Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looking at Friedman's ruling: no coverage in the Times or Daily News, no press mentions of delay in consideration of the Development Agreement

So how big news was a judge's decision yesterday ordering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Phase II of the Atlantic Yards project and criticizing the state agency for "arbitrary and capricious" reliance on a not-believable ten-year buildout?

Judging by the coverage, only moderate. The Wall Street Journal and New York Post, among others, covered the story.

The New York Times and New York Daily News, pouring resources into the horrible killing of an eight-year-old Brooklyn boy, passed on the story.

Will they get to it today? The Times's commercial real estate reporter, Charles Bagli, is on leave, and the Brooklyn bureau is tiny. The Daily News's main reporter on Atlantic Yards, Erin Durkin, had three bylines in today's paper, all worthy stories: on Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg,  Marty Markowitz's concert series, and St. Ann's Warehouse's bid for the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The New York Observer, its main Atlantic Yards reporter on vacation, missed the story. The Brooklyn Paper hasn't covered the story yet, either.

The missing history

And almost nobody, it seems, remembers the withheld Development Agreement--crucial, as I wrote yesterday, to the case

In other words, what if Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman, when she heard the first iteration of the case in early 2010, required that the belatedly-released Development Agreement be made part of the record?

Then her first ruling, in March 2010, could have clearly pointed to the discrepancy between the 25-year buildout allowed in the document and the ten-year timetable on which the Empire State Development Corporation insisted.

And that was before arena construction began. So she could not have written, as she did yesterday:
Phase I construction is already well under way, with completion of the arena anticipated in 2012. It is undisputed that infrastructure for the Project commenced in 2007 and is nearly complete, extensive excavation and foundation work on the arena has already been performed, work on a new subway entrance is in progress, and a temporary rail yard for the MTA has been completed, with remediation work in progress on the site of the permanent rail yard that FCRC is required to construct
Did anyone notice?

None of the articles in response are long enough, and/or written by a reporter who knows the history, to explain how Friedman failed to consider the Development Agreement when it mattered.

Not the New York Post, which, in Judge rips ESDC over Atlantic Yards, orders review of project’s second phase, suggested the ruling puts "much of the rest of the embattled $4 billion Atlantic Yards project in further jeopardy." (Maybe, maybe not.)


Not Reuters, which erroneously reported that New York court stalls second phase of Brooklyn arena project. (A stay is premature.)

Not the Wall Street Journal, which reported Court Says State Erred in Ratner Plan Review.

Not the Times's blog The Local offered, blandly, Judge Orders Further Review On Atlantic Yards Development.

Not Patch, which headlined its coverage Judge Calls for Additional Review of Atlantic Yards Project.

Not NY1, which working off a press release, offered the bizarre headline Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Takes A Stand Against Atlantic Yards Project.


ESDC/FCR response

Since I added them later in the day, let me point to the statements from Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner in response to yesterday's decision.

ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell: "ESD believes that it complied with all laws applicable to the Project, and is reviewing today’s decision to decide on the best course of action for continuing to move the Project forward. "

FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco: “While we disagree with the decision, it does not stop us from continuing work on the project and will not impact our current construction schedule.... The arena is scheduled to open, as planned, in September, 2012 and we are working aggressively to start the residential portion of the project.”

Both are looking on the bright side, which is not inconsiderable: the judge left them "significant breathing room," as I wrote yesterday.

How news gets made (or not)

It's worth a look at an Associated Press story nationally circulated this morning (in the example here from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
A judge says Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards development project must undergo further environmental review.

A judge ruled Wednesday that the Empire State Development Corp. erred in granting approval to developer Bruce Ratner's basketball arena and housing project by not first conducting a thorough environmental review.

In 2006, the state agency approved the use of eminent domain to make way for the project. It re-approved a scaled-back version in 2009.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the judge didn't halt the construction but ordered an environmental review for the second phase of the project.

The arena will be the new home of the Nets. It's set to open next year.

The agency says it believes it complied with all the laws. A Ratner spokesman says the developer disagrees with the decision.

___

Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com
Not only does the meaning of the story get watered down, the credit, bizarrely, is given both to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

But the Times hasn't covered the story.



But neither expressed a remote bit of chagrin for behavior that, according to the judge, was not at all in the public interest.

As for "working aggressively to start the residential portion of the project," remember that the first tower was never supposed to be delayed, as promised in 2009.

In September 2010, Forest City Ratner executive Maryanne Gilmartin said, "We anticipate having funding in place to start the first building at Dean and Flatbush in the spring of 2011, the second six to nine months later, and the third about the same time after that."

That schedule is already way off.

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