Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The backlash to NY Mag writer's portrait of "pleasant and affable" Bruce Ratner; in 2003, sports biz reporter transcended "engaging" Ratner to note, "people are doing this to make money"

The backlash to Will Leitch's big, conclusory New York Magazine Barclays Center feature ("This is no longer... an example of private might overcoming public interest") continues, thanks to the author's admission in a sidebar:
* We talked to a ton of people for this story, but without question, the most pleasant and affable person we talked to was ... Bruce Ratner. The controversial — to say the least — real estate magnate is not known for this warmth and cuddliness, but in all honesty, his aw-shucks demeanor was disarming, to say the least. (This is not entirely because he thought our son was cute, though he did and that never hurts.) We don't know if he'll be happy with everything that's in the story, but for a guy who had a whole theatrical documentary made about how awful he is, we were surprised by how likable we found him in person.
Well, "we" clearly didn't talk to enough people--not even colleagues--who might give "us" a more rounded perspective.

Turning on the b.s. detector

The thing is, journalists don't have to know about the gag orders and the broken promises and the lobbying/p.r. spending that are part of Forest City Ratner's hardball business practices.

They just should be professional and turn on the b.s. detector. For example, here's Matthew Futterman, then a sports business reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger, talking on the 12/12/03 Brian Lehrer Show:
I like Bruce Ratner very much personally. He’s a very engaging person, he’s very enthusiastic, and I think he’s sincere, he has his heart in the right place, but it’s amazing how similar he sounds to the people who wanted to build the arena in Newark five years ago, in terms of, y’know, 'we’re doing this for the community, and we’re doing this for the kids, it’s important for them.'

Is it really important that you have a basketball team right there? And, y’know something, people are doing this to make money.
Which should have left Leitch to do some homework. After all, the last person to buff Ratner as "humble, winsome" was a Community Benefits Agreement signatory whose organization was paid by the developer. Leitch did it out of sporting enthusiasm.

Doc director responds

And Leitch dissed Battle for Brooklyn, which he may not have actually watched. Director Mike Galinsky responded in a comment:
I try to stay out of the fray but I take exception to the idea that "Battle for Brooklyn" was devoted to making Ratner look bad. This kind of dismissive throw away line about our 8 years of work plays into the FCR playbook, and its simply not true. In fact major project proponent Errol Louis, on NY1's Inside City Hall, called the movie very fair, as did James Caldwell from BUILD when he saw it. As you can see from the link you posted, over 100 NY Times readers have given it an average 5 star rating and a slew of positive reviews. I'm curious to know if you saw it yourself or if you are simply quoting Bruce Ratner. What the film does do is follow the opposition, which was largely denied a hearing in the main stream press. To qoute your colleague Chris Smith from a year ago (well before the current FCR charm offensive) "Battle for Brooklyn is at its best showing how Atlantic Yards used the pretense of democracy to enrich the powerful, but how it also energized actual citizens to fight the good fight. Seeing the girders climb for the Nets' new home, though, there’s little comfort in being noble losers." Articles like yours give creedence to both Ratner's and Bloomberg's idea that "No one's going to remember how long it took. They are going to just look and see that it was done". Our goal is to explode this myth of power and try to help people to remember so this kind of corrupt kleptocratic nonsense isn't so easy to pull off next time.

Another commenter, DeanStreetDude, broke it down:
Let me get this straight if I like your baby then I get a free pass to an article that yanks my wanker? ....

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