Skip to main content

How FCR "seeks protection," why the Courier-Life needs an ombudsman (never happen), and new tales from fictioneer Witt

After the Courier-Life's notorious Stephen Witt last week gave pro-AY project hecklers an implicit endorsement and wrongly stated that Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn asked a couple of black ministers for "protection," I dissected the story and quoted one of his sources saying Witt got it wrong.

But one reader suggested a simpler response to Witt's misleading headline, AY opponents seek protection from the community.

After all, it's Forest City Ratner that has sought protection from the community; after all, no representative of the developer was willing to face questions at a public meeting for nearly three years before MaryAnne Gilmartin appeared at an informational session on July 22. And when Gilmartin left the room, she had a couple of people clearing a path for her.

DDDB's response

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn sent a letter, published in the paper this week under the headline "At Witt's end." (Click on graphics to enlarge)

To The Editor:
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) stands accused, by "reporter" Steve Witt, of community organizing and outreach.''
To that we plead guilty, as we are a grassroots, community-based organization. We are extremely proud of the widespread support we have (which has grown larger and larger, year after year, since 2004), the alliances we have made in Brooklyn and beyond, and the community organizing and outreach we have done over the years. I state this to counter the fiction published in this paper by Witt.
How long are you going to allow Steve Witt to write fiction in the news pages, and support such fiction only with anonymous allegations?
In some weird attempt to smear the Atlantic Yards opposition, gin up a conflict that doesn't exist and abet Forest City Ratner's deliberate attempts to divide the community along lines of race and class, his article headlined, "AY opponents seek protection from the community" claims that "following several raucous meetings concerning the Atlantic Yards project, opponents have put out the call for protection."
This is a wild and baseless accusation, and is offensive, absurd, and bizarre - and it is fiction. Witt fails in his attempt to suggest that DDDB and our supporters are somehow not part of the community. Sorry, Steve, but we are.
Having said that, we would like to seek protection from Witt's dangerous and incendiary brand of "journalism." Can we get some help on that?

Daniel Goldstein
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Stephen Witt replies: I stand by the story as written.

Any remedies?

Well, we don't expect Witt--a reporter who took seriously the incoherent claim that AY foes "are the real land grabbers, because they took the property first and turned back what was jobs into condos"--to own up to errors.

Nor will his bosses.

The Courier-Life needs an ombudsman to handle complaints. It's a very imperfect solution--the New York Times's Public Editors have steered clear of Atlantic Yards--but at least it's a solution.

Another solution is simply more public criticism, However, the most obvious venue, a competing newspaper, no longer exists. The Brooklyn Paper, which once chronicled Witt's more colorful activities--like hugging developer Bruce Ratner--is now a sibling to the Courier-Life, both owned by Rupert Murdoch's Community Newspapers Group.

The new novel

Another article in the Courier-Life, credited to Junico Simino (who co-bylined Witt's AY stories last week), salutes Witt's first novel, issued by Never Sink Books, a fledgling publisher:
"American Moses" by Stephen Witt is a tale of reinvention, courage, faith, love, and the pursuit of the American dream.
It tells the story of Southie Lewis and his family, who while living in fictional Port Decker, NY (based on Port Jervis, NY), encounter racism and persecution, all of which accumulates when the town synagogue is burned down.
Members of the town's Jewish community then come together and decide, under the reluctant leadership of Southie, to leave Port Decker and head west toward Sin City.
With high hopes, Southie and his family travel on a road that is filled with joy, self-reflection and heartbreak.
"When you live in a small town, you get a better idea of what America is about you deal with people on a day-to-day basis," says Witt, a Kensington resident who hails from Chicago, IL, and who also happens to be a reporter for this newspaper.
He claims the inspiration for "Moses," his first novel which he spent seven years writing, came from advice he had received about creative writing: "Write what you know."
Indeed, "Moses" draws most of its influence from Witt's own life. Much like the novel's main character Southie, Witt has traveled all across America and the world, working various odd jobs from a baker in Boston to a grape picker in France to a concierge in Israel.
...Although originally from the Windy City, Witt's first break into the world of journalism was as a New York City subway musician. It was during this point that he began to write a first-person account of being a subway musician.

So Witt has an interesting background. But there's no sign it includes a rigorous attachment to the practice of journalistic inquiry.

What's a journalist, online or off? Let's go to Scott Rosenberg:
Blogging could be journalism anytime the person writing a blog chose to act like a journalist — recording and reacting to the events of the day, asking questions and seeking answers, checking facts and fixing errors. Similarly, journalists could become bloggers anytime they adopted the format of a blog as a vessel for their work.

How much of what Witt writes regarding AY is journalism?


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 …

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

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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…