Skip to main content

The "sophisticated machine," "ostensible" independence, & Stuckey's spin

In an online-only New York Observer article this week about the Atlantic Yards opposition, headlined After “Race” Battle, Dan Goldstein Charges On, reporter Matthew Schuerman observes:
Since news of a basketball arena in Brooklyn ever surfaced three years ago, the opposition has grown from a merry band of hecklers best known for opposing a homeless shelter to a sophisticated machine that is simultaneously fighting legal, political and public relations battles, and sometimes even winning.

The article states:
A recent article on Slate by Jonathan Lethem shows the opposition's synergy. DDDB's inner circle recruited Mr. Lethem for a celebrity advisory board that was unveiled in May. His byline most likely helped get the diatribe published in Slate but the arguments themselves came from a pair of bloggers-the journalist Norman Oder and architect Jonathan Cohn--who are ostensibly independent of Develop Don't Destroy but who do much of the analysis for the group. Then the article ended up photocopied and distributed the following Sunday by volunteers at a fair on Smith Street.

Well, it was more than a diatribe, and Lethem added his own interpretation to some ongoing arguments. Lethem numbered his arguments, so I'll suggest that they came from a broad set of sources: 1) Cohn; 2) me/No Land Grab/DDDB; 3) me/DDDB; 4) Brian Hatch/me/DDDB; 5) DDDB; 6) numerous preservationists, including the Municipal Art Society; 7) a lot of people who read. (OK, he cited my blog for a Frank Gehry quote, but any writer could have done so.)

Too much credit

It's inaccurate to say Cohn and I "do much of the analysis for the group." DDDB has produced or promoted numerous reports and commentaries, on issues like security, taxpayer boondoggles, and eminent domain. More importantly, Cohn and I don't work for the group, since our work is self-generated, driven significantly by the issues posed in public documents and at public events.

It would've been much more precise to say "do analysis that the group finds useful." I started writing about this project last September and Cohn two months later. Cohn has posted only four times since May 9.

Ostensibly independent?

Am I merely "ostensibly independent" of DDDB? It's fair to say that I'm aligned with DDDB--we share similar concerns and critiques--as opposed to aligned with project supporters, but DDDB doesn't speak for me and I don't speak for them. I write a range of pieces, some straight reportage, some commentary. I can point out a DDDB error, question some rhetoric, and note where a DDDB affiliation was missing.

I'm a journalist and critic, not an opponent. My goal is to get it right, not some mythical notion of objectivity, if I may quote former New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent. So if say that the project represents "extreme density," that's based on research. I'm in regular contact with a few people involved in DDDB or the broader opposition, but I talk or email regularly with a range of people interested in the Atlantic Yards issue.

Welcome to the machine

Near the end of the article, Schuerman observes:
But the opposition's sophisticated munching machine takes every scrap of information that Forest City or a government agency puts out, every effort at propaganda, and spits it back in the developer's face. Hence the full-color brochure is called the "liar flyer" because it did not picture Frank Gehry's designs for the towers. (Mr. Stuckey said it wasn't meant to be an architectural brochure, and that images were given to the media two weeks later at a press conference with Mr. Gehry.)

(Munching begins) Ok, if it wasn't meant to be an architectural brochure, then why did it suggest that the "Vision for Downtown Brooklyn" included brownstones? And why is Forest City Ratner still distributing the brochures? On Friday visitors heading toward to Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park were handed brochures plus Nets keychains.

"Sophisticated munching machine"? A main component, barely-mentioned in the article, is (NLG), which daily collects and comments on anything related to Atlantic Yards. Lumi Rolley, the main contributor to NLG, is a diligent amateur--a webmaster by training--who's immersed herself in the Atlantic Yards saga. The "sophisticated munching machine" is just a few loosely-organized people who read a lot.

Questioning FCR

The article finds Jim Stuckey, president of the Atlantic Yards project, trying to spin, but reporter Schuerman is skeptical:
As for the expected show of force at Sunday's rally, which organizers estimate will draw at least 2,000, he said, "You don't know how many people will come out because they oppose it and how many people are coming to find out more about it."
It just so happens that Forest City staged an event a few days earlier, July 11, that looked an awful lot like an attempt to show its own support: an information session for people interested in the 2,250 affordable apartments that would be built under the plan.

Well, the rally is billed as "against Ratner's skyscraper city and arena overdevelopment," so it's safe to assume most attendees will not be those on the fence.

Stuckey vs. NLG

The article notes:
Mr. Stuckey added that one of the opposition blogs, No Land Grab, evidenced "a lack of transparency" because it reproduced an ad for the forum without giving the time and place. (The blog did show a phone number and an e-mail address to reserve a spot, however.)

Stuckey is criticizing NLG for "lack of transparency"? (NLG calls it a "pathetic swipe.") NLG quickly corrected the error, but why did it take months for Forest City Ratner to deal with the deceptive "placeholder" photos on the three months-old web site. (A few days ago, the slide show was still portraying a building that had been renovated three years ago and other buildings that have recently been demolished. When I tried this morning, it wasn't working.)

Generating support

Stuckey continues:
"What I think is amazing is that without us doing any work at all, we have received over 4,000 RSVP's," he said the day before the information session. "That is not us working the crowd and putting up posters on lamp posts. That's a couple of newspaper ads and an e-mail sent around to people."
Just a couple of newspaper ads in major city dailies--at a cost that would presumably have bankrupted Develop Don't Destroy.

Not to mention 600,000 fliers that yielded 20,000 response cards. The Forest City Ratner "machine" is backed by some serious dollars.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

For Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting Sept. 19, another bare-bones agenda (green wall?)

A message from Empire State Development (ESD) reminds us that the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting--which aims to update community members on construction and other issues--will be held:
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6 pm
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place
1st Floor Conference Room
Brooklyn, NY 11217 The typically bare-bones, agenda, below, tells us nothing about the content of the presentation. One thing to look for is any hint of plans to start a new building on the southeast block of the project by the end of the year.

If not, ESD is supposed to re-evaluate a longstanding request from project neighbors to move back a giant wall encroaching on part of Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues. It's said to enclose construction activity, but, in recent months, has significantly served to protect worker parking.

Also, by the way, if you search for Atlantic Yards on Google or the ESD website, it leads to this page for the Atlantic Ya…