Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A DCP footnote in the Atlantic Yards "permanent campaign"

I recently wrote how the public relations effort behind Atlantic Yards represents a "permanent campaign" and yesterday wrote about Forest City Ratner's lobbying of the Department of City Planning (DCP).

So the email message reproduced here, from Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall to Rachaele Raynoff, press secretary at the city's Department of City Planning, shows another footnote in that campaign. (It was obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.)

Raynoff wanted to send a staffer to the 5/11/06 press conference at which architect Frank Gehry and landscape architect Laurie Olin unveiled the new Atlantic Yards designs.

Marshall said OK, but asked that the staffer not identify herself to the press: "[A]s it is our event we would be grateful if she, like the other public party people attending (ESDC), not identify herself to the press. We do not want the press or anyone else for that matter, putting any public entity on the spot at this event."

Motivations

Was that a desire to shield the public entities? To not distract from Frank Gehry's presentation? To not remind people that the project required public oversight?

It's not clear. However, Forest City was managing that event carefully; I was barred from that press conference.

DCP comment

So, was the request out of line or irregular? I asked DCP's Raynoff to comment on the e-mail, and she responded, "FCR's request was irrelevant because we wouldn't introduce ourselves at someone else's press conference. At the time of this press conference, Ms. Torres was a junior staff member working in City Planning's press office. She was sent to observe so that we would be informed firsthand about a major development in the city, one about which we could eventually get questions. Had she been asked by a reporter, that's exactly what she would have said."

That's a reasonable explanation. Then again, is a request to "not identify herself" the same as "not introduce herself"? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.

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