Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ratner feeds exclusive to Times, which hypes plan for BAM to bring three or four events to Atlantic Yards arena

A front-page New York Times Arts section story coming tomorrow, headlined In Alliance, Nets Arena to Offer Arts, begins:
It’s been a springboard for Brooklyn nostalgia, a debate about urban design and the politics of eminent domain and, depending on your perspective or basketball affiliation, a community uniter or divider. Now Atlantic Yards, the development that will bring the New Jersey Nets to downtown Brooklyn, will also be a cultural center.

The Barclays Center, the 18,000-seat arena at the heart of the project, will host performances by artists selected by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a programming alliance between the two neighboring institutions, their directors said. The collaboration will include three or four shows a year and allow the academy to bring to Brooklyn work that would not fit into its theaters — the largest of which has 2,000 seats — with costs underwritten by the arena.
Three or four shows a year? This is the Arts equivalent of the "six to eight percent cut" in the project's bulk, which the Times supremely overhyped in 2006. (And didn't the Times agree the project was in Prospect Heights?)

Ratner claims arena will be different

The Times explains that CEO Bruce Ratner used to chair the BAM board, which explains why the collaboration began. But why does it not apply any skepticism to a Ratner-stroking quote?
Karen Brooks Hopkins, the academy’s president, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Ratner “called me and said that he really was hoping that this arena would be different from every arena, from the basic commercial fare.” She said she expects the performances to be “on a very large scale, large nouvelle cirque kind of work, big dance kind of things, music.” 
Well, Ratner already said he wanted the arena to be different from other arenas because it would be designed by Frank Gehry, and we know how that worked out. Adding a couple of avant-garde shows because arena operators can't find enough "family shows" to reach the magic total of 200 (or is it 225?) events does not a sea change make.

No bad news?

The Times does disclose its parent company's business relationship with developer Forest City Ratner, and perhaps we can conclude that the Times eagerly jumped on an exclusive fed by Forest City.

But we're left wondering why the Times didn't see fit to put its coverage of the "rat tsunami" into print, much less cover the effort to convince 498 immigrant investors into thinking they're buying into an arena. (The Times's sins of omission are greater than its sins of commission.)

Is June "no bad arena news month"?

Obligatory effort to find a doubter

The article does quote a critic:
But as with all things related to Atlantic Yards, the cultural plans have their doubters. Michael Galinsky, the director with his wife, Suki Hawley, of the new documentary “Battle for Brooklyn,” which chronicles the years-long fight against the project, was skeptical that the Barclays Center would deliver on all its promises to the neighborhood.

He pointed to the changes in the original Atlantic Yards plan, from the departure of the architect Frank Gehry to the exclusion of a rooftop track to the number of jobs created.

“Any time the arts has more of a venue that’s a wonderful thing,” Mr. Galinsky said. “But the question then becomes at what cost to public process.” He added, “this is a much greater benefit to Ratner from this P.R. perspective than it is to BAM.”

Mr. Ratner said the partnership with the Brooklyn Academy was not meant to appease critics. “I don’t care,” he said, then corrected himself. “We care a tremendous amount about the community, but we don’t do it to get credit,” he said. “We must do stuff here because we think it’s good to do, not because it just happens to make a splash. Everything has to be substantive. Most of it has to be as substantive as possible.”
Actually, Ratner doesn't respond to Galinsky's substantive points, which should've led the reporter to be skeptical of the enterprise she'd embarked on. But they didn't fit the presumed storyline.

If Ratner does "care a tremendous amount about the community," maybe he should be asked about paying for rat abatement. Or how people are going to walk on narrow Dean Street sidewalks to the arena. But the Times didn't cover the meeting last night.

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