Skip to main content

Funny story: Yormark, in Star-Ledger profile, misremembers (or lies about) our encounter

A profile in the Newark Star-Ledger of New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark, headlined Nets executive promotes New Jersey while selling Brooklyn, begins with the subject asserting he’s never read about P.T. Barnum, “the first great salesman/cajoler/marketer in American history.” Maybe that's a subtle sign that we should take what he says with a grain of salt.

The article, while offering much praise for Yormark’s hard work, salesmanship, and innovations, also addresses the challenges presented in the headline.

It also contains some very contradictory quotes from Yormark and me about who said what during a tour of Brooklyn I gave him before he was hired by the Nets.

From the article, it may seem impossible to arbitrate who’s right, but, as I contend (with backup evidence) below, in some places Yormark is either misremembering or simply not telling the truth.

(He hasn't been so good at predicting when the arena would open, has he?)

Watchdogging AY

I’ll reprint the section about hurdles facing the Brooklyn project and interpolate clarification and commentary. The article states:
Meanwhile, you can define Barclays only one way: inert. Some people -- many of the living around Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues -- like it that way. Organizations have been formed to fight it. Publications such as New York Magazine are increasingly skeptical. And then there are bloggers, such as watchdog journalist Norman Oder.

The censures and quibbles Oder has with the Atlantic Yards plan can fill a book, or at least his website (atlanticyardsreport.com). Generally, and methodically, he has taken every word that Yormark and Ratner have uttered in the past four years and scraped it with a rusty razor.

Some of his objections are big things, such as their credibility about groundbreaking dates and the dubious impact on traffic, the school system and the environment. And some are little things, such as the price of a hot dog at Izod Center and the claim that Yormark starts every work day by rising at 4 a.m.

(For the record, Yormark suggested in a recent Fox Business News interview that a hot dog can be purchased for $1; Oder went to the arena last week and couldn't find one for less than $4.25. And for the record, Nets employees who work at the team's practice facility say it is not uncommon to see Yormark in the weight room by 5 a.m.)


For the record, when asked how attendance could be made more affordable, Yormark replied by speaking about the NBA in general: "There are opportunities to go to the concession stand and buy a hot dog for a dollar now."

I don’t doubt Yormark often gets up early. But I pointed out that Yormark refused to confirm, when asked, that he rises every day at 3:30 a.m.

(Indeed, if he's working 18 hours a day, as suggested in the article, he can't get up at 3:30 a.m. after a Nets home game that ends after 9:30 p.m. This really isn't a big deal--he obviously works hard--but it does indicate the potential for mythmaking.)

Credibility

The article continues:
Regardless, "Atlantic Yards is, quite simply, the result of a bad process. Add to that a pervasive air of manipulation and dishonesty," Oder said in an interview conducted by e-mail. "Yormark is obviously an effective salesman. Unfortunately, he's too often not a credible one."

If the economy is the sisyphusian boulder threatening to crush Yormark's dream, Oder is the pebble in his shoe.

Of course, the blogger makes some valid points, at least with regard to obfuscation. For example, the official website for Atlantic Yards claims the project would create 15,000 construction jobs, but that is measured in "job years" -- meaning, 1,500 jobs a year for a decade, which is how long it will take to put up its 16 buildings.

Remarkably, Oder concedes that the political might is too strong to stop the project from going forward, but he'll write every day until the first shovel pierces the ground.


I didn’t make that concession in the email interview. I have said that, despite the troubles facing the project, I think it’s more likely than not that the developer and state will win the lawsuits and move forward. That chance of that happening has declined, but it’s still over 50%.

"Eats me up every day"?

The article continues:
"He's a nuisance," Yormark said. "Eats me up every day on his blog. And he's the guy responsible for me having this job -- totally sold me on Brooklyn, totally sold me on the Ratner project."

Every day?

Recently, I’ve mentioned Yormark quite often--20 posts since November 6, which is less than once every two days--because I’ve been writing about the Nets a lot. But I mentioned him in only 16 posts in the rest of 2008. That averages out to three times a month.

In 2007, I mentioned him in eight posts. In 2006, I mentioned him in three posts. In 2005, when I was blogging for just four months, I mentioned him once.

Funny story

The article continues:
Oh, funny story there.

In September 2004, Yormark -- like most guys from Jersey -- had enough knowledge of Brooklyn to fill a thimble. But to impress Ratner, he hired a tour guide for a fairly large sum, and became "Brooklynized" (his word) in just one day. The owner was blown away with Yormark's expertise of the borough and hired him after two interviews.

That tour guide's name? Norman Oder.


Oh, come now.

I have a tour guide business, and I was contacted by Yormark’s assistant to help familiarize Yormark with Brooklyn. It was before Yormark was hired in January 2005--the fall of 2004, I believe--well before I became immersed in Atlantic Yards. He didn't need to be sold on Atlantic Yards; rather, he needed to be able to show his potential employer he'd made an effort to learn something about the borough.

A fairly large sum? That’s the reporter’s efforts to square diametrically opposed recollections. He told me Yormark recalled paying me “around $1,000” for “9-10 hours.” I said I charged $100 (or maybe $120) for a tour that lasted less than two hours. (I do remember that he tipped me $50.)

I don’t charge $100 an hour for tours and, as my clients can attest, I offer step-down discounts after two and four hours. (Here are cost guidelines from the Guides Association of NYC, of which I’m a member.) Most of my tours last 2.5-3 hours. I’ve never done a tour longer than five hours or so--too tiring for me and for the client.

We spent less than two hours. Yormark was in such a hurry that we never got out of his SUV. We spent a good segment parked, talking. We never got out of the neighborhoods close to the AY footprint. We never set foot in Prospect Park, despite my urging that he get a sense of the landscape. Never got food. Never took a bathroom break.

If we’d had nine or ten hours, we could’ve gone to South Jersey and back. Could’ve walked Flatbush Avenue stem to stern, with time to spare. It just didn’t happen like he said.

As for becoming “Brooklynized,” as I said, Yormark wanted to be able to show his potential boss that he’d made an effort to understand the borough.

He did make an effort, but not a huge one. He kept trying to truncate the tour due to time pressure; he kept saying he was the boss as the client--hence my comment below calling him a "personable, master-of-the-universe" figure--while I was trying to convince him to gain more value from my expertise.

Great enthusiasm

The article continues:
Yormark insists that his guide-turned-nemesis spoke with "great enthusiasm" about the project during that fateful tour, but Oder's recollection is different.

"I did not speak effusively. I said there were very mixed opinions in Brooklyn," Oder said. "And I was barely familiar with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the main opposition group."

All Yormark knows is this: "He's the best tour guide money can buy," he said incredulously. "He helped me get my job, now he spends his entire life discrediting the project."


Well, I did wish Yormark well, as was appropriate for a client. While I appreciate his hyperbolic praise of my tour guiding abilities, I’ll happily concede that I look up to Francis Morrone.

Some back story

The article concludes:
Oder doesn't find this particularly ironic -- indeed, he has yet to write about the day he spent walking the streets of Flatbush with this "personable, master-of-the-universe" figure he now attacks daily.

Yormark has no time for irony, either, so he more or less considers their brief time together a Faustian bargain, or just the price of doing business. Two things P.T. Barnum would undoubtedly appreciate.


Well, we never walked anywhere. And it was just a couple of hours, not a day.

I hadn’t written about it because I was not acting as a journalist, so I didn’t feel it was my place to do so. But Yormark brought it up, so let me flesh out the story.

When we drove around the AY footprint and environs, I pointed out occasional signs opposing the project. Yormark, not inaccurately, observed that they were relatively few. I cautioned that the level of concern was likely greater than indicated.

Atlantic Yards, he told me more than once with great conviction, was going to happen; Bruce Ratner had assured him.

I didn’t know at that point what public process was to ensue--an environmental review by the Empire State Development Corporation, which began more than a year later--but that level of certainty, the kind of certainty that Yormark regularly peddles, stuck in my craw.

It still does.

Arena attendance

The article, early on, sketches Yormark's challenges with the Izod Center:
But you can sell only so much in an antiquated arena, one typically filled at only 80 percent capacity, with only 28 suites. That leaves one option: Yormark is moving the game.

I think "filled at only 80 percent capacity" is a stretch. The Nets are averaging 15,290, or 76.6%, in an arena that seats 19,968.

Plus, as I’ve contended, the Nets (and other NBA teams) report tickets distributed, not gate count, which means that the percentage “filled” is lower than reported attendance.

Comments

  1. One doth protesteth too much.

    I believe it it high time for the counter intelligence division of the DDDB to conduct an investigation of "L'Affaire Oder" and if necessary demand a public self-criticism session, perhaps in a back room at Freddy's.

    "THEY'RE ALL LIES, I TELL YOU, LIES!!"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bobbo/NetIncome/Mr. W. has been to Brooklyn once in four years. See:
    http://www.netsdaily.com/?p=6794#comment-29436

    Maybe he can tell us about Cranford, NJ.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bobbo doth regurgitate too much.

    I believe it it high time for the counter intelligence division of the Bobbo to conduct an investigation of "L'Affaire Izode" and if necessary demand a public crowd metric session, perhaps in the Men's Room at the Meadowlands or in another seething blog comment.

    "I'M ANONYMOUS AND I KNOW EVERYTHING, I TELL YOU!"

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bobbo should sign his name Bob Windrem.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…