Friday, June 15, 2007

Brooklyn Tomorrow: synergy and puffery

It's a document for our times, a promotional magazine inserted in yesterday’s New York Post, not labeled advertorial though it certainly reads as such. Brooklyn Tomorrow is subtitled “The changing face of the bustling borough’s dynamic communities,” and features advertising and cheery articles mainly about major development projects.

Produced by the Post’s Community Newspaper Group, and written by staffers from the Courier-Life chain the Post purchased, Brooklyn Tomorrow reads like the return of Forest City Ratner's promotional Brooklyn Standard, but under the imprimatur of an actual newspaper rather than as a “publication.”

And, of course, FCR's Atlantic Yards project gets royal treatment. The cover boasts a full-frontal close-up of Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn, which could be described as "massive" or perhaps "striking," rather than “elegant," as stated. On the back cover, another view of Miss Brooklyn, in the Barclays Center advertisement that first appeared in January.

On the inside back cover, another advertisement for the Barclays Center. On the inside front cover, a Forest City Ratner advertisement, stating, “What will Atlantic Yards bring to Brooklyn?” The lead article declares Atlantic Yards “the crown jewel of Brooklyn’s renaissance.”

Looking more closely

The Atlantic Yards advertisement must have been produced a while back, since it promises “6900 units of mixed-income housing,” while, after a trim, the project would include only 6430 units. It promises 15,000 union construction jobs, though of course that’s job-years, meaning 1500 jobs a year over ten years (or fewer annual jobs if the project takes longer, as is likely).

And it promises “a historic, legally binding community benefits agreement ratified by 200 leaders and organizations.” Of course CBAs, especially the Atlantic Yards one, have come in for criticism from many quarters, and the “ratification,” as the New York Observer reported, was a big stretch.

Overview article

Reporter Stephen Witt, whose coverage is often sympathetic to Atlantic Yards, outdoes himself in an overview article that declares Atlantic Yards "the new heart of Brooklyn." It fails to mention that this is the most controversial development in the borough and the subject of several lawsuits, among other challenges.

Witt also offers some revisionist history:
The genesis of the Atlantic Yards project began in 2004 after Forest City Ratner Comoanies led an investment team that successfully bid for the New Jersey Nets with the goal of moving the team to Brooklyn for the 2009-2010 season.

Um, the project was officially announced on 12/10/03 and had been in the works for far longer. As Chris Smith reported last August in New York magazine:
While there was no public hint of Ratner’s interest in either the Nets or the Brooklyn rail-yards site until late July 2003, the developer had been meeting with Bloomberg nearly a year before that, according to Dan Doctoroff, the city’s economic-development czar.

Witt continues:
With this goal in mind, Ratner began looking at sites. He settled on the MTA/LIRR Vanderbilt Yards at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, once sought for a new Dodger Stadium before the ball club went west.

While property near that intersection was sought for a new stadium, the railyards themselves were not. And Ratner had been looking at the site for much, much longer.

Moreover, the developer knew he couldn’t confine his plans just to the railyards, since an arena wouldn’t fit. Witt explains the expansion using Ratnerian language:
The project footprint eventually included the rail yard site along with a remainder of property comprising empty lots, gas stations, auto repair shops, underutilized or vacant industrial and manufacturing buildings and some residential buildings.
(Emphasis added)

Or, perhaps, "a great piece of real estate" (in the words of Forest City Enterprises' Chuck Ratner) awaiting a rezoning that never occurred. The article repeats the $5.6 billion lie and claims a net positive fiscal impact of $1.3 billion.

Bruce speaks

The article does include a quote from FCR CEO Bruce Ratner, who declares, "We are proud to be part of both our borough's past and its future, as we are proud to support Mayor Bloomberg as he prepares us for 2030."

While wags might suggest that 2030 indicates the likely conclusion of the claimed ten-year buildout, 2030 is Bloomberg's sustainability deadline. Forest City Ratner almost surely supports Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, since it would reduce gridlock already present in and around Downtown Brooklyn before the planned arena is built.

On the other hand, a look at Bloomberg's PlaNYC suggests no endorsement for the process behind Atlantic Yards.

Coney confusion

Perhaps more entertaining is Witt’s article on Coney Island redevelopment, which admiringly describes the condo+timeshare+entertainment complex proposed by Thor Equities’ Joe Sitt, then acknowledges that the plan “does have its critics."

Who? Those who fear Sitt won’t build the amusements he promises and “preservationists” who say that residential development would destroy Coney’s character. Unmentioned is that Amanda Burden, chairperson of the City Planning Commission, has flatly declared that “amusements are incompatible with immediately adjacent residential use.”

Advertising lineup

The advertising in Brooklyn Tomorrow heavily skews to real estate developments, including ones in and around downtown and on the fringes of Williamsburg. Also advertising are several hospitals and banks that likely have longstanding relationship with the Courier-Life chain.

Full-page advertisers include:
--Maimonides Medical Center
--Toll Brothers City Living (three projects)
--Long Island College Hospital of Brooklyn
--Belltel Lofts
--Forte Condominiums
--One Hanson Place
--Forest City Ratner Companies
--Prudential Douglas Ellman Real Eastate
--Abigail Kirsch Caterers
--New York Methodist Hospital
--Marine Florists
--L Lofts
--Number 20 Bayard
--New York School of Career and Applied Studies
--Waste Management
--Valley National Bank
--Marine Park Luxury Rentals
--Ridgewood Savings Bank
--110 Livingston condos
--Capital Paint & Decorating
--Amex/Heart of Brooklyn
--Kings Plaza Diner

Half-page:
--The Brooklyn Hospital Center
--R&H Realty & Home Sales
--Aria condos
--Oro condos
--Cosmetic & Laser Center of Bay Ridge
--Pedulla Ceramic Tile
--United Homes
--Metropolitan Paper Recycling
--Atlantic Design Center
--The Maids Home Services
--Deno’s Wonder Wheel

2 comments:

  1. I was trying to read this over someone's shoulder on the subway, but it looked like Atlantic Yards project was identified as part of downtown Brooklyn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, the headline says "Changing the tide downtown."

    I've written about the issue:
    http://atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com/2006/04/times-finally-corrects-downtown.html

    ReplyDelete