Skip to main content

And how did the Courier-Life's Witt twist last week's news? With a head count

So, after three board meetings (with opportunity for public comment) in which state agencies advanced Atlantic Yards, how would the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt sum it up?

Well, his main story, headlined Bruce Ratner seals sweetheart deal with MTA, was better than the worst of the coverage, since it mentions the deferred payments and the generous interest rate, while ignoring the approval of a truncated permanent railyard that would save developer Forest City Ratner $100 million.

Most of the article, however, consists of boilerplate description of the project, with no mention of the Empire State Development Corporation's acknowledgment that most of the project--and thus most of the announced benefits--might be delayed.

Counting heads

However, a companion article, headlined Yards supporters outnumber foes, showed Witt's uncanny ability to twist the news:
The Empire State Development Corporation and MTA public meetings last week regarding the Atlantic Yards project highlighted once again how Brooklynites in support of the project far outnumbers opponents.

At the ESDC hearing before the vote to approve a modified General Project Plan, 40 members of the public gave comment with 31 speaking in favor of the project.

This group represented all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, while opponents were mainly white and⁄or property owners.

The numbers were similar at the public comment session before the MTA approved an air rights deal worth over $100 million with developer Forest City Ratner so the 22−acre arena and mixed market⁄affordable housing project rate⁄housing can move forward.


Witt somehow treats the decision of 31 people, most associated with organizations that profit from (or stand to profit from) the alliance with Bruce Ratner/Atlantic Yards arena, to testify at one board meeting--not a public hearing--during work hours as a definitive indication of community sentiment.

He neglects the fact that the issue before the MTA board was not the project itself, but whether it should renegotiate the sale of the Vanderbilt Yard into what even his own newspaper calls a "sweetheart deal."

In other words, their testimony about the virtues of the project was irrelevant. Sure, development brings jobs, but the MTA is a transportation agency.

Also, no elected officials (other than a rep for) Borough President Marty Markowitz spoke in favor of the MTA bailout, while four spoke against it. Also calling for caution were the Straphangers Campaign, the Regional Plan Association, and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA--all organizations that represent far more people than the individuals/groups Witt cites.

Looking at some testimony

As for the testimony, consider that Carpenters Union official Ray Brugueras testified that the MTA should offer Forest City Ratner a sweetheart deal because Bruce Ratner "has the monies available" to get through economic hard times. (If so, shouldn't Ratner have paid the original pledged price?)



Also consider that James Caldwell of Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) scoffed at the question of the value of the land and likened the Ratner bailout to the federal stimulus package (which, I'd point out, was not directed at one recipient). 

Why did President Obama produce the stimulus package, Caldwell asked rhetorically: "Because everyone was suffering. So Mr. Ratner may fall in that same category too."

If Mr. Ratner truly were suffering, shouldn't he be willing to answer questions in an open forum? After all, he claimed last month that no more subsidies were needed.



Public support vs. governmental oversight

Witt also offers a notable non sequitur:
This outpouring of support did not stop opponent organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn and its spokesperson Daniel Goldstein from offering up a threats of new litigation.
(Emphasis added; there's little evidence of editing at the Courier-Life)

There's no connection between the "outpouring of support" and the threat of litigation. The threat of litigation reflects on the MTA board's willingness to seal the deal without opening the valuable publicly-owned site to new bids, to get a new appraisal, or to consider a last-minute bid from DDDB.

Witt neglects to point out the questions raised by elected officials like Assemblyman jim Brennan and State Senator Bill Perkins, both of whom questioned the failure to seek a new appraisal for the site and warned the MTA might be violating the Public Authorities Accountability Act.

Comments

  1. Witt is one of the more dangerous creatures around: a bad reporter with a naked bias who realizes (or admits to) neither.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you really want some danger, check out my first novel, American Moses. It's coming out this summer on Never Sink Books (NSB).

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

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 Matzav.com 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…

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

Click on graphic to enlarge. This is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change, and the project is already well behind that tentative timetable.


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 …

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…