Monday, November 21, 2005


The Times only partly corrects the Atlantic Yards op-ed

On 11/13/05, the Times ran its first op-ed on Atlantic Yards and, as noted, the piece contained errors both small and large. But the Times's 11/20/05 correction addressed only two obvious errors of fact:
An Op-Ed last Sunday about the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn misstated some of its details. Plans for the project call for 16 buildings surrounding a sports arena, not 17, and for nine million square feet of construction, not 14 million.

Let's put aside the broader errors, such as the mischaracterization of project critics as NIMBYs, and consider another statistical error. Commentator John Manbeck described Forest City Ratner Companies' plan to build a sports arena surrounded by 17 imposing high-rise buildings on the Atlantic Avenue railyards.

The railyard constitutes only a little more than a third of the proposed 22-acre project site. Also, Manbeck's description could lead to the conclusion that the developer's purchase of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority land precludes any need for further negotiation with other property owners and the use of eminent domain.

A more precise yet still concise description could have been "on and around the Atlantic Avenue railyards." On 9/15/05, a Times article (Arena Project For Brooklyn Wins Approval From M.T.A.) described plans to build the arena at the railyard and 7,300 apartments in 16 buildings on adjacent land, as well as office space, stores and parks.

Why didn't the Times correct Manbeck's error--do editors think "on the Atlantic Avenue railyards" is accurate shorthand? Is it that correcting Manbeck's error would require the Times to correct the error made by then-architecture critic Herbert Muschamp in his initial 12/11/03 assessment of the plan? Under the headline "Courtside Seats to an Urban Garden," Muschamp wrote: The six-block site is adjacent to Atlantic Terminal, where the Long Island Rail Road and nine subway lines converge. It is now an open railyard.

I have requested correction of that error twice before. Now, I guess, it's an issue for the Public Editor.

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