Was the backhoe used?
Still at issue is whether the contractors used a backhoe, against regulations and in contradiction of a promise (to use "primarily" hand tools) made by FCR to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). The Times article states:
Contractors began tearing down the vacant Pacific Street buildings with hand tools — as required by the Buildings Department — on May 30. A backhoe was brought to the site on June 7 to help clear debris and level the ground, company officials said.
However, as reported, residents Leigh Anderson and David Gochfeld said that the backhoe was used to knock down walls of the buildings. The Times observes that photographic evidence "appeared to show the backhoe pulling down first-story sections of the buildings' exterior walls," but quotes a Buildings Department spokeswoman as saying that department inspectors did not see illegal use of the backhoe. (The Times adds that Anderson is not just involved with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, she was a plaintiff in the recent lawsuit aimed at blocking demolitions of five properties, including 620 Pacific Street.)
But a lawyer for FCR left the issue open, saying they were "looking into whether contractors had disregarded instructions not to use the backhoe to demolish walls. If that was done, he said, the company would 'take appropriate action.'"
More to report
There's more to the story: the ESDC's delay in informing tenant lawyer George Locker of plans to demolish the building until after the demolition; the alleged starting time of 6:15 a.m. on June 7, 45 minutes before the law allows; the apparent failure of Forest City Ratner to inform its tenants of the planned demolition; and Forest City Ratner's initial combative response to attorney Locker's charges that the contractors said they didn't know that 624 Pacific was occupied.
On the other hand, the Times is the only news outlet to have followed up on the story so far. It's another reminder that Brooklyn offers significant stories that get ignored by the Manhattan-centric media. As Brooklyn College journalism professor (and former New York Newsday Brooklyn Bureau chief) Paul Moses writes in a column about Brooklyn and the media, "Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage."
The Times article credits me: Norman Oder, the author of a blog devoted to the Atlantic Yards, posted some of the pictures on Tuesday, along with a report on the demolition. The Times article didn't include any of the pictures. (Photo taken June 7, copyright David Gochfeld)
I appreciate the credit, though, as a close reader, I'll point out that the credit could lead to the impression that the pictures were the main element of my article, rather than an extensive report with details yet unreported elsewhere. Still, I've apparently been upgraded by the Times from a blog proprietor to an author, so maybe that's progress.