Friday, March 06, 2009

Robert Guskind, in remembrance

Along with many others, I'm deeply saddened by the untimely death of fellow blogger--like me, he preferred a term like "online journalist"--Robert Guskind. Founder of the Gowanus Lounge, former editor at Curbed, and mentor to many Brooklyn bloggers, Bob was a thoughtful, talented, generous, and very complicated man. He was about 50 years old.

The best collection of tributes, reminiscences, and links is by Flatbush Gardener, who also posted this photo. (Here are two more, from DDDB and NLG, plus one from NLG's Lumi Rolley.)

OTBKB's Louise Crawford wrote an insightful, poignant recollection about Bob and his work, as did Brenda Becker.

Bob covered areas of Brooklyn from Coney Island to Greenpoint, finding both a street-level and neighborhood niche while maintaining a punishing schedule. But because this is AYR, I will point readers back to one Atlantic Yards-related episode.

On Brian Lehrer Live

In October 2007, we appeared together on the Brian Lehrer Live show. Our segment began about 21:20 in. Bob, a bearish man, was thoughtfully skeptical and gently compelling.

"Density is good," Guskind told the host, "but the issue with Atlantic Yards, in my opinion, is one of excessive density.... Frankly, I'm skeptical of the environmental review process that was done."

"Density is good, but who decides on density?" I continued. "Do you simply say, 'Hey, this is our plan, take it or leave it,' or do you have a public process, a rezoning...?"

Lehrer pointed out that Forest City Ratner has long portrayed Atlantic Yards as a "done deal "and that, shortly after the project was announced, Bruce Ratner appeared on his radio show and declared that there was no opposition.

"They structured the process so it would be a 'done deal'," Guskind observed.

Money quote

Guskind offered the money quote, suggesting that the lawsuits were the only hope, given that the political and approval process was "rigged to produce this outcome. In a few decades of covering urban affairs and covering public policy all over the country, I've rarely seen a process this anti-democratic."

Very few of us in the blogosphere could have made that statement with such authority.

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