Monday, July 18, 2011

Another reason why the Daily News and Times should have covered the lawsuit: it (again) demolishes Ratner's claims of continuous legal victories

Perhaps the simplest reason, among many, for the New York Daily News and New York Times to cover the latest Atlantic Yards legal decision, is that the reportage serves to rebut Forest City Ratner's recurring, but long incorrect, claim that the project has continuously prevailed in court.

(A more complex reason would be that, however the decision fails to slow ongoing construction, it represents a rare case in which a New York State judge overrules a decision by a government agency, declaring that it does not pass the minimal "rational" basis test.)

A spoon-fed reporter

As more reporters new to the Atlantic Yards controversy write about it, they are vulnerable--especially if lazy and/or pressed for time--to simply regurgitating the developer's spin.

"[Bruce] Ratner was a perfect 35-for-35 in judicial decisions throughout the eight-year process," wrote New York Daily News Sports Writer Stefan Bondy in his 6/11/11 article headlined Bruce Ratner finds vindication as Nets' new digs take shape in Brooklyn, but residents still angry.

Except he wasn't a "perfect 35-for-35." It's doubtful there were 35 decisions and Ratner had already lost a few, including a decision last November in which state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman slammed the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) for "yet another failure of transparency."

A record of reliance on Ratner

Press outlets and even government officials have regularly reported the Ratner claims and on 5/21/08, Lumi Rolley of No Land Grab complied a scorecard that came out 11-3 in favor of Ratner, not 18-0, as was claimed by Bruce Ratner, repeated by the ESDC's Avi Schick, and cited by the New York Times (18 rulings "in Mr. Ratner's favor").

On 2/26/09, the Times quoted an "elated" Ratner as saying, “Once again the courts have decided in favor of Atlantic Yards." On 11/25/09, the New York Post reported that Forest City Ratner bragged that the court record was 24-0.

The Times's DealBook blog on 12/17/09 reported that "Atlantic Yards has won a string of court victories." On 3/1/10, the Times cited "a long line of legal victories."

The truth is a little more complex.

And, had Friedman not had a "misapprehension" regarding the Development Agreement that the ESDC had withheld, she would have had to consider it earlier in the sequence of the current case, and it would have, at the least, cast a cloud over the groundbreaking last year.

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