Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Forest City Ratner Cafe, at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and Gilmartin's new role on WNYC board

As John Pinamonti famously sang, in his elegy/anthem "The Burrow" (bottom), "It makes me sad/yeah, it's such a pity/they're trying to rename Brooklyn "Forest City."

I was reminded of that at Community Board 8 monthly general meeting on Thursday night 10/9/14, held at the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

The picture at right, indicating the Forest City Ratner Cafe,  is a reminder of Forest City Ratner's widespread philanthropy in Brooklyn (often through its shadowy foundation), which is now joined by other philanthropic heavyweights like the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets.

It's always hard to tease out strategy from generosity. And corporate gifts do have tendency to quiet dissent and/or generate excess enthusiasm (see: BAM). Such enthusiasm in turn can enable tax breaks and other public support for Forest City, thus enabling more generosity. A virtuous cycle or a virtuous circle?

Gilmartin on WNYC

The news emerged on Twitter Thursday that Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin was named to the 35-member board of WNYC radio, a post with likely some fundraising role.

And it raised some eyebrows when Gilmartin's role was disclosed at the end of a somewhat skeptical WNYC article on the troubles with Forest City's B2 modular tower.

Indeed, Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White posted a protest on Facebook, urging people to protest Gilmartin's appointment.

In a Twitter exchanges with Raul Rothblatt, who'd expressed dismay about Gilmartin's role, I pointed out that it didn't appear to affect the WNYC coverage yesterday, but we should keep watch.

Gilmartin is a capable, charismatic person with a lot of power, and a lot of money. She's head of a company that is part of the Culture of Cheating, as I've described it.

She's also in the middle of an extremely contentious dispute with Skanska over the B2 tower and was described by an adversary as "less than pleasant, if not rude." In other words, she's a potential subject for future coverage.

If I worked in the WNYC news and talk operation, I'd want reassurances from the bosses that no board members should have influence in coverage and programming. (They likely do have a policy, but I haven't seen it, hence my suggestion below.) But it's awkward, nonetheless.

And it might be time for WNYC, which offers no information about its board beyond names, to explain the criteria for choosing them, the board's tasks, biographical information, and safeguards regarding their influence on WNYC content.

The Burrow

1 comment:

  1. The appointment of Gilmartin to the WNYC board of trustees raises the question of whether any other WNYC trustees are similarly so OPPOSITELY qualified for their posts, especially given, as noted, the lack of information provided by WNYC about them. Even though I must now worry, I find it hard to believe that there is even one other trustee whose qualifications are so completely opposite to the role of ensuring a properly and truthfully informed public and that the stations are a source of information accountable to the public and free from private influence.