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The Kolben chronicles: more likely it was her reports for the Brooklyn Paper, not the Daily News, that alarmed Ratner

So, if the scoop in last night's IFC Media Project report on Atlantic Yards was that Forest City Ratner executives--according to an unnamed source, Bruce Ratner himself--got Daily News reporter Deborah Kolben kicked off the Atlantic Yards beat, what exactly were her transgressions?

The answer: likely none committed while writing for the Daily News.

A review of Kolben's Daily News work shows exactly two articles, both co-bylines, concerning Atlantic Yards. A 6/24/05 article was headlined HOMES UP FOR GRABS Ruling ramps up anxiety in city. A 7/6/05 article was headlined A VISION SOARS IN B'KLYN. Yeas, nays over plan for Nets.

While the former article was--like much other initial coverage--somewhat alarmist about the effects of the Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London decision, the latter was essentially balanced.

(Update: I'm told Kolben also contributed to the Daily News as a non-staff stringer, though those articles are not accessible via a database search. Here's one, and another.)

Was it the past work?

So, perhaps Forest City Ratner had gotten wind of tougher coverage in the works at the Daily News.

More likely, however, they were peeved by Kolben's record at the Brooklyn Paper, where she wrote skeptical articles like the 7/17/04 SILENT PARTNERS, about an attempt to find out who was buying the New Jersey Nets; the 7/3/04 RATNER’S MONEY PIT, a sympathetic account of a critical report on alleged tax benefits from Atlantic Yards; and the 6/26/04 Watchdog calls for arena ‘ULURP’, about the importance of putting the project through the city's land use review procedures.

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  1. I've since found, through the Internet Archive, another article that surely antagonized the Ratner camp:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20061217135755/http://www.nydailynews.com/boroughs/story/303811p-260025c.html

    Ratner's generous to a fault
    And some wonder: Just buying support?
    BY DEBORAH KOLBEN
    DAILY NEWS WRITER
    Call him the Bill Gates of Brooklyn.
    As developer Bruce Ratner plows ahead with plans to build a controversial $2.5 billion arena and residential complex in Prospect Heights, he's also doling out checks to local groups.

    "That's what we are, a helping hand," Ratner said yesterday as he gave $50,000 to the Brooklyn Perinatal Network, which works to combat baby deaths in Fort Greene, the neighborhood with the highest infant mortality rate in the city.

    "I think it's a good thing, but I also note the difference between what they're doing and public relations; they're trying to get public support by any means necessary," said Clinton Miller, pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene.

    "There's a difference between public relations and [Ratner] really wanting to have a sincere impact on the infant mortality rate," Miller said.

    Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco said the developer gives money to many Brooklyn institutions, including the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the New York Aquarium in Coney Island and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

    "Forest City Ratner [Ratner's development company] believes that it has an obligation to support important community programs," DePlasco said. "Are they committed to even more programs because of the Atlantic Yards development? Fortunately, yes."

    Ngozi Moses, director of Brooklyn Perinatal Network, said she reached out to Ratner in the hopes that he would donate to her organization, which has lost federal funding.

    Ratner "benefits from our community and needs to give back," said Moses, who is not taking a stand on the arena project proposed for neighboring Prospect Heights.

    Ratner also recently footed the bill for a children's basketball camp run by former Knicks star Bernard King, who was a consultant for the project until he was arrested on spousal abuse charges.

    Last month, Ratner opened a $1 million account with Carver Federal Savings Bank, the nation's largest African- and Caribbean-American bank.

    The bank has a branch in Ratner's new Atlantic Terminal Mall. The mall abuts the Atlantic Yards site, where Ratner envisions building an arena that would house the NBA's New Jersey Nets, which he recently purchased and wants to move to Brooklyn.

    The proposed Atlantic Yards project includes 17 office and residential towers and would require the state to condemn nearby private residences. Ratner also would have to purchase 10 acres of Metropolitan Transportation Authority-owned land.

    "I'm happy for Brooklyn Perinatal, but he certainly can do better," said City Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Fort Greene) of Ratner's $50,000 donation. "That's pocket change."

    Originally published on April 27, 2005

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