Monday, September 26, 2011

The Jay-Z media event: an anticlimax for news (Brooklyn Nets, concert), but a chance for TV coverage; also, Ratner, Markowitz make some curious claims

The media event this morning featuring "cultural icon" Jay-Z was a bit of an anticlimax--there was little response from the generally supportive crowd when Mr. Carter announced that the team would be called the Brooklyn Nets and that he'd open the Barclays Center arena with a concert--actually a couple (though he didn't say eight, as the New York Daily News reported).

After all, in well-planned exclusives accepted by the compliant tabloids, the Daily News placed the Jay-Z opening news on page 4 and the New York Post placed its news--that the team hopes "to steal Knick fans from lower Manhattan"--on page 3.

(In photo, which I took, the sign with Jay-Z inducing ticket buyers was just being put up on the arena facade as the 10 am press conference time approached.)

Aimed at TV

But the event today was aimed at TV, with the Barclays Center rising in the background. There were exclusive interviews first on Fox 5, including with Jay-Z.

(See Battle for Brooklyn director Mike Galinsky's account, Bread and Circuses, that describes his effort to challenge reporters to see behind the media event they were dutifully covering.)

Then, across the street at a tent pitched in front of the Atlantic Terminal Mall, the press conference featured fairly brief words from Nets CEO Brett Yormark, Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz before Jay-Z spoke briefly.

(In photo above by Tracy Collins, Markowitz, center, greets Yormark, as Jay-Z looks on. Here's Collins's set, shot from outside the event.)



There were no other elected officials in attendance, but representatives from at least six of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatories were present. A Times hoops writer called the event "brief and anticlimactic."

Some p.r. surprises

Some of the words were fairly surprising: Bruce Ratner, as the video below indicates, claimed the arena was "largely for the children and youth," given how it would present memorable events.

Eschewing precise claims about jobs created by the project, he offered more precise numbers about unrelated projects, the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls, as well as the Bank of New York Tower in the Atlantic Terminal mall.

(Crain's picked up on the job numbers, quoting me as calling the figure for construction jobs "unlikely" and permanent jobs "bogus" and "laughable." In the photo, a salute to some of the sponsors, in panels that flanked the stage.)

Also, opening up a new vein in p.r., he recounted the nationwide impact of such a construction project, given that construction materials are produced and finished in numerous states. (Actually, most of the subsidies came from the city and state.)

And Nets/Barclays CEO Brett Yormark, astoundingly, described Ratner as "the man chiefly responsible for the renaissance of Brooklyn." (Um, I think a lot of people contributed to that renaissance, like the people who invested in the neighborhoods around the project site long before Ratner did.)

Markowitz, showing his vintage, declared that the opening of the arena meant Brooklynites would be "disrespected and belittled" no more.

(Photo of Markowitz and Jay-Z walking to the event by Mike Galinsky/Battle for Brooklyn)

What was missing

No one mentioned the local impact, that, at least as calculated by the New York City Independent Budget Office, the arena counts as a loss for the public.

Meanwhile, as documented via Atlantic Yards Watch, trucks serving the project continued this morning to violate site and city rules by blocking traffic and proceeding toward the site despite it not being ready to receive them.

Good Day NY: Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark

The Good Day NY coverage on Fox 5, spaced out throughout the morning, must have tickled the hearts of arena backers. "They are going to reveal the Nets new time name, live on our show, how cool is that?” declared Rosanna Scotto.

Scotto pointed out to Ratner that the project had been bogged down. "I always had faith, I knew I’d get to this day," Ratner said, contradicting a previous interview when he'd expressed doubts.

"It’s needed, it’s important, there are thousands of jobs created by this project, and we need jobs," he said, using that vague "thousands" term.

Scotto pointed to talk of 24/7 construction.

"We don’t want to take any chances," Ratner responded. "It’s going on all the time, on weekends, and after-hours." And, I'd add, with some collateral damage.

Yormark was asked how well suites were selling.

"Everything is going very, very well," he responded, saying "we're about 50% sold on our suites" and a new, Jay-Z-fueled phase would be beginning.

Good Day NY: Jay-Z

Scott was even more fawning with Jay-Z. "We have decided that the official name will be the Brooklyn Nets," Jay-Z declared anti-climactically.

"Brooklyn Nets," Scotto enthused.

"You see, I'm really giddy right now," Jay-Z responded.

"Because you grew up in the Marcy apartments about seven minutes away from here." Scotto responded. "This is your neighborhood." (Seven minutes maybe by car. Even the G train takes longer, given the walk.)

"Yeah, and I also had a place at 560 State Street, which I could literally walk to" from here, Jay-Z continued.

A place? A stash spot, as he recounted in Empire State of Mind.

"I'm going to open... with a couple of concerts," he added. "One or two--or eight."

He was noncommittal when asked if his wife Beyoncé Knowles would join him. Now was he ready to announce the color of the Brooklyn Nets uniforms.



"Jay-Z, now that we're friends, I want to tell you that I really love your music," Scotto. "And I know I'm no Alicia Keys, maybe you'll let me just sing a little something to you."

Then she began to sing, "Brooklyn, concrete jungle where dreams are made of," from Empire.

That's morning TV.

"What do you think the arena's going to mean to people in this neighborhood?" Scotto asked.

"Well, it's already created so many jobs, especially at a time like this in the world," Jay-Z responded, untethered to precision or a cost-benefit analysis. "And create more jobs--this place has to be run."

Actually, it's caused a lot of problems for "people in this neighborhood."

Brett Yormark and Bruce Ratner

At the media event tent, Barclays Center p.r. guy Barry Baum introduced Yormark as CEO of the Barclays Center. "Today marks the tip-off of the 12-month countdown" to the opening of the arena, Yormark said.

Steel is 75% up and the roof should be enclosed by early next year, he said. "Forest City Ratner and Hunt Construction continue to do an amazing job."

"The Barclays Center will offer something for everyone," he said, including "Brooklyn's hometown NBA team."

"It was Bruce's vision, perserverance, and character that were instrumental in making the Barclays Center a reality," Yormark said of the man who hired him. He also thanked Markowitz, "who has demonstrated unwavering support for this project."

"Finally, it's a privilege to be here with the number one entertainer in the world: Jay-Z," he said, before introducing Ratner as "the man chiefly responsible for the renaissance of Brooklyn."



Ratner, at the podium, declared, waving his arms "You can see it rising, you can see its size, you can see how beautiful it is. You can imagine basketball there, you can imagine boxing... college sports and the thing I like most, extravaganzas. Something for everybody."

"Not only will it bring this borough entertainment," he said. "There are over 1500 permanent retail jobs in these builidngs. There are almost 2000 office workers... And now we'll have an arena and residential buildings and more jobs. Thousands of construction jobs, thousands of permanent jobs."

Notice how he didn't offer specifics.

"And I have to say something... If you think about it, it's not only jobs for Brooklyn, it's jobs for America," Ratner declared, starting on a new tack. "Each piece of steel, mined from ore in the state of Minnesota. It's smelted in a plant in North Carolina, the coal that supplies that plant is from Pennsylvania. The ingots are rolled in another one of our states. It's cut and fabricated in Virginia. And it's shipped here to Brooklyn, where our great construction workers put it up in stands made in Detroit. All America benefits by this."

(Photo by Tracy Collins)

"Mayor Bloomberg has been an unwavering supporter," Ratner said, thanking city agencies. He then thanked "the state government, led by our new governor, who has given us all hope... and our thanks in particular to the ESDC."

He thanked the MTA, the Long Island Rail Road, Borough President Markowitz, and the CBA partners, citing specifically the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and James Caldwell, president of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

He saluted Irina Pavlova, president of Onexim Sports and Entertainment, the company for the team's majority owner. "Michael Prokhorov," Ratner added, again showing his unwillingness to pronounce the name Mikhail. "Brooklyn loves you and America loves you."

"As Jay-Z knows, this arena is largely about the children and youth of Brooklyn," Ratner said. "We can give them more moments--each one of us has had a time in our life--that first circus, that first basketball game, that first ice hockey, or whatever it happens to be--we all remember those moments, and we want to give those first warm moments to every child in Brooklyn and have that feeling and inspiration that'll lead them to become more Jay-Z's, more Brett Yormarks, more of the many, many people who are out here."

Marty Markowitz

"Thank you for making my personal dream, and the dreams of Brooklynites a reality," Markowitz said, to Ratner.



"What I can say today, to the residents that are here, thank you for keeping the faith. Thank you for keeping the faith," he said. "I know the taunts that you receive, and that's saying it nicely. I know. You kept the faith and you realized what this would be for the future of Brooklyn and New York. And I congratulate each and every one of you."

He congratulated people for accepting money from Forest City Ratner to represent the community in the Community Benefits Agreement?

"So I can say, today, that Brooklyn is in the house, big time. And for generations, Broklynites were belittled and disrespected"--his voice rose--"disrespected and belittled, no more. That's all I can say. Next year, when we formally open the arena, the ghosts of Ebbets Field will forever be lifted."

(Photo by Tracy Collins)

Jay-Z

From the podium, Jay-Z called for a group of students from his old high school--George Westinghouse--to join him. The actual content of his remarks lasted less than a minute.



"I have so much pride, as a kid who came from Marcy Projects to stand here," he said. "I asked for two things, two things, out of my partners in ownership, is that we name the New Jersey Nets the Brooklyn Nets, and the second one is that I open it with a concert."

He made it sound like it was a radical request. Both were obvious strategies.

"So we're opening this arena here with a concert, maybe, one, maybe two, maybe--I sound like LeBron [James]," he said, to laughter. "Maybe one, maybe two--definitely more than one."

"Without Brooklyn, I wouldn't be standing here right now," he said in conclusion. "I'm humbled, I'm excited, so we're ready for the Brooklyn Nets... let's make some noise."

And then he walked out, to applause, to a waiting limo. The only questions he'd answered were the ones posed by Scotto.

(Photo by Tracy Collins)

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