Skip to main content

The Times finally reports (two years late) on poll results opposing Brooklyn arena

It's the third poll regarding Atlantic Yards that the New York Times had failed to report. In an article today about the mayor's defense of eminent domain, headlined Bloomberg Says Power to Seize Private Land Is Vital to Cities, the New York Times offers these curious paragraphs:
In New York, for example, the proposed use of eminent domain by the developer Forest City Ratner to bring a basketball arena and a swath of residential, office and commercial towers to the Atlantic Terminal area touched off fierce opposition, especially in surrounding neighborhoods.
The concept, though, proved unpopular elsewhere as well. A New York Times poll in April 2004 found that only 18 percent of city residents favored the construction of a new basketball arena in Brooklyn it if it required the demolition of homes and businesses. (Forest City Ratner is the development partner of The New York Times Company in building its new Midtown headquarters, a project that itself involved government condemnation of private property.)

No report at the time

Did the Times report this in April 2004? The main report on the poll, a 4/23/04 article headlined Mayor's Rating Up; Poll Sees Deep Split On School Policies focused on Bloomberg's treatment of the schools. One paragraph stated:
The respondents to the poll showed strong support for his other initiatives. When asked if they liked the idea of New York playing host to the Summer Olympics in 2012, a goal Mr. Bloomberg has actively pursued, 71 percent said yes. Almost half said they would like to see a new sports stadium built on the West Side of Manhattan (although far fewer, 21 percent, liked the idea of taxpayers picking up some of the tab for that stadium).

There was no mention of the Atlantic Yards project. A graphic chart included questions about Bloomberg's overall job performance, the city's economy, education, the smoking ban, and a sports stadium on the West Side.

Clicking to the results

The online version of the article offers Complete Results, where the arena questions can be found:

58. Do you think favor or oppose building a new arena in Brooklyn for the Nets? (Favor/Oppose/DK or NA)

4/16-21 45 42 14

59. IF FAVOR, ASK: What if new arena requires the demolition of the local homes and businesses? Then do you favor or oppose building a new arena in Brooklyn? (Favor/Oppose/DK or NA)

4/16-21 18 25 4

Part of a pattern

Did this represent an unwillingness to report bad news about the Atlantic Yards project? (The parent New York Times Company is partnering with Forest City Ratner, developer of the Brooklyn project, in the new Times Tower, but the newspaper's policy is that the parent company's business interests do not affect newsroom decisions.)

Or was it simply an indifference to news about Brooklyn, compounded by space constraints? It's hard to be sure, but if the Times thought the Brooklyn arena question was worth asking, then the results should be worth reporting.

It's worth a look by outsiders, including the Public Editor. After all, as noted in Chapter 5 of my report, the Times reported on a 4/1/04 Quinnipiac University poll, but only the results regarding the proposed West Side Stadium, while five other newspapers also reported the poll results regarding the proposed Brooklyn arena.

Another Times poll ignored

Also, in a 6/29/05 article Big Issues Lift Mayor's Rating to a New High, based on results of a poll the Times conducted with CBS News, the Times reported on negative attitudes to sports facilities, but did not report in print on the results regarding the proposed Brooklyn arena. Only those clicking to full poll results would learn that the ambivalent but negative attitudes toward a proposed arena became far more negative if the project would cost $200 million in public funds.

But the article didn't mention Brooklyn:
Mr. Bloomberg's drive for new sports stadiums was singled out the most by voters when they were asked about the worst feature of his administration. Nearly half of those surveyed approved of plans to build a new stadium for the Mets and the Olympic Games in Queens, but that support dropped to about a quarter when they were told the stadium could cost as much as $180 million in public money.

So why couldn't they mention the results from the poll regarding the Brooklyn arena? Interestingly, the full poll results contrast overall attitudes toward the arena from those surveyed in June 2005 (37% favor, 45% oppose, 17% don't know) to those surveyed in April 2004 (45% favor, 42% oppose, 14% don't know). Now we know where those April 2004 results come from.

The Times's own disclosure

Today's article does disclose that the Times Tower project "itself involved government condemnation of private property." The Times has been inconsistent in disclosing its own benefit from eminent domain, but perhaps this signals an increased commitment to disclosure.


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.