Sunday, October 30, 2005
An alternate version of the Pace Poll--could tougher questions have made a difference?
While I appreciate your effort to go beyond simple yes/no questions, I dispute your statement [in the New York Observer] that the poll regarding the proposed Atlantic Yards project was conducted "in such a way to get a good sense of where New Yorkers would be if they were well informed." While those polled were given both "pro" and "con" arguments, the arguments were hardly comprehensive.
Here are some unmentioned "con" facts. Forest City Ratner officials acknowledge that the public cost of the project would be at least $1.1 billion over 30 years. The arena would be the most expensive ever built. The promised public park on the arena roof now would be private space. The number of construction jobs would be one-tenth the number used in most media reports. Since the project was announced, the amount of luxury housing has more than doubled and the amount of proposed office space has been cut by more than half. [I erred: it would be cut by more than two-thirds.]
See more criticisms/citations here.
So I'd like to know:
--who was responsible for designing those poll questions and pro/con statements?
--did you know of the additional "con" facts I cite?
--if yes, then why not choose to include at least some of them?
--if no, then do you think they should have been included?
Trichter wrote back promptly and cordially:
Thank you for your note. To answer your questions, although I do receive some input from our media partners in this study (The New York Observer, WCBS 2 News, and WNYC Radio), ultimately I design all the surveys and all the questions. I was aware of some of the arguments against the project that you illustrate, but not all. After reading them, I am impressed, of course, with your knowledge of the project; it vastly exceeds mine. Still, in my judgment, I do not believe the valid arguments you highlight are better than the ones we chose. Unfortunately, the confines of a poll make it impossible to list all the arguments for and against an item. And I used my best judgment to select those I thought made the strongest case both before and against the Atlantic Yards project. If we poll on this project in the future, I will revisit all of the arguments both for and against the project, including yours.
So I decided to try to write different versions of both "con" paragraphs read to those polled. These were characterized as some of the best arguments against the project:
Statement B: Some/Other people say the proposal to bring the Nets to central Brooklyn will waste $200 million dollars in taxpayer money on a sports stadium. These people also say that the 16 new mixed-use hi-rises that are part of the proposal will overwhelm our already overcrowded schools, subways, buses, and neighborhoods. And they say that the project can’t be built without evicting current residents.
Here's a much stronger alternative, just two words longer:
Some/Other people say the proposal to bring the Nets to central Brooklyn will waste more than $1 billion on a project that’s mostly luxury housing, with one-tenth of the new office jobs once promised. These people also say that the arena and 16 hi-rises near Brooklyn’s busiest intersection will compound existing traffic problems. And they say that the project depends on evictions through eminent domain.
These were characterized as some of the best arguments against the city and state's proposed investment in the project:
Statement B: Some/Other people say that the City and State should not spend $200 million dollars to help a rich sports team like the Nets build an arena in Brooklyn because every other government that has invested taxpayer money in sports arenas has lost money and because the team and its supporters are exaggerating how much money the City and State will make from the arena. And they say it would be better to spend the $200 million dollars on schools, police, and other vital services.
Here's a much stronger alternative, three words shorter:
Some/Other people say that the City and State should not spend $200 million dollars immediately and $1 billion over 30 years because the arena is a Trojan Horse for a project that’s mostly luxury housing. Project supporters have relied on a biased study that claims, for example, that the arena would not increase police costs. Critics say it would be better to spend the millions on vital services and developments that are accountable to the City Council, which has been bypassed.
I do think the alternatives would have made a difference. I don't blame the Pace Poll so much as the generally weak press coverage that has failed, for example, to analyze the changes in housing and jobs.