Skip to main content

Jay-Z: "Civic-Minded Hip-Hop Mogul" or "The House that Hova Hyped"?

"The Civic-Minded Hip-Hop Mogul
Holds Court With Zadie Smith"
I already critiqued the fawning interview/essay about Jay-Z in the New York Times's Sunday T Magazine ad-jammed supplement, but the cover line deserves notice too: "The Civic-Minded Hip-Hop Mogul Holds Court With Zadie Smith."

Civic-Minded? That sounds like a term dreamed up by, or in synchronicity with, developer Bruce Ratner's p.r. advisors, who have him regularly self-reporting as a "civic developer," a gauzy term that implies a social mission rather than a calculation that something beyond the minimum--better architecture, subsidized housing, jobs (?!)--is necessary to get a project passed.

So, while the article, headlined "The House That Hova Built," says little about the Barclays Center, it is indeed, as I put it, "The House That Hova Hyped."  Jay-Z is portrayed, at the arena, wearing expensive clothes--this is a fashion magazine supplement--and being cited for "civic" goals like making sure "Brooklyn" was part of the name of the Nets when they moved from New Jersey. (Civic? That's marketing.)

Some cautions

Not everybody was buying it. Shane Danaher wrote in Music is My Oxygen:
Yesterday’s New York Times profile of Jay-Z (courtesy of unimpeachable novelist/memoirist Zadie Smith) took a precariously laudatory tone toward its subject, a tack that helped both to highlight the Jiggaman’s extant qualities (of which there are many) as well as the contradictions that make those qualities such a tough pill to swallow.
The article’s cause célèbre—the opening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which will house the partly-Hova-owned New York Nets—exemplifies this apparent contradiction.
Housed in Jay-Z’s neighborhood of origin, the center will drive economic resurgence in a region long considered low on the social rungs. However, it’s hard to say whether Jay’s involvement is better described as charity or mercantilism, since he undoubtedly stands to add to his $460 million personal fortune as an upshot of the deal....
While [Smith's] optimistic view of the [latest Jay-Z/Kanye West] LP [Watch the Throne] casts it as a manifesto for community empowerment, other critics have looked with scorn on the album’s baroque materialism, especially coming as it did in the midst of the vituperative, if somewhat soft-headed, Occupy Wall Street movement.
The truth is that Smith, however talented and interesting, is not unimpeachable. neither is Jay-Z. (Oh, and the center will not "drive economic resurgence" in Jay-Z's "neighborhood of origin.")

His "admirable" foundation

Writes Smith:
Heavy responsibility lands on the shoulders of these unacknowledged legislators whose poetry is only, after all, four decades young. Jay-Z’s ready for it. He has his admirable Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation, putting disadvantaged kids through college. He’s spoken in support of gay rights. He’s curating music festivals and investing in environmental technologies. This October, his beloved Nets take up residence in their new home — the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And he has some canny, forward-looking political instincts...
But still I think “conscious” rap fans hope for something more.. Maybe the next horizon will stretch beyond philanthropy and Maybach collections.
First, "his beloved Nets" are not part of Jay-Z social responsibility. They're part of his business plan.

As for his foundation, let's not disparage generosity, but acknowledge the hype: he's not putting kids through college, he's helping. According to the foundation, "The SCSF provides individual grants ranging from $1500 to $2500 to every student who qualifies and reapplies yearly, from admission to graduation."

Last September, as Global Grind reported 9/30/11, Jay-Z Raises A Milli For Students: "Focus On What You Love", the foundation raised $950,000 for scholarships.

That suggests a ramp-up from previous years, since the foundation had awarded over $1.1 million in nine years--no small amount, but in the ballpark of the personal foundations for, say, NBA stars. In other words: however admirable, the charitable giving does not make him any more civic-minded than some others less wealthy..

Jay-Z is still young, and just about halfway to a billion dollars, so he's not ready to make the Giving Pledge--billionaires promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. But given that he's worth $460 million, according to the Times, his scholarship giving is just a start.

Here's a summary of his giving in recent years, according to tax returns from the foundation.

Tax year 2010:
  • $124,000 in scholarships
  • $20,223 for toy drive
  • $23,744 for college trips
Tax year 2009:
  • $160,974 in scholarships
  • $10,768 for toy drive
  • $31,635 for college trips
Tax year 2008:
  • $124,000 in scholarships
  • $20,223 for toy drive
  • $23,744 for college trips
From the tax returns

Tax year 2010

Tax year 2009

Tax year 2008

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…