Thursday, September 15, 2016

Long uncorrected: Times article claimed "initial" pledge was for affordable apartments by 2035

Remember this 4/15/16 front-page (in local and national editions) New York Times article, Segregation Issue Complicates de Blasio’s Housing Push?

The article was posted online a day early:
In 2014, community groups in Downtown Brooklyn, citing gentrification concerns, won an accelerated schedule for the Atlantic Yards megaproject, whose developers had initially pledged to create 2,250 affordable apartments by 2035. By then, the groups argued, the black population would have dropped to 15 percent from 40 percent, according to demographic projections, which showed the number of white people almost doubling over the same period. The groups said soaring rents would force most low-income tenants out of the area, denying them a shot at the new units.
The community groups, which support preferences for local residents in housing lotteries, succeeded in securing promises that the units would be finished 10 years earlier.
(Emphases added)

Calling out an error

The day before print publication, I pointed to an error (and tweeted to the writer and editor), writing that it needed a thorough correction. Actually, the initial pledge was to finish by 2013! After the project was delayed, the deadline was extended, and then a timetable somewhat closer to the original elapsed buildout was accepted.

More precisely, the new 11-year buildout (from 2014-2025) agreed to in 2014 was a significant improvement over the 25-year buildout allowed in the Development Agreement signed in early 2010, but it represented a 15-16-year buildout from the previous project approval, in 2009.

That day, I also posted a comment on the online article, posted by 3:07 pm, saying that "initially pledged" line wasn't true. 

The comment was approved by a Times staffer, but the message didn't get through. The article appeared uncorrected.

Afterward, a formal request for a correction was ignored.

Why it matters

This matters because Times articles, given the reputation as the Paper of Record, tend to get used by researchers.

I wouldn't be surprised if this incorrect factoid makes itself into future articles and books.

This was an important front-page article, since it covers the knotty debate about whether local preference for affordable housing is good public policy. I mentioned it recently regarding the unsuccessful push for retroactive community preference for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park affordable housing.

And here are two opposing arguments, in City Limits, about that preference.

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