Sunday, June 12, 2011

Daily News basketball writer declares Ratner has found "vindication" since "The proof is in the construction site"

OK, now we understand why Forest City Ratner had such a lame response to the Battle for Brooklyn documentary. They've got (most of) the sports press to ply with propaganda.

Daily News basketball writer Stefan Bondy has never really covered Atlantic Yards, and he knows enough to caveat some statements, but he still has produced an astonishing suck-up job in a long article today headlined Bruce Ratner finds vindication as Nets' new digs take shape in Brooklyn, but residents still angry.

Quick, here's the caption for a photo of Ratner posed on the roof of his Atlantic Center Mall:
Bruce Ratner's office (top) overlooks Nets' new home at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn.
No, his office is in MetroTech. The mall is just used for photo ops.

You wonder if Bondy reads his own paper, such as the article last October headlined Jobs at Atlantic Yards 95% below expectations.

Leading off

The article begins:
Bruce Ratner's triumph stands tall on the corner of Atlantic & Flatbush Avenues, his horizontal battleground finally transformed into vertical steel beams.

Ratner and the opponents of this Brooklyn arena were never going to see eye-to-eye, no matter how many court fights, press conferences and protests were staged. But Ratner has won, in part by buying off the last remaining combatants. The proof is in the construction site. His image was damaged and his wallet is lighter, but Ratner, the millionaire developer who fought so hard to relocate local residents, feels closer to exoneration with every rivet pounded into his $1 billion project.
(Emphases added)

For whom does an arena, without all the promised jobs, housing, and open space, count as a triumph? Sports fans, maybe, but certainly not the elected officials who joined the Ratner bandwagon based on air promises.

Is "his horizontal battleground battleground finally transformed into vertical steel beams"? Not at all, if you consider that a larger piece of the battleground will become interim surface parking and other large chunks remain unchanged.

Bondy quotes his eager subject:
"Groundbreaking alone was vindication of sorts," Ratner says. "But, of course, the final frosting on the vindication cake will be when we open the doors."
The final frosting? Only for sports fans.

Moot debate?

Bondy declares that Brooklyn is good for the Nets--true--without pointing out how a new arena, with luxury suites, sponsorship opportunities, and a more lucrative TV deal is very, very good for team owners.

He continues:
The question, instead, is whether the Nets are good for Brooklyn. And in this regard, Ratner and his opponents have very different opinions.

It's a moot debate now, no longer a fistfight. Ratner was a perfect 35-for-35 in judicial decisions throughout the eight-year process, even as the recession that nearly killed his construction project forced a downgrade of sorts. He dumped the original architecture plan, a Frank Gehry design, for one less grandiose and less costly, and has put off related proposals such as the residential buildings that were supposed to be erected adjacent to the arena. Ratner says the apartments should start going up in December or January, but he's waiting on a $100 million bank loan.

Ratner sees the arena as the rebirth of sports and entertainment in Brooklyn, long missing a big-league team since the Dodgers left town in 1957. Some local residents have other, less endearing descriptions, viewing the structure as a symbol of corruption, political greasing and greed.
Perfect 35 for 35? Ratner's never given a list, and that claim was demolished long ago by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

But Bondy apparently missed the decision in state Supreme Court last November slamming the Empire State Development Corporation for "yet another failure of transparency." His own paper covered it:

More choice lines

Bondy writes:
Dubbed a crook by the opposition and a failure by Nets fans because of construction delays, Ratner says he's comfortable with his actions and ethics, despite allegations that he abused eminent domain laws to line his pockets.
Of course Ratner's comfortable. Beyond the "bogus" blight used to justify eminent domain, consider Forest City Ratner's dubious commitment to the Community Benefits Agreement.

Bondy writes:
"Honestly, in the beginning, I was a little bit hurt (by the backlash)," says Ratner, who grew up a liberal but had been cast at times as something of a capitalist predator. "I like to hope that I think I know who I am. And I always had the view that if you did the right thing in terms of what you think you're doing, it comes positively back."
Watch Ratner in Battle for Brooklyn for some demeanor evidence.

Cognitive dissonance

Bondy writes:
Whether or not the Nets win a title in Brooklyn is not Ratner's top concern now, although it still affects his bottom line as majority owner of the arena and minority owner of the team. Ratner is a businessman, above all else, and says he was all too happy to sell 80% of the team to Prokhorov last year.

"I'm not the kind of person that necessarily gets an ego boost out of being an owner of a sports team," says Ratner. "This was a large part honestly about bringing the Nets and sports, and particularly basketball, to Brooklyn. That's the most important thing to me.'"
Either Ratner is a businessman above all else or he's some kind of sports philanthropist. The evidence points clearly to the former.

Category error

Bondy writes:
Atlantic Yards was on the upswing before Ratner imposed his big arena and mall across the street, say the residents, and the last thing needed was a makeover.
There wasn't anything called Atlantic Yards. It's the name of a project.

What are the benefits?

Bondy writes:
[Founding opponent Patti] Hagan believes the arena won't create the type of excitement or economic boon for Brooklyn that Ratner's spokespeople are projecting. There are conflicting studies about the economic benefits of sports facilities.
Of course there are. But why not point out that the only study of the arena alone, by the New York City Independent Budget Office, calls the arena a net loss to the city.

Meanwhile, city and state studies aim to assess the project as a whole, call it a boon to the city and state. The problem is that those studies are based on false assumptions--a full buildout, over ten years, with the promised office jobs--but have not been updated.

Why can't Bondy bother to do any analysis? It's much harder than taking dictation.

Public support?

Bondy writes:
Most Brooklynites are not begrudging, however. The Nets put premium season tickets on sale in March, and 39% of the buyers were from Brooklyn. They cite current polls with more than 60% of Brooklynites supporting the arena, while about 30% are against.
What polls? The last poll was in 2006, and based on the "project" "providing" "affordable housing."

In conclusion

Bondy ends his piece:
"In spite of seven years of the worst lawsuits and public opposition and rallies and protests and lies and threats and cursing and, you name it, we came through it," Markowitz says. "And Brooklyn is going to be the better for it.'"

Despite Markowitz's assurance, that statement is still open to argument. It's just that the argument can't halt the construction anymore.
Unmentioned: the project, when approved, was supposed to take a decade. It could take 25 years, without penalty. That's why the above-mentioned court case is still pending.

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