Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Nets bring new playground to Canarsie school"? Actually, they paid 1/8 of the cost, but neither NY Post nor NY1 notice

What if more reporters receiving press releases had taken "antimanipulation" in school?

We wouldn't get headlines like this, from the New York Post's Brooklyn blog yesterday.


Or like this, from NY1:


What did the Nets bring?

Though the Nets played a part, they didn't "bring" the playground. They paid only 1/8 of the cost.

Of course, those reading the vague Nets press release would have had to ask about the role of the Barclays Nets Community Alliance in the "refurbished playground it has funded at P.S. 276 in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn."

(Emphasis added)


Reading the press release, you might conclude that the Barclays Nets Community Alliance actually funded the refurbished playground.

Not so.

Who paid what

Yesterday, I called Sarah Gilbert, program administrator for  Out2Play, the organization that works with the Barclays Nets Community Alliance.

Gilbert, who was present at the ceremony in Canarsie, said the hard cost of construction, $175,000, was divided between the office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, which contributed $97,000, and the city Department of Education, which contributed $78,000.

Neither sent out press releases. You might even conclude that Markowitz's office, by offering public funds in support of the Nets' image, is helping his favorite project.

The Barclays Nets Community Alliance contributed $25,000 for soft costs, including architectural fees and sports equipment. Also, Nets General Manager Billy King showed up, along with the Nets Dancers and team mascot Sly.

In other words, the alliance contributed one-eighth of the total cost. Neither fact appeared in the two articles noted above.

Fudging the facts

The Post article, more subtle than the headline. noted that the playground "is funded in part by Barclays Nets Community Alliance," but didn't offer any details.

Similarly, NY1 reported:
They helped fund a basketball court and other schoolyard equipment as part of a private-public partnership with the Brooklyn borough president's office.

...The P.S. 276 project cost $175,000, and it is the 22nd playground project sponsored by the Barclays Nets Community Alliance. All but one of them have been been built in Brooklyn.
NY1 left the impression that the $175,000 playground was paid for significantly by the Barclays Nets Community Alliance.

In 2007, Forest City Ratner put $100,000 in an escrow account to fund an Independent Compliance Monitor, as required by the Community Benefits Agreement. No such monitor has been hired, so the developer has saved that sum of money, and more.

That funding apparently wouldn't pay off in p.r., as in this happy conclusion to the NY1 story:
The Nets are trying to not only to be a good neighbor, but also win over critics. The controversial arena displaced residents and businesses in the area to get built and faced numerous legal challenges.

..."I'm happy because we have a basketball court and all my friends can enjoy," said another.

So the Nets are building the foundation for future fans.
It sure helps when the press plays along.

The EB-5 parallel

In some ways, this offers an eerie parallel to Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million from 498 immigrant investors seeking green cards. Under the federal government's EB-5 program, immigrant investors must prove they are creating or retaining ten jobs each.

No actual head count is required; an economist's report can suffice. That report applies a "multiplier" to the sum of money at hand.

But here's the catch: that "multiplier" is not applied to solely the immigrant investor funding. It's applied to the whole "Brooklyn Arena and Infrastructure" project. In other words, immigrant investors are supposed to get credit for jobs created by investors who bought arena bonds more than a year earlier.

Nice work if you can get it, right?

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