It will be mythologized, and it will be spun, and parts of the story will get lost. The story needs to to be synthesized and made sense of. And made compelling."

Therein lies the challenge—how to make DEISes, State Appeals Court cases, and eminent domain sexy. No one knows this stuff better than Mr. Oder. He had yet another blockbuster scoop this morning (more on that in an upcoming post) that was so juicy it was apparently leaked to the Journal to stem the bleeding. But can he write a best-selling book?

"I don't profess to be writing the next Power Broker," Mr. Oder said. "I hope it will be substantial and interesting." He points to Times Square Roulette and Little Pink House as inspirations, but says the former is too long and the latter "scants on policy." What he so loves about the prospects of the book is all the complex pieces involved.

"It's about a certain project in a certain time. It's about development in a certain time. It's about Brooklyn in a certain time. It's a story about our time. It's got politics and planning and architecture and neighborhoods. And journalism, that will be a big subplot." (The blog started as the Times Ratner Report, a critique about the lack of coverage of the project.) "This is a story about a whole bunch of things."

Here's hoping he can get that all sorted out before the arena opens in the fall of 2012. It would make a way better door prize/giveaway than Ratner bobbleheads.


Posted by eric at 6:22 PM

After the film and the play, time for a book about Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder is leaving his day job (how does he even have time for a day job?) to pen Atlantic Yards: The Book.

Well, if Atlantic Yards has spawned a documentary film, Battle of Brooklyn, and documentary-inspired theater, In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, shouldn't it also generate a book?

That's what a number of people have told me, and why I'm leaving my job to get it done, as I explain in a farewell column for Library Journal, where I've written about library issues for more than 14 years:

With so much to cover, why am I leaving? For more than four-and-a-half years, I’ve been moonlighting on my own blog, the Atlantic Yards Report, about an enormously controversial real estate development—Atlantic Yards—that would bring an arena for the relocated New Jersey Nets basketball team and 16 towers to Brooklyn, just a short walk from my apartment.

I’ve immersed myself in issues like urban planning, affordable housing, and eminent domain. It’s been tiring but rewarding; I’ve written for the New York Times (though I’ve been a fierce critic of its coverage) and cowritten a law review article. Now, I’m working on the book the saga deserves. (Agents, yes, you’re welcome to contact me. Librarians, yes, I’m happy to visit on book tour.)

I'm still in the early stages--just keeping up with the blog has kept me busy--but there's a lot of material to go over.

You can read Oder's valedictory Library Journal column here.


Posted by eric at 5:29 PM

The Anatomy of a "Scoop"

Several weeks ago, a friend called to tell us about a story he'd heard from a business contact — Forest City Ratner was planning to raise funds for Atlantic Yards in China through something called the EB-5 Visa program. He told us to Google EB-5, which we did, and we discovered that there's a two-decade-old U.S. program that essentially trades U.S. resident alien status for half-million-dollar investments that allegedly create at least 10 jobs.

Amazed that Forest City, even with Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov's ill-gotten billions, would need or want to raise yet more money, especially through such a non-traditional and none-too-savory means, we passed the tip along to Atlantic Yards Report.

At first, Norman Oder didn't seem especially interested. After a little more prodding, he started to look into it, and when he came across this Chinese tour itinerary, he quickly became convinced that this was a big story that needed telling. The more he dug into it, the murkier it got. He started calling around, to the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, who told him to talk to Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center, who stonewalled him. Even motor-mouthed Marty Markowitz went mute.

Oder was prepared to publish his exhaustive look into Atlantic Yards and the EB-5 program this morning. Late last evening, however, he got "scooped" by The Wall Street Journal's Eliot Brown. Brown, one of the few mainstream media reporters to distinguish himself with his Atlantic Yards coverage, published a 434-word story that barely scratches the surface, and raises no questions about the Atlantic Yards project's ability to actually deliver on the program's "requirements" for job creation.

It's clear to us that Forest City Ratner, while brushing off inquiries from Atlantic Yards Report, scrambled to leak the story before Norman Oder could publish. It's now up to the mainstream media to dig deeper, and toss a wrench or two into Forest City's spin-control operation. Oder's done all the hard work — let's see if they can pick up the ball and run with it.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

September 6, 2010

New York Times Public Editor seeks to maintain "sacred cloak of impartiality." Isn't it a bit late?

Atlantic Yards Report

In his second column, Arthur Brisbane, the new New York Times Public Editor, is already wading into deep waters.

His column yesterday, In an Age of Voices, Moving Beyond the Facts, expresses alarm about news articles that contain "opinion" or "interpretive journalism":

When I asked Matt Bai about his Aug. 12 “Political Times” column on Representative Paul Ryan — the one Mr. Johnson criticized — he said: “I guess my column is part of a broader effort to take some chances in the paper and explore different formats for a new era. I think that represents a great and exciting trend for the paper; none of us can afford to think in old rubrics for new generations of readers.”

Bai’s editor, Richard Stevenson, the deputy Washington bureau chief, elaborated on how The Times is navigating the new norms. “We are still exploring how much of a voice you can have ... what kinds of conclusions you can draw when it comes to politics,” he said.

A news-page column like “Political Times” carries the “freedom to reach a reported conclusion,” he said. Not to “throw opinion around,” but to “express in a restrained and fact-bound way a conclusion about something.”

The "reported conclusion"

I think the notion of a "reported conclusion" is legitimate. Why? Because the Times, and the "objective" press, is full of implicitly reported conclusion.

Consider, for example, the egregious example of the Times quoting, without qualms, the claim last September by a New York City Economic Development Corporation spokesman that Atlantic Yards was "a site that is now an open railyard without any public benefit."

What made that claim even more egregious was that, well before the deadline for print, I posted a comment on the CityRoom blog demolishing that claim. I ran this all by Brisbane's predecessor, Clark Hoyt, who, predictably enough, ignored it.


NoLandGrab: If it emanates from Seth Pinsky's mouth, that ought to be reason enough for a healthy dose of journalistic skepticism.

Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

August 31, 2010

To the Times's new Public Editor: Get up to speed on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pens a letter to the latest Public Editor of The New York Times. Here's a snippet.

I know, I know. As a new Public Editor, you only look forward, not back. But you should know that the Times, in editorial, op-ed, and news coverage of Atlantic Yards, has not come close to meeting its standards.

(I write this having examined and critiqued the Times coverage for more than five years and, yes, having an op-ed on Atlantic Yards finally published this past June.)

Your predecessors as Public Editors have not distinguished themselves regarding Atlantic Yards, either offering weak defenses of the newspaper or ignoring issues completely.


NoLandGrab: Standards? The Times don't need no stinking standards!

Posted by eric at 12:56 PM

August 28, 2010

Paterson's penchant for fudging facts seen as context for potential perjury charges; Atlantic Yards episode deserves a mention

Atlantic Yards Report

When trying to get support for bad development, it helps to have politicians in high places who put little value in telling the truth.

Now they tell us. An article in today's New York Times, headlined With Paterson, the Simple Facts Can Get Complicated, begins:

A thoroughly honest politician has pretty much always been considered an undiscovered species. But for Gov. David A. Paterson, the distinction between the truth and an untruth can get unusually murky.

Once asked if a statement was accurate or inaccurate, Gov. David A. Paterson replied, “Neither.”

On Thursday, an independent counsel asked the Albany County district attorney to determine whether Mr. Paterson intentionally lied to investigators about paying for baseball tickets, something that could lead to the governor being charged with perjury.

But how do you sort that out? After all, according to many people who deal with Mr. Paterson, it’s not always clear when he might be intentionally lying and when he is just saying wrong things. Or doing something that, by his reckoning, is neither lying nor telling the truth.

And it contains this summation:

But these same people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they continue to deal with his administration, say Mr. Paterson tends to fudge facts, as well as to tell one group one thing and another the opposite.


Those of us who saw Paterson (at the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking) claim, ridiculously, that Atlantic Yards would "have job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen," got a pretty strong hint of all this in March.

But that anecdote didn't make the Times today. After all, the reporter on the scene took Paterson's claims at face value.

Then, and now, that was unwise.

NoLandGrab: Is Atlantic Yards going to be a powerful economic engine that will benefit others besides Bruce Ratner? Was it approved after a careful public review? Neither.


Posted by steve at 9:26 AM

Battle of Brooklyn

Creative Arson

On my b’day this year, I ran into Beyonce and Jay Z while shooting the ground breaking of the Barclay Center: the largest development project in New York since, I don’t know, forever. It’s being plopped down next to downtown Brooklyn and will make billions for some, while taking away central Brooklyn’s low scale, neighborhood sensibility. The footage I shot was for/with my friends at Rumur Inc who are making an epic doc about the whole debacle. Read all about it and watch the amazing trailer here:

And yes, Beyonce and I had a moment.


Posted by steve at 8:45 AM

August 21, 2010

Show About the Atlantic Yards Finds a Home Near the Atlantic Yards

New York Times
By Erik Piepenburg

This announcement of a show based on the Atlantic Yards fight describes Atlantic Yards as "eight million square feet of apartments, offices, stores and an arena for the New Jersey Nets." The arena is under construction. Except for one or two residential towers, it looks like the rest of the project will just be acres of parking.

The downtown company the Civilians has announced that its new show, “In the Footprint: The Battle Over the Atlantic Yards,” will open in November at the Irondale Center, a theater space not far from the future home of that planned 22-acre development.

“In the Footprint” is a series of songs and monologues about the conflicts over the building of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project near Brooklyn’s downtown that is to include eight million square feet of apartments, offices, stores and an arena for the New Jersey Nets. The show’s material is taken from interviews that members of the Civilians conducted with Brooklyn residents, community organizers, business owners and politicians who are either for or against the project. Performances are scheduled to begin on Nov. 12 and continue through Dec. 11 at the center at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.


Related coverage...

The L Magazine, Atlantic Yards Musical In The Footprint Premiering in Fort Greene in November

ArtsBeat reports that documentary theater company the Civilians will premiere their show In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards this fall at the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, a few blocks from the titular mega-development. The show, which combines songs and monologues drawn from interviews with local residents, activists, business-owners, developers and politicians on either side of the fight over the in-progress project to build condos and a basketball stadium along Atlantic Avenue, will begin performances on November 12 and continue through December 11. Can't wait that long? The Civilians will perform songs from the show during a cabaret night at Joe's Pub on September 10. Either way, unfortunately, it appears to be too late.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Civilians' theater piece about Atlantic Yards will debut November 12

In December 2008, the theater troupe The Civilians, which bases its shows on interviews but doesn't quite produce documentaries, debuted Brooklyn At Eye Level, its first (and preliminary) show based on its look into the controversy and passions of the Atlantic Yards project.

I thought the show was well worth seeing, though it also had gaps. Starting in November, we'll see how much the story has been updated and how many of the gaps will be filled in.

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

August 15, 2010

The Times and Lipsky: skepticism about the city's claims on Willets Point (but what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times, likely on a tip from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, ran a story on August 13 expressing skepticism about the Willets Point project. State officials are particularly concerned about the design for highway ramps. Why was Lipsky never skeptical about Atlantic Yards?

Lipsky, on his Neighborhood Retail Alliance blog, slammed the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC):

The fact remains, however, that this entire issue-and the review process itself-is begging to be removed from the parochial clutches of EDC and its flimflam consultant AKRF. If that happens, the economic development agency and its friends may just die from exposure.

But did Lipsky make a peep about AKRF's performance on Atlantic Yards, for example the market study it was hired to do but never did?


Did he salute transportation analyst Brian Ketcham's criticism of the ESDC's traffic analysis for Atlantic Yards, surely equivalent to what Lipsky called Ketcham's "blistering critique of EDC's defective [Willets Point] traffic report"?


That's because Forest City Ratner hired Lipsky to lobby for Atlantic Yards, and neutralized him.


Posted by steve at 7:32 AM

July 21, 2010

Jane Jacobs, esthete? (or why the High Line belongs in the Metro section)

Atlantic Yards Report

While urbanism certainly encompasses questions of design, it equally involves politics, policy, and economics. So it was a little jarring to see, in today's New York Times, news that High Line Founders To Get Jane Jacobs Medal appear in the Arts section.

The High Line is a spectacular new park and, while it's spurred inventive architecture, it belongs in the Metro section. Last week, a front-page Times article about the High Line's notable ripple effects, After High Line’s Success, Other Cities Look Up, began on the front page, but jumped to the Metro section.

Oddly enough, online that article is assigned to the arts desk.


Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

July 18, 2010

The paradox of "Google News"--or, how AYR original content appears in Google News only when someone else borrows it

Atlantic Yards Report

A Google search has become a critical part of almost everyone's on-line experience, but when it comes to news, and particularly to Atlantic Yards, Google's approach to what is news could probably stand to be improved. For example, press releases are treated as "news" while stand-alone journalists, can only show up as bloggers.

Google, which is based on algorithms rather them whims, should get it right, or at least be consistent, right?

It depends where you look.

If you search on "Atlantic Yards" in Google Blogs, not only do Atlantic Yards Report posts and articles appear in the list, but AYR gets prominence up top, as shown in this screenshot from July 11.


But if you search on "Atlantic Yards" in Google News, AYR is ignored.

That's because Google News algorithms exclude sites written and maintained by one person, no matter the quality or reputation.

There's surely the logic behind the rule, and it would be difficult to police, but it disserves readers.

Google News includes self-serving press releases, which, however labeled, are less likely to provide solid information than legitimate standalone journalism, a concept that's more than five years old

And it leads to absurd results, because Google News includes news articles that are partly based on AYR--such as several Gothamist posts in Google News--or nearly completely based on it, such as:

Click on the link for further insight into Google's policies, and see that one way around the exclusion of blogs is to reference blog content in comments on news items.


Posted by steve at 7:55 AM

July 4, 2010

First Annual Kickstarter Film Festival by Kickstarter & Rooftop Films – July 9th – super cool

Transmedia Camp 101

The first annual Kickstarter Film Festival will include the documentary "Battle Brooklyn," about the Atlantic Yards fight.

On Friday, July 9th, Kickstarter and Rooftop Films are hosting the first annual Kickstarter Film Festival on the roof of the OId American Can Factory in Brooklyn. The festival will feature 90 minutes of film and video from a dozen Kickstarter projects, including feature films, stop-motion animation, documentaries, art, and dance. All of them amazing.



The American Can Factory holds roughly 700 people — 300 on the roof and 400 in the courtyard below (there are two screens). This project’s 260 tickets are for the rooftop seats (some are being reserved for the filmmakers and press). Four-hundred courtyard seats will be sold at the door on the night of the festival, weather-permitting.


8pm Doors
8:30pm Music
9pm Films
11:30pm Afterparty


The Old American Can Factory
Corner of 3rd St and 3rd Ave, Brooklyn NY (Map)

Here's a short synopsis of the documentary:

Battle of Brooklyn by David Beilinson, Suki Hawley and Michael Galinksy A documentary about the Atlantic Yards fight over a Brooklyn neighborhood (about 15 blocks from the festival) between a developer, the government, and the people who live there. A 25-minute premiere.


Posted by steve at 9:06 AM

June 22, 2010

My Times op-ed: "A Russian Billionaire, the Nets and Sweetheart Deals"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder on Norman Oder.

Balancing (?) a one-source portrait of Bruce Ratner, today's New York Times Sports section offers a piece by me labeled "essay" (initially "analysis") that I'd simply call an "op-ed," headlined A Russian Billionaire, the Nets and Sweetheart Deals.

OK, take a read. The conclusion:

But the arena process should have been fair, and [Prokhorov] should have paid full freight. Surely he can afford it.

Someone might've called foul

I posted an FAQ below, but first I'd like to amplify the piece slightly by restoring one line that was cut from the edit I saw three weeks ago:

All was forgotten as flashbulbs popped for Prokhorov, as was the notion that had a man worth nearly $18 billion put his hand out for subsidies, someone might have called foul.

Would it have been possible for Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson to justify helping Prokhorov's cash flow, as they did with Ratner last September?


Why write the piece?

I was astonished how much the sports press buffed Prokhorov, as if his purchase could be disassociated from the Atlantic Yards controversy and the public subsidies involved.

Why'd they accept the piece?

I can only speculate. But there's been overwhelmingly positive publicity about Prokhorov. And there's a very friendly article about Bruce Ratner today. So there's a hint of balance.

Where was the photo taken?

On the north side of Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue; in the background are two houses subject to eminent domain, but that "taking" has been shifted to a later phase.

Lots more FAQs via the link.


NoLandGrab: Since Oder submitted his piece several weeks ago, we can only speculate that The Times assigned Araton to interview Ratner to "balance" Oder's facts.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Norman Oder on Prokhorov, Ratner and Atlantic Yards in the NY Times

Norman Oder, who began his Atlantic Yards reporting as a critic of the NY Times faulty coverage of the controvrsial project, has an oped in today's NY Times sports section. Kudos to the paper for holding back ego and publishing one of its chief critic's columns. But shame on the paper for waiting until the Atlantic Yards horse was so far out of the barn.

Oder offers a synopsis of the Atlantic Yards rip-off, honing in on the public subsidies and government support benefitting one of the richest men in the world, Mikhail Prokhorov, and the fawning press gaggles that followed every little joke and cute remark by the oligarch during his whirlwind April visit to New York.

The question remains: would the Mayor and various governors have propelled Atlantic Yards forwards with all of its public favors if it were a project driven by and owned by Russia's wealthiest man? We doubt it, but that is what has occurred, in the end.

Brownstoner, Oder Does The Times

After years of (rightly) criticizing The New York Times for its failure to bring a critical eye and adequate resources to its coverage of the Atlantic Yards project, Norman Oder, publisher of the Atlantic Yards Report, got his own essay (that's what The Times calls it; he calls it an Op-Ed) in the paper of record. A central point of the essay, and the one that he parses further in a follow-up post on his blog, is that public officials might have thought harder about handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies if they'd known that someone with unlimited financial resources--in this case Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov--would end up being the beneficiary.

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter, Norman Oder article in the Times

Norman Oder has an op-ed (according to the Times it's an essay) in today's Times.

In film news- We are finally digging into the final sections of footage- the ground breaking. Yesterday we viewed a long assembly of the footage and it was very powerful.

On July 9th- we will be part of a kickstarter film fest- in conjunction with our very good friends at rooftop films. At that event we will likely show the end of the film- we'll certainly send out an update as it comes closer.

Posted by eric at 10:58 AM

June 20, 2010

Behind the Brooklyn Paper's LeBron-maybe-at-Toren story

Atlantic Yards Report

I'm trying to imagine how the Brooklyn Paper went about the article headlined (online) Apartments that are fit for a king — King James and in print "A HOME FIT FOR A KING: Rumor: LeBron looked for Bklyn crib, but he shouldn't miss these palaces."

Here's how it might have gone down.

Editor Gersh Kuntzman: "Hey, Steve, did you see that New York Times interview with Donald Capoccia, the developer of Toren?"

Reporter Stephen Brown: "Yeah."

GK: "He said LeBron James might be looking at the penthouse apartment."

SB: "Shouldn't he know? He's the developer. LeBron is kind of a noticeable individual. He's just trying to get some free publicity."

GK: "If a rumor's good enough for the Times, it's good enough for the Community Newspaper Group."

SB: "Some blogger guy checked into it and found an original purveyor of the online rumor admitted it was a joke."

GK: "We don't listen to that blogger guy any more."

SB: "But Gersh, even if LeBron joins the Nets as a free agent, he'll play in Newark for at least two years. He can't commute from Brooklyn."

GK: "Don't you understand, the story's not about the Toren and LeBron, it's about super-premium real estate still available in several buildings. That's news. Get to it. We'll even put it on the front page."

SB: "If you say so."


Posted by steve at 7:05 AM

The Atlantic asks, "Can Anyone Replace the Local Beat Reporter?" Not that likely (but City Limits is trying to crowd-fund a development story)

Atlantic Yards Report

This blog entry starts by referencing an article from The Atlantic that shows, although a beat reporter can be well-positioned to find a story that might otherwise be missed, sometimes ordinary citizens can come up with story on their own.

Norman Oder's perspective on beat reporter versus citizen reporter:

I'm pessimistic that beat reporting can just bubble up.

Writing in April 2009 on a debate about the future of news between Princeton sociologist Paul Starr, a pessimist, and founder Steven Johnson, an optimist, I noted that Johnson agrees that traditional reporting skills are needed "for the macro issues, but on the hyperlocal level the true experts are people on the streets."

As I pointed out, Atlantic Yards is both hyperlocal (and thus too fine-grained in its iterations for daily print coverage) as well as macro (encompassing a wide range of beats, including real estate, public policy, sports business, law, and local politics). So traditional reporting skills are necessary. It's very hard to become an expert on that stuff.

Oder points to one attempt at filling in the gap between the numbers of reporters available and the stories that ought to be written.

Meanwhile, City Limits magazine, which does solid work on a shoestring, is now trying to crowdsource funding for an investigation, aiming to raise $5000 with the following pitch:

Anyone who has lived in or visited New York in the past decade has seen the tower cranes and orange netting that color the skyline—harbingers of the new developments that are remaking the city, from baseball stadiums to shopping malls to luxury condos. This progress has costs, primarily the impact these projects have on existing neighborhoods.

To fend off opposition to their plans, developers often promise “community benefits” in the form of housing, amenities and jobs.

But do the benefits ever get delivered?

If so, who gets them?

And if not, who holds the builders’ feet to the fire?

City Limits wants to conduct a detailed investigation of big projects—and big promises—around the city to figure out which developers have kept their word.


Posted by steve at 6:39 AM

June 13, 2010

Times Public Editor Hoyt offers valedictory; no mention of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times's Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, is leaving his post after three years and, in his last column (A Final Report From Internal Affairs), he offers some reflections:

The public editor receives as many as 300 messages on a typical day, and the total can spike into the thousands if a blogger or one of the media watchdog sites urges its followers to protest something the paper has published. Coverage of presidential politics in 2008, the Middle East at any time, and the latest developments in the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church reliably produced torrents of protest.

He doesn't mention any concerns raised about the Times's coverage of Atlantic Yards, and he surely had enough to keep him busy. But he was certainly put on notice.


Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

June 9, 2010

Brutally Weird Times Front Page Juxtaposition: Brooklyn Neighborhood Afflicted By Withdrawn Funds and Simultaneous Subsidies to Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Those who caught the front page of Saturday’s New York Times were witness to a brutally weird juxtaposition of stories concerning: 1.) the angst of Brooklyn neighborhoods faced by city budget cuts surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards Forest City Ratner mega-monopoly, and 2.) the frivolous focus of the Bloomberg administration on subsidizing basketball. Were the Times editors aware of the contrast they were setting up or out-of-touch with the linked import of their stories?

Brooklyn Woe: Concentrated Overlapping City Budget Cuts

One of the Times stories, the one that clearly deserved to be on the front page, began with three short truly remarkable paragraphs setting forth a tale-of-Job-style account of how a single individual Brooklynite, Christina Nieves, in the Prospect Heights vicinity, has been beset by multiple city budget cut woes:

Christina Nieves’s life revolves around a handful of blocks in Brooklyn: Drop off her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son at the Strong Place day care center. Make sure her 75-year-old grandmother, who uses a wheelchair, makes it to lunch at the Gowanus Senior Center. Then, on too many occasions to count, take her son, who is asthmatic and prone to seizures, to the Wyckoff children’s clinic.

And with warm days now here, watch her children frolic at the Douglass and DeGraw pool.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to close all four places.

(Budget Cuts Hit a Brooklyn Area Over and Over, by David W. Chen, June 4, 2010.)

Bouncing Basketball Fluff Onto the Front Page

The second story, appearing right beside this tale of woe, reveled in Bloombergian PR fluff. (See: Luring a Star: Big City Beckons; Cleveland Begs, by Alan Feuer, June 4, 2010.) It really didn’t deserve to be on the front page except that it is actually critically important for its meta-story, for the way that it stands as an example of how the Times, by preoccupying itself with the dutiful and superficial pass-along of Bloomberg and Ratner promotional materials, is missing the bigger stories in this city, including how intrinsically related the tale of budget woes was to this sillier second story about luring LeBron James to play basketball in New York. Play basketball where? Perhaps within about a half mile of all the four community facilities the Bloomberg administration will, by closing, remove from Christina Nieves’s life. Play basketball where? Perhaps in the highly, highly subsidized Prokhorov/Ratner basketball (aka “Barclays”) arena that the City Independent Budget Office calculated will be a $220 million net loss for the city.


Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

June 8, 2010

Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest = first Absolut shillfest?

Atlantic Yards Report

As with the borough, the Brooklyn Blogfest sure has changed.

There's a lot of shilling for Absolut Brooklyn before the Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest, which is sponsored by Absolut. And surely there will be more, thanks to Absolut's Brooklyn Stoop Life campaign, where "Bloggers Share Their Love for Brooklyn."

Absolut has generated sponsored blog posts as well as other posts that sure look like they're sponsored, since the bloggers have "been chosen to collaborate with Absolut Vodka, to celebrate Absolut Brooklyn."

Renaming Brooklyn

So let me suggest an update of John Pinamonti's classic Atlantic Yards elegy/fight song, "The Burrow."

Original version:

"It makes me mad/and it's such a pity/they're trying to rename Brooklyn/Forest City"

My update:

"It makes me mad/and for so little loot/they're trying to rename Brooklyn/Absolut"

Absolut accountability

Yes, as I wrote after last year's Blogfest, the disparate blogs of Brooklyn all have their role.

But relatively few people in the “bloggiest place in America” provide what we need most: solid civic information, "holding institutions accountable on a daily basis," to quote author, The Wire creator, and former reporter David Simon.


Posted by steve at 3:32 PM

June 6, 2010

Compelling documentary about Freddy's debuts this week at the Brooklyn International Film Festival

Atlantic Yards Report

Less than six weeks after Freddy's Bar & Backroom closed in the wake of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards, an intimate documentary (titled Freddy's) about the noted Prospect Heights watering hole will debut this week at the Brooklyn International Film Festival.

The film will be screened (tickets) on Wednesday June 9 at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema (7 pm) and on Friday June 11 at indieScreen in Williamsburg (6pm). The director is Vicente Rodriguez Ortega.

Having seen the film, I highly recommend it--it hits deeper than the whimsical trailer below, with lots of (engaging) talking heads, music, and some intriguing filmic composition. And I learned a bunch.

I have some questions and quibbles, of course, but I'll save them until after the first screening, where manager Donald O'Finn and other Freddy's staffers will be present for the Q&A.


In case you're wondering, the anti-folk song in the trailer is Bumbling Along, by Steve Espinola.

It's clear why it was chosen--it serves as a bridge between the artsy bohemianism of Freddy's and the development project that ended Freddy's.

Near the end of the song, the music pauses, and Espinola unleashes a rapid-fire rant: "The ones who are trying to destroy my multicultural neighborhood so they could build a basketball stadium and skycrapers. They are efficient, they are organized and sometimes murderously effective, but they are ethically short-circuited and spiritually adrift."

Then the whimsical music picks up, with the segue, "But they don't know what's going on, even they are bumbling along."

As noted, the documentary, though often lighthearted, doesn't stick at that level of whimsy.


Posted by steve at 8:01 AM

May 26, 2010

"Freddy's", the Documentary, to Screen on June 9 and 11. Find Out What's Been Lost

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

On June 9th and June 11th the Brooklyn International Film Festival will screen the World Premiere of "Freddy's"—the documentary about the world's best bar which has been confiscated and shuttered forever by the State of New York for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's billion dolllar arena.

Many have heard that Freddy's was taken by eminent domain but may be wondering what the big deal is about this bar, this cultural hub. This film will help you understand what has been lost.


Synopsis: Freddy's Bar & Backroom was a thriving cultural hub situated in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Open since prohibition, the bar featured a unique and colorful history. This documentary chronicles the diverse set of characters in Freddy's community - the bartenders, the regulars, the artists and the musicians. Through their barside reflections, both hilarious and poignant, we see the true importance of this Brooklyn institution. Beyond the late nights and naked Mondays, Freddy's was a vital part of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it also sat in the footprint of a controversial real estate deal that has threatened to radically transform Brooklyn's character.

Click on the link for details of the screenings and a trailer.


Posted by steve at 8:44 AM

May 23, 2010


Honky's Movie Year

This movie reviewer finds a parallel with the Atlantic Yards development as he compares the the difficulties faced by the hero in the animated film "Up", Carl Fredricksen, with those of Daniel Goldstein.

When I saw Carl's house being surrounded by construction work, and a conglomerate trying to buy his land (or force him out, whichever...) I thought of a recent situation here in New York City. A group of investors led by Bruce Ratner (Booo...) bought up property around a piece of land known as the Atlantic Yards, with the intent of building a giant mall, condo units, and a new home for the Nets basketball team. They bought out (and forced out) a lot of people from their homes, but there was one lone holdout. Then the recession hit, and the entire construction project sort of got put on hold. Meanwhile this poor guy was living in a virtual ghost town in downtown Brooklyn, which couldn't have been safe. Finally he did get a large payout in order to move - so I'm wondering why Carl couldn't have taken the construction company's best offer, or forced them to pay for his home to be moved somewhere else.


NoLandGrab: In "Up" the hero attaches a multitude of balloons to his home and flies off to South America. An Atlantic Yards fantasy might include attaching balloons to Bruce Ratner, Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the entire ESDC. They fly off and Prospect Heights is left intact.

Posted by steve at 8:52 AM

May 22, 2010

Not So "Just Wright" (Because It is After All "Not So Just")

Noticing New York

This is not a review of the movie "Just Wright", but this blog entry is critical in how the film is used to promote the New Jersey Nets. Also, click through to read the "Quirky Addendum" about an illegal billboard being used to promote the film.

We just realized that the one of the new fables being spun is the new film “Just Wright,” a giant promo for the (still New Jersey) Nets that is apparently quite consciously directed at the urban black minority population. The two leads are rappers, Queen Latifah and Common (Scott McKnight). Common plays a Nets star player and Queen Latifah plays a Nets fan.


As for the product placement we picked up this from NPR’s “Tell Me More”:

There was a time when I would have criticized such blatant product placement and crass commercialism but there's just not enough financial support for smaller motion pictures in the marketplace — particularly, if they're African American oriented.

Here is Noticing New York’s response to the “Tell Me More” assessment. We are in favor of financial support for smaller motion pictures that are African American oriented but the cynicism here in our opinion renders this a rather sad abuse. This above others, is the perfect instance in which to criticizes “blatant product placement and crass commercialism” as something worse, cynical manipulation.


Posted by steve at 4:58 PM

May 13, 2010

In Daily News, Yormark defends Ratner; wishful editorial urges Prokhorov to build subsidized housing planned for AY project

Atlantic Yards Report

Prokhorov, with ownership interests in the team and arena, has an option for 20% of the rest of the project, but no role in it. He has no obligation to build the subsidized housing nor has he made a commitment to do so. He got involved in Atlantic Yards as a platform for business expansion in the United States.

The affordable housing will be built if the city and state administrations assign enough scarce subsidy dollars to do so. What no one's analyzed is whether more such housing could be built elsewhere with the same dollars.


Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

May 9, 2010

Let the bulldozers roll

Glen Ellyn & Wheaton Real Estate
by Cindy Voss

Here, when you scroll down the page, in 5 sentences, is the entire Atlantic Yards saga -- as seen through narrow focus of an out-of-town real estate agent.

You know those stories you hear periodically about the homeowner who becomes the last holdout against the mega-developer who’s buying out an entire neighborhood?

Daniel Goldstein bought his condo in Brooklyn for $590,000 in 2003, and didn’t budge when offered a buyout by the developers of the enormous Atlantic Yards project in 2004 — though his 29 neighbors in the building took an offer of about $850 per square foot, according to the New York Post. That would have been about $1 million for Goldstein. But, no, thanks.

Recently, however, he accepted an offer of $3 million.

NoLandGrab: You know the story where a community resists a corrupt land grab? It looks like the author of this blog entry doesn't.


Posted by steve at 7:00 AM

May 6, 2010

In coverage of Goldstein move, the New York Post lies and Forest City Ratner (apparently) displays its vindictiveness

Atlantic Yards Report

Evidence suggests that Forest City Ratner is still trying to be vindictive to Daniel Goldstein, and the tabloid press is a happy partner. The New York Post's Rich Calder, diminishing his integrity, wrote, in a blog post yesterday headlined It's game over for Nets Arena holdout Goldstein:

Here’s Brooklyn’s new $3 million man packing up his belongings and fleeing his longtime hood to pave way for Nets basketball.

Two lies, one sentence. He's not close to being a "$3 million man," given the cost of legal fees, taxes, and a replacement apartment. (Forest City Ratner's gained far more value from the override of zoning.)

And Goldstein, who's moving a short distance away, could hardly be said to be fleeing, after living alone in his building with his family for more than five years.

Who let the photographer in?

Well, it is a private street, so why was photographer Benny J. Stumbo allowed? Did FCR tell the guard to let the photographer in? Does the Post really think that a picture of someone's baby is fair game?

Goldstein's response

I asked Goldstein for comment and he responded:

"The photographer was shooting right out on my street and shooting me. I do not know how he knew I was moving at that precise moment, but I have my guesses. When I told him to leave me alone and he wouldn't, we had a heated exchange (one in which I explained to him the street was private and residents and their visitors were only allowed, and he did not want to believe me despite a big sign saying so at the entrance to the street), ending with him telling me 'Put down your baby, take off your glasses and I will beat your ass.' It was an idle threat, but out of proportion to anything I did. I certainly did not threaten him in any way.

Some perspective

Why was this more important news than any analysis of, say, the Development Agreement that sets 25 years as a deadline to finish the project?

Because the Post, like so many in the media, doesn't think its job is to hold public agencies accountable. Its job is to grab a few eyeballs, at whatever the cost to its reputation.


Posted by eric at 1:12 PM

May 1, 2010

Radio show State of the Re:Union's lame take on Atlantic Yards: "Isn't any job better than none?"

Atlantic Yards Report

Here are the money quotes from the public radio show State of the Re: Union and its Atlantic Yards segment, courtesy of host Al Letson. (The show will run on WNYC this weekend but is available online.)

Letson's not so much a journalist--his bio reads "Renaissance Man: Playwright/Performance Poet/Public Radio Host-Producer"--so analysis is less important than feeling. Indeed, the name Forest City Ratner is never mentioned in the segment, which lasts less than 13 minutes.

Letson said on the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday that he came in against eminent domain but emerged with a more nuanced sense of the controversy. Yes, he's sincere, but his takeaway is shallow:

But those who oppose Atlantic Yards will tell you that the jobs are a pipe dream, that the work created won't be sustainable middle-class building careers, and they may be right, but I wonder if it matters. In these tough times, when families are losing their homes and unemployment is through the roof, isn't any job better than none?

Isn't any job better than none? Well, no, because enormous public subsidies might be used to create more jobs and more housing.


Posted by steve at 8:35 AM

April 30, 2010

Post columnist: "If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably just the media not doing its job."

Atlantic Yards Report

Columnist John Crudele, writing in the New York Post:

So if you read outrageous stories like the one on new-home sales, remember the old adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably just the media not doing its job."

That old adage applies elsewhere. Did the media ever critique the Forest City Ratner brochure excerpted at right?

That photo suggests that the far west segment of the railyard--one of 7+ blocks--would somehow become a full project with smudgy greenery and red-topped buildings.

Actually, it's slated to become half the arena block.


Posted by eric at 12:37 PM

April 26, 2010

Greg David of Crain's gets it very wrong: "New Yorkers, through their political process" decided "Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city"

Atlantic Yards Report

In a column headlined An eminent name in domain debate, Crain's New York Business editorial director Greg David defends eminent domain for Atlantic Yards while, astonishingly, neglecting to acknowledge how local elected officials were ignored.

I always tell that story to my class on the New York City economy when we study commercial development issues. Then I explain how the indomitable Brooklyn gadfly Daniel Goldstein—who last week finally gave up his long fight to stop the Atlantic Yards project—convinced me the mayor was right.

Historically, eminent domain allowed governments to seize land for public purposes such as roads, schools, parks and airports. In Kelo, the Supreme Court said it was constitutional for states and cities to take private property on behalf of private interests for a public purpose such as improving the economy.

The complications are obvious. The government is putting the interests of one private party, in this case Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, above those of another, in this case some existing Brooklyn residents and businesses.

Critics of the Kelo decision say that the doctrine is unfair and creates opportunities for abuse by powerful interests and that developers like Forest City can and should use their resources to buy out the other parties.

But Mr. Goldstein wasn't interested in the money. He grudgingly sold his condo last week only because his choice was to accept a $3 million offer today and move out in two weeks or wait two months for a court to evict him and award him less money. He could have gotten much more months ago, maybe years ago.

He didn't do that because his mission was to impose his vision of what was best for Brooklyn, even though New Yorkers, through their political process, had decided that Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city.

Without eminent domain, he would have succeeded.

Hold on. Goldstein was reacting to the developer's vision, one the city supported from the start. There was no political process, no role for the City Council, no role for any local elected officials. In fact, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff told the New York Observer in December 2007:

“I am a huge believer in the ULURP process. I think it makes sense. It allows the issues to be aired in an appropriate way. If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”

The project was approved by the board of the unelected ESDC and the state funding was upheld by the Public Authorities Control Board--the "three men in a room": the governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader.

Goldstein's comment

Goldstein wrote in response:

Mr. David, your argument almost made some sense until the very end. I wasn't trying to "impose my vision on what was best for Brooklyn even though New Yorkers, through their political process, had decided that Atlantic Yards was in the best interest of the city."

There WAS no political process. Not a single elected official ever voted on Atlantic Yards. ULURP and NYC's zoning laws were overridden, and the unaccountable, unelected ESDC and MTA made all the key decisions. New Yorkers had no political process to make any decisions about Atlantic Yards.

That is the fundamental problem with Atlantic Yards that so many have been shouting and fighting about all this time.

Furthermore, all of the benefits of Atlantic Yards, including the arena and the housing, could have been built without using eminent domain, without taking my home. All of them. But that wouldn't have been the huge gift to Forest City Ratner that the use of eminent domain has been.

So while I and many others certainly have ideas of what would be good for Brooklyn and what urban planning ideas could work and wouldn't work, I didn't impose my vision on some publicly and politically approved project. I resisted, along with thousands of others and numerous politicians, the imposed vision of one developer.


Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

April 23, 2010

Brutally weird City Room post suggests neighborhoods with development fights as potential homes for Goldstein

Atlantic Yards Report

A notably trivial post on the New York Times's City Room blog, headlined For Developers’ Foe, Suggestions for the Next Battleground, whimsically suggests that Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein might want to move into a development fight elsewhere, such as Manhattanville; New London, CT; and New York University.

The post is so sloppy that, regarding Willets Point, Queens, it claims that "[t]he city headed off an eminent-domain squabble." It hasn't, as a glance at the Willets Point United site would show.


Posted by eric at 9:31 AM

April 22, 2010

$3 million vs. $131 million and 25 years

Atlantic Yards Report

It is dismaying but unsurprising that the news coverage about Daniel Goldstein's settlement to vacate the apartment he and his family occupies focuses mainly on the $3 million payment by Forest City Ratner (worth considerably less to him), but does not mention the $131 million that city taxpayers have contributed to pay for nearly half the property the developer has purchased or the Development Agreement that sets a 25-year deadline for the project, rather than the ten years promised by the developer and the state.

Yes, the surprising settlement is news, and worthy of debate. But so is the larger context.


Posted by eric at 10:54 AM

April 21, 2010

The Times, unmindful of the Development Agreement, claims Ratner "eventually plans" 6,000 apartments and office space in 16 towers

Atlantic Yards Report

From the New York Times's coverage of Daniel Goldstein's settlement:

The developer has already started work on a $1 billion basketball arena for the Nets, the centerpiece of Atlantic Yards, and eventually plans to build 6,000 apartments, office space and possibly a hotel in 16 towers. At least 30 percent of the units are to be for moderate and middle income tenants.

(Emphasis added)

That's completely speculative and highly unlikely. That's the announced plan, as approved by the state. We have no idea what the developer plans.

But the Development Agreement allows a project to be far, far smaller, with no penalty. And Forest City Ratner now plans four buildings (including the arena) in Phase 1, rather than six.

That won't add up to 16 towers.


Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

April 20, 2010

FCR affidavit regarding DDDB's litigation strategy relies on one not-so-reliable Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter

Atlantic Yards Report

Having Forest City Ratner cite your reporting in an Atlantic Yards-related affidavit is kind of like winning the anti-Pulitzer.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, thanks to columnists Dennis Holt and Henrik Krogius, has been a longtime cheerleader for the Atlantic Yards project.

But it's neither Holt nor Krogius but courts reporter Ryan Thompson whose conclusionary and loaded language regarding Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's (DDDB) legal strategy is crucial to Forest City Ratner executive Maryanne Gilmartin's affidavit in support of an eviction order.

The affidavit is part of an ESDC package of legal papers aiming to convince state Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges to ensure that all condemnees leave the Atlantic Yards footprint by May 17. DDDB is not a party to this case, though DDDB spokesman Daniel Goldstein is a condemnee.

A hearing will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Supreme Court in Brooklyn, 320 Jay Street.

DDDB's strategy

While delay is surely a calculation, Thompson suggests that DDDB's litigation strategy is solely about delay, rather than any legitimate effort to hold government accountable.

Thompson, it should be pointed out, was the reporter behind the scoffing report, cited Saturday, that Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn asked "the court to consider new evidence that DDDB claims was not available at the time of the oral argument in January."

Choosing to cast doubt on DDDB's "claims," Thompson failed to point out that the Development Agreement was, in fact, not made public for nearly a week after the oral argument.


Posted by eric at 10:01 AM

April 6, 2010

The DBP's "Downtown Development Story" and the Atlantic Yards asterisk

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder comments on Dennis Holt's column yesterday about Downtown development projects.

Holt acknowledges that "no one really knows right now" how many of the announced 6430 apartments would be built" and thus that, without the AY figures, the numbers under planning don't seem so impressive.

Still, he concludes by accepting the DBP's figures:

The Partnership's new score card is thus a very useful format, and tells the story of the building of a new Downtown Brooklyn in a more meaningful manner. The totals are impressive. They include $9.7 billion spent to create 22,615,000 new square feet of built space, and 14,481 new housing units.

But there's no assurance that figure is being spent or will be spent. Remember, only 24% of that square footage has been built.


Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

March 29, 2010

A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah and the world of Internet content

Atlantic Yards Report

Not even the Passover Haggadah is safe from the long keyboard of Norman Oder.

Remember, the New York Times sent a reporter to the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking who had never covered AY before, as if this were some spot news story that any warm (journalism degreed) body could have handled.

So it's small beans, relatively speaking, to watch the semi-snarky blogosphere froth up some content about their discovery of the Atlantic Yards Passover haggadah.

Flashback to 2006

This is how it happened.

NoLandGrab earlier today posted A Very Brooklyn Passover Haggadah for an Atlantic Yardseder.

No date is given, but those of us who've been around for a bit remember it popping up in April 2006 and even playing a cameo in a Times article that month headlined A Blogfest Over a Project in Brooklyn.

However, like the rest of the project, the Haggadah needs an update from four years ago. Below, a few suggestions.


Posted by eric at 10:29 PM

March 23, 2010

Hacked (F**k Ratner) traffic sign is huge news. Go figure.

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes The New York Times to task for devoting several paragraphs today to the hacked traffic sign on Flatbush Avenue while having given short shrift to more important stories.

Really, NY Times? You consider this a news story, but, say, bogus claims by the developer and the governor about jobs and tax revenues either get ignored or reprinted without analysis.

And the Times still hasn’t reported that, despite an announced 10-year buildout, the Development Agreement for the project allows for 25 years, with ample opportunity for extensions.

In other words, the traffic sign might have been hacked to:
For 25 Years

He also has something we missed, the statement by faux-indignant Ratner mouthpiece Joe DePlasco:

Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in high dudgeon, tells the Post:

Some irresponsible prankster apparently thinks it's fun to compromise public safety by hacking into the sign and changing the message. It is not funny. It is serious and offensive and, most importantly, a safety issue. We are reporting the vandalism to the Police Department."


NoLandGrab: Oh, please, Joe. Spare us the outrage and the phony concern for public safety. You want to protect the public? Give the city and state back the hundreds of millions in subsidies being pissed away on Bruce's basketball emporium so they can keep open the 20 firehouses on the chopping block and hire more cops. Want to report a crime? Turn in your boss.

Posted by eric at 9:05 PM

March 22, 2010

CNG watch: Courier-Life editor leaves, Brooklyn Paper's Kuntzman takes over; two chains start sharing more content

Atlantic Yards Report

Not surprisingly, the New York Post's Community Newspaper Group (CNG) has moved toward consolidating its two chains in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life.

The evidence? The departure of the latter's editor and increased sharing of copy among the two chains.

As can be seen by a close look at the Courier-Life mastheads from last week and this week, longtime Courier-Life Editor Kenneth Brown has been replaced by Brooklyn Paper Gersh Kuntzman.


Posted by eric at 11:25 AM

March 15, 2010

The New York Times and Atlantic Yards: A Pattern of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage. Still.

Atlantic Yards Report

For Norman Oder, Atlantic Yards has come full circle.

He first waded into the morass way back in 2005, when he wrote a lengthy, detailed report (not surprising) on The New York Times's failings in covering the proposed Brooklyn megaproject of Forest City Ratner, developer of The Times's headquarters building.

Apparently, no one at The Times has ever bothered to heed his critique.

My apologies. In my haste to shoot, process, edit, and transcribe video, then turn it into blog posts, and go to my office and do my job, I neglected to sufficiently explain how the New York Times disdained and misled its readers when it covered the Barclays Center groundbreaking.

The Times sent a reporter who had never covered the project before. Never.

Their rationale, apparently, was to send the guy available in the Brooklyn bureau. (At least they didn't send an unpaid "citizen journalist.")

I tried to warn them. On the Times's CityRoom blog, at 5:07 pm, well before deadline, I posted a comment that included my FAQ, aimed, among other things, to set the record straight about claims regarding jobs and tax revenues.

It didn't help.


Posted by eric at 9:34 PM

March 14, 2010

Brooklyn Paper "exclusive": a photo of Bruce Ratner and some construction equipment

Atlantic Yards Report

The Brooklyn Paper crowed that, in this week's issue, "we have a big exclusive about Atlantic Yards."

"[B]ig exclusive" apparently refers to a staged photo of Bruce Ratner posing in front of an earth-moving machine he's not qualified to operate.

[Update: as noted in the comment, the "big exclusive" is the news that David Childs talked with Bruce Ratner about working together on the residential buildings. And it is marked as an exclusive, so I apologize for the error. But I still think the staged photo, placed more prominently than the exclusive, is sucking up.]

The Brooklyn Paper's online coverage of the groundbreaking included a good, if unskeptical, overview of the event, plus a cutesy video. But the print paper? A photo of Bruce Ratner and a full-page ad on the back touting the Barclays Center.


Posted by eric at 9:50 PM

March 11, 2010

Post columnist Peyser still reading from Ratner's script

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder dismantles the Andrea Peyser fiction piece in today's Post.


Posted by eric at 5:20 PM

The Daily News "advertorial" on the arena groundbreaking

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not online, as far as I can tell, but today's New York Daily News includes an eight-page section with numerous advertisement for and about the Barclays Center, and one piece of text, a column by Denis Hamill (he of the 10,000 jobs fiction) reminiscing about the Dodgers.

To quote DDDB, in another context, it is not to be missed.

Yes, they're playing it as the second coming of the Dodgers, despite the obvious enormous contrasts.

Funny, but the section is not labeled "advertorial."


NoLandGrab: There was a day when the News was the working man's newspaper. Now it's owned by a billionaire real estate developer intent on puffing up multi-multi-millionaire real estate developers.

Posted by eric at 4:46 PM

Daily News columnist Louis admits qualms about project benefits, still blames opponents, ignores transparency issues, supports governance entity

Atlantic Yards Report

I admit, when I read the headline of Errol Louis's column today in the Daily News, Developer must build a bridge at Atlantic Yards, I thought that he might have tried to suss out why the Carlton Avenue Bridge, closed for an expected two years for demolition and reconstruction, would be closed for more than four years.

But no.

Rather, its Louis's big-picture reflections on the project, filled with some more qualms than before, including the cost of decking over the railyard, yet with his fundamental hostility toward those who've resisted the project, without attendant concern about issues of accountability.


Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

March 8, 2010

"AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors"? Check the evidence--and a non-independent compliance report from compromised Darryl Greene

Atlantic Yard Report

According to an article this week by the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt, AY starts off an economic boom for Brooklyn contractors.

However, the evidence is sketchy, and hardly supports that conclusion.

Moreover, the much-touted Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was supposed to generate an Independent Compliance Monitor (ICM), but that has never been announced.

The only report to surface has come not from an ICM but by Forest City Ratner's own consultant on M/WBE (Minority/Women Business Enterprise) issues, the Darman Group, run by Darryl Greene, who's recently been in the news for his questionable role in the Aqueduct video casino contract.

The Darman Group was supposed to help the CBA Executive Committee hire an ICM. The most recent evidence suggests that, instead, the Darman Group has performed that function.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

March 6, 2010

Anthrax-Free Zone

The fascination continues with the story of a mailing to Kings County Supreme Court Justice Abrahama Gerges that contained white powder

The Brooklyn Paper, Judge in Yards case gets a powder-filled threat
By Stephen Brown

The judge who approved the state’s seizure of properties in the Atlantic Yards footprint earlier this week received a letter containing a suspicious white powder on Thursday, causing an evacuation of the entire 24th floor of the Kings County Supreme Court on Jay Street in Downtown.

It is unclear whether the substance mailed to Justice Abraham Gerges — which was found to be “inert,” according to cops — was sent in connection with the Atlantic Yards case, a steroid case that he is currently hearing or something deeper in the long career of this judge and former City Councilman.

BioPrepWatch, Brooklyn judge in anthrax scare
By Nick Rees

The secretary of a Brooklyn judge opened an envelope on Thursday containing a suspicious white powder, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration has announced.

Police, fire and hazmat crews responded to an emergency call just after noon from the Kings County Supreme Court Criminal Term. The 24th floor of the building, located at 320 Jay St., was evacuated and sealed off.

The letter, sent to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges, was filled wit sh a white powder that was later found to be "inert," the spokesman said.

Gerges' secretary was decontaminated by the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit.

Speculation on the letter centers on it being a retaliatory response to a recent judicial order by Justice Gerges that transferred the tile of the land at Atlantic Yards to the state via eminent domain.

The Brooklyn Ink, More on Atlantic Yards Judge White Powder Scare

The judge who approved the state seizing property for the Atlantic Yards development got a letter laced with a white powder yesterday.

Cops say the substance was not dangerous, but weren’t sure if Justice Abraham Gerges was being targeted for Atlantic Yards, his current case – steroids – or something else in his 45 years of service.

NoLandGrab: Fortunately, the anthrax threat wasn't real. Unfortunately, the promises of Bruce Ratner to provide an economic benefit to New York via the proposed Atlantic Yards project are also not real.

Posted by steve at 4:54 AM

March 4, 2010

Correcting a misleading Daily News photo/caption regarding condemnation

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not a major detail, but a photo accompanying a Daily News article concerning a judge's decision to allow condemnations for the Atlantic Yards project includes a misleading caption:

Some of the property in the picture above will be knocked down for the Atlantic Yards project.

Actually, none of the property pictured will be demolished thanks to the decision by Justice Abraham Gerges.

Only the two buildings in the center of the photo are private property within the Atlantic Yards site, and both of them--Lots 19 and 28 of Block 1120 (see map below)--are scheduled not for the first phase of condemnation, but an unspecified later phase.

That saves Forest City Ratner cash and gives it more time to work on the upgraded railyard.


Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

March 3, 2010

In a takedown of critic Ouroussoff, Atlantic Yards is front and center

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, I've written frequently about New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, including a June 2006 critique of his first major piece on Atlantic Yards. Now, when the critic comes in for a drubbing by a peer, AY is front and center.

In a Design Observer essay headlined Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough, Alexandra Lange writes:

Should Ouroussoff turn out to be the last architecture critic, that makes it even more imperative to say: He is not good enough. He is not winning hearts or minds. He is not making a case for keeping the breed.

Near the end of the essay, Lange fixes on something very important:

It is our city the New York Times architecture critic should be trying to save, not the gargantuan works of Frank Gehry or Jean Nouvel (or Philip Johnson). They can parachute in and out, but we (and ideally the Times itself) remain to live with the consequences.

Indeed, Ouroussoff's reflex--remember his public defense of Gehry when the architect was grilled about AY?--is to identify more with the architect than the city.


Related coverage...

Curbed, Architecture Critic Ouroussoff Called Out in Epic Takedown

Is there anything juicier than a savage attack on one critic penned by another? How about when the evidence cited includes meaty topics like Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Atlantic Yards, preservationists and other matters of big-time architecture in the Big Apple? Kaboom!

Calling him "the perfect critic for the boom years," Lange echoes the oft-repeated Ouroussoff criticism that the dude is too in love with starchitects: "Yes to Gehry, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel; no to people you haven't already heard of."

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough

Design Observer
by Alexandra Lange

Alexandra Lange — journalist, architectural historian, architecture criticism professor, and Brooklynite — offers a withering, detailed and spot-on (and not just because she cites NoLandGrab) critique of New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. The prime evidence: Ouroussoff's fawning treatment of Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards design.

Exhibits A and B in this critique are Ouroussoff’s reviews of the massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. It was unclear from his first review whether Ouroussoff had ever been to Brooklyn, so grateful did he think we should be for the services of (Los Angeles) architect Frank Gehry. On July 5, 2005, he wrote:

Frank Gehry's new design for a 21-acre corridor of high-rise towers anchored by the 19,000-seat Nets arena in Brooklyn may be the most important urban development plan proposed in New York City in decades. If it is approved, it will radically alter the Brooklyn skyline, reaffirming the borough's emergence as a legitimate cultural rival to Manhattan.

To which the proud Brooklyn resident could only respond: We need Frank Gehry’s affirmation?

There are those — especially acolytes of the urbanist Jane Jacobs — who will complain about the development's humongous size. But cities attain their beauty from their mix of scales; one could see the development's thrusting forms as a representation of Brooklyn's cultural flowering.

Here Ouroussoff performs a neat trick, (mis)characterizing the opposition as a bunch of Jacobsian sentimentalists, and informing us that Gehry’s new architecture would be the borough’s best representative. Those brownstones are apparently so retrograde that they and the rest of the project’s existing context warrant only a three-sentence paragraph. Ouroussoff never bothered to orient his readers to the importance of the site, the windy, well-trafficked corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Naturally the Brooklyn bloggers had a field day with this piece, for reasons valid and conspiratorial. ←NoLandGrab reference!

Later, much later, Ouroussoff would try to make amends, when, in one of the more scathing reviews of his Times career, he told Gehry to walk away from the compromised vision.


Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

Bob Guskind, 1958-2009, still missed

Atlantic Yards Report

In the wake of Brooklyn's mainstream media consolidation, Norman Oder is still haunted by the chasm of neighborhood coverage left in the wake of Bob Guskind's death.

Bob Guskind, founder of the Gowanus Lounge blog, died a year ago. He's still missed, especially since the two main weekly newspaper chains in Brooklyn are now owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group and renting office space from Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner.

Robert Guskind 1958-2009 from Blue Barn Pictures, Inc. on Vimeo.


NoLandGrab: If Bob were still with us, he would have been grinding it out this week.

Recently, there has been little good news for community activists fighting to stop or mitigate the effects of the unbelievable corruption of local government to accommodate Bruce Ratner's unprecedented real estate monopoly.

However, yesterday, the funk briefly lifted, making one victory all the more sweet, when the EPA officially designated the Gowanus Canal area a federal Superfund site. Bob's repeated visits to former industrial sites in the neighborhoods near the Gowanus Canal and Greenpoint/Williamsburg, and his photographs of the pernicious and perpetual ooze and oily sheen, gave the communities a voice and helped attract political and media attention to our toxic city.

The countless people on the front lines of the Gowanus Canal's Superfund Me campaign are missing Bob today, and would have loved to share this moment with him.

Posted by lumi at 5:48 AM

March 2, 2010

In the print Times, no coverage of the AY condemnation case, but ink for a Nets promotion of questionable value

Atlantic Yards Report

I wasn't surprised to see the New York Times's coverage of Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges's decision in the Atlantic Yards condemnation case relegated to online coverage only.

While I can disagree with editorial judgment--after all, in print today is coverage of a delayed Metropolitan Transportation Authority reality show--that's part of a pattern; the Times frequently publishes AY and other metro stories online only (and, with the former, often without disclosure of the New York Times Company's ties to Forest City Ratner).

In the Sports section

But I was surprised to open the Sports section and see this article:

The Nets are offering a coupon that can be redeemed at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get a state income tax return done free. That's a $29 value but, actually, nothing special, since, as the article states, a similar coupon can be downloaded from Roni Deutch’s web site.


NoLandGrab: It would be one thing if The Times covered the Nets with a sense of irony, but that is clearly not the case.

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

February 13, 2010

Owners' Counsel of America Honors Journalists for Investigative Reporting of Eminent Domain


This article catches up with awards rewarded to two journalists including Atlantic Yards Report's Norman Oder.

As Oder professes skepticism of the developer's claims, the expected economic benefits of the project, and the fairness of the process, he comes closer to aligning himself with project opponents than with the government and developer. "My goal as a blogger is fairness, not some 'he said she said' version of objectivity," he asserts. He maintains rigorous standards, sourcing his work with links and critiquing project opponents when they stray from the facts.

Oder's work involves assessments of media coverage, reporting of events such as public hearings and oral arguments, and detailed analyses of legal briefs, environmental reports and other documents. His reporting bridges the gap between legal formality and ground-level reality by demonstrating that the state's claims of blight in and around the project footprint are suspect. Oder offers a longitudinal view of an enormously contested project while analyzing the process by which the city and New York State, considered to have the most condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws in the nation, go about development and condemnation.


Posted by steve at 7:52 AM

February 8, 2010

As controversy over Queens video deal continues, Darryl Greene drops out

Atlantic Yards Report

Hypocrisy alert!

The Times, Daily News and Post are shocked — shocked! — that the bidding for the Aqueduct "racino" contract may not have been on the up and up. In other news, we're still waiting for even a smidgen of similar outrage about the rigged Atlantic Yards deal.

Well, the frenzy over the Paterson administration's controversial selection of the Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run a video casino hasn't let up, with multiple news outlets reporting that consultant Darryl Greene, who had 0.6% of the deal, has dropped out.

Green, who pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor count of mail fraud, as detailed in the document below, has long worked on minority contracting for Forest City Ratner, including on Atlantic Yards. (He was disbarred, according to the Daily News.)

Yesterday, the New York Post reported, in a careful locution, that "Companies connected to Greene owe nearly $1 million in state taxes."

On Saturday, the New York Times weighed in (late) with an editorial, headlined Looks Sleazy to Us, opining:

[Assembly Speaker] Mr. [Sheldon] Silver may have preferred another bidder. But his demands seem more than reasonable. He should also insist that the governor release documents showing how this bid was chosen. It shouldn’t stop there.

On Sunday, the New York Daily News ran a second editorial, headlined Two-armed bandits: Daily News demands sunlight on shady Aqueduct deal:

New Yorkers especially need to see how much money the competing bidders put on the table. We also need to understand how Paterson, Silver and Sampson justify allowing AEG to match the high bid by adding $100 million to its offering at the last minute.


NoLandGrab: Spare us the sanctimony. And never mind who gets the contract — the whole idea of slot-machine parlors as state revenue patches is morally bankrupt.

Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

February 7, 2010

In this week's Courier-Life, street closures article on p. 4 is contradicted by news brief on p. 12

Atlantic Yards Report

Facts bite newspaper.

Does the Courier-Life chain have any editors?

This week's print issue of the Park Slope Courier includes an article (p. 4), headlined Closures around Barclays Center site begin, which is flat wrong.

It states, seemingly unequivocally, "Effective Feb. 1, sections of both Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street will be permanently closed."

Stephen Witt's article was posted online at 8:09 pm on January 29 with a different headline, Downtown street closures explained at cop meeting. That 78th Precinct Community Council meeting was January 26.

Misleading the public

Rather than updating that article to explain the delay, a headline expressing more certainty, Closures around Barclays Center site begin, was added to the article appearing in this week's issue.


Posted by eric at 11:05 PM

February 5, 2010

A sweetheart deal in Queens for a video casino (involving Darryl Greene) gets the Daily News and Post abuzz

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Daily News and the New York Post are quite exercised, not inappropriately, about the selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which has ties to influential Queens Rev. (and former Congressman) Floyd Flake to run a video casino at Aqueduct Raceway.

They published editorials today decrying secret, sweetheart deals, big spending on lobbyists, and even ties to a controversial figure in minority contracting named Darryl Greene (whose company regularly works for Forest City Ratner).

Wouldja believe that all those things obtain for Atlantic Yards, notably the decision at the outset to direct the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's valuable Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner, 18 months before a truncated RFP was issued and attracted just one other bidder for what Chuck Ratner, CEO of Forest City Enterprises, calls "a great piece of real estate."


Posted by lumi at 5:02 AM

February 4, 2010

Hunt claims arena construction has started; Barclays Center web site offers "New York Post" article about the commencement of arena construction

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reports on chimerical construction and the faulty attribution of a faulty newspaper story.

Forest City Ratner has not held the arena groundbreaking parent company Forest City Enterprises (FCE) in December "anticipated" by January 31, in the fourth quarter of FCE's fiscal year, and title to the land needed for the arena has not been transferred, as anticipated, to the Empire State Development Corporation.

But that hasn't stopped the Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction Group, in announcing that it got the contract to build the arena, that the Barclays Center "has already commenced construction."

Also, the press section of the Barclays Center web site offers a link claiming Construction on Barclays Center Commences.

It's attributed, without equivocation, to the New York Post, though it never appeared in the print newspaper and, when posted on the Post's web site, was clearly attributed not to the Post but to the Post-owned weekly Courier-Life.

As I pointed out January 15, the conceptual scoop by the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt evaded everyone else in the media.


NoLandGrab: Kudos to Oder for coining the term "conceptual scoop," a nice way of saying "made-up b.s."

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

February 3, 2010

CNG Watch: Coverage of the Atlantic Yards condemnation hearing is 1) absent and 2) secondhand

Atlantic Yards Report

Can we depend on the two major weeklies in Brooklyn to cover Atlantic Yards carefully? Nope.

In the Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Paper actually sent a reporter to the condemnation hearing last Friday. But no article has appeared yet, either about the hearing itself--which put the condemnation on hold, news even for the Times--or the confusion regarding street closings.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper has informed us about possible dormitories in Red Hook, a new new sex toy shop in Williamsburg, and a green gym in Bushwick.

In the Courier-Life

The Courier-Life didn't send a reporter, but today offers us this news brief, headlined Judge studies AY condemnation papers, almost certainly penned by the notorious Stephen Witt....


Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

January 31, 2010

Judge, I’m Telling You, the Car Was Grandma’s

New York Times
By Jim Dwyer

This light-hearted story starts off with a faux-mysterious tone regarding the location of Traffic Violations Bureau for Brooklyn North.

Traffic court.

To get to the one on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, you go to a big mall that all the subways on Earth run to, take the escalator up to the second floor and walk in one end of the Target, then out the other. There you are: the Traffic Violations Bureau for Brooklyn North.

Of course, the location in question is the Atlantic Center Mall, which is owned by Times business partner, Bruce Ratner. This is another example of more fluff in Metro coverage.

NoLandGrab: Isn't a mall a funny place for the Traffic Violations Buerau? Not if you're Ratner. Not only did his mall require public subsidies when first built, but now the the public keeps paying rent for the Department of Motor Vehicles, the mall's biggest tenant. And where was the Department of Motor Vehicles before moving to the mall? It was in a Bruce Ratner MetroTech building that he demolished so he could build his 36-story, luxury rental DKLB project.


Posted by steve at 7:38 AM

January 29, 2010

OCA Announces Two Crystal Eagle Award Recipients for 2010

The Eminent Domain Law Blog

The Eagle has landed — in the hands of (award-winning) journalist Norman Oder.

Owners' Counsel of America (OCA) will honor two journalists in 2010 with the Crystal Eagle Award for their remarkable journalism and unwavering effort to be critical and objective, specifically with respect to their investigative reportage and balanced analysis regarding the government’s use of eminent domain.

Norman Oder, freelance journalist and creator of the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report, and Robbie Whelan, Business/Real Estate Reporter for The Daily Record (Baltimore, Maryland) and freelance writer/blogger will each be honored with the Crystal Eagle Award at OCA’s tenth annual meeting on February 6, 2010.

Oder’s work involves regular critiques of media coverage, long-form reporting of events like public hearings and court arguments, and detailed analyses of documents like legal papers and those submitted for the state’s environmental process. He regularly gleans scoops by filing Freedom of Information Law requests and bridges the gap between legal formality and ground-level reality by showing how, for example, the state’s claims of blight in and around the project sight are suspect.

In writing hundreds of thousands of words a year over more than four years, he offers a longitudinal view of an enormously contested project, one that Kent Barwick, former president of the Municipal Art Society, suggested might be “this generation’s Penn Station,”—in that, just as the demolition of the station galvanized the historic preservation movement in the 1960s, so too the enormously questionable process behind Atlantic Yards might prompt revision of the way the city and New York state, which is considered to the most condemnor-friendly eminent domain laws in the nation, go about development and eminent domain.


NoLandGrab: Congratulations, Norman. Without you, we wouldn't have half as many news items to post.

Posted by eric at 3:11 PM

Times sinks toward irrelevance as it uses scarce Metro section space for Nets fluff

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times bungles the biggest story in Brooklyn even as it promotes its business partner, Bruce Ratner.

When I read this cutesy New York Times story yesterday headlined A Marketing Quandary: How Do You Sell a 4-40 Team? about a media event--a couple of Nets players coming to Brooklyn--I figured it would appear only online, in the CityRoom blog.

Surely they wouldn't put that fluff in the paper, not when there's real news about government accountability and Atlantic Yards, like the gap between the promised ten-year timetable and the more generous deadlines in the master closing documents.

But that 18-paragraph article appears in today's paper, headlined Straddling Two Arenas, Nets Woo Fans for Both.

Timetable issues

It contains the not-quite-inaccurate-but-imprecisely-generous statement that "the move is not expected to take place for at least another full season."

Had someone read the comment I posted early yesterday, they might have been reminded that a Forest City Ratner executive said the other night that the arena would take 28 months to build.

And construction has not yet begun.


Posted by steve at 5:17 AM

January 25, 2010

What "not a target" means in the New York Times, and why self-serving statements (like that issued by FCR re Ridge Hill) should be checked

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes The New York Times to task (again!), this time for the failings of its coverage of the recent Yonkers indictments and Forest City's possible role.

Well, I sent my post critiquing the New York Times's coverage of the Ridge Hill indictments (in which developer Forest City Ratner was cited but not indicted) and got the following response back from Senior Editor/Standards Greg Brock:

I had two editors go over your note and I agree with them that no correction or Editors' Note is warranted on any of these points. You might want to consider writing a Letter to the Editor about your thoughts on our journalistic efforts and how we could have improved this article. But there were no errors here and no violation of any ethics/standards policy that would merit an Editor's Note.

First, consider the implicit sneer (and not the first one) in Brock's invitation to me to write a letter with my "thoughts" on the Times. The newspaper has never printed a letter from me and has very little space for letters.

And my analysis does not consist of random "thoughts;" rather, it's backed up by clear evidence. We just read the evidence differently.


Posted by eric at 8:36 AM

January 15, 2010

CNG Watch: Carlton Avenue Bridge delay in Brooklyn Paper, not Courier-Life, which proclaims that arena construction begins

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder reviews a tale of two papers:

This week's Brooklyn Paper, in its article on streets being closed to further construction of the Atlantic Yards arena--before legal challenges are resolved--mentions, albeit almost as an aside, that the Carlton Avenue Bridge would not reopen until April 2012, far longer than originally promised, as I reported.

And is that included in the report (posted first on the New York Post's web site) from the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt? No.


Posted by lumi at 5:27 AM

January 12, 2010

The Approval Matrix: Week of January 18, 2010

New York Magazine

Both "Highbrow" and "Brilliant":

Unlikely allies: George Will echoes the arguments of anti-Ratner rabble-rouser Daniel Goldstein in a column attacking the Atlantic Yards project.


Posted by eric at 10:05 AM

January 8, 2010

Got “Bilked?” The New York Times Biased Report on Federal Investigation Involving Forest City Ratner

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White catches The New York Times bilking readers out of accurate reporting in this must-read piece of media criticism.

What’s your definition of “bilk”? We think that these days “bilk” generally evokes the concept of someone being swindled out of something valuable by fraud, trick or deceit, as in any of the following usages in the New York Times (here and here- at the risk of going just a tad too far to be sure we make our point):

. . . Irving Picard, the trustee for the investors bilked by Bernard L. Madoff. . .

. . . where Mr. Stanford, 59, has been held since he was indicted in June on charges of bilking investors through a scheme involving Antiguan bank certificates.

Marc S. Dreier, once a high-flying New York lawyer who orchestrated an elaborate fraud scheme that bilked hedge funds and other investors of $700 million. . .

Times Says Ratner Was "Bilked" by Public Officials

Why do we want to be so sure of the meaning conveyed by the New York Times use of word “bilk”? Because of the story the Times wrote today about a federal corruption case in Yonkers where three individuals, two of them public officials, have been indicted for taking improper payments in connection with two development projects in Yonkers. One of them is Forest City Ratner’s $630 million, 1000-apartment, 81-acre Ridge Hill project. The Times reported that Forest City Ratner has allegedly been bilked by the public officials. Specifically, the Times article said that the indicted public officials:

. . . are accused of bilking two developers of tens of thousands of dollars and funneling the money and other favors to Ms. Annabi in return for her support.

Ratner, a Specialist in Public Officials, Is “Bilked”?

So the Times is reporting that Forest City Ratner, a real estate firm whose specialty is collecting government subsidies through its relentless cultivation of public officials, was outsmarted....

It sounds to us instead as if Forest City Ratner got a pretty good deal and likely everything it was bargaining for. It doesn’t look at all like it was swindled.


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Was FCR really "bilked" by indicted Yonkers pols (and shouldn't an unwitting Brooklyn Standard contributor be careful writing in the NYT about FCR)?

In his Noticing New York blog, Michael D.D. White lays out the evidence to suggest that the New York Times leaned over backwards to accommodate Forest City Ratner in its story about the indictments in Yonkers.

By the way, the Times contributor who wrote the article, Nate Schweber, was a prominent, though unwitting, contributor to Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard Fall 2005 "publication," with his name attached to two articles that he didn't write (as well as two others that he did write, at least in some form).

Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

January 7, 2010

The journalism of verification: FCR's statement that it's not a target in Yonkers goes mostly unquestioned, though the feds won't confirm it

Atlantic Yards Report

So, after the stunning news yesterday that Forest City Ratner was the unnamed, unindicted "Developer No. 2" cited in a Yonkers corruption scandal, the developer issued a statement saying it had cooperated fully with federal prosecutors and "has been advised by the U.S. Attorney's Office that neither the company nor any of its employees is a target of the investigation."

Does that mean they're cleared? Not exactly.

The U.S. Attorney's office would not comment when I asked them to confirm the statement. reported that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara "declined to comment on whether Forest City Ratner had broken the law by hiring Jereis or whether they were a target of the continuing investigation."

And, as I wrote, "not a target" could mean they're not a target now but could be in the future.

Still, other than AYR and the local (home of the Journal-News), the press did not try to verify Forest City Ratner's claim. The New York Times dutifully printed FCR's statement, without adding, as the newspaper did in a 5/5/08 article on the investigation, that Forest City Ratner "partnered with The New York Times to build its new headquarters."

The Daily News and the Observer also quoted the FCR statement without question. (I couldn't find coverage in the Post.)


Posted by lumi at 7:37 AM

January 5, 2010

It came from the Blogosphere...

StreetsBlog, Stadium Deals Drain Cities

In New York, local businesses in the Bronx have complained they're being hurt rather than helped by the new Yankee Stadium, which is designed to encourage fans to spend all of their game-day dollars within the ballpark walls. Meanwhile, Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project, which centers on a stadium for the NBA's Nets, grinds forward, with one of the last property owners holding out on the site reportedly considering moving out. Both the Nets and the Yankees deals earned a place on our 2009 Streetsie roll of shame.

FireDogLake, Here’s some quality, independent media that’s worth your time

The Atlantic Yards Report is a single investigative project that focuses on a nearly $5 billion development in Brooklyn.

The Local, Linkfest: Bees, Trees, Beer and Sardines

In the department of year-end wrap ups, Atlantic Yards Report has a comprehensive look back at 2009 in Atlantic Yards developments, or lack thereof.

The Liberty Zone, And you thought Kelo was bad!

Kelo vs. New London was one of the most repulsive, sickening infringements on the right to private property I've ever seen and the most egregiously noxious decision by the Supreme Court in decades. In it, the Supreme Court decided that the "benefits" a community reaped from destroying private property in favor of a developer outweighed the rights of private property owners. In essence, the court decided that the use of eminent domain for economic development didn't violate the constitutional limits placed on the government, and that it constituted "public use."

To me, it means that the government can seize anyone's property any time some overzealous developer wants to build a Wal Mart. It's economic development after all, and according to the Kelo case, that makes it "public use."

This is worse.

NoLandGrab: Bet you won't have a hard time guessing what "this" is.

International Liberty, Another “Eminent Domain” Scandal

Ever since the Supreme Court’s odious Kelo decision, which allowed a city in Connecticut to seize a woman’s home for the benefit of a politically-connected big corporation, there has been a deep concern that this would open the door to more examples of government-sanctioned theft. George Will is particularly (and appropriately) vicious in his analysis of how corrupt politicians in New York are seeking to steal private property to benefit a rich developer....

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

January 3, 2010

Citizen Journalism and Blogging

California Greening

Norman Oder gets props from a left-coast Green Party blog.

The archetype of good, knowledgeable, investigative journalism on the internet is the Atlantic Yards Report, where Norman Oder has been a major pain in the ass to developer Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn Borough President Martie Markowitz and particularly to the NY Times whose every story on this issue is subjected to Oder's scrutiny and evaluated by his obviously higher standards of journalism. There are very, very few Norman Oder's around.


NoLandGrab: By way of full disclosure, the author is a relative of one of our regular contributors, and surely pays a bit more attention to Atlantic Yards than most California Greens. Regardless, his assessment of Oder's work is spot-on.

Posted by eric at 10:27 PM

Atlantic Yards Report Sunday Media Supplement

Author Jimmy Breslin: "People are getting away with murder all over the place, and the papers have a chance to say something about it"

Norman Oder knows a cure for Atlantic Yards when he sees one.

Perhaps it was sly subversion, perhaps it was guilt, but in a New York Times Metropolitan section cover story today headlined New York’s Resolutions, an effort to solicit advice for the city, the respondent placed first took a swing at the Times and its brethren:

Jimmy Breslin, 80

Author and newspaperman

First, you’ve got to find a way to get rid of Albany. They’ve got people up there — I mean, all you have to do is look at what they’re up to. For 30 years, they let this guy Bruno, for example, just go on and on and on. It’s the seat of larceny, so I say just get rid of it.

Then you have to start a real newspaper. Do the newspapers today even attack anybody anymore? They had Bloomberg winning by a mile and a half. The people know more than the newspapers and the television does. They sure knew not to like Bloomberg as much as they were told to. People are getting away with murder all over the place, and the papers have a chance to say something about it. But they just don’t do it.

Newsweek contributor Kotkin: Bloomberg needs to make a public policy shift away from projects like AY

Well, someone's responded to Jimmy Breslin's call to be tough on Mayor Mike Bloomberg, but it's not the local daily newspapers. Writes Newsweek contributor Joel Kotkin:

But as Bloomberg begins his new term, New York needs to reexamine its core economic strategy.

...Nurturing these neighborhoods will require a distinct shift in public policy. During the Bloomberg years the big subsidies have gone to luxury condo megadevelopments, sports stadiums, or huge office complexes. Consider the 22-acre Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn, which will include luxury housing and a new arena for the NBA's Nets; one recent report by the city's Independent Budget Office put the total subsidies provided by the city, New York state, and the transit authority at $726 million and estimated the project will hurt, not help, the city's economy over time.

Of course, AY is promoted as including more than luxury housing; the questions are how much of the subsidized affordable housing would be available to members of ACORN, which signed an agreement with Forest City Ratner, and how much the housing would cost relative to subsidized housing elsewhere.

New York Times Public Editor Hoyt focuses on freelancers, continues to ignore the Times's lapses covering Atlantic Yards

During the course of the Atlantic Yards fight, much of the New York Times' coverage has been less than stellar. A less patient person might just quit trying to get the Times to correct its coverage of the project and business partner, Bruce Ratner. But Norman Oder perseveres.

New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt today writes about three episodes in which the newspaper's ethics guidelines were not followed by freelancers.

In only one case did the violation lead to a tainted product on the page, so I'm dismayed that Hoyt played the issue so prominently--he could've put most of the column on the web. Meanwhile, he remains obdurately unaware of the Times's inability to cover the Atlantic Yards project, or to even disclose its business relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

In other words, he should focus on how readers are being served.

In two recent cases--FCR's bailout of ACORN and the revision of the Barclays Center naming rights deal--the Times slipped in information either parenthetically or at the end of the article, thus downplaying significant news.

Posted by steve at 5:38 PM

Atlantic Yards, Bloomberg get national bad press

The Village Voice
By Julia

This article notes how Mayor Bloomberg's pet project, the proposed Atlantic Yards, is a money-loser for the city. National media is catching on, too.

The press in other places have discovered the Mayor's pet Atlantic Yards project, with a scathing AP piece on the human cost of eminent domain and a firebreathing George Will column on how much the Founding Fathers would have disapproved. Neither mentions the mayor, but both make it far more difficult for Bloomberg to frame the project as one of the triumphs of his last term, as he did as recently as last week.

Newsweek, however, was a bit more pointed about it: as an economic engine, the city's investment in building His Honor's "luxury" city is a loser


The author, a fellow of the Center for an Urban Future, makes the case that the financial services and media industries which support His Honor's vision of New York as a premium "luxury product" are waning, and that the city must make itself more friendly to the middle class to survive. He makes the same case today in an article for Forbes, although that one blames the problem on the self-conscious liberalism of baby lawyers, B-school graduates and "trust[a]farians," and I have no idea what to do with that.

Suffice it to say the national roll-out of the New Bloomberg doesn't appear to be going well.


Posted by steve at 4:41 PM

December 29, 2009

New Leader Seeks Stronger Voice for Art Society

The "Paper of Record" [The NY Times] gets it wrong (again), this time in an article about the Municipal Art Society (emphasis added):

Committed preservationists in particular say that it hasn’t been aggressive enough lately, on issues like the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and of 2 Columbus Circle.

NLG, FOR THE RECORD: "Atlantic Yards" hasn't been developed, so it can't be developed again. The MTA's "Vanderbilt Railyard" comprises about a third of the property Bruce Ratner plans to develop and add to his real estate portfolio, which includes the Atlantic Center Mall and Atlantic Terminal Mall, both located across the street from the footprint of "Atlantic Yards."

Judging from The Times's refusal to correct past distinctions that muddy the debate on "Atlantic Yards," don't hold your breath waiting for a correction.

Atlantic Yards Report, The Times takes a look at the Municipal Art Society, but gets the Atlantic Yards angle wrong

Norman Oder's critique of the article goes into more detail:

Wait a second. The criticism of MAS's role on AY doesn't come so much from "committed preservationists" as Brooklyn activists like planner Ron Shiffman, who said the MAS critique "falls short because it avoids discussing the process issues and attempts to apply a design solution to a fundamentally flawed and ill-conceived plan."

And there's no such thing as "the redevelopment of Atlantic Yards," because AY was never developed in order to be redeveloped. Atlantic Yards is a project, not a place.
First, the MAS came significantly late to the Atlantic Yards debate, beginning in June 2006 as the project approached approval in the next six months.

Then again, MAS did take the initiative by offering a sophisticated critique of urban planning issues, such as the function of open space, thus helping fill a vacuum in the discussion.

However, additional streets were a feature of the UNITY plan alternative, announced more than 18 months earlier. And, while criticizing superblocks, MAS accepted a superblock for the arena.

[For MAS,] Atlantic Yards has never been an issue of development versus no development; the issue was whether pragmatism versus principle, whether better future process could redeem past bad process.

MAS, by forming BrooklynSpeaks, gave that a shot, but now many of the groups in BrooklynSpeaks have gone to court, in recognition that their "mend it don't end it" strategy got them nowhere with the state and the developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:31 AM

December 16, 2009

The Times backs into acknowledging the much-reduced Barclays naming rights deal

Atlantic Yards Report

Tacked on to the end of the New York Times print edition article today. headlined $500 Million in Bonds Sold in 2 Hours for Nets’ Arena, is this:

Barclays agreed to pay $10 million a year for 20 years for the naming rights under a deal that has been revised twice since it was struck in 2007. The original deal was worth $400 million and was set to expire at the end of 2008. The bank agreed to extend the deal but at a reduced price.

Nets officials, however, say Barclays will pay an additional sum for other promotional rights connected to the project.

Yes, but Nets officials haven't specified that number, which likely isn't close to $10 million a year. And that means that the deal might not be a record--or just barely be one--after all.

All in all, it's pretty tepid context, given that the newspaper touted the original naming rights agreement as a record, and repeatedly cited the reported $400 million total as fact.


Posted by lumi at 4:48 AM

December 14, 2009

Bloggers continue banging Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Blog [NY Post]
By Rich Calder

Blogging on blogging on Atlantic Yards... a sure sign that Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project should be put out of our misery.

As Brooklyn’s biggest project, it is no shock that Atlantic Yards is by far the boroughs most blogged subject.

In fact, one blogger, Norman Oder, has reported the subject to death over the past four years through his Atlantic Yards Report site, pissing off developer Bruce Ratner and the state and exposing various funding anomalies that have been picked up by the major media.

But, with $4.9 billion arena and office and residential tower project hinging on whether financing can be secured by the end of the year, many other independent bloggers have also stepped up their game the past few weeks.


Posted by lumi at 8:25 PM

Times editorial on eminent domain: ESDC's determination of blight in Columbia case "thoroughly defensible"

Atlantic Yards Report

The key thing to understand about today's New York Times editorial, Eminent Domain in New York, is that, as editorial writer Carolyn Curiel has stated, "We are reasoned, in how we come to opinion. But no, it's not a democracy; it's reflective of the spirit of the Times."

So "the spirit of the Times" means that the newspaper--without acknowledging its parent company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner (in building the Times Tower) and without acknowledging how eminent domain was crucial to the construction of that building--endorses, without question, the Empire State Development Corporation's highly questionable assessments of eminent domain in the cases of Atlantic Yards and the Columbia University expansion.

Blight defensible?

Here's the key line:

The Empire State Development Corporation also made a thoroughly defensible decision that eminent domain was appropriate given the blighted condition of the land at issue, between 125th and 133rd Streets near the Hudson River.

That's it? No recognition of the three blight studies? The use of underutilization? The lower court's conclusion that the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry?

This conclusion?

ESDC failed to demonstrate any significant health or safety issues other than minor code violations that exist throughout the city, but more particularly in the buildings controlled by Columbia.


Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

December 7, 2009

Total condemnation: State botched eminent domain for new Columbia campus

NY Daily News, Editorial

What, no vitriol about a "small band" of "selfish holdouts?" Errol Louis must be on vacation.

New York State's supposed economic development geniuses have only themselves to blame for the scathing court ruling that barred the use of eminent domain to spur Columbia University's $6.3 billion expansion plan.

The Manhattan Appellate Division cited persuasive evidence in declaring that the Empire State Development Corp. essentially concocted a determination that the neighborhood where Columbia wants to build was blighted.

The ruling was stunning. While it may slow construction of Columbia's hugely important campus in West Harlem, the decision was nonetheless welcome for putting public authorities on notice that they must meet minimal standards before trying to seize private property.


NoLandGrab: Of course, those "minimal standards" haven't been met with Atlantic Yards, either, but neither the News, nor the Appellate Division, seem to have made that connection.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Daily News editorial endorses court decision in Columbia case, doesn't grapple with AY similarities

While the editorial noted that the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state two weeks ago in the AY case--subject of a wrongheaded Daily News editorial--it fails to acknowledge that the dissent in the Columbia case cited the AY case, while the court opinion ignored it.

Yes, there are some differences in the underlying facts of the Columbia and AY cases. And the state's highest court might in fact uphold the challenge to the state's use of eminent domain for Columbia on narrow grounds, without revisiting the Atlantic Yards case.

But the court should confront the essential similarities between the two decisions: the use of underutilization to determine blight and the Empire State Development Corporation's vague blight standards.

Moreover, the majority opinion in the Columbia case pointed to the evidence of pretext--that blight was not identified as a justification until after the project was announced. In his dissent in the Atlantic Yards case, Judge Robert Smith cited similar evidence in the Atlantic Yards case, but the majority ignored it.

Posted by eric at 5:47 AM

December 6, 2009

The Brooklyn Paper's curious choices when it comes to front-page treatment of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

It's unlikely that a Brooklyn news story comparable to the Atlantic Yards fight will come around again any time soon. So how have local newspapers been doing in their coverage of this important story?

Let's compare. This week's front-page news concerns the newspaper's effort, via the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), to find out how the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) determined its low-ball market value of Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein's apartment.

It's legitimate news, but why is it on the front page? Likely because the editors want to play up their exclusive.

Last week's Brooklyn Paper coverage of the Court of Appeals' eminent domain decision didn't make the front page. It should have.

However, the editors apparently thought that coverage of Jonathan Lethem's effort to read his new novel aloud and a drug bust in Williamsburg constituted more important news.

This week's print issue of the Brooklyn Paper does not contain the newspaper's online coverage of the bond rating for the Atlantic Yards arena.

Maybe that was a space issue, but the newspaper's coverage also was two days late. The Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt does have a fawning article on the bond rating, which begins:

It’s all systems go for the Brooklyn Nets arena, and perhaps an NBA championship banner hanging from the rafters following the 2011-12 playoffs in the borough. The idea did not seem that far-fetched to current Nets owner Bruce Ratner...


The front pages of the other two Brooklyn weeklies last week straightforwardly highlighted the eminent domain decision. In fact, the Courier-Life, using tabloid shorthand, even called the Court of Appeals' ruling a "land grab." Did that have anything to do with the fact that Witt didn't write the article?


Posted by steve at 8:20 AM

November 25, 2009

From the Times: a misleading "Atlantic Yards" photo, a buffing of "tenacious" Ratner, and no rebuttal to claims of benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

There are some unsurprisingly dismaying aspects to the front-page New York Times article today, headlined in print "Atlantic Yards Wins Appeal To Seize Land" and online as Ruling Lets Atlantic Yards Seize Land.

First, though the article correctly states that the state would exercise eminent domain, the shorthand headline inaccurately casts the inanimate "Atlantic Yards" as the actor.

Public benefit?

Second, the Times quotes developer Bruce Ratner, unrebutted, as saying "“The courts have made it clear that this project represents a significant public benefit for the people of Brooklyn and the entire city.”

The courts have made no such determination. Rather, the Court of Appeals decision issued yesterday was based on a record compiled in 2006 by the Empire State Development Corporation. The assertions in that record have not been vetted by the courts and there's much evidence--such as from the New York City Independent Budget Office--casting doubt on official claims.

"On the railyard"

Third, the original version of the article posted online said that the "arena would be built on an 8.5-acre railyard;" it took several messages to convince the Times to revise that description to "an 8.5-acre railyard and on adjacent property." (That's a basic error the Times has previously corrected.)

Actually, part of the arena would be built over the western segment of that railyard, occupying less than 30% of the total railyard acreage.

Another misleading photo

Fourth, and most important, the Times published a picture (above) of only a fraction of the Vanderbilt Yard, the railyard, and called it Atlantic Yards. The photo covers the railyard and a few buildings between Sixth and Carlton avenues and Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street, or Block 1120, outlined in red on the map below left.


NoLandGrab: And this article could be considered error-free compared to the one in The Times' sports section, posted above.

Posted by eric at 12:21 PM

November 22, 2009

A collection of writings from Times architecture critic Muschamp omits his Atlantic Yards embarassment

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at what is missing from a new collection of Herbert Muschamp pieces.

The new collection Hearts of the City: The Selected Writings of Herbert Muschamp memorializes the late New York Times architecture critic (who died in 2007) in 912 pages.

Guess what: his error-filled, cheerleading 12/11/03 appraisal of Atlantic Yards, headlined Courtside Seats to an Urban Garden, is not included.

A look back at that ill-informed review:

But sometimes Muschamp got Gehry wrong. That shouldn't be lost to history, especially since developer Forest City Ratner was quick to use Muschamp's praise in its first mailer (aka "liar flier") to Brooklynites.That praise--"A Garden of Eden grows in Brooklyn"--was presented as the voice of the Times, not its Gehry-besotted architecture critic.

Muschamp's extravagant review was off-base--no, the site was not an "open railyard;" no, there was not to be "parkland;" no, the Atlantic Yards differed significantly from Battery Park City. Worse, Muschamp mooned over the rooftop open public space, but that space was quickly turned private.

Though Gehry was used to sell the project to the public--remember Kurt Andersen's interview with Bruce Ratner--Gehry was later bounced from the arena and the project.

So the Urban Room Muschamp praised is no longer a feature of the arena block until and unless an office building--for which there is now no market--is built. And the idea that "the stadium [sic] will be tucked into the urban fabric" is also scotched, because it's highly unlikely that the arena, if built, would soon be wrapped in four towers as Gehry intended.

A conclusion is drawn from a review in Architect magazine by Clay Risen, who believes regarding Muschamp that "His real project was to document the imprint left on late-century urban life by gay culture."

The story of this struggle—between corporatized urban spaces and the new urban flowering seeded by gay urban pioneers, between soulless Postmodernism and the humanistic, socially engaged work of Gehry & Co.—is the story Muschamp wants to tell us, the conventional obligations of the architecture critic be damned. It is a great story, but is it accurate? Have these architects, like urban gay culture, actually made the city better?

Early Muschamp would have said no, for the same reasons he savaged Postmodernism. Later on, though, he was unable to see that no matter how good Gehry or Nouvel might be, their projects are not exempt from the privatization of public space, the impoverishment of civil society, or any of the other social ills Muschamp linked to their stylistic predecessors.

This, then, is the third reason to read Hearts of the City: as the tragic story of a critic who becomes so emotionally invested in a cause that he loses the ability to do his job effectively.


Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

November 19, 2009

An Atlantic Yards koan: how can you anchor "vaportecture"?

Atlantic Yards Report

A caption from Crain's New York Business attached to the image below (click to enlarge):
The Nets' new Barclays Center sports complex is an anchor to the planned Atlantic Yards development.

Well, how can you anchor "vaportecture"?


Posted by eric at 9:30 PM

November 17, 2009

In Markowitz's publication Brooklyn!!, again no mention of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is still the 800-lb gorilla in Brooklyn Borough Hall:

The Fall 2009 issue of Brooklyn!!, Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional publication, appeared in my mailbox yesterday....

With the regular "Marty's on the Block" feature, Brooklyn!! offer a seamless transition from Markowitz's campaign literature. And, as with the campaign literature, there's no mention of Atlantic Yards, Brooklyn's most controversial project, on which Markowitz has staked his reputation.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

November 16, 2009

Ghostwritten letters on health care for elected officials make NYTimes front page; FCR's orchestration of letters for MTA bid got no such scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

It was front-page news in yesterday's New York Times. The article, headlined In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’, described how the official record of the House of Representatives's debate on health care contains similar-sounding speeches by many legislators, ghostwritten by lobbyists.

A not dissimilar effort in 2005 orchestrated by Forest City Ratner, in which elected officials sent similar letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) endorsing the developer's bid for the Vanderbilt Yard, never generated such skeptical coverage, though the Times covered the issue glancingly, as I'll detail below. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

From yesterday's article:

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

In the summer of 2005, numerous elected officials and civic representatives sent letters to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority endorsing FCR's bid. I was not yet covering Atlantic Yards, and didn't see the letters until the bid surfaced as part of an affidavit in the 2007 challenge to the AY environmental impact statement.

The letters almost surely came from a template supplied by Forest City Ratner. The examples below--from federal, state, and city elected officials--all contain the same talking points, that the development "is part of the borough's ongoing evolution" and that the project is more than a sports arena.

Press coverage

No one, as far as I can tell mentioned the orchestrated letters at the time. However, an 11/6/05 New York Times article (Routine Changes or Bait and Switch?) pointed out that elected officials in letters kept promising 10,000 office jobs even though the developer had swapped office space for condos.

Click through to see a sampling of the letters.


Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

November 14, 2009

dddb before city council hearing scene

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

On the day that the City Council planned to hold hearings on the Atlantic Yards Daniel Goldstein and Patti Hagan talked to a tv reporter about the event. The actual city council hearing was informational only. The city council had no say over the project.


Posted by steve at 9:46 AM

November 12, 2009

Columnist Collins says NYT "apologizes endlessly when we make an error" (nah)

Atlantic Yards Report

I think New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins does a generally excellent job, but she unleashed a brutally weird claim in today's column:

I work for a paper that rends its garments and apologizes endlessly whenever we make an error.

Not. At. All.


Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

Whatever happened to "Tenacious B"?

Atlantic Yards Report

Ha! Crain's NY Business changed the headline of the profile of Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner from "Tenacious B - Bruce Ratner must clear yet more do-or-die hurdles at Atlantic Yards," to "Ratner faces Atlantic Yards hurdles," removing the developer's rapper handle, which had bloggers LOAO.

The Notorious "Mad O's" reaction: "Odd."


NoLandGrab: We're not sure what happened, but the change to a tongue-in-cheek headline only highlights Ratner's reputation of being thin-skinned.

Posted by lumi at 5:16 AM

The "bloggiest" claim goes borough-wide, but deserves a big footnote

Atlantic Yards Report

The future of hyperlocal news--and the business models behind it--was the subject of a most interesting conference held today at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. (See coverage on Twitter.)

One factoid, however, deserves a big footnote. Introducing the hyperlocal landscape, CUNY's Jeff Jarvis said there are "a thousand blogs in Brooklyn alone."

There may well be that many, but only a handful or two or doing journalism (and many more conveying information in various forms). So, despite the apparent nation-leading concentration of blogs, Brooklyn hasn't yet produced a blog news network, nor should it be expected to do so.
And, for what it's worth, none of the blogs with the most content about Atlantic Yards--No Land Grab, this blog, DDDB, and Noticing New York--have a business model. (Well, DDDB is raising money.) The controversy over Atlantic Yards is a quite a motivator.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

November 11, 2009

An academic looks at NYC politics, relies on a New York Times clip file, gets Atlantic Yards mostly wrong

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week’s opportunity to have Bruce Berg, a Fordham University professor of political science, answer questions from readers on the New York Times’s CityRoom blog, sent me to Berg’s January 2008 book New York City Politics: Governing Gotham, a book that treats the West Side Stadium and Atlantic Yards as prominent examples.

In covering AY, he gets part of the story right, notably the bypass of local elected officials, but he gets a lot wrong, proving that a reliance mainly on clips from the New York Times (hardly the "paper of record" when it comes to AY) is simply irresponsible.

The "modern blueprint"

Notably, he relies on an article listed as "Confessore 2005b," which is academic-speak for To Build Arena in Brooklyn, Developer First Builds Bridges, the notorious 10/14/05 Times article that posited that Forest City Ratner had achieved a "modern blueprint" in outreach, a statement that was dubious from the start and more dubious today.

Berg should have done a lot more digging. In fact, his citation of Times articles, unencumbered by his own fact-checking or a willingness to seek out critiques of those articles, suggests that academic research ossified into a book can be far less incisive than continuing coverage via a blog.

And because academics like Berg rely on the Times, it's important for the newspaper to get things right and, when it doesn't, to correct the record. And the Times so often doesn't--still, as shown in its recent assertion that the city agreed to finance Atlantic Yards affordable housing.


Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

November 7, 2009

Spider-Man on Broadway: The Atlantic Yards of Musicals?


The proposed Atlantic Yards project is used as an example of how not to do things.

The massive project is falling further behind schedule, it's millions of dollars in the hole, and will need a miracle to meet a looming make-or-break deadline. All we need now are a string of eminent-domain lawsuits, and Julie Taymor's wildly ambitious Broadway adaptation of Spider-Man might as well change its name to Atlantic Yards: The Musical. (Starring Harvey Fierstein as embattled developer Bruce Ratner!) Today Taymor is meeting with producers to decide whether to proceed or postpone the technically insane project, which is hemorrhaging money like Mr. Orange gushing blood in the back seat of Mr. White's car. Is it gonna be okaaay?


NoLandGrab: We'd enjoy any script for "Atlantic Yards: The Musical" that ends with the monster development dying in developer Bruce Ratner's arms as they sing the stirring "There's NO Place For Us".

Posted by steve at 8:30 AM

November 4, 2009

Press Conference about the project

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

Here's today's video clip from the documentary filmmakers behind Battle of Brooklyn: a press conference early on in the fight, on the steps of City Hall, at which Daily News columnist Errol Louis accuses project opponents of bending facts, an accusation he's never laid at the feet of the frequent fabricators at Forest City Ratner.

This scene is long - we cut it early on and didn't know where the movie was headed yet. Now its a small scene as part of a long montage. We are increasingly relying on montages to help build a sense of time passing. Some of these montages grab bits of scenes that are powerful themselves but just too long for a two hour movie.


Posted by eric at 10:59 PM

November 2, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Looks At How The Times Is Doing - It Could Be Doing Better

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to the mayoral race, the Times calls a lie a lie

From a New York Times article today, headlined In Mayoral Race, a Blitz of Truth-Stretching Ads:

As the New York City mayor’s race enters its final, combative stretch, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his opponent, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., have unleashed a flood of advertisements that contain distorted, misleading and, in some cases, outright false claims about everything from the creation of jobs to plans for tax increases.

(Emphasis added)

Sounds pretty declarative. So why can't the Times avoid publishing a lie from a government spokesman about the Atlantic Yards site or avoid falsely referring to "[t]he city’s agreement to help finance the [Atlantic Yards housing] plan."

The Times confirms that metro news does not constitute "core coverage"

New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt writes today about cuts at the paper, in a piece headlined Recession, Revolution and a Leaner Times:

William Schmidt, the deputy managing editor in charge of the newsroom budget, said editors are focused on preserving core coverage: national, foreign, business, and culture and arts. Over the past 10 years, the paper has added seven national correspondents and 10 foreign correspondents, and has expanded the Washington bureau and the business news department. The paper is spending more than $4 million a year to feed, house and protect its journalists in war zones, Schmidt said.

Meanwhile, the metro staff, with more than 60 reporters, is still the largest, but it has been reduced by nearly 20 percent over a decade. The paper, for example, no longer has correspondents in the state capitals of New Jersey and Connecticut.

(Emphasis added)


Well, for those who'd forgotten that metro does constitute core coverage, the day's newspaper, with no pages devoted to breaking New York City news, offers confirmation.

There's now a fluffy, feature-based weekend section called Metropolitan, which circulates in the tri-state area; it succeeds multiple regional sections, including the City section.

The lead story: a marathon walk around his Park Slope block by Andy Newman, who's main job is to run The Local, the Times's blog on Fort Greene/Clinton Hill.

Posted by steve at 4:52 AM

November 1, 2009

A tight deadline to fund and finish the documentary "Battle of Brooklyn"

Atlantic Yards Report

This blog entry focuses on the efforts of filmmakers Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley and David Beilinson to find the funding in order to complete their documentary on the Atlantic Yards fight "Battle of Brooklyn".

Galinsky tells me, "Our goal at this point is to get the film ready for the Tribeca Film Festival. (The festival begins April 21, with final cuts due in March.)

And while Galinsky says, "I tend to favor films that are shorter--like 90 minutes--but I think this one will clock in at two hours."

Well, with 300 hours to pick from, even a two-hour documentary will have to compress a lot.

I also should point out that, while the producers presume a resolution of Atlantic Yards by December 31, I wouldn't put big money on it. Atlantic Yards is a "never say never" project.


Posted by steve at 9:14 AM

October 31, 2009

"Eminent Decision for Brooklyn": Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse captures some key exchanges in Court of Appeals argument

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at the latest video offering from Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse.

Most of Eminent Decision for Brooklyn, the 25-minute episode of Freddy's Brooklyn Roundhouse concerning the October 14 Court of Appeals hearing in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case, consists of plaintiffs and supporters speaking at a press conference.

But the producers have deftly chosen some of the most telling exchanges from the argument, leading off with the astonishing exchange--reminiscent of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's fiery dissent in the 2005 Kelo v. New London case, in which Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) attorney Philip Karmel admits, in response to a question from Judge Robert Smith about "a perfectly nice house," that such a house is vulnerable to taking via the state's loose eminent domain laws.

Then, a little after 21 minutes in, the video returns to some key moments in the hearing: Smith asks if the area was gerrymandered; Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman points out there's a great deal of public subsidy behind the project; and Smith asks when exactly blight was designated as the rationale for the use of eminent domain.

Of course, there was a lot more to the hearing, including significant skepticism of the plaintiffs' arguments. But the video surely does the job of seeding criticism of the state's action, and the yet-unreformed state laws that would enable it.


Posted by steve at 7:01 AM

October 30, 2009

The Voice's Robbins: thin press means little scrutiny of Bloomberg (and what about AY?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder contends that the media's inattention goes beyond the Mayor's record and reelection:

I'll suggest some other un-covered or undercovered stories:

  • the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) new concessions to Forest City Ratner upon re-approving Atlantic Yards in September
  • Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN
  • New York University's questionable absorption of Polytechnic University


Posted by lumi at 5:45 AM

October 29, 2009

My Little O debuts, underwhelms

Atlantic Yards Report

Following in the footsteps of, oh, Brownstoner (sort of) and the New York Times's blog The Local, a new blog, My Little O, has launched to cover (and network) the vastly ignored neighborhoods of Fort Greene & Clinton Hill.
The latest piece of breaking news is nine days old, from October 20, headlined Car Accident at Atlantic Yards. Um, that's the Vanderbilt Yard.


Posted by lumi at 8:46 PM

The Times takes on stalled development: barely a mention of AY but questions about the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

Atlantic Yards Report

The photo attached to today's front-page New York Times article, headlined A Stalled Vision: Big Development as City’s Future, is of the CityPoint site at the Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn, but it could just as easily have been of various parts of the Atlantic Yards site.

But Atlantic Yards--well, a segment of it--might get going, so maybe it wasn't the perfect poster child.

Still, the development deserves significant mention because it has been enormously delayed: when Atlantic Yards was announced in 2004, the arena was supposed to open in 2006; when the project was approved in 2006, the arena was supposed to open in 2009; and now it's supposed to open in 2012, though uncertainties abound.

In fact, Atlantic Yards gets barely a tangential mention in an article that touches on Downtown Brooklyn, Hudson Yards, new baseball stadiums, Willets Point, and more.

The mention follows up on an investigation by the Attorney General's office into apparently illegal lobbying by lobbyists for Willets Point, with a revelation that there may be similar questions concerning the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) when it comes to AY.


Posted by lumi at 6:01 AM

October 27, 2009

How 2005 fudge from the mayor's office on AY affordable housing led the Times into a 2009 error it won't correct

Atlantic Yards Report

Back in 2005, Mayor Bloomberg's office overstated the City's role and commitment to affordable housing in Atlantic Yards, which found its way into an October 2009 article in The NY Times, which has informed Oder that the paper has no intention of setting the record straight, since the "reference to Atlantic Yards captured a specific moment in time."

[T]he Times claims that city officials were "signing off" on an "agreement" to help finance the Atlantic Yards affordable housing, even though the Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), excerpted at right, involved only Forest City Ratner's subsidiary Atlantic Yards Development Company and the advocacy group ACORN, not the city.

The error, as noted below, apparently was derived from a mayoral press release that inaccurately announced the deal as a fait accompli.

The bottom line: an error reprinted is an error, even if it can be attributed to a seemingly reliable source.

The larger context: the amount of time the Times spent in responding to me--and rather defensively denying that readers could be misled--could better have been used to print a correction or clarification regarding the article at hand.

Read the rest of the article to find out how Times staffers put their heads together and still got it wrong.

NoLandGrab: Norman Oder has a point — maybe the article "captured a specific moment in time," but it still erroneously cited "The city’s agreement to help finance the plan." There wasn't and still isn't a signed agreement with the City.

If Oder wasn't burning his time reminding the Times of this fact, few people would know otherwise.

Posted by lumi at 5:01 AM

October 23, 2009

The Brooklyn Paper, under new ownership, buffs Ratner's reputation in an editorial and blames only the state

Atlantic Yards Report

What a difference a new owner makes.

The Brooklyn Paper editorializes this week that State must keep Ratner on hook for affordable housing, but blames only the state, not the developer.

Looking back

When the Brooklyn Paper was independently owned, before the purchase earlier this year by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspaper Group, the editorial stand was a wee bit tougher.

Click thru for a look back at the good ol' days, pre-Rupert Murdoch.


NoLandGrab: There is a school of thought that says that Ratner is just doing what he's supposed to be doing — trying to maximize profit — and that government is responsible for representing the public interest, a task at which they're failing miserably. However, the press, too, has a watchdog role, and giving Ratner a pass is another miserable failure.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

October 20, 2009

Atlantic Yards lawsuit fatigue? News of the suit challenging the ESDC's approval of the project is ignored in the dailies

Atlantic Yards Report

Does Atlantic Yards get too much press coverage, or not enough?

So, in yesterday's print New York Times, the Metro pages brought news of Glee! The Retirees’ Talent Show. The Sports section offered For Potential Owner, a Background Check Worthy of the K.G.B.

So, was news of yesterday's suit leveling serious charges against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) regarding the Atlantic Yards approval worth an article in today's print newspaper?

Apparently not. It wasn't even worth an online article. Not in the Times, not in the New York Daily News, and not in the New York Post. (The tabs, however, each ran print Sports section stories about Nets point guard Devin Harris.)

It was covered by the New York Observer, WNYC, Crain's New York Business, Reuters, and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, plus the Record. Perhaps the once AY-focused Brooklyn Paper will catch up in due time.


Posted by eric at 10:08 AM

October 19, 2009

The "aggressive enough press"? The lapses mount, and the Atlantic Yards arena bonds issue might become a prime example

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember, Mayor Mike Bloomberg last week said he wants to get rid of the Public Advocate's office because, among other things, "we have an aggressive enough press."

The press has had a fairly weak track record on Atlantic Yards revelations.

But here are a couple just from last week's (non-daily) press, with emphases added. The last example, of course, involves Atlantic Yards.

The manipulation (or falsifying) of property values to satisfy the financing needs of sports-team owners would normally be a scandal, except in NYC, where it is just business as usual.

From Wayne Barrett's Village Voice feature this week, headlined A Bloomberg Score Card: The Mayor's Hits and Misses:

The evidence that top officials of the Bloomberg administration reversed land assessments for the Yankees deal to artificially jack up the value in order to qualify for the tax-exempt financing is overwhelming and would—in a time when a good scandal had staying power in New York—make Bloomberg wince at the thought of an election eve parade. E-mails like one from a top aide to Deputy Mayor Doctoroff explicitly said they were making the assessment "so high" in an attempt "to support the tax-exempt financing."

By December, the Bloomberg administration will replicate its scandal-ridden history of bonding these projects by supporting the issuance of $678 million in state tax-exempt bonds for the Nets. The IBO estimates that the arena will also cost the city $350 million, combining direct and indirect subsidies, concluding that it will lose at least $40 million over the life of the deal, assuming the most optimistic revenue projections. Salty Mike's response to the unstated, apolitical IBO: "I don't know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park."


Posted by lumi at 7:09 AM

October 18, 2009


Tokyo MX

NY1's "Sister Station" in Tokyo gives coverage, mostly using NY1's video, of the Eminent Domain case heard in Albany this past Wednesday.

(To see the video, click on the link below, and then click on the "Movie" icon.)


Posted by steve at 8:32 AM

October 16, 2009

So, why did the print Times ignore the eminent domain hearing?

Atlantic Yards Report

Today, Norman Oder revisits the original raison d'etre of his blog, the pattern of shoddy coverage of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in The NY Times, in light of the developer's business relationship with the paper.

Why did editors of the print-edition Times kill the report from the "City Room" blog, covering the "landmark" oral arguments before the NY State Court of Appeals in the Atlantic Yards eminent domain case?

Breaking news routinely appears on the blog when a story is filed, and is subsequently published in the print edition, or at least is summarized in the "City Room" column — not this time.

If it wasn't "interference" by the publisher, then it was "incompetence;" either way "it's sure suspicious."

Consider that the City Room post, by former Brooklyn reporter Nicholas Confessore, focused on tough questioning of the lawyer for the Empire State Development Corporation and could have been balanced by some references to the skepticism the judges showed toward the attorney for the nine plaintiffs.

(Would you believe it: a New York Times article slightly unbalanced in favor of Atlantic Yards opponents?)

Surely Forest City Ratner wasn't pleased by the coverage. Did someone call the publisher's office at the Times? I don't know. Does the publisher intervene in news coverage? That is not supposed to be happen.

If not, then the only explanation is incompetence. Was a print article about a real estate fraud in Harlem, however interesting, more important than the "landmark legal test"?

That's not a tough call, but here's an easier one: Are two paragraphs about Pataki's portrait more important than even a mention of this case?


Posted by lumi at 6:32 AM

October 15, 2009

Something is Wrong at the Times

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Largest development proposal in Brooklyn's history?
Project proposed by most powerful developer in New York state with political tentacles everywhere?
Most expensive basketball arena in the history of the planet?
Eminent domain required to build that project and that arena?
New York State's high court holds argument on owners' and tenants' challenge to New York State's use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project?
Mulitple important issues relevant to the entire state, and beyond, discussed in the court room?
Blog post on the New York Times website about the argument?
Print edition article in the Post and Daily News as well as coverage by Reuters and Associated Press?
New Times tower built utilizing eminent domain?
Newspaper article on the court argument in the print edition of the New York Times.


Posted by eric at 2:08 PM

October 14, 2009

The MTA lawsuit gets mostly ignored in print, though the "pretty rotten deal" (as per Russianoff) affects a lot of people

Atlantic Yards Report

Never mind that financial shenanigans at the MTA affect millions of people:

So, how seriously did New York's major newspapers take the lawsuit filed yesterday that challenges the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's sweeter deal with Forest City Ratner for the Vanderbilt Yard?

The New York Times relegated coverage to a City Room blog post, with a one-paragraph reference in the print paper. The New York Daily News mentioned the suit in the last two paragraphs of a page 14 article (not yet online) on today's eminent domain suit.

The New York Post took the story more seriously, with six paragraphs in print, on page 2. The freebie Metro gave it five short paragraphs.


Posted by lumi at 6:31 PM

October 10, 2009

CNG Watch: news of downtown condo price cuts but not KPMG's Atlantic Yards market study

Atlantic Yards Report

You might think that a newspaper that covers Brooklyn would give priority to the largest proposed project for the borough. In the past, you would be right, but now, you'd be mistaken. The Brooklyn Paper has a story about price cuts for the new Oro Building, but misses a story that connects inflated sales figures for Oro to Atlantic Yards.

But there's nothing in the Brooklyn Paper, nor its Community Newspaper Group (aka Murdoch-owned) sibling Courier-Life, about the dubious KPMG report released Wednesday concerning the market for condos and rentals in the Atlantic Yards project. That report claimed that the Oro was 75% sold.

Nor did the two newspapers cover the Empire State Development Corporation's September 17 vote to approve the 2009 Modified General Project Plan.

In March, Brooklyn Paper editor-in-chief Gersh Kuntzman, who regularly reminds us how both he and the paper are "award-winning," asserted that "our coverage of Atlantic Yards has not 'tailed off.'"

The evidence, however, shows that it has.


Posted by steve at 7:40 AM

October 7, 2009

Still waiting for the Times and the Public Editor to notice the FCR-ACORN connection

Atlantic Yards Report

This past Sunday, as I noted, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt, in his column about ACORN, passed on an opportunity to mention Forest City Ratner's bailout of the embattled organization.

Linked from his column was his blog, The Public Editor's Journal, which posted the letters referenced in the column.

The blog, unlike the column, accepts comments. I posted the comment at right. (Click to enlarge.) According to the official policy, "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive." This one was never approved.


Atlantic Yards Report commenter "brokeland2003" posts: "Why is the Times protecting ACORN and Ratner? Your comment was clearly on topic and not abusive."

Posted by eric at 12:23 PM

October 4, 2009

The Times Public Editor passes on an opportunity to mention Forest City Ratner's bailout of ACORN

Atlantic Yards Report

So New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt today follows up on last week's ACORN column with a piece headlined Notes About Bias, From Opposite Points of View. He begins:
LAST Sunday’s column about the coverage of Acorn prompted nearly 400 messages and online comments from readers, some convinced that The Times is suppressing news that might damage liberals, and others equally convinced that The Times is about to cave in to extremists on the right.

Hoyt, however, did not take the opportunity to reference my comment on last week's story:
There’s a far more substantial ACORN story that the Times and nearly all of the mainstream press has ignored.

Following an embezzlement scandal that led to the loss of foundation support, ACORN was bailed out last year with a $500,000 grant and $1 million loan from… Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, a developer which counts ACORN as a partner on the enormously controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Click thru for links to Norman Oder's past coverage of the ACORN bailout.


Posted by eric at 5:13 PM

What Purnick Has Purged: The Bloomberg Bio Mysteriously Missing Atlantic Yards

Noticing New York

Michael White has read Joyce Purnick’s "Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics", a mostly adulatory biography of Mayor Bloomberg. One way that the bio manages to look so lovingly at Bloomberg is to ignore his mayoralty's failures in the areas of development and urban design.

A prime example of ignoring significantly errant Bloombergian megadevelopment is Purnick’s lack of mention of Atlantic Yards. Her book contains only an oblique misleading sliver of a reference. Neither Atlantic Yards nor Bruce Ratner or his Forest City Ratner are mentioned anywhere in the book. Similarly, you won’t find mention of Yankee Stadium in the index, though there are two paragraphs about the new Yankee and Mets stadiums into which there is tucked the slight hint that there might be plans for a megadevelopment far more problematic than either stadium. On page 207 Ms. Purnick breezes through this topic area thusly:

After blocking Giuliani’s subsidies to new stadiums for the Mets and the Yankees in his first year, judging, in his pragmatic businessman’s fashion, that the city could not afford them, Bloomberg later relented. He was lavishly generous to the two teams and their ultraluxurious stadiums, as well as to a new basketball arena in Brooklyn.

The stadiums benefited (sic) from tens of millions of dollars* in city investments, tax breaks and subsides, bundled into complex deals whose true cost to the taxpayers may never be clear. The city will gain from economic activity in the long run, the mayor said, as all mayors say about sports stadiums everywhere. Rarely do the predictions meet the promise but the stadiums are built anyway.

(*Only “tens of millions of dollars”? Total public subsidies for Atlantic Yards are in the hundreds of millions aggregating up to $2-$3 billion and the subsidies that come from the state and other levels of government should not be disregarded: Those are funded with taxes from NYC taxpayers too, and divert resources from other city projects. ESDC and the MTA just piled on hundreds of millions of extra subsidy on the basketball arena alone.)


Posted by steve at 7:53 AM

October 2, 2009

Regarding Bloomberg, what a difference a year makes for the Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks back at The Brooklyn Paper's editorializing from October, 2008.

What a difference a new owner makes. This week's Community Newspaper Group (CNG) editorial endorsing Mayor Mike Bloomberg, published in Brooklyn Paper and across the newspapers, stands in stark contrast to the Brooklyn Paper's stands last year.

Click thru for a trip down memory lane.


NoLandGrab: Either Gersh Kuntzman is now actually a pod person, whose body has been inhabited by some Murdochian organism, or someone else is pulling the levers when it comes to the paper's editorial positions.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

September 30, 2009

The Times corrects DePlasco's railyard misinformation

Atlantic Yards Report

Looky here! The Times just got around to correcting an egregious week-old lie by Atlantic Yards snake-oil salesman Joe DePlasco.

Six days after allowing Forest City Ratner flack Joe DePlasco to say, "“Most of Atlantic Yards is being built over the Long Island Rail Road," the New York Times finally publishes a correction:
about 40 percent of the project — not “most” of it — is being built over a railyard.

Actually, it's not being built yet either.

For what it's worth, I filed a request for a correction last Wednesday night, shortly after the article appeared online--it was published Thursday--and again yesterday.


Read the full correction (scroll to bottom)

Posted by eric at 7:43 PM

September 26, 2009

Media Observations From The Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

When it comes to the changing AY deal, again the press falls short; but the press sure does love a billionaire

Norman Oder returns to the theme of the failure of much of the press, and particularly the New York Times, to fully cover the important real estate story that is the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

The deal to buy the New Jersey Nets has finally gotten some scrutiny in the New York Times, but the Empire State Development Corporation's willingness to offer concessions to developer Forest City Ratner still hasn't drawn coverage, even as the Times is willing to write whimsically about comparisons between Mikhail Prokhorov and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

The resonance in "The Battle of Brooklyn" documentary: an ACORN encounter and some "Russian dressing"

Norman Oder notes how, in the case of the yet-to-be-completed documentary "The Battle of Brooklyn", sometimes film can capture that which cannot be blogged.

In one instance, Develop Don't Destroy spokesperson, Daniel Goldstein confronts ACORN's Bertha Lewis

The filmmakers recently put up a clip of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Goldstein confronting ACORN leader Bertha Lewis after a press conference on affordable housing. As Galinsky writes:
After the event, Daniel Goldstein confronts her with the fact that tenants are already being pushed out. She admits that ACORN hasn’t actually talked to any of the tenants yet. She then argues that the developer has nothing to do with greedy landlords forcing out tenants before they buy the property.

This is not a gotcha moment, but instead a small part of a complex tale. We feel that it is relevant to follow up on published reports that call into question the relationship between the developer and ACORN. At issue is the fact that the developer gave a $500,000 grant and $1,000,000 low interest loan to ACORN in the midst of a previous scandal when many long time donors refused to continue supporting them.

I think the clip also clearly shows something else: the theatrical Lewis knows she can be intimidating, but Goldstein is not intimidated.

In another case, Borough President Marty Markowitz seems to inadvertently predict the involvment of Mikhail Prokhorov years before the fact.

In a fortuitous moment, the filmmakers years ago filmed Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz as claiming the project "puts the Russian dressing on a great pastrami sandwich." (It's about 2:27 of the trailer below.)

Whether Markowitz considers the sale of the Nets to Russian mogul Mikhail Prokhorov such an equivalent is yet unknown.

Atlantic Yards will be a focus on The Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday

This coming week, The Brian Lehrer Show, which runs 10 am to noon on WNYC radio, will focus on development in New York City, including a focus Wednesday on Atlantic Yards: All this week, we’ll be discussing what’s at stake for development in New York City, from affordable housing and zoning to close examinations of Atlantic Yards and other high-profile projects.

6 Mon 9/28 Eminent Domain
7 Tues 9/29 Industrial and Commercial Development
8 Weds 9/30 Focus: Atlantic Yards
9 Thurs 10/1 Affordable Housing
10 Fri 10/2 Focus: World Trade Center

Lehrer's New York Development Wiki is pretty thin.

Posted by steve at 10:32 PM

September 25, 2009

Russian to the rescue: Moscow mogul may be savior of vital Atlantic Yards project

NY Daily News, Editorial

Here's a shocker — the Daily News's editorial board loves Russian dressing. More Soviet-style blather from Atlantic Yards' biggest fans.

With unemployment over 10%, Wall Street struggling for footing and the real estate industry in the tank, breaking ground on both a Nets arena and 1,000-plus units of housing would be a major economic boost.

Prokhorov started out in the free markets selling blue jeans and is reported to have done fabulously in nickel ore in the Russian north. Assuming he passes muster among the NBA owners - and pray that he does - his money muscle should more than put to rest doubts about the financial viability of Atlantic Yards.

Which isn't to say the project is out of the woods.

Despite the enormous benefits of the development's $4 billion master plan - including 6,400 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing - a tiny but determinedly litigious opposition has used the courts to hamstring Ratner.

He has a last legal fight to win. The opponents have asked the state's highest court to radically and unwisely overhaul New York's law of eminent domain for the sole purpose of stopping Ratner. The court must respond: Nyet way, nyet how.


NoLandGrab: "Tiny" opposition? We hardly think that "controversial" and "Atlantic Yards" would so rarely appear without each other in public if opposition to the project wasn't so widespread.

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

September 21, 2009

In Miami, the Times finds public consternation over a sweetheart deal for a stadium

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on The Times' sudden interest in bad publicly funded sports-venue deals — in Miami.

The New York Times, which treated the passage of the Atlantic Yards plan last Thursday as an event barely worthy of mention, much less scrutiny, today does some delving into a controversy about another sports facility.

The situation in Brooklyn is both better and worse. The city and state are devoting $305 million in direct subsidies to Atlantic Yards, with--according to the IBO--about $250 million to the arena. The $726 million represents a combination of subsidies and tax breaks, including $194 million in federal tax breaks on tax-exempt bonds.

Arguably, however, Forest City Ratner is gaining even more of a benefit from opportunity costs--provisions that reduce the level of potential additional revenues--given that the state handed over all control of naming rights, a sum reported at $400 million.

Beyond that, the construction of an arena approaching $800 million would be paid by PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), which, according to Assemblyman Richard Brodsky--at least when describing a similar funding scheme for Yankee Stadium--counts as a public subsidy. (Sports facilities expert Neil deMause says instead that the property tax breaks are a subsidy.)


Posted by eric at 10:57 PM

September 19, 2009

Rounding up the press non-coverage

Atlantic Yards Report

They say it's lonely at the top. It was a little lonely, media-wise, at this week's meeting of the ESDC board, as it gave its rubber-stamp approval to the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Who in the press takes seriously the amended Atlantic Yards plan, the ESDC's rubber-stamp, and the concessions to Forest City Ratner?

Not the Brooklyn Paper. It didn't send a reporter. Nor did the Courier-Life. Yes, it was a deadline day, but this is a big story. (The print Brooklyn Paper does include two AY articles the paper already published on the web: about the IBO report and the public appearance of the arena architects.)

The New York Post didn't send a reporter but ran a 92-word summary. The New York Daily News did send a reporter, but didn't run a story. (The newspaper did have a lot of room to cover anchor Ernie Anastos's use of the F-word, though.)

The New York Times mentioned the action in an aside to a story on the potential investment in the Nets and the project by a Russian billionaire. (The Local didn't even cover it.)

The only (paid) reporters to approach the decision with some professional curiosity and skepticism were Eliot Brown of the New York Observer, who nailed the conclusion that the decision helped Forest City Ratner's cash flow, and former Observer reporter Matthew Schuerman of WNYC, whose main story was bland, but dug deeper in the station's news blog.

Crain's New York Business ran a story that just hit the surface, as did the Record, Reuters, and Globe Street.


Posted by steve at 11:09 AM

September 12, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report In Search of Truth

Atlantic Yards Report

Another letter to the New York Times Public Editor: how does the newspaper handle clear untruths told by government officials?

Here is an open letter to Clark Hoyt who is the New York Times' "readers' representative." The Times let stand a claim that the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards project is just the 8.5 acre Vanderbilt rail yards, when it’s actually a 22-acre site encompassing the adjoining neighborhood in Prospect Heights.

Bruce Ratner is a business partner of the New York Times.

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

Surely you've grappled with this question: how does the newspaper handle clear untruths told by government officials?

Let me give you an example--in which the Times was apprised of the lie, but still let it go into print.

On the CityRoom blog, on September 10, the Times reported on a new report on the Atlantic Yards arena from the NYC Independent Budget Office. The article was posted at 1:45 pm.

The Times quoted David Lombino, a spokesman for the NYC Economic Development Corporation, as saying that the Atlantic Yards site was "a site that is now an open railyard without any public benefit."

At 3:33 pm, I posted a comment, noting, in part: "The site’s not 'now an open railyard without any public benefit.' It’s a 22-acre site. The railyard is 8.5 acres."

However, on the September 11 print edition, on page A24, a somewhat truncated version of the CityRoom post, headlined "Report Sees Loss In Brooklyn Arena" ended with the above-mentioned quote from Lombino.

It's clearly untrue. And the Times had ample reason to know that.

Moreover, given the parent NYT Co's business relationship with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, the Times has a special obligation to be exacting in its coverage, and has not done so.

Your attention to this is appreciated.

Norman Oder
Atlantic Yards Report

In the Courier-Life, Ratner tells Witt: believe what I say about affordable housing, not any documents

Norman Oder questions the truth in Courier-Life reporting. Bruce Ratner's relationship to reporter Steve Witt is reminiscent of an old Groucho Marx quote: "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

Showing again why he's the reporter who prefers trusting Forest City Ratner to reading any documents, Witt reports:
Ratner also briefly took off the gloves last week at opponents of his Atlantic Yards project. His remarks came in response to this paper asking him about recent reports on opponent blogs and websites alleging that Ratner is moving away from building the affordable housing component of the project.

“They [opponents] are 100 percent wrong about the affordable housing. It’s another red herring. We’re required to build affordable housing and it has been my personal commitment from the very beginning,” said Ratner.

“They [opponents] have been dead wrong about everything. What they constantly do is throw up another false statement and hope something will stick,” he added.

Well, maybe Witt could do some reading. And, perhaps, recognize that a good chunk of "affordable housing" would be above market rate.

Btw, the Daily News--not an opponent web site--did follow up on the story.

Posted by steve at 9:02 AM

September 7, 2009

The "iron core of information," newspapers, blogs, and sunshine

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder (inevitably) brings a critique of a book fretful about the future of mainstream journalism's watchdog role back to Atlantic Yards.

Democracy requires both information and a light on that information. Important information isn't important until someone who commands attention or some trusted institution validates it.

The system is already broken--the news about Carlton Avenue Bridge was ignored--but it may have to break more before it can be reconstructed.

Imagine a world in which there are fewer established media outlets but more sunshine. Some institutions, whether they be online journalism or civic organizations, would have to emerge to validate the importance of the information uncovered.

But perhaps more people would have been reading the documents of the Empire State Development Corporation and more oversight would have emerged.


Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

August 19, 2009

Times Blogger Accused of Karaoke Bias (Updated!)

Runnin' Scared
by Roy Edroso

Back in March, a correspondent from the Times' Fort Greene Blog posted a photo of himself doing karaoke with a staffer from the campaign of councilmember Tish James Tish James' "official staff site," Team Tish. "No political endorsement is implied here," added blogger Andy Newman. "I would just as gladly have duetted with someone from the campaign of Ms. James's challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, if such a person had materialized."

It was a night [cue sinister music] that Andy Newman would come to regret...

On August 12, a different Times blogger chided Hunley-Adossa for not being available to media enquiries. Yesterday Hunley-Adossa defended herself in a Brooklyn Courier Life article, charging the paper is biased in favor of James -- and in defense of her charge "pointed out that Times reporter Andy Newman... published a photo of himself singing karaoke with the woman who runs James' blog," the Courier Life says. Hunley-Adossa added, "I'm not sure he would sing with one of my staffers."


NoLandGrab: There's no shortage of irony in the fact that Atlantic Yards beat reporter Stephen Witt, who gave voice to this silly, baseless story of media bias, threw a big old bear hug around Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner at the public hearing on the project's draft environmental impact statement on August 23rd, 2006. Media bias indeed!

More coverage...

A Short Story, Delia Can You Hear Me?

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

August 18, 2009

Times revises stance on public authority reform, agrees land should be sold at below-market rates

Atlantic Yards Report

After wholeheartedly endorsing landmark legislation reforming the state's public authorities less than a month ago, the New York Times--after listening to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and maybe even Forest City Ratner--agrees that the legislation should be revised somewhat.

The Times appears to buy the Mayor's line that barring state authorities from selling land for less than market value would hamper affordable-housing projects (not to mention basketball arenas!), yet the paper's editorial board thinks the bill should maintain its insistence that directors of said authorities carry out their fiduciary duties.

The fiduciary duty connects directly to selling land at below-market rates, as Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has said, and the most direct example concerns the MTA's Vanderbilt Yard, which at this point would be used far less for affordable housing than for a profitable arena for Forest City Ratner, which, of course, was the partner with the newspaper's parent company on the new Times Tower.

In other words, it's not being sold to a government agency to build housing. It's being sold to a private developer who, with sufficient subsidies, may build housing.


NoLandGrab: Here we are agreeing with Delia Hunley-Adossa again — The Times just ain't objective. Does anyone else think it's a problem when the city's leading media outlet is chummy with the billionaire mayor and real estate developers?

Posted by eric at 11:10 AM

Hunley-Adossa, via the compromised Witt & C-L, counter-attacks weakly against coverage in The Local, AYR

Atlantic Yards Report

The Courier-Life's Stephen Witt tosses Norman Oder a big, fat softball, and Oder knocks it out of the park.

The entire post, which sets the record straight, is well worth a read, but this passage in particular makes the Community Newspaper Group look like the gang that couldn't shoot straight:

It's pretty funny that CNG's BoroPolitics site is hosting an article claiming that Hunley-Adossa is accessible, given that the original piece in The Local quotes Gersh Kuntzman of the Brooklyn Paper, which is one of the contributors to BoroPolitics:
Nor are we the only news outlet that is having trouble contacting Ms. Hunley-Adossa.

“We at The Brooklyn Paper have been astounded by the lack of response to our questions from Delia and her campaign,” said Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper. “She aspires to a very lofty position –- public servant –- and, as such, she needs to answer questions from independent media.”


Related coverage...

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], We Stand Accused

We usually try to avoid getting too self-referential (no we don’t) but felt journalistically compelled this morning to alert you to a piece in the Courier-Life weekly in which City Council candidate Delia Hunley-Adossa accuses us of being biased against her in favor of the incumbent, Letitia James.

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Paper of record accused of bias

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

Steve Witt, who was nosing around last week trying to conjure up a story of discord here at NoLandGrab (sorry, Steve, the only thing troubling us is Atlantic Yards), instead found his "story" in a sordid tale of alleged media bias. Buckle your seatbelts for this one.

A longtime civic activist charged The New York Times with propagating a smear campaign as she tries to unseat incumbent Letitia James in the upcoming 35th District City Council Democratic Primary.

Delia (Dee) Hunley-Adossa, who has been the president of the 88th Precinct Community Council for the past 10 years, said she was appalled that The Times ran a story about her this week saying she was unreachable.

The story, which ran under the headline, “Have you seen this woman?” alleges that Hunley-Adossa has been unreachable and is dodging the media.

“I question their objectivity and have from the beginning,” said Hunley-Adossa, who has always been very reachable by this newspaper.

Well of course she's always been reachable by the Courier, which hasn't exactly been critical of Atlantic Yards or its supporters.

As for The Times, we have also questioned their objectivity — because Bruce Ratner is their development partner. We find it a bit odd, though, that the Atlantic Yards candidate would think that The Times, which has always supported the project editorially, would be out to do a hatchet job on a pro-project candidate. Times reporter and The Local blogger Andy Newman, however, has always played it straight.

“I’m also appalled that The New York Times constantly links to someone’s blog who reports one-sided on Atlantic Yards,” said Hunley-Adossa, referring to Norman Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report blog, which writes lavishingly of James and continually criticizes any community supporters of the project.

We'll leave it to the one-sided Mr. Oder to poke holes in these far-fetched claims.

Hunley-Adossa is the chair of a group of community-based organizations that signed a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Several of these organizations, including Hunley-Adossa’s, received funding from Ratner as per the CBA.

Good for you, Steve Witt, for including this disclaimer. But to say that Ms. Hunley-Adossa's organization "received funding from Ratner as per the CBA" makes it sound like everything's on the up and up. The CBA has been widely criticized, and let's keep in mind that Ms. Hunley-Adossa's organization's biggest expense is Ms. Hunley-Adossa's compensation.

“This campaign is not only about Atlantic Yards. It’s about the 35th Council District and I will continue to run our race. The Local is highly favorable to James and it is what it is,” said Hunley-Adossa.


NoLandGrab: Readers can decide for themselves if The Local is highly favorable to Ms. James. However, we're betting the voters will most definitely be so.

Check out Atlantic Yards Report for more coverage of The Courier Life's non-story.

Posted by eric at 9:05 AM

August 13, 2009

A bizarrely belated AY debate in the Brooklyn Eagle, plus Jane Jacobs's 2004 criticism of subsidizing stadiums

Atlantic Yards Report

In a bizarre chapter that should be titled, "All your word are belong to us," Norman Oder gives us his reaction when he found out that the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published an entire Atlantic Yards Report post in yesterday's online and print editions.

[T]he Eagle decided to run my full post from June 11, with comments, critiquing an essay by the Eagle's Henrik Krogius. At the bottom of the piece, below a brief response by Krogius, was the notation "sent by Norman Oder."

I didn't send it and, given the two-month gap, whoever did send it must have used Snail Express.... Then, after a couple of phone calls and emails, the Eagle agreed to excise the "sent by" and give me some kind of credit up top, so the piece now looks different. They did not, however, publish the clarification I requested. And the whole thing was in print, as well.

Ironically enough, the Eagle warns readers that "It’s not considered polite to paste the entire story on your blog." I decided not to push it because I borrowed liberally from the Eagle, albeit for a noncommercial site. But the Eagle is a commercial enterprise.

Let's just say the Eagle doesn't quite get the "Internets."


NoLandGrab: Section 17 of the US Copyright law permits "the fair use of a copyrighted work" "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research," making a distinction between "whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes." Though its editors may not realize it, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is a commercial publication, while Atlantic Yards Report and NoLandGrab are not.

Posted by lumi at 5:07 AM

Anti-Bloomberg Group’s Newspaper Hits the Streets

The Indypendent

Note to Bruce Ratner: Your Atlantic Yards megaproject is on the short list of what's wrong with Mayor Bloomberg.

A new, free rag has hit the streets of our city, put together by a group calling itself the Fed Up New Yorkers Coalition (FUNY). Billing itself as “the best of NYC blogs about the worst of NYC politics,” the coalition boasts some impressive names: Nat Hentoff, a former writer for the Village Voice; Ira Glasser, the former national director for the American Civil Liberties Union; and John Scott, the downtown “club chair” for the Working Families Party. The founding member of the coalition is Neil Fabricant, who publishes

Their main line of attack is that “no third term means no third term,” although inside the paper you will find plenty of anti-Bloomberg screeds ranging from criticism on mayoral control of schools to his support for the massive development project known as Atlantic Yards.


Posted by lumi at 4:44 AM

August 12, 2009

Some Critical Thoughts on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In an episode bizarre even for a newspaper that gives unfettered voice to Dennis Holt and Henrik Krogius, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle today, online and in print, ran a full Atlantic Yards Report post — including two reader comments — from June 11th. The online version ran over a byline saying "by Brooklyn Eagle," while the print edition carried no byline.

The story concludes with "sent by Norman Oder," though Mr. Oder assures us he never sent his post to the Eagle. He has, however, requested some sort of correction and/or acknowledgment.

Henrik Krogius, whose story Mr. Oder critiqued in his original post, did "respond" thusly to said critique.

These various observations are interesting, but they turn a blind eye to the brilliance and complexity of the Gehry plan. Was it just too unexpected, too different, too challenging for so many in Brooklyn? It had greater diversity than Rockefeller Center. I think friend Alex Garvin ( respected planner) would likely agree that a near-empty place at such a confluence of public transit warrants a very high density development — precisely AY. As to having moved more quickly if subjected to the city’s ULURP process rather than a state-initiated community board reviews and public hearings, that’s highly questionable. Note also that I wrote last week that Jane Jacobs might have been “sensible enough to recognize that Atlanic Yards represents a well-nigh unique situation for which a high-rise solution requires no destruction of a viable neighborhood.”

For the record, we couldn't find any direct appraisal of Atlantic Yards by Alex Garvin, though Mr. Garvin did speak, critically, to our ear, of Atlantic Yards at a panel discussion last year. As for what Jane Jacobs might have thought about Atlantic Yards, Mr. Oder has already explored that in detail.

Perhaps the Eagle would like to reprint that story, too?

Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

August 10, 2009

Business as usual: Times notes Ratner's seeking more housing subsidies, but ignores lack of a cost-benefit analysis (and omits disclosure)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder parses today's Atlantic Yards coverage in The New York Times.

There are a couple of notable things about the New York Times article today headlined Atlantic Yards’ Developer Races a Court Hearing, a Bond Deadline and Opponents.

First, it portrays the project through the perspective of the developer, while not acknowledging that Forest City Ratner never testified at the public hearing last month (which the Times didn't cover in print, only on The Local, the blog aimed at Fort Greene and Clinton Hill). Second, it states that new renderings of the arena will be released, likely before Labor Day, but--it goes unmentioned--that likely would be after the opportunity for public comment ends on August 31.

Third, it reveals that Forest City Ratner has sought additional housing subsidies from the city, despite the careful statement by FCR executive MaryAnne Gilmartin last month that “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy.”

The reason that's news: while Forest City is now framing Atlantic Yards as an affordable housing project, the developer won't build the affordable housing without sufficient city subsidies. And we still don't know--though serious doubts have been raised by experts like Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee--how the cost-per-unit compares to alternatives.


Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

August 9, 2009

How FCR "seeks protection," why the Courier-Life needs an ombudsman (never happen), and new tales from fictioneer Witt

Atlantic Yards Report

Steve Witt, reporter for the Courier-Life, has produced a lot of coverage of the Atlantic Yards fight and has just published a novel. Norman Oder implies that fiction is the kind of writing for which Witt is best suited.

After the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt last week gave pro-AY project hecklers an implicit endorsement and wrongly stated that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asked a couple of black ministers for "protection," I dissected the story and quoted one of his sources saying Witt got it wrong.

But one reader suggested a simpler response to Witt's misleading headline, AY opponents seek protection from the community.

After all, it's Forest City Ratner that has sought protection from the community; after all, no representative of the developer was willing to face questions at a public meeting for nearly three years before MaryAnne Gilmartin appeared at an informational session on July 22. And when Gilmartin left the room, she had a couple of people clearing a path for her.


Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent a letter, published in the paper this week under the headline "At Witt's end."

To The Editor:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) stands accused, by "reporter" Steve Witt, of community organizing and outreach.'' To that we plead guilty, as we are a grassroots, community-based organization. We are extremely proud of the widespread support we have (which has grown larger and larger, year after year, since 2004), the alliances we have made in Brooklyn and beyond, and the community organizing and outreach we have done over the years. I state this to counter the fiction published in this paper by Witt.
How long are you going to allow Steve Witt to write fiction in the news pages, and support such fiction only with anonymous allegations?
In some weird attempt to smear the Atlantic Yards opposition, gin up a conflict that doesn't exist and abet Forest City Ratner's deliberate attempts to divide the community along lines of race and class, his article headlined, "AY opponents seek protection from the community" claims that "following several raucous meetings concerning the Atlantic Yards project, opponents have put out the call for protection."
This is a wild and baseless accusation, and is offensive, absurd, and bizarre - and it is fiction. Witt fails in his attempt to suggest that DDDB and our supporters are somehow not part of the community. Sorry, Steve, but we are.
Having said that, we would like to seek protection from Witt's dangerous and incendiary brand of "journalism." Can we get some help on that?

Daniel Goldstein
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Stephen Witt replies: I stand by the story as written.


Well, we don't expect Witt--a reporter who took seriously the incoherent claim that AY foes "are the real land grabbers, because they took the property first and turned back what was jobs into condos"--to own up to errors.

Nor will his bosses.

The Courier-Life needs an ombudsman to handle complaints. It's a very imperfect solution--the New York Times's Public Editors have steered clear of Atlantic Yards--but at least it's a solution.

Another solution is simply more public criticism, However, the most obvious venue, a competing newspaper, no longer exists. The Brooklyn Paper, which once chronicled Witt's more colorful activities--like hugging developer Bruce Ratner--is now a sibling to the Courier-Life, both owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspapers Group.

After taking a look at a Courier-Life review of Witt's novel, and what it reveals about Witt, Oder concludes:

How much of what Witt writes regarding AY is journalism?


Posted by steve at 8:36 AM

August 8, 2009

Brooklyn Paper, Courier-Life synergy (and more) leads to

AtlanticYards Report

Local media has played a significant role in the Atlantic Yards fight, so it's logical that Norman Oder notes with interest the launching of by the Community Newspaper Group.

First came the occasional appearance of articles by Courier-Life writers in the Brooklyn Paper, and vice versa. Now comes more synergy.

From the Brooklyn Paper: Local political junkies finally have a place to call their own on the Web.

On Friday, the Community Newspaper Group — of which this newspaper is a part — will launch, the Internet’s only Web site devoted solely to politics, elections, issues and races in Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens.

Notably, the web site seems based on the Brooklyn Paper's modern web design, rather than the Courier-Life's less successful

As for "devoted," let's say that's a work in progress. Coverage, for example, of the 35th District campaign seems quit thin, given that only one article, from the Brooklyn Paper, is included. I know there are articles from the Courier-Life, but apparently they haven't yet been added.

Also, the repackaging of content has its flaws. For example, an article on the web site about Senator Chuck Schumer's endorsement of Steve Levin in the 33rd Council District race has none of the comments, critical and supportive, attached to the original article on the Brooklyn Paper's web site.


Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

August 6, 2009

Brooklyn’s Tallest Is Back In Atlantic Yards Plan

File this under "news you can disabuse" — Brooklyn Daily Eagle's Dennis Holt scoured the latest Atlantic Yards "Project Documents" and declared that "the tallest building in Brooklyn is back on the site," since developer Bruce Ratner's announcement that the signature tower would cap off at one foot shorter than the previous tallest building in Brooklyn didn't buy him any friends.

The arrival of the “2009 Modified General Project Plan” with all of its 45 pages and 7 exhibits is also of more than passing interest.

It requires study, especially the small print, of which there is much, and in reading the small print one discovers on Exhibit C, with no emphasis whatsoever, that the tallest building in Brooklyn is back on the site.

Building 1, which used to be called “Miss Brooklyn,” the visual keystone to the entire project, is to be 620 feet tall.


Atlantic Yards Report, No, Brooklyn’s Tallest Is Not Back In Atlantic Yards Plan

Norman Oder explains why you can't believe everything you read, especially when the source is the credibility-challenged Empire State Development Corporation and project promoter Dennis Holt:

So, why does the document state 620 feet as the maximum when Forest City Ratner has already committed to a downsizing?

Because changing the height might represent a material change in the project, a change that the Empire State Development Corporation does not want to admit.

Posted by lumi at 5:41 AM

August 4, 2009

It's Orwellian, almost: the Courier-Life's Witt salutes a heckler's veto and wrongly claims DDDB sought ministers' "protection"

Atlantic Yards Report

Some corrective journalism from Norman Oder.

The Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt this week offers not just an undiscerning round-up article on the first day of the Atlantic Yards hearing.

He also pens an "Orwellian, almost" sidebar in which he gives pro-project hecklers an implicit endorsement and wrongly states that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asked a couple of black ministers for "protection."


Oder's repair work is too extensive to chronicle here, so we suggest you surf on over to AYR and read it firsthand.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

July 25, 2009

The big news was the informational meeting, but the media mostly missed it

Atlantic Yards Report

The proposed Atlantic Yards project should have been a great story for major New York media to cover, but the coverage continues to be lacking. An informational meeting hosted by Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 went largely unnoticed.

While the official required Atlantic Yards public hearing takes place over two days, Wednesday and Thursday, that, I think, will be something of a sideshow, an opportunity for both opponents and proponents to face off and to posture--though some substantive criticism surely will be lodged.

The bigger news, I believe, already happened on Wednesday at the informational meeting before three Community Boards, given the unprecedented presence of both Empire State Development and Forest City Ratner representatives and their responses--both answers and evasions--to tough questions.

And it got relatively little press coverage. None of the three dailies sent a reporter, nor did any TV stations, including NY 1 or local Brooklyn cable.


But the dailies, as well as the Village Voice and others who've paid attention to Atlantic Yards, missed an important story about governmental responsibility and public review of major development projects--a story with a number of potential mini-headlines, such as the unavailability of a cost-benefit analysis or arena renderings, or the ESDC's unwillingness to comment on a New York City Independent Budget Office analysis that the arena would be a money-loser for the city.

It's a story not merely of neighborhood and borough interest, but given the city and state subsidies involved, of interest to the city and state, and--given the heat and complexity of the controversy, as well as the controversy over building sports facilities--of national interest.

Atlantic Yards opponents, who generally alert the media ahead of public hearings and meetings, could have done a better job of soliciting coverage. But the media should be able to figure things out themselves, as well.


Posted by steve at 8:37 AM

July 20, 2009

Be the Journalist: Atlantic Yards Update

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Sarah Maslin Nir

The newspaper that paid people this week to write articles about corsets for men and the trend in eyebrow-shaving is looking for a "citizen journalist" willing to cover an Atlantic Yards meeting this Wednesday for free.

Interested in the Atlantic Yards project? Then this assignment is for you.

We need a citizen journalist to head to a tri-community board informational meeting on the development of Atlantic Yards. CBs 2 (that’s us), 6 and 8 are joining forces on Wednesday, July 22, to have a good long chat (it’s scheduled to go from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) about what’s going on with the Yards.

We’d love you to go and send us some meeting minutes, new information and all the news that’s fit to blog from that meeting. Deadline: as early as possible Thursday morning. Please send us an e-mail if you’d like to be our citizen journalist for this meeting.


NoLandGrab: We suppose we could be upset that The Times, to which we pay several hundred dollars a year for home delivery, can't be bothered to assign a salaried reporter to this important story, especially since Forest City Ratner, the developer of the paper's headquarters building, is at the center of it. But we choose to look on the bright side — at least there's a chance the coverage might be objective!

Posted by eric at 8:53 PM

July 17, 2009

Courier-Life's Witt responds to letter, misses the point completely

Atlantic Yards Report

More brutal weirdness from Courier-Life "reporter" Stephen Witt.

I wrote a letter June 15 to the Courier-Life chain complaining about unfounded criticism of me; rather than publishing it in the first issue possible, the newspaper has waited until the fifth issue, with a similarly unfounded response from reporter Stephen Witt.

Witt's response

Stephen Witt responds:
Mr. Oder,
Rev. Daughtry deserves his say. The fact that many longtime community people support the project has been largely ignored by all the media, including your highly speculative brand of "citizen journalism." I do note that since my article came out you and a few other media outlets that push the public agenda are beginning to include these views. I also don't agree with journalists that buy into your view that Rev. Daughtry and other groups who signed the CBA are somehow tainted as sources because Ratner helped fund their non-profits. These groups represent thousands of people of all income levels. They are respected in the community and their points of view are just as valid as those who oppose the project. I suggested you take your "brutally weird" self down to the BUILD office and speak to those in the waiting room looking for work.

My rebuttal

It's not a question of whether Rev. Daughtry deserves his say; surely he has been having his say, especially while heckling at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing.

It's just that, as I wrote, Daughtry's arguments are debatable, and Witt ignores countervailing evidence, such as my citation of Daughtry's longtime ally Charles Barron, an Atlantic Yards opponent, and the long delays in delivering the benefits Daughtry seeks.

Witt ignores the evidence I provide regarding whether I have contacted Daughtry or learned "his side."

Witt initially disparaged me by writing that "many media outlets utilize [my blog] for information without checking his facts," but offered no evidence of errors in my work. He continues to do so in his response, citing my "highly speculative brand of 'citizen journalism.'"

Highly speculative and "brutally weird"? I think that applies to the "real land-grabbers" quote Witt dutifully published.

Yes, I've been to the BUILD office. I recognize that large construction projects create jobs and that people involved in groups and unions that train people or organize workers have an interest in seeing those projects go forward. But that doesn't obviate the responsibility to examine the project.

Witt suggests that it's simply "my view" that groups that signed the CBA are tainted as sources. I direct him to experts on CBAs like Good Jobs New York, Good Jobs First, and the Partnership for Working Families.


Posted by eric at 11:09 AM

July 11, 2009

David Carr's review of the I.F. Stone bio, the alleged lack of shoe leather reporting, and the blog coverage ignored

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder defends the usefulness of blogs, and of his Atlantic Yards Report in particular, in this open letter to David Carr.

Dear Mr. Carr,

I'm befuddled by your blanket dismissal of the blogosphere in today's New York Times review of the new biography of legendary independent journalist I.F. Stone.

In your concluding paragraph, you wrote: After reading Mr. Guttenplan’s extensive, loving reconstruction of Stone’s outside-in approach to journalism, it might be tempting to suggest that Stone was a protoblogger, a postmodern journalist who hacked his own route to an audience long before there was something called the Internet. But his insistence on shoe leather over rhetoric has yet to be replicated in digital realms. As it is, his life and work are reminders that knowing more than anyone else is the surest way to win an argument. (Emphasis added)

Sure, no journalist using the blog format has produced a body of work to rival Stone's output, but there's lots of shoe leather reporting out there. Scott Rosenberg cites Talking Points Memo and Firedoglake, among others, in his new book Say Everything.

Closer to home, and I know you live in New Jersey, you somehow haven't noticed how my Atlantic Yards Report often provides a far more comprehensive account of the Atlantic Yards controversy than does the Times.

Just in the past six weeks, consider coverage of the May 29 State Senate oversight hearing; the June 22 Metropolitan Transportation Authority Finance Committee meeting (and more); the June 23 Empire State Development Corporation board meeting; and the June 24 MTA board meeting (with video).

And consider how the Times fell down, either ignoring the events entirely or downplaying crucial details.

As for winning an argument, consider this dispute I had with the Times over the newspaper's unwillingness to correct an unqualified prediction that the Barclays Center, the arena in the Atlantic Yards plan, will be built.

Please keep in mind that the unlimited space provided by the Internet, as well as the ample opportunity for citations and factchecking, should foster much more work, not less, in the spirit of Stone.

I read with interest your piece last Saturday about stumbles by the Washington Post's publisher. Consider that the Times, given its inadequate, distorted, and absent coverage of Atlantic Yards--a project of the parent New York Times Company's business partner, Forest City Ratner--is long overdue for similar scrutiny.

Norman Oder
Atlantic Yards Report
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by steve at 7:21 AM

July 9, 2009

Journalism of verification? Times won't back down from claim that there will "soon be a Barclays Center"

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times, utilizing snark typically reserved for the blogosphere, passes on Norman Oder's suggestion that the "Paper of Record" get out of the business of predicting the future:

A June 24 article on naming rights for the Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street subway station stated:

There will, however, soon be a Barclays Center, the sports arena planned as the focal point of the Atlantic Yards project...

No correction was printed and, five days later, in a roundup article June 29 on arenas, the Times reported:

Five major complexes — four existing and one planned — will soon be slugging it out within an area 30 miles wide.

...By the time the arena in Brooklyn, which will be called Barclays Center, is built, there will be a total of nearly 100,000 seats to fill, 365 days a year.

Senior Editor Greg Brock responded:

We have been very responsive to your queries in the past and have run corrections when appropriate. I do not think this rises to the level of a correction. I realize you monitor every word in these articles because you have your own perspective. But at some point, we have to use common sense on these points. I am sure you will not agree: but I think this is splitting hairs and not worthy of a correction.

[Read: We have tried to ignore you in the past and have run some corrections in order to try to get you to go away. I do not think you are right, because only a crazy person would read every word in these articles. But at this point, we are the arbiters of common sense, though I'm sure that you will not agree: you are wasting my time, go away.]

Norman Oder comes up with some hypothetical parallel language that might raise some eyebrows:

Let's try a thought experiment. What if the Times were to report today:

There will, however, soon be a nuclear war, a tactic planned as the focal point of North Korean foreign policy

For Mayor Bloomberg, there will, however, soon be a third term, a period planned as the focal point for his sustainability initiatives


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder's "journalism of verification" has a better batting average than the "Paper of Record," so you have to wonder who really has his "own perspective."

Posted by lumi at 5:44 AM

July 5, 2009

Documentary Says Only 15 Residents Holding Out in Brooklyn

Nets Daily

Boosters of the proposed Atlantic Yards project want to find some way of justifying a project that, increasingly, has no good reason to proceed except to benefit the developer Bruce Ratner. In this particular case, a claim is made that there aren't enough people living in the proposed project's footprint to justify challenging eminent domain.

A mini-documentary reports that only about 15 people are still living in the footprint of Atlantic Yards, Bruce Ratner’s Brooklyn real estate project that includes Barclays Center. A prominent critic challenges the accuracy of other parts of the documentary (Barclays Center won’t be twice the size of the Garden…it’ll be smaller) but lets the number of holdouts stand. Six hundred people have left, according to the film.

In the comments section, Norman Oder of the Atlantic Yards Report sets the record straight.

The ever-responsible Mr. Income takes me to task for not questioning the report’s statement that there are 15 people living in the footprint without even linking to my coverage.

For what it’s worth, the 2009 Modified General Project Plan states (p. 19): Based on the best information available to the Project Sponsors as of the date hereof, in the 31 households that are currently occupied with no agreements to vacate, 5 of which are owner-occupied and 27 of which are rental units, there are approximately 62 people who remain in occupancy.3

3 These figures do not include transient occupants of the homeless facility who will be accommodated elsewhere.


NoLandGrab: Also from the Nets Daily, commentor, BrooklynBound, says: "Not one person should have to leave the property they own for a BASKETBALL ARENA."

Posted by steve at 8:05 AM

July 4, 2009

“HoldOut” – A short documentary about Atlantic Yards holdouts

Not Another F*cking Blog!

This blog entry offers commentary on the latest Atlantic Yards documentary, Hold Out.

After trudging through every nook and cranny of the footprint, taking tens of thousands of photos, trying to capture what it was, what it is now, and what it’s becoming, I recognize nearly every location and person in this visually stunning short. A small part of my home even makes an appearance. It’s not factually perfect, per Norman Oder on his Atlantic Yards Report, but I feel that it does put a much needed human face on those directly in the path of the developer Forest City Ratner’s wrecking ball.

My only regret is that it was so short. I hope this team has a longer Atlantic Yards project in the works.


Posted by steve at 5:50 AM

July 2, 2009

The Times low-balls the total subsidies and tax breaks for Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The NY Times head real estate reporter Charles V. Bagli totally lowballed the amount of public subsidies for Bruce Ratner's subsidy-sucking Atlantic Yards megaproject. In his article yesterday he had it at $300M. Imagine his surprise when he finds out that the direct cash subsidy is already at $305M, and that's ignoring an ever-growing list of tax breaks, affordable-housing subsidies, brownfield clean-up funds, and the naming rights contract for the "publicly owned arena."

The real figure is one of the great mysteries of Atlantic Yards and is predicted to be headed towards the billions.

Norman Oder thinks that Bagli and the Times can do better:

I know the $300 million was not the focus of the article. Still, such a sloppy estimate reinforces my argument that the Times should consistently disclose its parent company's business relationship with Forest City Ratner.

Such disclosure should--though I can't say it does--prompt reporters and editors to be more exacting in their coverage.


Posted by lumi at 6:47 AM

June 30, 2009

Nets one step closer to Brooklyn

The Examiner
By Josh Lobdell

Talk about being "conclusory," here's a story that practically has Bruce Ratner measuring for the drapes:

The New Jersey Nets are now one step closer to a move to Brooklyn. In a move that has had more than its fair share of legal and financial problems the Nets owner Bruce Ratner cut a deal that will eventually lead to the construction of a new NBA arena on the site that was once proposed for a domed stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers.


NoLandGrab: Some myth-busting is required here — just because Mayor Bloomberg tells people that the arena is planned for "the site that was once proposed for a domed stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers," doesn't make it so. That site has already been developed... by Bruce Ratner for the iconic Atlantic Center mall.

Posted by lumi at 5:35 AM

June 27, 2009

Reaction to Daily News Editorial

Today's Daily News editorial, "Build, Bruce, build: Developer Ratner presses ahead on Atlantic Yards" brought immediate reaction from the blogs Queens Crap (The Daily News editorial board smokes crack) and Atlantic Yards Report (Daily News disses straphangers, endorses Ratner bailout). Below is each point of the Daily News editorial followed by each blogger's reaction:

Bully to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for making a deal that keeps the Atlantic Yards development alive in Brooklyn. And bully to builder Bruce Ratner for hanging in there to get the project done.

AYR: It doesn't keep the development alive. It keeps the arena (and one building) alive. Ratner, who was willing to pause construction on the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan to renegotiate more favorable terms with unions, was not so much "hanging in there" but gaining the benefit of an agency run by a governor and mayor unwilling to challenge him.

QC: Bully? More like bullshit. The guy came in with a lower bid that for some strange reason was accepted by the MTA and is now scaling back every aspect of what he promised while the MTA is currently up shit's creek and forcing riders to pony up more money at the turnstile.

After five years, the defeat of 23 lawsuits and an economic meltdown, he is pushing to start the $4 billion development's first component: an 18,000-seat arena, home to the Nets and a major entertainment venue.

AYR: Or, alternatively, he's desperate to start before the December 31 deadline for tax-exempt bonds.

QC: The lawsuits aren't over yet. And the city needs this like we need a hole in our heads.

The plan then envisions construction of 6,400 apartments (35% of them deemed affordable), a school and a health care center, amid 8 acres of open space. This good stuff would be located primarily on land that has been vacant for decades, including a Long Island Rail Road yard.

AYR: "Primarily" is a weasel word. The railyard has always been used as a railyard--and still would be used as such. Only recently did the rise in property value make it feasible to deck over railyards. As for the rest of the properties, most haven't been vacant for decades. Some have been vacant only since Forest City Ratner bought them and razed them.

The school would be built by the School Construction Authority.

QC: Huh? They do realize that much of that 8 acres of open space was bulldozed and that there are still several buildings in the footprint of the planned development, right? Here's a map of a walking tour of the area. And the rest of the space is and always has been an active railyard... Vacant?

But financing is not as available as it was a few years ago. The MTA board wisely voted to let Ratner pay $100 million over time for the rights to build above the yards, rather than demand a lump sum. With interest, the agency comes out whole.

AYR: Comes out whole? What about the generous 6.5% interest rate? The $100 million loss (and savings to Ratner) on the new permanent yard? The temporary yard that would linger twice as long as projected?

QC: Does anyone not smoking crack seriously believe that? Especially when Bruce asks for more money every time you turn around and this very paper reported that the arena would be a big money loser?

Ratner will now seek private financing for the arena. His bankers hope to raise the money by the end of the year. Wouldn't that be nice for Brooklyn?

AYR: "Private financing" would be tax-exempt financing, with Ratner likely saving more than $100 million thanks to federal subsidies. The "end of the year" deadline drove the breakneck pace for this deal, in which the MTA board had all of two days to consider it. The newspaper somehow ignores that the New York City Independent Budget now says the arena would be a money-loser for the city.

QC: No, it wouldn't. The plan calls for eminent domain abuse, would put some parts of Brooklyn in 24-hour darkness, create a clusterfuck of traffic, and build an entire new neighborhood full of "superblocks" in the middle of low-rise areas. And those are just the things I can think of at 6am off the top of my head.

Posted by steve at 8:39 AM

June 24, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Two Times

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at two pieces from The Times, one from yesterday's paper, and the other from 15 years ago. [Unlike a fine wine, The Times is not getting better with age.]

The Times gets conclusory: "There will... soon be a Barclays Center"


There may soon be a Barclays Center. And certainly the MTA's passage of the deal today with Forest City Ratner, coupled with the Empire State Development Corporation's preliminary approval of a new AY plan, make it more likely than before.

However, when the Atlantic Yards arena was announced in 2003, it was supposed to open in 2006. Every year the goalposts move. A little skepticism--or at least a little hedging--is in order, especially since FCR is the parent New York Times Company's business partner in the Times Tower.

New York Times editorial (in 1994): "It is wiser to walk away than stumble into a giveaway"

The Finance Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was told Monday by CFO Gary Dellaverson that they had to go ahead with a sweeter Vanderbilt Yard deal for Forest City Ratner because it would be hard to get development on the property in this economy.

He also acknowledged that FCR's deadlines for tax-exempt bonds were driving the breakneck schedule.

Other than Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post, no one's editorialized about the deal, which is expected to be approved tomorrow (though not without some dissent). The New York Times's news coverage seemed especially tailored to downplay the controversy.

Once upon a time, however, the Times crusaded against a somewhat parallel effort to lowball a land deal and said it was better to wait than to rush.

NoLandGrab: We know that The Times would never let its business dealings influence its editorial page, so we're sure that it's just coincidence that their crusading against the sale of the old New York Coliseum site to developer Mortimer Zuckerman had nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Zuckerman was and is the publisher of the rival Daily News, just as the paper's silence on the giveaway to developer Bruce Ratner surely has nothing to do with the fact that Ratner is The Times's development partner.

Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

June 21, 2009

AY: "Out of the barn" or driven by Forest City Ratner's tightening timetable?

Atlantic Yards Report

In an article headlined Atlantic Yards won't be derailed and, bizarrely enough, accompanied by a rendering of a previous iteration of the AY arena block, Crain's New York Business offers the conventional wisdom: Forest City Ratner's long-delayed, dramatically altered Atlantic Yards project faces two key votes this week on its latest changes. Critics say the modifications will dilute—or erase—the plan's pledged public benefits.


Despite fierce opposition to the shrinking project, bets are running heavily in favor of state officials' reaching the necessary compromises to push it along. Far too much time and money has been invested, officials say. It's also unlikely that another developer could be found to take over in this economic climate.

“Too much has happened on this project,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association [RPA]. “The horse is out of the barn on this one.”

As DDDB and NLG point out, the horse isn't exactly out of the barn, because the project has changed so much, with the promised benefits far attenuated.


As for finding "another developer," the question is a false one. There indeed might not be another developer to build Forest City Ratner's project, but there might be other developers to build on the MTA-owned land, and at a faster pace than Forest City Ratner and the ESDC are willing to project.

What's driving the timetable is the need to issue tax-exempt bonds for the arena by the end of the year, and Forest City Ratner's aim to reverse losses on the Nets by moving them to a new building in Brooklyn.

The RPA conveniently forgets its endorsement of Frank Gehry's arena block and its dismay over the process.


Posted by steve at 4:29 PM

June 20, 2009

"Calling bullshit," accountability journalism, the WaPo's Dan Froomkin, and Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

The disturbing trend of an increasingly credulous press is the focus of this blog entry.

The big political journalism story this week is the firing of Dan Froomkin, the "White House Watch" blogger for the Washington Post. Note the hundreds of critical comments in response to the blog by the WaPo's ombudsman.

I'll point below to quotes from and about Froomkin in Glenn Greenwald's Salon piece headlined The Washington Post, Dan Froomkin and the establishment media.

The key quotes, to me, are Froomkin (a journalism colleague in college) saying that a journalist's job is to "call bullshit" and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen describing Froomkin as an "accountability journalist."

The same challenges arise for the Atlantic Yards story.

  • Did any of the journalists at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing believe Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Marisa Lago when she claimed that the Atlantic Yards project had not changed?
  • Did they believe New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky's claims about new revenues?
  • Did reporters believe Forest City Ratner's claims that railyard work stopped because of litigation?
  • Have sports reporters believed Brett Yormark's ever-changing assertions about the arena opening date?

The list goes on.


Posted by steve at 11:05 AM

June 12, 2009

Brooklyn Paper, fulfilling predictions after Murdoch sale, endorses Gehry-less arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes his red pen to this week's Brooklyn Paper editorial, which, after the sale of the paper to Rupert Murdoch's media empire, cannot be blamed on former publisher and arena fan, Ed Wientrob.

[The Brooklyn Paper] has not only retreated from aggressive coverage of the Atlantic Yards issue, it has continued to roll over for the project on the editorial page.

So, rather than taking an opportunity to criticize Atlantic Yards supporters for shameful behavior at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing, the Brooklyn Paper this week urges that the AY arena be built. It's a follow-up from the "brutally weird" editorial the newspaper ran in February, shortly before it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

And this time, the editorial is not signed by Ed Weintrob, the publisher who wrote the February editorial and is now publisher emeritus. So we can assume it's the corporate view. Convergence with the Courier-Life continues.

NoLandGrab: The Courier-Life was purchased by News Corporation in September, 2006.

Check out the rest of the article to learn more about how The Brooklyn Paper conveniently ignores the fact that the arena is now expected to be a money loser for the city and gets in the way of righting the project's "original sin."

Posted by lumi at 5:32 AM

June 11, 2009


Sure, it's a lot of work keeping up on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, but, here at NoLandGrab, we don't have the inside track... which makes us wonder about what's going on at Forest City Ratner, if the company's web site is now being redirected to, Atlantic Yards Dot Com Is Dead

If ever there was any doubt that Atlantic Yards as proposed (in 2003) and as approved (in 2006) will never be built as planned, and that Brett Yormark and Joe DePlasco are extraordinary spinmeisters facing their toughest challenge, try visting the official site for the project,

You can't.

Atlantic Yards Report, For now, at least, doesn't exist, but resolves to

I think is more likely suspended (pending major modifications) than dead (as per DDDB, which noticed first), but it sure suggests that the arena is the developer's priority, not the housing, open space, or other promised benefits that seem ever more attenuated.

Here are some screenshots of the now-hidden AY site.

And the designers of the Barclays Center site didn't get the memo, because that site still sends visitors to AY and claims that Frank Gehry is designing the project.

Posted by lumi at 5:50 AM

June 8, 2009

So, Daniel, how was YOUR weekend? Redux
by Gersh Kuntzman

It was inevitable that Rupert Murdoch's media empire would begin to realize economies of scale from its purchase earlier this year of The Brooklyn Paper. Evidence of that popped up today, when the NY Post's web site republished word-for-word Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman's story on DDDB's Daniel Goldstein's trip to the Forest City shareholder meeting.

For now, we can be thankful that The Brooklyn Paper (so far) hasn't republished Steve Cuozzo's loony Saturday column painting opponents as the Atlantic Yards fight's deep-pocketed, bullying liars.

Regardless, however, media consolidation does not bode well for the future of elucidation and exposition, for this story or any other.

Posted by eric at 2:40 PM

June 6, 2009

Oversight hearing coverage in the weeklies: underplayed in the Brooklyn Paper, predictably mangled in the Courier-Life

Brooklyn residents depend on local papers to stay close to important stories. Norman Oder looks at the coverage of last week's state Senate oversight hearing (the first such hearing ever held for the project) given by The Brooklyn Paper and the Courier Life.

He wonders why The Brooklyn Paper, despite some in-depth coverage in the past of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, seems reticent to give the hearing proper coverage.

Now we have an oversight hearing hijacked by groups supported by or orchestrated by Forest City Ratner--an event that led one onlooker to describe it to me as "something out of Weimar Germany" --and the Brooklyn Paper puts the article on page 5 and (see below) gives the same space to a meaningless challenge to Borough President Marty Markowitz from a Republican who thinks the Beep doesn't defend Atlantic Yards enough (see below).

Instead, a "fun" feature attempting to plumb the difference, book-wise, between Park Slope and Prospect Heights makes the front page.

And the Brooklyn Paper, rather than editorializing about the shameful behavior of protesters or the deceptions by government officials, chose to opine about the Fulton Street BID.


That said, the Brooklyn Paper's report was creditable, if relatively brief, while the sister Courier-Life chain's article, as noted below, was predictably obtuse.

The Brooklyn Paper article, headlined LIRR chief: Sweeter MTA deal for Ratner could get Yards back on track, got the gist: Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner is poised to receive new, generous terms from the MTA that supporters say could jumpstart his stalled mega-project even as a new report revealed that the city would actually lose money on the basketball arena at the heart of the $4-billion housing and office complex.

And the newspaper noted the curious behavior at the hearing: No one from Forest City Ratner appeared at the hearing, the Senate’s first investigation into the 22-acre development.

The company’s presence was felt in the form of 200 or so construction workers (and would-be construction workers) who showed their support — punctuated by frequently shouting down their opponents.

Despite its shortcomings, The Brooklyn Paper's coverage looks great next to what is presented by the Courier-Life:

The Courier-Life article, by the redoubtably pro-project Stephen Witt, focused on the MTA land sale. It curiously omitted any mention of testimony by the Independent Budget Office's George Sweeting, who estimated that the arena, once predicted to supply a modest boost in tax revenues for the city, would instead be a loss.

The article misidentified the 8.5-acre MTA railyard as 11 acres. And it stated that Forest City has been "winning lawsuit after lawsuit," which is incorrect; the developer, for example, was not party to the state eminent domain lawsuit, which was filed against the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

And there was a nice unattributed quote from an ESDC spokesperson: "We can all agree having the project stalled doesn't help anybody, especially when this project can bring forth jobs to residents of Brooklyn."

Helping anybody? Unmentioned is that the major beneficiary would be Forest City Ratner.

And what happened?

The article gave one acknowledgment, in the third-to-last paragraph to the disarray at the hearing: The developments follow a recent raucous Senate hearing on the project last week at Pratt Institute, in which hundreds of community and union members repeatedly interrupted the proceeding with catcalls and demands that it's time to start the project.

Unmentioned: that's behavior for a political rally, not an oversight hearing.


Posted by steve at 12:12 PM

May 31, 2009

Daily News to MTA: compromise with Ratner (and ignore all else)

Atlantic Yards Report

While the New York Daily News advocates for New Yorkers to just toss their tax dollars at Bruce Ratner for no good reason in particular, Norman Oder suggests a different approach.

The New York Daily News, ostensibly the newspaper of the city's working class, is owned by a real estate developer and has maintained blinkered support for Atlantic Yards, today editorializing that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should compromise on a deal with Forest City Ratner.

In an editorial headlined Net the Nets: New York must get behind a new basketball arena for Brooklyn, the newspaper urgeds the MTA to be "flexible... in getting the deal done."

Missing reality

While the Daily News cites an extension on the Hudson Yards deal as a precedent, the newspaper neglects to point out that an adaptation to changing conditions might also require a new assessment of costs, benefits, and subsidies, as City Council candidate Brad Lander, among others, points out.

After all, if the Independent Budget Office now thinks that the arena would be a money-loser for the city in terms of new tax revenue, maybe "netting the Nets" deserves a bit of reconsideration.

Fair process?

The Daily News suggests that the MTA would get "revenue it would otherwise lose."

Remember, Forest City Ratner's proposed payment would be even less than half the appraised value--and stretched over a longer period of time. Rival Extell bid $150 million, rather than Ratner's $50 million, later upped to $100 million.

One reason for the MTA's willingness to negotiate exclusively with FCR was the developer's promise of a new railyard--apparently more elaborate than the one incorporated in Extell's bid. But now FCR promises to scale that back too.

Given that only one bidder emerged after an RFP was issued 18 months after Forest City Ratner was anointed the site, can we assume there was fair competition for what Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, calls a "great piece of real estate"?


Posted by steve at 9:22 AM

Times takes semi-skeptical look at Brooklyn arena plans, doesn't question professed 2011 opening

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at an article in today's New York Times reviewing the status of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Well, the New York Times didn't cover the hearing yesterday, but in a long article in tomorrow's Sports section, sports business reporter Richard Sandomir asks, Will the Nets ever play basketball in Brooklyn? and concludes: maybe.

For one thing, the Nets have some $500 million--albeit over 20 years--in sponsorship commitments for the arena, notably from Barclays Capital, which bought naming rights.

(Hm--one question no one asked--and I didn't think of: why exactly does the Empire State Development Corporation let Forest City Ratner sell naming rights to an arena that is nominally publicly-owned? The fig leaf of public ownership is necessary for tax-exempt arena bonds; FCR gets to keep the revenues.)

The cost of the arena was approved at $637.2 million in 2006, ballooned to $950 million, and now may be cut by $200 million. The Times reports that Forest City Ratner hopes to have $600 million in tax-exempt bonds sold, which would imply some portion of taxable bonds.

The Times reports that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is committed to lawsuits that could continue to delay the project, though it's not clear they can stop the crucial exercise of eminent domain and thus stop the sale of bonds.

The entire entry is well worth a read as Oder examines:

  • The credibility of claims for a arena built by 2011
  • Expectations that work could resume on the MTA rail yards
  • A point/counterpoint between FCR and DDDB
  • The whereabouts of Gehry


Posted by steve at 8:26 AM

May 21, 2009

Today not today Maybe today on the Brian Lehrer Show

UPDATED UPDATE: OK, we throw up our hands. This segment may air today, it may not. You're on your own. However, if it does air, and they do discuss Atlantic Yards, we'll have it, after the fact.


World Trade Center

WNYC reporter Matthew Scheuerman talks about the World Trade Center and Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 9:54 AM

May 17, 2009

Here's that grain of salt you ordered...


Ratner: Atlantic Yards To Break Ground This Year

May 16, 2009

Developer Bruce Ratner says he is confident ground will be broken this year on the proposed Nets arena in Brooklyn, as his controversial Atlantic Yards project cleared another hurdle Friday.

A panel of four appellate judges ruled unanimously the state can use eminent domain to go forward with the project because of the public benefits associated with the plan.


Ratner says he expects the new home for the Nets will be ready for the 2011-2012 season.

Atlantic Yards To Begin Construction By Year's End

September 10, 2008

The controversial Atlantic Yards project development plan in Brooklyn is moving forward against the wishes of many residents and businesses.

Developer Forest City Ratner announced plans to break ground in December.

Construction Begins On Atlantic Yards Project

February 20, 2007

The Atlantic Yards redevelopment project has been the subject of a lot of debate, but it is now finally the subject of some construction.

The first stages of construction began Tuesday.


Construction of the new arena for the NBA's Nets is scheduled to begin in the fall.

PACB Gives Atlantic Yards Green Light

December 20, 2006

After hours of delays, the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project was finally given the go-ahead by a key state board Wednesday.

Republicans, Governor George Pataki and State Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno, control two of the three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board. Both were known supporters of the plan.


Developers say work on the stadium and the buildings should begin next fall, ending in 2010.

Posted by steve at 7:59 AM

May 16, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report: Media Attention Deficiency

Atlantic Yards Report

Media coverage, or, rather, the lack of it, has had a significant effect on the Atlantic Yards fight. Norman Oder illustrates in this morning's entries.

Reading the dailies on the eminent domain case: questions about groundbreaking, appeal timing, Gehry's role

When Atlantic Yards news breaks, the media outlets have a hard time being accurate, because none of them cover this story on an ongoing basis. Norman Oder surveys coverage in light of yesterday's ruling on the State eminent domain case.

  • Is this latest ruling really the final hurdle for Bruce Ratner?
  • Is Frank Gehry any longer the architect for this project?
  • What is the cost of the proposed Arena?
  • What would Phase 1 of this project look like?

Answers to these questions, and more, are covered.

OK, so when does Bruce Ratner promise a groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena? This summer, according to the New York Daily News; in September (which could be this summer), according to the New York Post; or in October, according to the New York Times. This year, according to an official statement.(available on the Barclays Center site but not yet the Atlantic Yards site).

Why does it matter? First, it suggests that Ratner can't get his story straight. Second, it assumes a certain time frame for a decision regarding an appeal of the eminent domain case announced yesterday.

Perhaps most importantly, it allows Ratner, at least for now, to continue to promise that the arena would open for the 2011-2012 season. I think that's highly unlikely, because Ratner already suggested the arena would take 30 months to build, and the environmental review said 32 months, but it's remotely possible that a stripped-down design could be completed faster.

The state of legal battle:

Plaintiffs' attorney Matt Brinckerhoff left open the possibility that current legal cases could be cleared by the fall: "At a minimum, if we lose every single thing imaginable, it's still going to take them four to six months," he told the Daily News. That would then lead to the effort to exercise eminent domain by the Empire State Development Corporation.

But if the eminent domain case appeal is heard, it could slow things down for another two years. That's important, because Forest City Ratner has until the end of the year to see tax-exempt bonds issued to fund arena construction, a savings of well over $100 million.


What about the pending request for an appeal in the case challenging the AY environmental review? The Post reports: There is also a suit pending challenging whether the state conducted a proper environmental review before approving Atlantic Yards, but Ratner's staff said it feels construction could still begin while that case remains under appeal. Opponents, however, said they disagree.

Perhaps construction work might be able to go forward, but would bonds be approved (via a local development corporation set up by the Empire State Development Corporation) before that case was cleared? If that case goes forward and is successful, a revised environmental impact statement might be required, so the ESDC might want to wait until the case is resolved.

Wherefore art thou, Gehry?

So, is Frank Gehry still on the project? According to the Post: Ratner said a revised arena plan would be released at a later date and promised it would still be a Gehry-design that's top-notch.

According to the Times: He has also said he wants to pare the projected $1 billion cost of the arena by about $200 million. He said he would decide within 60 days whether to keep the original design, by the architect Frank Gehry, or use another.

Gehry's participation is important, because the arena has been sold to sponsors as a Frank Gehry arena. Should Gehry no longer be involved, presumably they would be able to renegotiate their level of support. I predict that some hybrid will emerge, with Gehry's name--if not his and his firm's ongoing participation--attached to the arena.

Arena costs and why you should care:

The price tag had previously been stated at $950 million. Trimming $200 million would bring it to $750 million. Previously, the Times had reported that Ratner wanted to cut the price tag in half, and in February I expressed skepticism, pointing out that an arena in Orlando, where construction costs are much lower, has a $480 million price tag.

The cost is important because, the higher the price tag, the larger the amount of PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) and the larger amount of foregone property taxes. And that means that the arena site would have to be assessed--in echoes of the Yankee Stadium controversy--so the value is high enough to generate those PILOTs. Stay tuned for that controversy to emerge.

Who's planning to build what?

The Forest City Ratner press release stated: FCRC expects to start at least one residential building during the first phase of construction.

Only one? There initially were supposed to be four buildings around the arena, and another building at Site 5. The City Funding Agreement suggests that the developer can meet obligations without penalty by building three towers within 12 years after the exercise of eminent domain.

The Lopez-Sander dust-up, Ratner lobbying, and the Weinstein case: why so little coverage?

Have you been reading a lot lately about how Vito Lopez was behind pushing out MTA head Lee Sander or how Forest City Ratner spent enormous sums lobbying for it's standstill project or what the court decision for Henry Weinstein means for the proposed Atlantic Yards project? Probably not, because New York papers are largely ignoring these stories.

"Society doesn’t need newspapers," wrote Clay Shirky recently. "What we need is journalism."


While not everyone agrees--newspapers, at their best, offer a menu of coverage a reader might not seek out--Shirky's argument got a boost this week..

That's because the New York Times and New York Post ignored the New York Daily News's scoop that Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez may have been behind the ouster of generally-respected Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director Elliott (Lee) Sander.


And what about Forest City Ratner's lobbying? It didn't quite make the Top Ten last year in New York state, but the developer did have the third-largest contract, which is notable, given that no construction proceeded but the developer surely was seeking indirect subsidies (or even direct ones).

That news didn't make it into last week's editions of the Brooklyn Paper or the Courier-Life chain, but that wasn't surprising, given that the news broke at or after those newspapers' deadlines.

What about this week? Nope.


An appellate court's decisions in favor of Atlantic Yards footprint landowner Henry Weinstein, who charged that his tenant, developer Shaya Boymelgreen, had improperly transferred a lease (to a building and parking lot) to Forest City Ratner, got a very brief article in the Courier-Life and hasn't yet been covered in the Brooklyn Paper.

Posted by steve at 8:39 AM

May 11, 2009

NYT heart FCR?

Atlantic Yards Report stumbles over two more indications that The NY Times is full of it, when it comes to covering the company's business partner and Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

The Times's Public Editor finds a "special obligation" in covering the NYT's sibling; why not its partner?

In yesterday's column, the New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt wrote:

But when the story involves the most revered company in the industry — and it happens to be yours — I think there is a special obligation to be aggressive, which The Times has seemed loath to do.
(Emphasis added)

Norman Oder came to that exact conclusion years ago, in his white paper analyzing the business relationship between The Times and Forest City Ratner and the paper's coverage of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Ironically, Hoyt was talking about the paper's failure to work the beat in the coverage of negotiations between the Boston Globe (owned by the Times Corporation) and union workers.

Rats, empty lots in Allston, like Brooklyn, so what's the five year plan?

The Times overlooked the rat-infested constuction site in its own backyard to cover the one in Boston.

An article in the New York Times Saturday had a not unfamiliar ring, beginning: BOSTON — The rats are out in spades this spring in North Allston, a gritty neighborhood wedged between the Charles River and the Massachusetts Turnpike, and residents are blaming Harvard.

There's a stall in construction work for a once-ballyhooed project, and the rat infestation recalls a report April 23 in the New York Daily News, in which Dean Street residents neighboring the Atlantic Yards footprint said demolitions have led to notable quantities of rats.

Harvard's explanation is that the site is part of a 50-year plan — one resident would prefer a five-year plan to assure that the surrounding neighborhood is livable.

Oder points out that Atlantic Yards should have some sort of five-year plan, now that the timeline extends "decades," and that this would make a good point of inquiry for an eventual public hearing on the project.

Posted by lumi at 4:50 AM

May 10, 2009

The newspaper crisis, David Simon, the role of blogs, and the (somewhat misread) Brooklyn example

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a good look at the news business and the future role of newspapers and blogs.

So the biggest discussion this past week about the role of blogs was generated not by the fourth annual Brooklyn Blogfest, held Thursday in DUMBO, but by the Senate hearing on the newspaper crisis held Wednesday in Washington.

But it’s worth connecting some dots between the the above, especially since Brooklyn blogs (including this one) were invoked--not always accurately--in the national debate that followed the Senate hearing.

The most contentious issue, via Gawker and the New York Times’s Opinionator blog (as noted below), concerned the claim by former Baltimore Sun reporter and “The Wire” producer David Simon that he doesn’t see bloggers covering nitty-gritty local issues like zoning board hearings.

Some critics responded that bloggers, in places like Oakland and Brooklyn, in fact do that. I’ll grant that, but I think the Brooklyn contribution to watchdog journalism was overstated and, as I wrote recently, Atlantic Yards is an anomalous case.


NoLandGrab: It's hard not to be worried about where people can find well done news coverage when so many bloggers are largely aggregators who sometimes let personal lives and a lovely sunny Sunday take precedence over in-depth analysis. Happy Mother's Day!

Posted by steve at 12:48 PM

May 8, 2009

AYR dissed by Brian Lehrer, who misses the point

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, WNYC's Brian Lehrer aired a discussion about the future media landscape and took a call about the Atlantic Yards blogosphere, prompting Norman Oder to stick up for himself and others from the "echo chamber of like-minded individuals."

The Atlantic Yards segment came at about 20:57.

Prospect Heights resident and activist Raul Rothblatt, aka "Raul in Brooklyn," was on the line.

BL: On both sides, do you think, do people go to Norman Oder's site, which is, y'know, pitched primarily Atlantic Yards Project and have a discussion on both sides? Or is it just an echo chamber of the like-minded?

Lehrer seems to be confusing my blog with a talk show. My goal is to explain to people what's going on, and to look into questions of civic importance.

NoLandGrab: From here in the "echo chamber," we're always amused when the Atlantic Yards blogosphere is characterized as a group of like-minded individuals talking amongst ourselves. One might similarly describe Brian Lehrer's show. How many Rush Limbaugh and Fox News fans storm WNYC's switchboard to offer fair and balanced rebuttals to left-leaning guests?

Keep in mind, NoLandGrab has always linked to media coverage supportive of the project. Except for the local daily newspapers, most of it has just faded away. Heck, even Bruce Ratner himself had to downsize the company's web presence, presumably due to cost-cutting.

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

April 30, 2009

Atlantic Yards through the looking glass

If you can wrap your head around this... was referenced in Atlantic Yards Report's article analyzing a UK mag Prospect Magazine cover story that referenced the Atlantic Yards fight and Atlantic Yards Report.

In other words, not only is Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards a poster project for eminent domain abuse, massive public subsidization of the private sector, lack of transparency, and piss-poor urban planning, but the media culture that has emerged from this shameful real estate morass is now a self-referencing "case study" of how new media is shaping and responding to citizens' new news diet.

Atlantic Yards Report, In debate about the future of news, AY and AYR become a case study

In the UK's Prospect magazine, the cover story, an epistolary debate between author (and founder) Steven Johnson and Princeton professor of communications and public affairs Paul Starr, is headlined Will the coming age of news be better than the old?

Interestingly enough, both the optimistic Johnson and pessimistic Starr cite Atlantic Yards and AYR to buttress their arguments.

I think that any discussion of the media ecology around Atlantic Yards needs several explanatory footnotes, which I offer below, but I believe that the volunteer media response to Atlantic Yards is an unusual phenomenon, not easily duplicable, which places me much closer to Starr's camp.

Someone has to do the work of journalism--reading documents, showing up at meetings, asking questions, making analytical connections over a period of time--and it's not easy.

Prospect, Will the coming age of news be better than the old?

Steven Johnson:

Let’s talk about what it’s like in my home town, Brooklyn, right now. You talk about the decline in state government reporting in New Jersey. For the past three years, the dominant civic issue in Brooklyn has been a controversy over the Atlantic Yards, a big urban redevelopment project. On the page for the Atlantic Yards brings together news, reporting, commentary and chatter. There are 30 stories from the past five days. The New York Times print edition ran exactly one story mentioning it in the past month.

How much richer will coverage of an important civic issue like Atlantic Yards be in five years?

Paul Starr in reponse:

Let’s take a closer look at your business,, and see whether it is a substitute for professional journalism. I see that when you launched in October 2006, you used the same Atlantic Yards example. It’s two-and-a-half years later, and I’m sure by now you must have a second. But anyone looking around your site will see that investigative reporting is not what it does. From what I could tell, it doesn’t do any reporting of its own. It aggregates what appears elsewhere. There seems to be no standard of relevance or significance. And if what appears elsewhere is garbage, it helps to spread that garbage because, by its nature, an automated news site lacks the one thing that every good editor has­—a crap detector.

NoLandGrab: To Starr's point, if anything,, though primarily a news aggregator, has spent the last five years being an Atlantic Yards "crap detector." Ironically, we assumed this responsibility because the old media abdicated theirs, which leaves us WHERE in this debate?

Posted by lumi at 6:06 AM

April 21, 2009

A little bird told me...

twitlogo.gif Though we're not sure how the Mad Overkiller Norman Oder will abridge his daily posts on Atlantic Yards into short "tweets," updates from Atlantic Yards Report r now availb on Twttr:

I will link to at least some of my posts via Twitter (you can sign up to "follow" AYReport) and perhaps offer other Atlantic Yards-related observations.


The latest AYR Tweet:

"OK, New York Times. Now you've got the Pulitzers, can you report on how biz partner Forest City Ratner bailed out ACORN?"

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

April 20, 2009

Gehry layoffs get a mention in the Times, but questions about AY role remain unanswered

Atlantic Yards Report

Nearly five months after Frank Gehry laid off his Atlantic Yards project team, The NY Times finally reports that Gehry Partners has laid off staff, and that his "billion-dollar mixed-use developments in Los Angeles and Brooklyn are in limbo."

As I wrote March 31, developer Forest City Ratner says Gehry is still the lead architect on Atlantic Yards. But Gehry's laid off his staff working on the project. So what does that mean:

  • Is Gehry still working on the project? How actively?
  • Will he rehire staff to work on the project?
  • Have other architects taken Gehry's designs and reworked them to save money?

Shouldn't Gehry and Ratner be asked those questions?


NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is right. Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project is the LARGEST single-source private development project in NYC HISTORY. If it were "in limbo," as yesterday's article in the business section reports, does that somehow rate as important news deserving of followup? The lack of coverage might make readers conclude that the Times deliberately downplays negative Atlantic Yards news.

Posted by lumi at 5:55 AM

April 14, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere..., Don't Blame ACORN Whistleblower Anita MonCrief for Providing Proof!

On Good Friday, Norman Oder wrote an open letter to the Public Editor of The New York Times, asking why The New York Times has ignored developer Forest City Ratner's "incredible" bailout of ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
Hurray for Mr. Oder for raising what he described as "the complicated, vexing question of the impact on Times coverage from the parent New York Times Company’s relationship with developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which together built the Times Tower in Midtown--a relationship that has drawn critical scrutiny from Editor & Publisher's ethics columnist."

But Mr. Oder's criticism of [whistleblower] MonCrief for "decid[ing] to make public what [NY Times reporter] Strom considered confidential reporter-source communication" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of privileged communications.

The attorney-client privilege belongs to the client, not the lawyer. A lawyer cannot conceal his or her malpractice by claiming privileged communication with the client.

Likewise with the physician-patient privilege.

NoLandGrab: To be clear, Oder said he was "uncomfortable" that a souce released a "confidential reporter-source communication.", It Happened One Weekend: eBay for Apartments, Starter Studios Cheapen Up, Kosciuszko 2.0, More!
"Atlantic Yards" and Columbia University have become the NYC gold standard of eminent domain abuse:

4) The Kosciuszko Bridge, the unpronounceable worn strip of metal that connects Greenpoint and Maspeth along the BQE, is set to be replaced with a new nine-lane bridge, with construction beginning in 2013. The scrap metal dealers and wholesalers located below will lose their land via eminent domain, but don't expect another Atlantic Yards or Columbia. After all, good lord that bridge needs replacing. [The City/'Uneasily Contemplating the Arrival of a Spiffy Newcomer']

Orange Juice Blog, Do we have 21st century “pirates” operating in NJ & NY today?

The news about Bruce Ratner and his eminent domain-abusing subsidy-sucking "Atlantic Yards" megaproject is getting around:

Exactly five months ago I blogged about a major redevelopment project that I first became aware of when attending an Institute for Justice, IJ conference in the Washington, DC area two years ago.

A property rights victim from Brooklyn, NY attended the conference to share their efforts and literature as well as to gain our support in fighting to protect their homes and businesses from the corporate wrecking ball in a pending eminent domain action involving Bruce Ratner. The name of this development is “Atlantic Yards.”

Here we go again. Another professional sports team with their hands in the public trough.

Reason Online, SLAPP Silly

The online libertarian mag is NOT POSTING about the developer who is suing the author of a book about an egregious case of eminent domain abuse, the book's publisher, the professor who wrote the blurb, and two newspapers who ran reviews.

And in case you-know-who is checking, we're not saying anything either.

Noticing New York, Bloomberg Update: Fire and Ice (Part I)
A two-part -volume series outlines how Mayor Bloomberg uses his "unfathomable wealth" to collect support and promote pet projects with little consideration for impacts to the environment and surrounding communities.

Part II: If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with the ex-Blagojevich operative Bloomberg hired to run his reelection campaign.

Posted by lumi at 5:30 AM

April 10, 2009

An open letter to the NYT Public Editor: why has the Times ignored Forest City Ratner's "incredible" bailout of ACORN?

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder pens an open letter to The New York Times regarding its (absent) coverage of the ACORN/Forest City Ratner relationship.

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

I know you’ve steered clear of previous requests to look into the complicated, vexing question of the impact on Times coverage from the parent New York Times Company’s relationship with developer Forest City Ratner (FCR), which together built the Times Tower in Midtown--a relationship that has drawn critical scrutiny from Editor & Publisher's ethics columnist.

As you read on, you’ll find evidence that a Times reporter knew of (and was alarmed by) a $1.5 million loan/grant that Brooklyn-based FCR gave last August to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which had suffered severe cash flow difficulties in the wake of an embezzlement scandal.

“This is incredible,” reporter Stephanie Strom wrote after learning that the deal was allegedly approved without ACORN board’s assent, adding that an explanation given to her “doesn’t hold water.”

In doing so, FCR has helped bail out an organization reeling from the revelations that not only did the brother of ACORN’s founder embezzle nearly $1 million in 2000 but also, as the Times reported 9/10/08, that the news was “concealed by senior executives until a whistle-blower told a foundation leader about it in May.”

Also, as the Times reported 10/22/08, ACORN's budget has been suffering, as it apparently owes taxes to federal and state authorities while foundations that previously supported the organization have backed off. Meanwhile, two board members, both members of a committee established to lead ACORN through its turmoil, have sued the organization, charging that ACORN was destroying financial documents and covering up improper expenditures.

The Times chose not to report on that crucial loan. But that FCR-ACORN relationship remains worthy of sunlight, given the crucial partnership between FCR and ACORN’s New York affiliate in the enormously controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn.


Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

April 8, 2009

ACORN/NY Times/Obama Campaign Story: Some Details Not as Reported

By Warner Todd Huston

The connection between ACORN and the Obama campaign has been seized upon by right-wing pundits. However, ACORN whistleblower Anita Moncrief explains that the story is more complex, especially if one looks at the connections between ACORN, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner and the NY Times Corp.

The ACORN/New York Times connection seems to run deeper than just a desire to help out the Obama campaign by killing further ACORN stories. Moncrief informed me of some rather cozy financial ties between the Times, the Forest City Ratner corporation and ACORN that she discovered from the inside.

I do feel that The New York Times was complicit in all of this. It wasn’t just in killing the Obama story, they killed several stories in relation to ACORN. Including one where the Forest City Ratner owned by Bruce Ratner, the same people that own 48% of the Times’ building, gave ACORN a 1.5 million dollar loan. This was interesting because that’s news in New York City, there’s been a lot of contention over the Atlantic Yards deal where they’re bringing the Nets to Brooklyn?

Moncrief speculates that another reason that the Times suddenly ceased writing stories that might embarrass ACORN is that one of its leading investors and partners had suddenly become close associates financially with ACORN. This situation occurred because ACORN had done an about face on Ratner’s sports deal and was rewareded by that generous “loan.”

ACORN has also been known to be helping Forest City Ratner to get federal stimulus money since the $1.5 million kickback “loan” that Ratner gave to the community organizers. Sadly, at the same time Forest City Ratner was giving ACORN that princely sum, they were laying off workers claiming they were about to go bankrupt.


NoLandGrab: From the outside, it's not clear that ACORN did "an about face" — certainly Moncrief might know more about the timing of ACORN's position on Ratner's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn than we would. Suffice it to say, very early on in the process, Ratner reached out to and struck deals with groups that have criticized his projects in the past.

Certainly The NY Times did not report on Forest City Ratner's $1 million loan and $500K grant to ACORN, which came as a surprise to watchdogs when it was later revealed by Moncrief. The financial bailout of ACORN by Forest City Ratner underscores the fact that the signatory of the "historic" housing agreement has a clear financial stake in its relationship with the developer.

Posted by lumi at 5:47 AM

April 6, 2009

An update on the "same site" error

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has been trying to set the record straight about a recently released book that cites an uncorrected "fact" from a "newspaper of record." One of the two is unrepentant. Can you guess which one?

I sent my post yesterday about the "same site" error in a new book on the Brooklyn Dodgers to both the New York Times and the publisher of the book.

Michael D'Antonio, author of Forever Blue, responded, saying he appreciated the information and said he'd make a correction, so future editions do not suggest that Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley sought the site now planned for the Atlantic Yards arena.

By contrast, Times Senior Editor Greg Brock sent me a snippy, sarcastic letter that reminded me that the Times makes mistakes, and that anyone using the Times archives should double-check their facts.

He had earlier told me "[t]here is a limit to how many old articles we can correct in print." The amount of effort expended, however, in responding to me could easily have been applied to a correction.


Posted by lumi at 6:27 AM

(Homage to) GL Analysis: journalistic self-congratulation at MetroTech

Atlantic Yards Report

Many bloggers turned out Saturday to pay tribute to Bob Guskind and his blog, Gowanus Lounge. The lack of comprehensive media coverage of Brooklyn and its beloved neighborhoods left the landscape wide open for a writer like Guskind, who had the passion to recognize important stories and the journalistic skills to tell them.

According to Norman Oder, Brooklyn's loss is all the more poignant in the wake of News Corp's purchase of Brooklyn's most prominent weekly newspapers:

So I'll try to channel the spirit of Bob's notoriously scathing GL Analysis, liberal in its use of boldface for emphasis, in assessing the self-congratulatory coverage in this week's Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life of the two papers' move into new offices in Metrotech.


Posted by lumi at 6:19 AM

April 5, 2009

Two From Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards Report

Had the Times corrected the "same site" error, it might not have migrated into new book on the Dodgers

This is an illustration of what can happen when the New York Times doesn't correct its Atlantic Yards reporting:

As I reported March 23, Michael D’Antonio, author of Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, in interviews showed that he knows that O'Malley sought a site for a new stadium north of Atlantic Avenue, then the Fort Greene Meat Market and later the home of the Atlantic Center mall.

In the book, however, D'Antonio gets it wrong, writing in a Postscript: The borough started to bounce back in the 1980s, and in 2004 a developer proposed an indoor sports arena for the site O'Malley had been denied. The Atlantic Yards project didn't progress any faster than O'Malley's domed stadium. As of 2009 it was still alive, but the place where O'Malley would have built remained untouched.

No, it wasn't the same site, and "the place O'Malley would have built" contains a mall.


So, where did D'Antonio get his misinformation? His source notes point to a 1/16/04 New York Times article headlined Yo, Dodgers? No Way! Brooklyn Is Betting on the Nets for Revival.


The problem, as I pointed out, was that the failure to print a correction or attach it to a public database would mean that "other researchers and reporters drawing on those pieces may be misled."

Which is exactly what happened. D'Antonio apparently trusted the Paper of Record.

Lupica: Nets to Willets Point?

From today's column by New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica:
If the Nets really want to come to New York and Brooklyn comes off the table, how come they don't do something with the Islanders on all that land on Willets Point? This would involve the next Nets owner, of course, after Ratner inevitably sells the team.

Until Brooklyn comes off the table, the response, of course, would be that Brooklyn is a more central location--which it is. But a baseball stadium out there still does pretty well.

Posted by steve at 8:15 AM

April 4, 2009

The Tish James tax story, the incumbent's misstep, and the weeklies' avoidance of the bigger picture

Norman Oder picks up on the kinds of choices being made by the Brooklyn Paper and its sister publication, the Courier-Life.

So, after ignoring the news value of the 35th District City Council campaign of Delia Hunley-Adossa, who runs a questionable nonprofit organization with ties to Forest City Ratner (but won't answer questions about it), the Brooklyn Paper finally covers the race--by picking up a story broken by its new Courier-Life sibling (right): that incumbent Letitia James owes nearly $10,000 in back taxes over the past year.

Sure, it's defensible to lead with the latest news. And James's explanation isn't fully credible.

But the bigger picture, which the Brooklyn Paper hasn't yet provided--and the Courier-Life's Stephen Witt likely will never provide--is that James's main challenger has failed to answer legitimate questions about the operation of and support for Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), an organization that pays her a salary while she more visibly organizes rallies in favor of the Atlantic Yards project.

Oder directly contacted the Councilwoman for her reaction.

I contacted her yesterday, giving her a chance to elaborate, and she said, "No further explanation other than there is a huge difference between not paying taxes at all and paying late. I have paid property taxes for the last seven years and will pay, albeit late, as part of my responsibilty as a property owner. This is frankly nothing more than a distraction away from the more serious issues that I am dealing with in this district. I guess I should start a not for profit and accept funds from Murdoch, Bloomberg and Ratner to keep me afloat. Fortunately, I choose not to."

The papers are missing the big picture:

James's lapses do not indicate that she owes favors to any major powerbroker. Hunley-Adossa's silence suggests she might owe such favors to Forest City Ratner.

Similarly, the silence (in response to questions from both me and the Times) of Hunley-Adossa's campaign treasurer, Charlene Nimmons, regarding her dubious nonprofit's ties to FCR is also dismaying.

That's the bigger picture.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper completely misses a story about an appeal to the recent Atlantic Yards environmental review case and the Courier-Life coverage gives the last word to Forest City flack, Joe DePlasco.

The Brooklyn Paper, which once deemed a Forest City Ratner lie about Frank Gehry's birthplace worth of page 1, ignored this week's news about the plaintiffs seeking an appeal in the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

The Courier-Life covered it, with Witt drawing significantly from a Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn press release. He then gave the last four paragraph to Forest City Ratner mouthpiece Joe DePlasco, who declared, "There is is nothing new to say about Daniel Goldstein's court cases."

By suggesting that a case involving 26 organizations, including Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (for which Goldstein is a spokesman), is somehow one person's case, "Dark Genius" DePlasco is apparently reverting to Tactic #3: Reality Be Damned.

As I wrote 11/1/05, DePlasco sometimes makes outlandish claims, almost daring reporters to make the effort to find a counterargument. When the Courier-Life's main rival, the Brooklyn Paper, simply punts on the story, readers are ill-served.


Posted by steve at 7:26 AM

April 1, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere...

Noticing New York, Looking at Things From Another Point of View: Do We See Distinctions That Make A Difference?

Michael D. D. White ponders the figurative and real appropriation of Brooklyn's icon and what changes may be in store for the recent Rupert Murdoch conglomeration of neighborhood newspapers:

We said at the outset that with the Murdoch takeover of the Brooklyn Paper and other local papers we were worried about coverage of all Brooklyn real estate development. Truthfully, you should be able to tell from what we just said that we are worried about coverage of real estate development throughout the city by all of the media and, beyond that, we are also worried about coverage of the political process in the city as a whole.

We had our concerns. We read Mr. Oder’s interview with [Brooklyn Paper editor] Mr. Kuntzman and we think we have considered his alternative point of view. But considering that alternative point of view has brought us back to the same place. We are still concerned.

Brownstoner, Atlantic Yards: The Play-by-Play

"You can sue, sue, sue—but nothing ruins megaplans like a crashing economy." So goes the sub-head of New York Magazine's historical timeline of the Atlantic Yards saga prompted, presumably, by architect Frank Gehry's much-blogged blooper, “I don’t think [Atlantic Yards] is going to happen.”

Z.A.C., Untitled

About a year ago I attended the Brooklyn Ball as a guest of my friend’s family. It was a great stroke of luck and one of the most exciting nights of my life. I saw Linda Evangelista and ran into Anna Wintour on my way into the bathroom. After Kanye West’s set, I hocked my Murakami placemat (a gift for everyone who bought a ticket, for God knows how much) for the entire contents of some rich woman’s wallet–a cool $600.

At that time, Atlantic Yards was imminent. Bruce Ratner was one of the guests being honored, and there was a sizable group of Brooklynites (uncannily for me at the time, a group I’d consider closer to “my people”) protesting his presence across from the museum on Eastern Parkway. And today? Atlantic Yards is on hold.

Posted by lumi at 5:29 AM

March 31, 2009

What's left out of New York magazine's AY footprint

Atlantic Yards Report points out what's missing in the NY Magazine photo of the Atlantic Yards project site (click to enlarge). Hint: most of the project site.

It's worth noting that the Frank Gehry rendering at the top represents only Phase 1, the arena block, bounded by Flatbush, Atlantic, and Sixth avenues, and by Dean Street. (Site 5 is omitted.)

It's also worth noting that the photo at bottom, which shows Forest City Ratner's malls and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank for perspective, only portrays part of the arena block. It focuses mainly on (part of) the Vanderbilt Yard, cutting off the block bounded by Flatbush, Fifth, and Sixth avenues, and Dean Street--the block that houses plaintiffs in two lawsuits.


Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

March 29, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Looks for Media Accuracy

Atlantic Yards Report

Did you think that this would be the week when the New York Times would start giving more intense coverage to the largest single development in Brooklyn history? Dream on!

Why the New York Times needs to cover the Gehry story

Architect Frank Gehry's doubts about the Atlantic Yards project, which surfaced last week, generated widespread coverage, including in the New York Daily News and New York Post, and some creative backpedaling from Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

The New York Times ignored it. However, as DDDB reminds us, only a little more than a year ago, on 3/21/08, Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner "did say he was confident about starting construction on a $950 million basketball arena for the Nets by the end of the year."

That didn't happen. And now Yormark is promising construction this year. But there are a number of variables, and all predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. So the Times should be asking questions, rather than reprinting Bloomberg News stories based on Yormarkisms.

The Gehry born-in-Brooklyn claim may have started in the Brooklyn Paper

At one time the web site for the proposed Atlantic Yards project erroneously said that Frank Gehry (who, apparently, is no longer the architect for the project) was born in Brooklyn. The error was corrected, but what was the source of this error?

It was a tempest in a teapot last March: Forest City Ratner claimed, in legal papers and on its web site, that Atlantic Yards architect Frank Gehry was born in Brooklyn. What it was pointed out that Gehry actually was born in Toronto, FCR changed the Atlantic Yards web page.

Given that biographical information about Gehry is readily available, I think Forest City Ratner should've gotten it right, but I recently concluded that the developer doesn't deserve all the blame. The Brooklyn Paper also reported the born-in-Brooklyn claim when the project was announced nearly five years ago.

Posted by steve at 8:09 AM

March 28, 2009

"Dee raises more than Tish" and other reasons for more journalistic voices (plus a new 35th District candidate)

Atlantic Yards Report

The race for the 35th Council District seat, now occupied by Tish James, is still in its early stages. Norman Oder bemoans the lack of journalism in the Courier-Life's coverage.

In other words, we don't need another newspaper now owned by the same publisher to tell us that the headline "Dee raises more than Tish" (attached to an article written by the Courier-Life's inimitable Stephen Witt)could easily have been rewritten.

How about: "Challenger Hunley-Adossa holds first fundraiser; incumbent James has yet to hold one" (in the race for the 35th Council District).


Curiously enough, the Courier-Life's Witt sells Hunley-Adossa's campaign short, attributing to "sources" some broad-brush generalizations: James will also get the anti-arena crowd in droves and the churches, sources said.

Well, won't Hunley-Adossa get the "pro-arena crowd"? And which churches has James locked up? Hunley-Adossa makes no secret of her religious faith, so I'm sure she'll get her share of support from churches.

The synagogues and mosques, apparently, are up for grabs.

Also noted is the entry of a third candidate into the race: Medhanie Estiphanos.


Posted by steve at 6:53 AM

Take Note: News Corp Quietly Owns NYC Neighborhood Newspapers

This article voices concern over Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation acquiring neighborhood newspapers in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn (including the Brooklyn Paper). The fear expressed by the author, a former communications director for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, is that News Corp.'s moves signal the end of independent media in New York.

The role of the Brooklyn Paper in the Atlantic Yards fight is reviewed.

It was the Brooklyn Paper that was the chief media challenger of the Atlantic Yards Project, a major real estate development plan orchestrated by ONE real estate developer to redesign Brooklyn with the centerpiece of this grand design being a new NETS Arena designed by iconic architect Frank Gehry.

(Editor’s Note: You don’t have to live in New York City to get the scope of this real estate development project. Every major city has its own version of this project including the motley crew that makes it all happen.)

For at least three solid years it was the Brooklyn Paper – whatever its motivation – that challenged what seemed to be an unchecked process that gave the developer free reign to move ahead with over-the-top goals of redesigning Brooklyn, all with the stamp of approval of city and state authorities. I know this because at the height of public hearings surrounding this project I was communications director (a stint that lasted everso brief) for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was the chief cheerleader for all things Atlantic Yards Project and a fierce advocate for that ONE developer. The Brooklyn Paper was relentless - as they should have been – in their reporting on this story.


Posted by steve at 6:27 AM

PR Teams Work Hard to Patch Up Frank Gehry's Atlantic Yards 'Misquote'

Media Bistro

This item gives a quick synopsis of the bit of controversy stirred up by Frank Gehry's comment on the state of the proposed Atlantic Yards project ("I don’t think it’s going to happen") and ends on a humorous note.

So as to give you a bit of a breather from these bits of Frank Gehry news until at least after the weekend, you have our promise to be brief. After saying he doesn't have much hope of seeing the Atlantic Yards project ever completed, Gehry, developer Forest City Ratner, and most specifically, both their PR departments, have been working in overtime to repair any damage caused from this brief, off-the-cuff remark. Gehry released a statement saying his comments were being misconstrued and the Ratner people are doing the same:

"Frank Gehry is still the architect of this project," [New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark] insisted on WFAN radio. "He loves it. It's very dear to his heart, no different than it is to all of us."

"Frank was just venting probably," Yormark added later.

Though we wonder how "I don't think it's going to happen," which were Gehry's words, is exactly "venting." Maybe if he'd yelled it, flipped the table over, and poured hot coffee all over the interviewer, that would be "venting" (at least that's how we do it). To us, his original quote sounded more like "resignation" which tends to be a little more genuine and grounded in reality.


Posted by steve at 6:14 AM

March 25, 2009

Gersh speaks! Award-winning Brooklyn Paper editor answers (sort of) questions about new Post parent, Courier-Life sibling

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has been publicly contemplating the implications, especially for coverage of Atlantic Yards, of the purchase of The Brooklyn Paper, by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which already owns rival weekly Courier-Life Publications.

[Brooklyn Paper Editor] Gersh Kuntzman twice chided me for not contacting him with my questions.

Kuntzman agreed to an email interview. To summarize the news:

  • Kuntzman doesn't think anything's changed with the paper's historically critical Atlantic Yards coverage (I disagree)
  • he acknowledges that his newspaper can longer critique its former rival
  • he doesn't know if the two chains will be consolidated (I predict some level of that)
  • he doesn't notice advertising in the paper (I think he should)

Kuntzman--whom I'm tempted to call Gersh, given that the Get your Gersh on headline is imprinted in my mind--indicated he may respond, as well, so stay tuned for another round.

Check out the rest of the article, which has the email interview published verbatim.

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

March 23, 2009

Looking at the Times's article on the effects of economics on sports

The Sunday New York Times ran a story entitled "In Economic Downturn, Corporate Ties Put Bind on Sports." This might have been a good opportunity for The Times to catch up on some reporting it hasn't done regarding the New Jersey Nets. Norman Oder helpfully fills in some of the gaps. (Italicized sections are quotes from The Times.)

The worst economy since the Great Depression is settling over the fields, courts, tracks, luxury suites and boardrooms of professional sports.

The N.F.L. cut 169 jobs, and its commissioner reduced his salary by about 20 percent. The N.B.A. shed a tenth of its staff, and ESPN will not fill 200 vacant jobs. The United States Olympic Committee laid off 54 workers to cut millions from its budget, and Nascar teams have laid off hundreds of employees.

...Teams have frozen or cut ticket prices, and some, like the Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, will give refunds to season-ticket holders if they lose their jobs.

Unmentioned: the Nets have also pursued the attention-grabbing but (likely) not very useful Snowbird Ticket Exchange.


Pro sports were once thought to be more resistant than other industries to recessions, but this is no ordinary downturn. Teams, leagues and tours have become increasingly reliant on revenue from corporate sponsorships, advertising and luxury suites, and are likely to suffer more than they did in previous downturns. The financial and automotive industries, so heavily invested in the marketing of sports, are undergoing upheavals that have required government bailouts and rounds of layoffs to survive.

Unmentioned: the recommitment of Barclays Capital to the Brooklyn arena, a situation that raises questions not only about the funneling of money from AIG but also whether the Frank Gehry arena to which Barclays originally agreed still would be built.


The Indiana Pacers are losing $30 million this season and are among 15 N.B.A. teams in the red. The 30-team league would not say if the Pacers were one of 12 teams that borrowed from a recent $200 million addition to its $1.7 billion credit facility. The new credit, Commissioner David Stern said, is an affirmation of strength, not financial weakness.

“Owners can borrow at better terms than they can get individually,” he said, adding that the additional credit is not crisis-related but can be used for various purposes.

Unmentioned is the Nets' borrowing of $20 million, which, as far as I can tell, is an effort to stanch the team's losses.


Closer to home, P.S.E.&G., New Jersey’s largest utility, made a decision that, if emulated in stadiums and arenas nationwide, will erode bottom lines. It chose to save $400,000 a year by not renewing its leases on luxury boxes at the Izod Center, the Prudential Center, the minor league Riverfront Stadium and Giants Stadium (although it has chosen to rent one at the new Giants-Jets stadium), and at two arts facilities.

That means more losses for the Nets. And it raises questions about any corporation's willingness to commit to luxury suites at the yet-unbuilt Barclays Center. Remember, Nets' uber-marketer Brett Yormark recently claimed that 20% of the suites have been sold--the same number claimed last May.


Posted by steve at 1:49 AM

March 22, 2009

What Direction Will The Brooklyn Paper Take?

Noticing New York, Tales of Two Landlords Bridged by an Iconographic Clash

This item includes concern as to whether the Brooklyn Paper's perspective will be skewed by having Bruce Ratner as a landlord now that the paper has been bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Some questions were raised by an earlier endorsement by the Brooklyn Paper for a plan for then-landlords David and Jed Walentas.

The issue of Walentas as Dock Street developer and Brooklyn Paper landlord came up in sharp relief at the City Planning Commission’s Wednesday, March 4, 2009 hearings on the Dock Street project. (See: Saturday, March 14, 2009, At the City Planning Commission Hearings on Proposed Dock Street Project: A Reprise.)

At the CPC hearing, pages of the Brooklyn Paper were introduced into testimonial evidence as substantiation for the supposition that the Dock Street project would not deleteriously detract from the public experience of seeing the bridge. We noted above that the paper editorially supported the project. Pro-Dock Street testimony was delivered that averred that investigative reporting by the paper also substantiated the fact that the “iconic” views of and from the Brooklyn Bridge would not be impaired. That pro-project testimony was thereupon followed up by testimony from those opposing the exceptionably large project pointing out that the Brooklyn Paper’s position and reporting were suspicious and ought to be discredited due to the fact that the Walentases were the paper’s landlord.

Atlantic Yards Report, Will the Brooklyn Paper start distributing Brooklyn Tomorrow?

How could I have forgotten? Perhaps the clearest dependence on/capitulation to developer Forest City Ratner by the New York Post is the production of, by the Courier-Life staff, the annual Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial distributed by both the Post and the Courier-Life.

That advertorial has included rapturous coverage of Atlantic Yards and, not coincidentally, significant advertising from Forest City Ratner.

That raises a question: will the Brooklyn Paper, now a part of the Post's Community Newspaper Group, start distributing Brooklyn Tomorrow? Will its reporters write for it?

We'll see in June.

(Thanks to longstanding Ratner foe Patti Hagan for the reminder.)

Posted by steve at 9:21 AM

March 21, 2009

Sign of the times: Forest City Ratner buys welcome ad in the Brooklyn Paper

Atlantic Yards Report

This week, Forest City Ratner welcomed its new tenant, the Community Newspaper Group of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, to its new office at MetroTech.

The Courier-Life chain was well on its way; now that the Brooklyn Paper has joined Murdoch's fold, the landlord ran a full-page ad (above; click to enlarge) on the back page of this week's Brooklyn Paper, as well as an ad in the Courier-Life.

It's the first Forest City Ratner advertisement in the Brooklyn Paper in recent years, at least as far as I remember. The developer has been happy to advertise in the Courier-Life, however.

Will the developer keep advertising in those papers? Will that advertising have any influence on the editorial pages or even news coverage?

We'll see, but I did speculate that the Brooklyn Paper's news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more.


NoLandGrab: Also interesting in this issue of the Brooklyn Paper is a page-two full page ad (link to a PDF) for Mike Bloomberg, an Atlantic Yards supporter.

More coverage...

New York Times A Scrappy Local Paper Ponders Its New Parent

“The Brooklyn Paper’s always had a very independent feel, and we’ve been told to continue that feel,” said Mr. Kuntzman, whose paper is peppered with playful headlines with exclamation points. “We’re a scrappy paper. We always have been; we always will be.”

Some media-vigilant Brooklynites are skeptical. For example, while The Brooklyn Paper has been generally critical of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project, other News Corporation publications, such as The New York Post, have supported it.

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that The Brooklyn Paper’s news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more,” wrote Norman Oder, a critic of the development, on his blog Atlantic Yards Report.

Posted by steve at 7:51 AM

March 15, 2009

The Brooklyn Paper and its new Courier-Life sibling: Markowitz, Ratner, and advertising

Atlantic Yards Report

There are questions in the minds of many as to what kind of coverage the Atlantic Yards fight will receive from the Brooklyn Paper now that it has been purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. As a result of the purchase, the anti-AY Brooklyn Paper has the same owner as the pro-AY Courier-Life chain.

This blog entry points out that:

  • The Courier-Life has been the publisher of Borough President Marty Markowitz's "Brooklyn!" newsletter, while the Brooklyn Paper has been critical of Markowitz.
  • Dan Holt, co-publisher of the Courier-Life newspaper chain has accommodated demands by Forest City Ratner to bar specific individuals from a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce meeting in 2005.
  • The Brooklyn Paper has criticized Courier-Life over the Courier-Life's policy to allow ads for “escort services” and “massages”.

Time will tell if the Brooklyn Paper maintains its independent viewpoint.


Posted by steve at 11:03 AM

Jon Stewart to Jim Cramer: "You don’t just take their word at face

Atlantic Yards Report

Here is a quick item to remind those reporting on issues surrounding the proposed Atlantic Yards project, that good reporting is not merely passing on, and tacitly approving what is told to you. The same advice could be useful for anyone following the Atlantic Yards fight.

In a devastating takedown Thursday of CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart offered this sardonic observation: "I’m under the assumption, and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word at face value, that you actually then go around and try to figure it out."

Those interviewing New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark might take that warning to heart.

More on media complicity from Salon's Glenn Greenwald.


NoLandGrab: The Salon piece referenced is a good read, and makes the point that enjoyment of the Stewart/Cramer slapdown should not distract us from an ongoing problem in the media.

Posted by steve at 6:56 AM

March 13, 2009

Yup, the Brooklyn Paper's moving into MetroTech

Atlantic Yards Report

With one prediction already coming to pass, Norman Oder offers another one:

As I suspected, the Brooklyn Paper will join the Courier-Life chain in renting space in Forest City Ratner's MetroTech.

I wondered if this might make it tougher to report critically on Brooklyn's most powerful developer.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the Brooklyn Paper's news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more.


Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

March 12, 2009

Good buy! The Brooklyn Paper joins News Corp.

The Brooklyn Paper

That didn't take long. The Brooklyn Paper, which was acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation earlier this week, is relocating. To Forest City Ratner's Metrotech.

“We are extremely excited to be adding The Brooklyn Paper to our group,” said News Corporation Senior Vice President Les Goodstein. “We bought The Paper because we admire its attitude, its flair and its outstanding design. And we don’t intend to change that.”

The deal was finalized last week, and was first reported on Tuesday by the New York Observer.

In Brooklyn, the Community Newspaper Group also includes the Courier Life chain. Both Courier Life and The Brooklyn Paper will soon be housed in the same office in the Metrotech complex Downtown, Goodstein said.


NoLandGrab: We would cite the chilling effect on a newspaper covering Atlantic Yards of having Bruce Ratner as one's landlord, but honestly, the Courier-Life chain's coverage of the developer's megaproject was equally abysmal both before and after their relocation to Metrotech. For now, we'll give the BP the benefit of the doubt, and urge them to do some dumpster-diving during their lunch hours — you never know what eye-opening document might accidentally end up in Ratner's trash.

Posted by eric at 6:10 PM

March 11, 2009

Brutally weird: Brooklyn Paper sold to Murdoch; now an independent online Brooklyn publication is needed

Atlantic Yards Report

Given the pressures on the news industry, it's not surprising that Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob might have put his weekly newspaper chain on the block, and it's not shocking that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which already controls the Courier-Life chain, might have decided to make the purchase as the New York Observer reported yesterday.

What is surprising--brutally weird, actually--is that Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman, a New York Post alumnus would tell the Observer, "They don’t want the product to change. And they love the product. And the product is fantastic."

Well, um, why wouldn't the News Corporation seek, as they say in the biz, efficiencies and synergies in Brooklyn news coverage and ad sales, given that both papers publish editions for neighborhoods like Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, and Fort Greene? (There are areas with less overlap.) DDDB calls it Monopolyn.

For how long will two reporters compete to cover the same story for two competing newspapers owned by the same giant corporation? Brooklyn Optimist blogger Morgan Pehme already reports that consolidation has begun, with some staffers and the Greenpoint Courier getting the ax.

The Courier-Life chain recently moved from Sheepshead Bay to rent space in Forest City Ratner's MetroTech. Will the Brooklyn Paper, now headquartered in DUMBO, be consolidated into the same space? If so, it might make it tougher to report critically on Brooklyn's most powerful developer.

Norman Oder speculates about how Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner may benefit from The Brooklyn Paper joining the establishment fold.


Posted by lumi at 3:23 AM

March 10, 2009

Rupert Murdoch Buys The Brooklyn Paper


The Observer is reporting that billionaire newspaper collector Rupert Murdoch is purchasing The Brooklyn Paper, which just happens to be THE ONLY local paper that has taken an editorial stance against Bruce Ratner's $4 billion Atlantic Yards boondoggle:

In 2006, Mr. Murdoch purchased a rival chain of papers, The Courier-Life chain, which publishes 12 papers in Brooklyn.

According to The Observer, editor Gersh Kuntzman isn't worried:

"They don’t want the product to change," said Mr. Kuntzman. "And they love the product. And the product is fantastic."

Ms. Weintrob said an official statement would be released on Friday.

We're cringing; Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn blogger and The Brooklyn Paper's "SmartMom," Louise Crawford, explains why:

That's a shocker to me. Now a lot of things I was wondering about are making sense.

I knew nothing about it although Gersh did recently hint that some investors might be interested in the Brooklyn Paper.
This is a crazy turn of events and one that leaves many of us feeling slightly (slightly?) uncomfortable. Gersh has worked for Murdoch before and he's a very independent guy. I am very curious what this mean and how things will roll out. .

I was wondering why the Brooklyn Paper's phone-waiting music isn't WNYC Radio anymore. And that recent Atlantic Yards turnaround by the paper's publisher.

Hmmmmm. Questions. Questions.

NoLandGrab: Could this start a new Brooklyn newspaper war for the best Brooklyn Murdoch weekly?

Posted by lumi at 8:25 PM

Episode 11 — Brooklyn At Eye Level: Atlantic Yards

Caught in the Act, Art in Brooklyn

Posted by lumi at 7:51 PM

March 9, 2009

The gaps in the Times's "Living In" Fort Greene

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notes that aside from placing Brooklyn's Ft. Greene neighborhood next to "the Atlantic Yards area" (a planned project, not a real place), The NY Times totally ignored the high-rise public housing.

The worst thing was the failure of the article to mention the presence of high-rise buildings other than new luxury housing. Fort Greene is a mixed-income neighborhood; it includes public housing and subsidized Mitchell-Lama buildings.

Those buildings do not show up in the New York Times classifieds. They likely are not the desired locations of typical Times readers. But they are part of "Living In" Fort Greene.


Posted by lumi at 5:13 AM

March 7, 2009

Finding Meanings in the New York Times

Here are two odd instances in The New York Times (business partner with developer Bruce Ratner) of how the proposed Atlantic Yards project is mentioned -- and not!

The first is in The Times's Real Estate-section piece about the Fort Greene neighborhood. In trying to describe where Fort Greene is, "Atlantic Yards area" seems to have replaced "Prospect Heights" as one of the nearby neighborhoods. Atlantic Yards is not a place — it is a proposed mixed-use development located in Prospect Heights. The Times's description is something like renaming Washington D.C. the "White House area."

Multiple Identities Can Be a Good Thing
By Jeff Vandam

Snug in its corner between downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Clinton Hill and the Atlantic Yards area, Fort Greene retains more than its share of stunningly intact brownstone blocks. Many include houses rich in embellishments and detail, supported by a pride in ownership that remains steadfast even as brownstones change hands.

The second example is an article in The Times's City section about a playful rivalry between the two Brooklyn bars, Freddy's and O'Connors. The article fails to mention that the much more serious rivalry Freddy's faces is with developer Bruce Ratner, who wants to tear down the bar to build the proposed Atlantic Yards.

Pranksters Amid the Pilsner
By Sarah Stodola

Freddy’s, on Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, is the up-to-date bar. When Freddy’s plucked the bartender Donald O’Finn from O’Connor’s in the mid-1990s, he assumed responsibility for Freddy’s transition from “cop hangout” to second living room for the neighborhood’s growing ranks of artists and artistic types. The back room was turned into an avant-garde performance space, and Mr. O’Finn’s films are shown in the front room.

Posted by steve at 5:59 AM

February 28, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Trio of Truth

"Little guy" Gehry says Atlantic Yards is "stopped"; what are the implications?

In a profile of Frank Gehry in the Los Angeles Times, the starchitect says that Atlantic Yards is "stopped". What, exactly, could he mean?

Unexplained is the meaning of "stopped." Developer Forest City Ratner, of course, is chomping at the bit to break ground on the arena. The major legal cases may be cleared this spring, though appeals are possible, but financing remains uncertain.

Gehry could have easily have said the project is "on hold." So either he was infelicitous in his language or he knows more about the developer's plans than the rest of us.

Alternatively, he could have meant that the project is, for him, "stopped," given that his designs for an arena are undergoing major changes.

Gehry's statements back up (if not completely confirm) the reportage in the Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News that he's laid off his staff working on Atlantic Yards. It's too bad he wasn't asked a specific question.

ESPN's Simmons on NBA contraction: "Welcome to the No Benjamins Association"

The economy is making things difficult for lots of enterprises, and the NBA is no exception. A review of an ESPN item causes Norman Oder to ponder if the New Jersey Nets might be sold.

In a piece cleverly headlined Welcome to the No Benjamins Association, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons points to the parlous economic future faced by the National Basketball Association (NBA).

He notes that, at previous All-Star Games, the topics were various: This season? We talked about money. Constantly. We didn't even know about the line of credit on the horizon; that didn't leak until the Monday after the All-Star Game. (On Thursday, we learned that 12 teams will accept the league's offer to borrow $200 million from JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, with between $13 million and $20 million available to each team...) We knew about layoffs of employees within the league and various franchises. We knew various local and national sponsors were bailing, most notably car companies and major banks (two staples for the NBA). We knew certain franchises were losing significant wads of money and reacting accordingly.

Yormark claims (incorrectly) that Bloomberg saluted AY affordable housing

Mayor Bloomberg manages to not mention affordable housing these days when endorsing Atlantic Yards, which is smart as it's not clear if the affordable housing component of the development will be built. Nets CEO Brett Yormark isn't quite with the program.

Yesterday, commenting on the most recent court ruling regarding the Atlantic Yards case, New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark said, in a Fox Business Network (FBN) interview (at 3:45 of video): "I'd love to echo the mayor's sentiments when he said we've got to get this project started, the affordable housing, the jobs, it's much-needed."

Well, Atlantic Yards backers may have memorized the affordable housing mantra, but that doesn't mean everyone else has done so. Why does Yormark have to make things up?

Here's the statement Mayor Mike Bloomberg issued: “The Atlantic Yards project will create thousands of jobs and generate badly-needed tax revenue. The court’s unanimous affirmation today that the review and approvals processes were comprehensive and properly completed is a big step towards the start of construction.”

DDDB noted that affordable housing is on the back-burner.

Posted by steve at 6:51 PM

February 27, 2009

Lawsuit coverage round-up: missing the story and, in most cases, the big picture

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder notices something interesting about yesterday's coverage of the appellate court decision rejecting the case challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review - there's really not much of it. For example, neither the Post, nor Times have the story in their print editions and the News only has a three-sentence item.

Also, what coverage there is misses some key points:

While it is important to point out how the decision helps the project proceed, the court ruling and surprisingly bitter concurrence indicate that something's wrong.

Concurring Justice James Catterson believes that the Empire State Development Corporation's blight study was in many ways bogus, calling one argument "ludicrous."

And the main opinion, upholding the blight study, made no attempt to assess whether it was arbitrary for the state to call a house built to 60% of allowable development rights as underutilized.

Nor did those justices acknowledge, as Catterson did, that the original contract for a Blight Study required consultant AKRF to study market trends in and around the project site, but AKRF did not do so.

So, when Bruce Ratner says, “This project has been reviewed as thoroughly as any in the city and now it is time to put these cases behind us and get to work,” not only should it be pointed out--as NLG did--that nobody's getting to work just yet, but also that a formal and apparently extensive review by the unelected ESDC does not mean a truly thorough review.


Posted by steve at 8:43 AM

February 22, 2009

It came from the Atlantic Yards Report...

Guess what's missing from Bloomberg's campaign web site?

HINT: They rhyme with radium and marina...

Borough President Marty Markowitz kicks off re-election campaign

There's no campaign web site just yet. However, after two terms and the extension of term limits, the Borough President's web site surely does double duty.

Man plans to row Atlantic again. Press dutifully provides publicity.

AYR asks why this gets so much coverage from the media, and what happened to the sponsorship from Barclays Center?

As eminent domain hearing approaches, remember, it's a "publicly owned" arena

Is it a publicly-owned arena--an issue that may come up at the eminent domain hearing tomorrow? DDDB has it wrong. NLG has it right--it would be publicly-owned by leased for a buck.

And, if we're going to be precise, I'm not sure Ratner is a billionaire any more, and more than one-third of the apartments would be subsidized (though only about half, perhaps, would be "real housing for the real Brooklyn"). As for whether payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) qualify as taxpayer financing, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky would agree, but it is a matter of debate. Surely PILOTs represent a subsidy--worth perhaps $165 million.

Posted by amy at 10:22 AM

February 21, 2009

Recession? Markowitz Says Not in Brooklyn

Downtown Brooklyn Star
Daniel Bush

And in a pledge sure to draw criticism from opponents, Markowitz vowed to push through the beleaguered Atlantic Yards project.

The project - potentially the biggest in the borough - calls for a new sports arena for the New Jersey Nets, apartment buildings, and open space on a vast tract of railyard land that has been unused for years. Plans for the site have been downsized significantly in the past few years in response to organized opposition from some elected officials, residents, and some community groups who have sued the developer, Forest City Ratner, in an effort to block the development.

The Star should never have sent a non-shovel-ready reporter to cover Atlantic Yards when Norman Oder is looking. Atlantic Yards Report makes the corrections:

No, it's not on the railyard only.

No, the railyard is not "unused;" it's still a railyard, but until recently a platform for above-ground development hasn't been fiscally feasible.

And, no, the downsizing hasn't been significant.

Reaction to Markowitz's speech from other Brooklyn politicians varied:

"Markowitz was very entertaining and he covered every point in my district," said Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes parts of Downtown Brooklyn. "But unfortunately Atlantic Yards is not shovel-ready and it never will be."

Others, like Councilman Bill de Blasio, praised Markowitz for delivering a speech that encouraged and lauded borough residents for fighting through difficult economic times. "It’s such a fun experience to hear Markowitz talk about the people of Brooklyn," de Blasio said. "Markowitz has so much energy. He really personifies the Brooklyn ideal."

Maybe Bill was stuttering or something because surely he meant to say "He really personifies the Brooklyn back room deal."


Posted by amy at 11:51 AM

February 18, 2009

Will the Times comment on Ratner's blatant bailout bid? Based on past performance, no

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder offers a reminder to the NY Times newsdesk that they don't have to march in lockstep with the paper's editorial board.

Will the New York Times editorialize against the private bailout Forest City Ratner apparently seeks, deploying federal stimulus funds to complete the new railyard the developer had committed to build?

It's doubtful, given the newspaper's steady path from criticizing AY subsidies to studious silence, even though a stimulus for Atlantic Yards is so contentious that it's drawn criticism from not only Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn but also BrooklynSpeaks and the New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign.

But maybe the news desk, if it truly believes in small-d democracy, will do some more reporting.

Check out the rest of the article, in which Oder offers a retrospective of the Grey Lady's criticism of "taxpayer money to be used to help fund a profit-making real estate venture like this one," before falling silent on the entire affair.

NoLandGrab: Does the Times support "taxpayer money to be used to help fund... a real estate venture like this one" if it is no longer "profit-making?"

Posted by lumi at 5:23 AM

February 17, 2009

ARENA price tag in half, not PROJECT

halfoff.gif Yesterday's Atlantic Yards Report article made the top of the list of The Real Deal's links, which, in ten wor