Saturday, April 24, 2010

The tabloid mindset: context regarding the Goldstein settlement is not taxpayer support for Ratner's purchases but the opinions of 2004 neighbors

Not long ago, I got a call from a tabloid reporter about a non-Atlantic Yards matter about which I had some expertise.

I told the reporter that the information they sought maybe wasn't the appropriate approach, that they should pursue a more complicated but incisive take on the case. I was ignored. The story line had already been set by an editor.

The neighbors at 636 Pacific

Not dissimilarly, both the New York Daily News and the New York Post thought the proper way to contextualize the settlement reached by Atlantic Yards condemnee Daniel Goldstein and Developer Forest City Ratner was to compare that settlement to ones made by Goldstein's neighbors in 2004.

(It was unmentioned that those settlements, unlike that of Goldstein, included full gag orders.)

The New York Post

The Post reported, in a 4/23/10 article headlined Last shot $cores: 7th-floor arena holdout beat penthouse deal:
The owner of the penthouse in the last building standing in the way of the planned Nets arena in Brooklyn accepted $1.88 million to go away, but the occupant of a much less desirable apartment scored a real slam-dunk payday -- a sky-high $3 million.

Daniel Goldstein's deal for his seventh-floor apartment not only makes way for the controversial project, but it stunned his former upstairs neighbor -- who sold her penthouse for $1.12 million less nearly six years ago.
Why exactly is that a legitimate comparison? As another former neighbor said (duh), "The price seems high but it obviously doesn't reflect the real property value. It represents something completely different -- the negotiation for [Ratner] to finally get access to that building."

Beyond that, the Post ignored the significant cut for Goldstein's lawyers and the much-increased cost to buy a replacement apartment.

And in the Daily News

As I wrote yesterday, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez's column on Daniel Goldstein in print was accompanied by a whimsical and stupid sidebar asking "What he could buy with that $3M he just scored," giving as one of three examples an apartment worth $2.55 million--far more than the check Goldstein will get, after lawyer's fees.

The day before in a 4/22/10 article headlined Last Atlantic Yards hold-out Daniel Goldstein folds; makes $3M deal with Ratner to leave apartment, the Daily News also saw fit to offer that meaningless context:
Other condo owners in the building got million-dollar payouts when they sold to Ratner years ago, but Goldstein hung on for seven years, turning the fight against Atlantic Yards into a full-time job.

"Good for Daniel," said Erin Coffer, 37, who sold for $1.1 million in 2004.

"I'm a little shocked that they gave him $3 million, but ... Daniel's been in that apartment building for five years by himself, so I guess he deserves it."
The Daily News did add one bit of larger context:
Brooklyn Law School property law Prof. David Reiss said Ratner was really paying for time. "Forest City Ratner is getting a lot from getting him out on a [certain date]," he said.
But the newspaper chose not to remind readers that Forest City Ratner had gotten $131 million from city taxpayers for $280 million (until then) of land purchases in the arena block.

The Times goes tabloid

The New York Times even showed its own haut-tabloid sensibilities, as with the un-bylined City Room blog post suggesting other neighborhoods with development fights--like the industrial Willets Point, with no housing--where Goldstein might choose to move.

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