Skip to main content

On Jay-Z: the unresolved "ethical pickle" regarding the drug game, the banality of "Brooklyn," and the curious notion of black capitalism

With Mikhail Prokhorov, as I wrote, money cleanses. With Jay-Z, it's not just money but profound talent.

That still doesn't mean the hustler should get a bye, and a couple of articles spurred by his memoir Decoded go part of the way there.

From the New York Observer's profile, He Shall Overcome: Jay-Z Is $450 M Beyond the Marcy Projects. Where Does He Go From Here?:
Jay-Z is vague about the numbers, but one gets the sense that he made heaps of money on the streets. It is unlikely that he would ever speak on the matter candidly. "No one is more paranoid than Jay," [co-author] Ms. [dream] hampton explained, not suggesting that he is crazy, but rather that his exploits are real, not rumor.
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah cites Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's awkward allusion (my coverage) to Jay-Z making it from "bricks to billboards.":
Sure, it was an allusion to one of Jay-Z's lyrics, but bricks is one of the better-known slang terms for packages of cocaine. Jay-Z's very formidable face froze and then bulged with shock. One wonders if he will ever be able to leave the bricks behind. If anyone will ever let him.
The unresolved "ethical pickle"

Maybe they shouldn't, as Sam Anderson's surprising review in New York Magazine, American Hustlers (which twins Jay-Z and George Washington), suggests:
Jay-Z describes his childhood in Bed-Stuy explicitly as “life during wartime.” Late-twentieth-century America, in his view, was “almost genocidally hostile” toward black culture, waging an endless campaign of institutionalized racism, cutting inner-city social services, and launching a War on Drugs that punished an illness—addiction—as a crime. “We came out of the generation of black people,” he writes, “who finally got the point: No one’s going to help us … Success could only mean self-sufficiency, being a boss, not dependent.” This epiphany gave birth to a figure Jay-Z calls “the hustler”—an antihero who manages, by any means necessary, to convert extreme poverty into wealth. Which brings us to the ethical pickle at the core of the Jay-Z myth. He moves very quickly, in Decoded, from lamenting the tragedy of the crack epidemic to profiting from it as a dealer—and he never quite makes clear the moral steps that justify that transition. When pushed about his contradictory image, he falls back on “I’m complex.”
And the Nets

In the Observer, Kaadzi Ghansah writes:
JAY-Z'S PARTNERSHIP WITH Bruce Ratner has brought him into the big business of New York City development. Mr. Ratner sought out Jay-Z because he wanted to buy the New Jersey Nets, bring them over to Brooklyn and build them a stadium... The Nets on the court, however, have not been as illustrious as their owners, and in the six years since their purchase the team's worth has fallen 10 percent. This did not dissuade Russia's second-richest man, Mr. [Mikhail] Prokhorov, from buying a controlling stake in the team last year. Two hundred and fifty million dollars later, it was becoming an increasingly motley crew: the middle-aged developer, the rapper and the Russian, who together now own 22 acres of Brooklyn.
It didn't dissuade Prokhorov because he got a bargain, as well as a property that could get him on the covers of magazines.

The AY controversy

Kaadzi Ghansah writes:
Unlike the controversial Racino Aqueduct Casino project, where last month the New York inspector general's report revealed that Jay-Z was not actually an investor, only a potential performance fixture, Jay-Z has become a frontman in the Atlantic Yards-Barclays Center project, which has been hotly contested by local neighborhood activists all along. Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a 7,000-person-strong coalition that "is formally aligned in opposition" to the project, has described Jay-Z as being little more than Mr. Ratner's "marketing device." This seems loaded, but there is some truth to it. At the groundbreaking in March, Jay-Z brought the crooked-arm language of the left to bear, saying the project is "so overwhelmingly in favor of the people: the job creation, the housing that's being built." It was time again for shout-outs, and this time he dedicated them to "Brooklyn—we did it again," and to Biggie Smalls. Jay-Z is a natural orator; he can say much or nothing, and it not only sounds good, it also sounds heartfelt.
However, as I wrote, it's total banality, along with other banal statements about "Brooklyn."

Che and bling

Kaadzi Ghansah queries Columbia professor of African-American studies Manning Marable about "the intended paradox behind Jay-Z recasting himself as a Ché Guevara dressed by Jacob the Jeweler."

Marable, who acknowledges he's not critical of Jay-Z or his social conscience, suggests there's nothing black about Jay's capitalism beyond the entrepreneur's race:
He explained that Jay-Z's becoming an NBA owner is a fine investment as a personal investment, and he has every right to do so, but "that doesn't mean that it is a strategy for a black capitalism. There the question is how to develop strategies that maximize the growth of capital and ownership within the black community." And then he said, chuckling, "Him buying up 1 percent of the Nets is not going to do that."
Remember, at the groundbreaking, the Rev. Al Sharpton claimed that Jay-Z's fractional ownership of the team--actually less than 1 percent--would inspire kids.

Comments

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 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…

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…