Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where were you in 2005? Times's skeptical coverage of jail bid in New Jersey contrasts markedly with willingness to downplay parallel issues in Vanderbilt Yard bid

A front-page (in the New York edition) article in today's New York Times Metro section is headlined Political Links and a Jail Bid in North Jersey.

That skeptical piece contrasts notably with the Times's coverage of the process by which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority sold rights to develop its Vanderbilt Yard.

Consider, for example, the Times's perfunctory news brief, headlined Metro Briefing | New York: Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Proposals Sought and published 5/26/05, in its entirety:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking competitors for the development of its Atlantic Yards site, and has set a deadline of July 6 for proposals. A proposal by Bruce C. Ratner to build 6,000 housing units and a stadium for the Nets basketball team on the site has already won endorsements by the city and the state, which have each offered to pay $100 million for site improvements. But Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority, said yesterday that the agency had decided to consider other proposals in part because of its experience with its West Side railyards, which became the focus of a bidding war before an agreement was reached to sell the property to the New York Jets. Mr. Kelly said he knew of no other bids that were being prepared for the Atlantic Yards site. Thomas J. Lueck (NYT)
(Emphases added)

The MTA never had an Atlantic Yards site, nor could other bids have been prepared for "the Atlantic Yards site," which is 22 acres, while the Vanderbilt Yard is about 8.5 acres.

The parallels between 2011/Jersey and 2005/Brooklyn

However, as the annotation below suggests, there are a lot of parallels.

Yes, officials had a clear favorite. Yes, that favorite had political ties to the governor and other local officials. Yes, there was an unusually short deadline. Yes, the bidder with the inside track acted as if its selection were a done deal. (In fact, so did the MTA).

One significant difference: the deal in Brooklyn was a lot bigger.

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