Sunday, October 16, 2005
"Seemingly inexorable movement" at Atlantic Yards? The Times. vs. the Brooklyn Papers & the Daily News
The most aggressive coverage has come from the weekly Brooklyn Papers, which, for example, has been the only press outlet to point out that the promised "15,000 construction jobs" actually means 1,500 jobs over 10 years. As I note in my report, the Times has used this more accurate job-years figure in articles about projects other than Atlantic Yards.
Now the Brooklyn Papers has received a national award for its coverage of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. To quote the Brooklyn Papers' 10/15/05 coverage:
Praising The Brooklyn Papers “on a courageous piece of work” in its “Not Just Nets” coverage of developer Bruce Ratner’s “Atlantic Yards” plan, the National Newspaper Association this week awarded the newspaper its top prize for Best Investigative or In-depth Story or Series.
The 120-year-old NNA, with 3,200 daily and weekly community newspaper members, is the nation’s largest newspaper association.
Throughout 2004, The Brooklyn Papers coverage of Ratner’s proposal set the newspapers apart from the city’s other media, which ignored or downplayed the project’s impact.
The two reporters cited for their "Not Just Nets" coverage, however, are no longer with the paper: Deborah Kolben moved to the New York Daily News last year and Jess Wisloski has just left to freelance.
Now Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica has taken the gloves off, with a hard-hitting and factually grounded attack on Ratner, in a 10/16/05 column headlined Ratner's money tree grows in Brooklyn . Here are some major excerpts:
The mayor and the deputy mayor and the Jets get stopped on the West Side of Manhattan even as the next real estate con, not as big but close enough, grows in Brooklyn. This one comes from a developer named Bruce Ratner, who has convinced everybody he is a sportsman as he tries to buy himself an entire borough. Nobody stops him, at least so far.
Ratner is just smarter than Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff was with his vision for a new West Side, built around a football stadium. Ratner does not try to hide one of the sweetheart real estate deals in the history of New York City behind the Olympics. Instead, he spreads money all over the borough, trying to buy influence and loyalty, acting as if this is all about jobs when it is mostly about highly profitable luxury housing.
Along the way, he allows this idea to grow exponentially along with his con:
That since he has so many blacks in Brooklyn with him, it must be the borough's gentrified whites who are against him. In this case, race is much more productive for him than the 2012 Summer Games. This has nothing to do with Ratner's slogan about "jobs, housing and hoops." No, this is Karl Rove's blueprint for how you get things done, right out of the Bush White House: Divide and conquer.
There is no Cablevision to fund the opposition this time, even though it is the same fight Cablevision fought against the Jets, and one that involves a competing basketball team this time.
So the opposition this time comes from neighborhood coalitions like Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the constituency of which has seen through Ratner's game from the start. And from the start, the first lie, huge, was this one:
That this was all about bringing a major professional sports franchise to Brooklyn, which hasn't had one since the Dodgers left nearly 50 years ago.
No, this was a real estate deal all along, so much of it to be funded by taxpayer dollars, at least a billion of them before we are through, if Ratner gets his way.
In the end, in a borough where the median income is still listed as $35,000, as few as 900 units will be truly affordable to the people about whom Ratner, Caring Bruce Ratner, says this development of his is all about.
And always there is the use of race by Ratner and his people, as if it is part of his business plan. Of course, this is all tied up with the neighborhood support Ratner says he has. If he has it, he bought it. We hear about groups like BUILD, about which Juan Gonzalez has written in The News. It stands for "Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development." Huge Brooklyn cheerleaders for Ratner. Lots of black faces. The use of innovative only applies here if you think it is new for guys like Ratner to spread money around to get what they want.
On Sept. 29, Joe DePlasco, who comes out of Democratic politics in the city and is now on Ratner's payroll as Ratner tries to buy Brooklyn, told Gonzalez that the only thing Ratner's company, Forest City Ratner, was providing for BUILD was "free office space." Now DePlasco suddenly remembers in the Times on Friday - it is always worth pointing out that the Times and Forest City Ratner are partners in building the Times' new midtown headquarters - that Ratner "disbursed" $100,000 to BUILD in August. It's the old Bob Arum dodge. Yesterday I was lying, today I'm telling the truth.
One of the headlines in the Times was this: "Arena Developer Builds Bridges to Achieve Goal in Downtown Brooklyn." Right. Builds bridges and buys BUILD.
The late Bill Veeck once said that a hustler is somebody who gets you to loan him bus fare, then makes it seem like he did you a favor. Ratner still wants you to believe this is about the Nets. It is about him building his own Brooklyn in Atlantic Yards. And you're supposed to help him. Sound familiar?
Again, it's notable that a sports columnist grasps this deal better than the metro reporters and editorial writers who should also be analyzing it.