Saturday, March 02, 2013

Bruce Ratner's charitable p.r. coup, the Golden Ladder of Charity, and the imperatives of business

Nearly all the workers at the Barclays Center don't get benefits--"I can't live on $14 an hour... and I can't get unemployment," says one--and the construction workers expecting typical union wages face a 25% haircut in the modular factory.

He claimed Metro Tech "created 22,000 jobs in Brooklyn" (not so, they were mostly relocated) and that the arena has 2,000 or 1,800 jobs (actually, 1,240 full-time equivalent, from his firm's own calculation).

But that's business, and the media will tell us developer Bruce Ratner is a mighty generous guy. You could imagine the discussion with his p.r. consultants about how he might help as worthy and victimized an individual as possible: a blinded, impoverished ex-slave from Sudan.

Rescue mission

On 9/19/11, the New York Post reported, in Rescue mission: Ratner’s fight to help tragic Sudan teen:
The uber-developer -- best known for his under-construction Brooklyn arena for the Nets -- is vigorously trying to cut through bureaucratic red tape to keep a teenage Sudanese ex-slave in the United States to help restore the boy’s eyesight.

Ratner and his sister, Fox News analyst Ellen Ratner, first met tortured, blinded Ker Deng, now 18, on a trip to Sudan in April, nearly a year after the rights group Christian Solidarity International rescued him from slavery. The Ratners were touched by Deng’s horrifying story.
The key line was this:
Bruce Ratner has quietly covered all of Deng’s expenses, including his travel and medical costs and those of an uptown apartment for him and a round-the-clock caretaker.
Both Bruce and Ellen also have enrolled Deng at Lighthouse International, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that helps the visually impaired with daily living.
(Emphasis added)

The Golden Ladder of Charity

The Jewish sage posited a code of charity, The Golden Ladder of Charity, with eight "levels" of giving. The higher the step, the more virtuous and meaningful the gift:
7 - Giving unwillingly.
6 - Giving willingly but inadequately.
5 - Giving adequately after being asked.
4 - Giving before being asked.
3 - Giving to an unknown recipient.
2 - Giving anonymously to a known recipient.
1 - Giving anonymously to an unknown recipient. 
Ratner's gift--not so quiet when amplified in the Post--likely lands him at number 4 (or possibly 5). It's certainly a meaningful gift, but would it not be more meaningful if the New York Post weren't on speed-dial?

Consider the example of... Ratner's father Harry, president of the St. Clair Builders & Supply Co., known (according to his obituary) as “one of this city’s most generous citizens,” who “always insisted that he remain anonymous in his charities”: helping a deserving college boy complete his final year, a high school-student-diabetic needing insulin; a woman left unexpectedly widowed.

In a different age, and with different goals, his son Bruce practices charity far more strategically.

The follow-up

On 2/27/13, the Post provided a follow-up, Mogul and ex-slave hoop it up:
Barclays Center honcho Bruce Ratner first helped give a blind Sudanese ex-slave partial sight, and then provided the teen with the chance to use it for a special childhood-dream treat — watching an NBA game.
Ker Deng, 19 — whose ex-master blinded him years ago by rubbing peppers in his eyes and hanging him upside down from a tree over a fire — was thrilled as he sat courtside at the arena with the developer to watch the Brooklyn Nets last week.
“It was really amazing. I could tell when [the players] were moving and shooting. They were very tall,” Deng told The Post. 
Thanks to three eye surgeries in the past two years, which his “Uncle Bruce” paid for, he can now see colors, shapes and sizes, Deng said. He also followed the game’s movement by listening to the ball being dribbled.
...For Deng, who described the game-day experience as being “happy in the darkness,” the evening illustrated the amazing upward swing his life has taken since meeting the developer and his sister, Fox News analyst Ellen Ratner, in Sudan in April 2011.
Who could argue with that?

The role of the tabs

But if the Post doesn't report on all the subsidies and government assistance that ease Ratner's largesse, well, we're just getting played.

The Post didn't publish a report on the Feb. 27 hearing on the Atlantic Yards timetable. Too "boring"? Too much "process"? Not tied up in a bow as an exclusive from the p.r. team?

As I wrote in October 2011, Amy Waldman's 9/11 novel The Submission described a tabloid reporter:
A tabby all the way--that's what she was. She had no ideology, believed only in information, which she obtained, traded, peddled, packaged, and published, and she opposed any effort to doctor her product.

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