Monday, March 15, 2010

The New York Times and Atlantic Yards: A Pattern of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage. Still.

My apologies. In my haste to shoot, process, edit, and transcribe video, then turn it into blog posts, and go to my office and do my job, I neglected to sufficiently explain how the New York Times disdained and misled its readers when it covered the Barclays Center groundbreaking.

The Times sent a reporter who had never covered the project before. Never.

Their rationale, apparently, was to send the guy available in the Brooklyn bureau. (At least they didn't send an unpaid "citizen journalist.")

I tried to warn them. On the Times's CityRoom blog, at 5:07 pm, well before deadline, I posted a comment that included my FAQ, aimed, among other things, to set the record straight about claims regarding jobs and tax revenues.

It didn't help.

From the Times

Here's what the Times published:
“As the buildings rise on Atlantic Yards, the joblessness rate will fall here in Brooklyn,” declared Gov. David A. Paterson, noting Brooklyn’s 11.2 percent unemployment rate, higher than the state or national rates. “This project at Atlantic Yards will yield 16,000 union construction jobs and 5,500 permanent jobs right here on the site.”

Mr. Paterson nodded to the echoes of the protest outside, saying: “We have recognized that there was strong opposition that was based on merit, that was based on equity, and that was real for this project, and we respect that. But the economic development opportunities are undeniable.”

The $4.9 billion project, developed by the firm Forest City Ratner, will drastically alter one of Brooklyn’s busiest intersections. In the blocks surrounding Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, 16 towers will provide as many as 6,430 apartments, with more than 2,250 of them set aside for low- and moderate-income renters, according to the developer.
The job numbers, as I've explained, distort reality (they're job-years, not jobs), and rely on an unlikely full buildout of the project. And Paterson made even more outlandish claims, as I wrote this morning.

The towers wouldn't provide the apartments; they'd include the apartments. The provision would rely, in large part, on scarce city and state housing subsidies.

Weintrob's critique

Former Brooklyn Paper publisher Ed Weintrob today used the word "bullshit" to describe such numbers:
At last week’s groundbreaking for the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn (the planned future home for the New Jersey Nets), Gov. Paterson stated as fact long discredited job-creation figures: “This project at Atlantic Yards will yield 16,000 union construction jobs and 5,500 permanent jobs right here on the site.”

The Times published Paterson’s quote — within quotation marks — along with other nonsensical projections that weren’t attributed to anyone, even though it knows many of them to be false. Now, because these numbers appeared in the Times, other media end up citing them as fact, without qualification.
It was a dismaying coda to a report I wrote in September 2005, a report that I thought was my one-shot contribution to the Atlantic Yards discussion: The New York Times and Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards: High Rises and Low Standards: A Pattern of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage.

Still.

1 comment:

  1. The Times also reported:

    "At one point, protesters wandered into traffic on Atlantic Avenue. The police went to corral them back to the sidewalk. One man was arrested for disorderly conduct."

    The protesters did not "wander" anywhere. They mindfully went into the street because they were forcefully penned and hemmed in. Many sat down in the street. That is not wandering. Much of the protest was spent dealing with over-reacting and over-zealous police (though not all of the officers were over-reacting).

    As for what one man was arrested for: He was arrested, literally, for playing an unamplified drum. This is not illegal activity. The police also try to stop protesters from blowing whistles and banging cowbells—also legal activity.

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