Sunday, December 10, 2006

Times Magazine suggests AY a city project & done deal

From a New York Times Magazine article today headlined Big Urbanism, part of the "Year in Ideas" package:
But now cities are once again planning with grandiosity. This year witnessed the return of what you might call big urbanism, with large-scale redevelopment projects sprouting nationwide. In the summer, the New York City Planning Commission approved the controversial $4.2 billion, 22-acre Atlantic Yards project, which only a few years prior was widely dismissed as impossibly overscaled.

That's wrong.

The City Planning Commission (CPC) couldn't approve anything, because Atlantic Yards is a state project. The commission of course endorsed the project, because they work for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Bloomberg loves AY. Many of the CPC's "recommendations" had been agreed to months earlier by developer Forest City Ratner. And the project Design Guidelines were primarily the work of architect Frank Gehry.

[Also, the CPC met September 25 and sent its recommendations two days later, so their endorsement didn't occur during the summer, which ended September 23. And the project "sprouted" in 2003.]

"Impossibly overscaled"?

As to whether the project will be approved at the current scale and density, that remains up in the air. After the Empire State Development Corporation approved the project on Friday, it still must pass the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), and there are many calls for the PACB to delay the vote and revisit the project.

Careless reporting

Does such carelessness indicate any conscious bias in favor of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, which is the parent Times Company's business partner in building the new Times Tower? Doubtful.

Still, the business relationship obligates the the Times to cover Forest City Ratner exactingly, to avoid the perception of conflict of interest. Instead, the Times's coverage has been quite variable, especially in the Times Magazine.

The Times Magazine published a 6/26/05 Q&A with CEO Bruce Ratner, and neglected to point out the business relationship between Ratner and the Times. Public Editor Byron Calame chided the Magazine for not doing so, but the Magazine never published a letter or correction.

Correction efforts

I called in a correction at about 10:15 p.m. last night, but it didn't make it into the paper. It's curious, and disturbing, that no one on the Times's staff on Saturday could have read both the Magazine and the daily paper's most recent coverage of the state project and concluded that a correction would be in order.

Response from the Times

At 9:13 a.m. today, I contacted Greg Brock, the senior editor in charge of corrections, requesting a correction in the daily paper, and got the following response at 11:40 a.m.:
I have passed this query on to the magazine editors. As a rule, we run magazine corrections in the magazine, not in the daily newspaper. But the magazines have early closes, so if the magazine cannot print a correction before the vote, then a daily correction -- or more likely a correction next Sunday on Page A2, so magazine readers will see it -- would be an option.

You made reference that you called this in at 10 p.m. on Saturday. We do not put corrections in the paper in the middle of the printing of editions. We try to make sure all readers of all editions see the corrections.

And, of course, since the magazine was printed a week ago, there was no way to correct it in the actual magazine.


Regarding his point about the timing of corrections, the Times has done something related: it has corrected an article between editions, and then published a correction (in all editions) that indicates that the error occurred in some editions.

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