Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Catching up on the ACORN story: Brian Lehrer, Politico, City Room

The ACORN story and Atlantic Yards, including my role, got three mentions today in the media, and all needed some corrections.

Brian Lehrer Show

First there was the Brian Lehrer Show, on WNYC, ACORN by Any Other Name.

To quote the summary from No Land Grab:

City Hall editor Edward-Isaac Dovere, and Politico.com senior political writer Ben Smith join Brian Lehrer to discuss the reorganization of New York ACORN, which is now calling itself New York Communities for Change. The inevitable Atlantic Yards question comes up around the 9:40 mark.

Brian Lehrer: And recently, in New York, it wasn't only the right that hated ACORN, it was opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

Ben Smith: They were among the first yesterday to sort of notice this transformation.

BL: And does this affect their deal with the Atlantic Yards developer to take a lot of money from them to administer community benefits agreements?

BS: Now that is a great question. I have not seen anywhere that Ratner has renegotiated with them. I suspect it gets Bruce Ratner off the hook in terms of even having any responsibility to any group. His community benefits agreements were always negotiated privately with the lowest bidder, essentially, which happened to be ACORN. And because it was a private agreement I don't really see whether Ratner is bound by it at all.



NoLandGrab: Hate ACORN? No. Have big problems with ACORN providing critical political cover for a terrible project in return for a contract — and a bailout? Yes.

My comments

I commented on the web site, as follows:
Ben Smith, following up on Brian Lehrer's casual statement about "Atlantic Yards opponents" hating ACORN, commented that "they were among the first to sort of notice yesterday this transformation."

"Sort of notice" is a euphemism for a well-researched journalistic blog post that laid out several of the changes and fundraising plans well before the report in City Hall News by Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Compare my coverage yesterday to Ben Smith's coverage yesterday.

Funny--today I'm merely an "Atlantic Yards opponent," but when I was on Brian Lehrer's TV show last June, I was an "investigative journalist."

I don't hate ACORN; however, having watched their role in the Atlantic Yards project (which they are contractually obligated to support), I've grown increasingly skeptical.

Lehrer asked if the change would affect ACORN's deal "with the Atlantic Yards developer" for the Community Benefits Agreement. Smith speculated that it might be over. Actually, that's unlikely.

Regarding the affordable housing, the issue is less ACORN but the Development Agreement that you haven't reported on. Forest City Ratner is still supposed to build 2250 units of affordable housing, but the deadline is 25 years, not ten, the penalties for individual building delays are modest, and an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability can be claimed for up to eight one-year periods.

Nor have you reported on Forest City Ratner's $1.5 million bailout of national ACORN.
In Politico

Smith followed up in Politico:
This morning, WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked me what would become of one of ACORN's most prominent New York projects, a "community benefits agreement" the group signed with a real estate developer seeking political support for a huge, subsidized project in Brooklyn.

A blogger opposed to the project, which would include a basketball arena for the Nets, speculated today that the agreement with Forest City Ratner over the Atlantic Yards could transfer to the national group. But an official at the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the developer continues to work with what he sees as New York's renamed, but otherwise unchanged, ACORN.

"The people that we deal with still exist," said the Forest City official, noting that Jon Kest, ACORN's top official, is now a key player at the new New York Communities for Change, and that the developer will work with that new group.

"It’s ACORN by a different name — all the players are the same," the official said.

My comment:
Despite Ben Smith's account, I didn't speculate that the affordable housing agreement could *transfer* to national ACORN. I wrote that, despite the role of New York ACORN in the Atlantic Yards project, the MOU seems to refer to national ACORN rather than NY ACORN. (Is it speculation to look at contract language?)

But I acknowledged it was ambiguous, given the obvious co-mingling of national and local.

[Then I pointed out the larger issues of the Development Agreement and the FCR bailout.]

PS. Smith disses me (without naming me) as a "blogger opposed to the project." I've been a journalist for a long time. Yes, I'm a critic of the project, and that's based on a lot of research. (There's a long tradition of professional journalism that's not nonpartisan.) And sometimes I'm critical of project opponents.
And in CityRoom

The Times's CityRoom blog picked up on the story:
The Atlantic Yards Report was among the first to notice, early Monday morning, the rebranding effort. New York Acorn had been engaged in the effort to include moderately priced housing as part of the Brooklyn renovation project.

I pointed out that Atlantic Yards is decidedly *not* a renovation project. Everything on the site would be demolished. By contrast, the company behind it does do some renovation.

And again I pointed out that the Times has failed to cover the Development Agreement.

The Times stonewalls on a correction re ACORN coverage

Also see Brad Friedman's comment about the Times's coverage of the "pimp" sting and Friedman's inability--despite mountains of evidence--to get the Times's Public Editor to recommend a correction.

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy you don't let up Norman, Thanks for the clear reporting.

    ReplyDelete