Thursday, October 31, 2013

The triumph of Bill de Blasio is nearly complete: NY Times lets him blather on Atlantic Yards without applying skepticism

A team of New York Times reporters, including one who notably got Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota to defend the indefensible (the Madison Square Garden tax break), today produce a profile of Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio that offers some passages of tough scrutiny but ends--and whiffs--on Atlantic Yards.

It's a disturbing abdication of journalistic skepticism and a sign of how he-said, she-said journalism disserves readers, with de Blasio getting the undeserved last word despite a record of slipperiness and absence on Atlantic Yards.

The article, On Council, de Blasio Blended Idealism With Push for Power, ends with these paragraphs:
But it was the Atlantic Yards project, a gigantic housing and arena development at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, that cemented the image of Mr. de Blasio in some critics’ minds as a too-willing partner for developers.

Eric McClure, a founder of the civic group Park Slope Neighbors, met with Mr. de Blasio, hoping that 2,200 signatures he had gathered on a petition would be enough to turn the councilman into a critic of the project. He did not succeed; Mr. de Blasio argued that development was needed to create affordable housing.

“He was insistent,” Mr. McClure recalled. “We had an affordable housing crisis, sometimes you have to do certain things to get that affordable housing built that might rub people the wrong way, but that was the ultimate goal, and for that reason he was for the project.”

Mr. de Blasio, according to Mr. McClure, acknowledged that Fourth Avenue “had not turned out the way he hoped.” But he argued that Atlantic Yards would be different, because Acorn, a community organizing group with which he had a long association, had joined the developer, Forest City Ratner, to see that the affordable housing was built.

The Barclays Center arena opened in 2012, but the first affordable apartments are still at least a year away. Critics say that Mr. de Blasio was too close to the developer, Bruce Ratner, who hosted a birthday fund-raiser for him, and did not push the firm, Forest City Ratner, to deliver the promised housing.

On Monday Mr. de Blasio blamed some “objective reasons” for the delay, but said “it’s clearly behind schedule,” and allowed that “there were missteps by everyone involved.” He said the next mayor needed to hold Forest City Ratner and state officials accountable.

“On my watch, it will happen,” he vowed.
And it may, in ways that do not at all represent accountability.

What they missed

As I wrote Monday, de Blasio can be challenged on:
  • his failure, as Public Advocate, to issue any comment on Forest City's failure to meet its promised goal of 50% (in floor area) family-sized units in the first tower, which is under construction
  • how exactly de Blasio has, as he has claimed "pressured" Forest City on the housing? (he's said nothing publicly)
  • the Public Advocate's failure to say anything about Forest City's failure to hire the promised Independent Compliance Monitor required in the Community Benefits Agreement
  • how he plans to speed such housing as mayor--does that mean he'll devote more subsidies?
More here. A profile this week in Politicker contained a quote that helps explain de Blasio's Atlantic Yards support. He was said to be "a surface guy, total surface. He’s not in the weeds."

Also see coverage in WNYC and Capital New York (with my comments linked) that was tougher on de Blasio.

Responding on Twitter

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