Skip to main content

AY court hearing, added coverage (& Blogfest notes)

The May 3 court hearing regarding the lawsuit over the Atlantic Yards environmental review was fascinating, which is why I wrote an article--something of an annotated transcript--of more than 5000 words for my blog on deadline. I revised my coverage and cut it by more than half for the more general audience in this week's Brooklyn Downtown Star.

This week's Brooklyn Paper, in an article headlined Judge: What is Yards benefit?, offers the only other coverage, with some skepticism from Brooklyn Law School Professor David Reiss about the petitioners' claim that the planned Brooklyn arena is not a "civic project" under state law.

The article, however, doesn't go into the extensive debate about whether the state's definition of blight, as applied to the Atlantic Yards site, is arbitrary and capricious, and the judge's skepticism toward the Empire State Development Corporation's stance.

Blogfest notes

Last night, at the packed Second Annual Brooklyn Blogfest, I pointed out that the hearing should've been covered by the mainstream media.

Organizer Louise Crawford, who presided over an ever-growing event which next year must find a venue larger than the Old Stone House, reports that there were reporters from the New York Times, Daily News, and Washington Post in attendance. (I got there late and didn't know.)
So I assume they heard my comment about how Times Executive Editor Bill Keller claims that the newspaper practices the "journalism of verification" and bloggers don't. He's more right than wrong, I said, but "sometimes we're more right than wrong." And I'd say Atlantic Yards is a prime example.

Update on the Times's coverage

On the Times's Empire Zone blog today, the we get a rather detailed account, with some curious omissions, somewhat whimsically (or is it disparagingly?) headlined Out of Brooklyn, Endlessly Blogging. (Update: Yes, I know it's a Whitman reference; it's a tad disparaging if you think it relegates bloggers as "endless" typists rather than legit analysts.)

Of the six bloggers who spoke, here's the (crude) tally of paragraphs in the Times's account:
Steven Berlin Johnson, Outside.in, 3
Lumi Michelle Rolley, noLandGrab, 5
Robert Guskind, Gowanus Lounge, 6
Jonathan Butler, Brownstoner, 4
Norman Oder, Atlantic Yards Report, 2
Eleanor Traubman, Creative Times, 3.

Hm. I would've at least hoped that Johnson's citation of Clinton Hill as the "bloggiest" neighborhood, which was noted by the Times, would've been followed up with a mention of my criticism of their method. Last night, I pointed out that, of 30 posts on Outside.in's Clinton Hill page earlier in the day Thursday, only five were about that neighborhood, while 13 were about Prospect Heights and Atlantic Yards.

The Times's account of my presentation:
Like Ms. Rolley, Mr. Oder runs a blog that is devoted to criticizing the Atlantic Yards project, but he took pains to note that he sees himself as a journalist first.
“It’s commentary, it’s analysis, it’s reportage, but I really do call myself a journalist who uses a blog, because it’s easy to dismiss bloggers,” he said. “There are enough bloggers who are just noodling around their own personal musings that they manage to allow people who don’t understand us, who don’t read what we do carefully, to dismiss us.”


I described myself as a critic, but if this blog only included criticism of Atlantic Yards, a lot of nuance and detail would be lacking. Last month, the Times offered this more neutral description:
Norman Oder, who runs a blog devoted to Atlantic Yards issues...

The Times's defense

Regarding Rolley, the Times offered this strained parenthetical:
(She was particularly critical of The New York Times. Forest City Ratner is the development partner building the new Midtown headquarters of The New York Times Company. Business executives involved with that effort have played no role in the news coverage of Atlantic Yards, which a recent article about new legal challenges noted was “one of the biggest construction projects in the city’s history.”)

Most critics of the Times's Atlantic Yards coverage don't allege interference. As I've argued repeatedly, the business relationship imposes an obligation for the Times to produce exacting coverage, and the Times has not done so.

Beyond the cape

There are a ton of photos on Flickr. Yes, I put on the "superhero" cape, which Rolley presented to me upon my introduction. Believe me, I had no inkling of it.

Bob Guskind of the Gowanus Lounge offered some generous observations in the midst of his lengthy Blogfest recap:
As if to prove that even the most serious of Brooklyn bloggers have an exceptional sense of humor, Atlantic Yards Report's Mr. Oder--who is renowned for his in-depth and authoritative coverage of Atlantic Yards--was given a super hero cape as an "Uber Blogger" and wore the red cape while making his remarks. He discussed "the journalism of verification" and noted that AYR is "a piece of journalism" and that many blogs adhering to serious journalistic standards can be found around Brooklyn

Here's the Dope on the Slope post, as well.

Comments

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.