Skip to main content

Not an error but a "minor imprecision"

This is the third of three articles (first, second) on "Atlantic Yards corrections fatigue."

In the annals of "Atlantic Yards corrections fatigue," which I defined as "the disturbing realization that we too often make errors in covering Atlantic Yards," the failure of the New York Times to correct an error published 1/31/08 is a relatively minor matter.

Still, it still provides a window into the thought process of editors who don't take Atlantic Yards seriously enough.

The article, headlined Scaffold Falls, Killing Worker in Brooklyn, concerned an accident at a site in Clinton Hill and offered this context:
It is in a section of Brooklyn that is being swept up in new development, with the huge Atlantic Yards entertainment, residential and commercial complex planned on rail yards a few blocks to the west.

(Emphasis added)

Of course, only 8.5 acres of the 22-acre project would be rail yards, so the distinction is important. If all of Atlantic Yards were to built on public land, there would've been no battle over blight and eminent domain.

As I noted in March 2006, the Times has published multiple versions of this error, and corrected it inconsistently. However, when the Times had a beat reporter assigned to Atlantic Yards, he wrote more precisely that the project "would rise over a railyard and adjacent land...."

The Times responds

On January 31, I emailed Karin Roberts, Assistant to the Metropolitan Editor, with a link to my blog post pointing out the error. I didn't hear back, so on February 9, I wrote to another Times editor.

On February 11, I got this reply from Roberts:
We are not publishing a correction. It was a fleeting reference in an article that had nothing to do with Atlantic Yards, and it was at worst a minor imprecision, not an error. And before you cite chapter and verse of the Times ethics guidelines to me, please be aware that Times editors are trusted to use their best judgment. In mine, no correction is warranted. Thank you for writing.


She was referring to my periodic citation to the seemingly unambiguous 2004 Ethical Journalism handbook, which states:
The Times treats its readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.


My response

I responded:
I'll agree that it was a fleeting reference in an article that had nothing to do with AY. And I recognize that editors are trusted to use their judgment.

However, I can't agree it was "a minor imprecision;" after all, the Times has previously corrected such an imprecision.


Hierarchies of errors

Interestingly, the Times did publish a correction regarding that January 31 article:
A picture caption in some editions on Thursday with an article about the death of a construction worker, Jose Palacios, who fell 12 stories from a collapsing scaffold in Brooklyn, misstated, in some copies, the relationship between Mr. Palacios and Jasmine Solas, who said he came to the United States from Mexico to find work. He was her uncle, not her cousin.


So, while this was a minor error, it was directly related to the subject of the article.

While the Atlantic Yards error was not directly related to the subject of the article, it was a major imprecision. Why major? Because unlike many other errors and not-minor imprecisions the Times corrects regularly, it has public policy implications.

It should be corrected because people do keyword searches regarding subjects like Atlantic Yards. It's possible that even a fleeting reference--if no correct reference is found elsewhere--will lead the reader astray.

Judgment calls

The Times corrects all kinds of minor errors. I collected a few.

A correction February 12:
An article in some editions on Dec. 18 about a Bronx woman who received financial help through The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund after she was mugged misspelled her surname. She is Laura Pinto, not Pintos. The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the agency that helped Ms. Pinto, pointed out the error in an e-mail message late last month.


Another correction February 12:
Because of an editing error, an article in The Arts on Thursday about a proposal for an urban farm that was chosen in a competition to transform the courtyard of the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, Queens, for a summer misstated the number of years the annual competition has been held. It is eight years old, not seven.


A fleeting reference

I did a random search of Times corrections that used the word "imprecisely" and found that, yes, most concern references more central to the story than the Atlantic Yards error I found. Then again, sometimes fleeting references are corrected.

A correction February 2:
The On Education column on Jan. 16, about overcrowding at Richmond Hill High School in Queens, described the status of a nearby high school, Franklin K. Lane, incorrectly, and because of an editing error, referred imprecisely to its location. It is scheduled to be phased out over four years; it has not closed. And although Franklin Lane is near the Queens border, it is in Brooklyn, not in Queens.


The article focused almost completely on Richmond Hill High School. Only one sentence referred to Franklin H. Lane:
Just across the border in Brooklyn, Franklin K. Lane is scheduled to be phased out, too.

Those who monitor city schools obviously care where this high school is located, and want the record to be accurate. And those who monitor the city's most controversial development project want the record to reflect that Atlantic Yards, despite the ingenuity of its name, would be built mostly on what was once private property and city streets, not rail yards.

Comments

  1. (This is my same comment on the previous, related, post.)

    The developer's web statement prominently says that "THE ATLANTIC YARDS DEVELOPMENT WILL BE BUILT PRIMARILY OVER THE LONG ISLAND RAIL ROAD'S VANDERBILT RAIL YARDS."

    This is inaccurate.

    The inaccuracy bears on many substantial issues critical to equity and proper public decision making.

    The public, press and government should be calling for the developer’s retraction of this statement. The New York Times has not done so. (Nor has Spitzer.)

    The Times Statements in many of its articles ECHO the misstatements by the developer reinforcing the misimpressions the developer is for very important tactical reasons intending to convey.

    One could say that this ECHO sounds like voice of the developer’s PARTNER.

    In point of fact, the New York Times is a PARTNER with the developer in the construction of its new headquarters (for which below-cost land was acquired via little reported eminent domain abuse).

    Decide: Does the voice of the Times sound like: a.) a partner of the developer, or b.) an independent voice attentive to the most important issues in New York City governance?

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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.