Monday, November 26, 2012

As predicted, Times reports on how Atlantic Yards opponents are exhausted by losses; neglects to cite court win, other news validating critique

I can't say I didn't predict it, the New York Times feature today headlined Opponents of Atlantic Yards Are Exhausted by a Long, Losing Battle. The Times, I wrote last month, would report that opponents were diminished and disempowered.

Which they are--duh. Some have left the neighborhood or left town. Then again, so too have many paid exponents of Atlantic Yards, including Forest City Ratner's two point men (both of whom left under ethical clouds), several state executives, union executives, as well as a criminal lobbyist and a criminal legislator. (Where was the headline "Atlantic Yards Proponents Shamed, Indicted, Convicted"?)

Then again, the (nearly all) unpaid activists--groups organized by Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and BrooklynSpeaks--also won a big lawsuit, requiring Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing and shepherding Atlantic Yards, to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), to study the community impact of a project lasting 25 years, not ten years, as long promised.

There's no mention of that lawsuit in this article. Nor, for that matter, recent news that validates the "opposition's" critique of Atlantic Yards: the demise of Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD, and the slippery behavior of developer Forest City Ratner in challenging project tax assessments and then withdrawing that challenge.

Nor any connection between the opposition and the Times's belatedly tough coverage of developer Bruce Ratner this past September, describing as "his reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms"?

Didn't the unpaid, overmatched opposition accomplish anything? (Quick, how well did the Yankee Stadium opposition do? And how well would the West Side Stadium opposition have done without funding from the Dolans?)

The need for oversight

In other words, as I wrote, there's still a need for civic and press oversight, especially when the government and developer devote so much effort and money to lobbying and public relations.

There's a bare hint of that in this article:
“There’s nothing I want more than not to be involved,” said Peter Krashes, a painter who lives nearby and has been embroiled in the battle since 2004.
“I’m desperate to have my life back. The problem is, only when paid professionals working in the public interest are doing their jobs do I get to go away.”
He writes most of the posts on a blog, Atlantic Yards Watch, where concerns of neighbors are posted.
Only when paid professionals working in the public interest are doing their jobs do I get to go away. That's the Culture of Cheating that I've documented. Instead, we get this boilerplate:
Joe DePlasco, a Forest City Ratner spokesman, said that the developer was holding meetings with the community and seeking solutions to concerns, including those of the [Brooklyn Bear's] garden, and that the arena and the police had recently increased patrols.
Concerns of neighbors? How cute. That could have been a jumping off point for some real reporting, such as citing the AY Watch-sponsored study that validated those concerns, showing how arena construction was accomplished thanks to violations of or inadequate environmental protocols.

Trivialization by anecdote

 Instead, we get trivialization by anecdote:
Eight years ago, after having sold an advertising business, [Eric McClure] joined the convulsive battle over what would fall and what would rise on a plot of land in the heart of Brooklyn, 15 blocks from where he lived. Now he was spent. As the final editor on the nolandgrab.org blog (succeeding his wife), he halted daily posts on Sept. 29, to start sifting for the next chapter in his life.
Neglected home projects summoned his attention. Mr. McClure began refinishing his front door. He painted a bathroom. 
Actually, McClure has also been involved in other civic projects, via Park Slope Neighbors. He hasn't withdrawn from civic life. Of course there's no citation of the actual accomplishments of his blog or McClure's goodbye message:
We thought the community (and media) would benefit from having a one-stop shop for what was being reported about the project, as well as a venue for the dissemination of information about the fight against what we believed was, and is, a corrupt abuse of eminent domain, a sinkhole for scarce public dollars, a subversion of democratic process, and an urban-planning disaster — among other abuses.
Here's a rather pissy caption attached to a photo of McClure:
After thousands of blog posts vilifying the Atlantic Yards project, Eric McClure of Park Slope, recently halted his posts.  
Was it really just vilification? Couldn't the Times have reported on any valid analysis?

Home news

I get mention in a paragraph:
Norman Oder, a journalist writing a book on the project, remains its most indefatigable chronicler with his long-standing blog, Atlantic Yards Report, for which, he said, he has no expiration date.
Any value to what I've done? You can't tell from this paragraph.

For example, the Times's coverage in September--mentioning the failure by Forest City Ratner to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor and the failure to follow promises in the configuration of the first tower--relied on news I'd broken.

I'm "not exhausted by a long, losing battle." I'm a watchdog journalist, covering an ongoing story.

Freddy's mellowed

The operators of the relocated Freddy's Bar & Backroom are mellowed:
[Manager Donald O'Finn] said he would patronize the arena. While a huge Knicks fan, he can imagine transferring fidelity to the Nets. “I’m not going to hold the team responsible for my bar getting kicked out,” he said.
That's generous. Because Bruce Ratner bought the team and used it to leverage a new arena on a site that included Freddy's.

A fitting close

The article closes with mention of Candace Carponter, who long headed Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's legal team. She talks about how the experience has made her more cynical.

The press coverage, too, should have made her more cynical. After all, the reporter in this case got the byline on the multi-reporter article on the opening of the Barclays Center, in which Carponter's statement that the arena was a "monument to crony capitalism" got scrubbed between the early online version and the later version published online and in print.

Others mentioned

The article also describes, in varying detail:
  • Daniel Goldstein
  • Patti Hagan
  • Scott M.X. Turner
  • Mary Garsia of Bear's Garden

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