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Our coalition consists of 21 community organizations and there are 51 community organizations formally aligned in opposition to the Ratner plan.

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"Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."
Bruce Ratner in Crain's Nov. 8, 2009

"Battle for Brooklyn" and "Page One: Inside the New York Times" Make Powerful Companion Pieces

If you've seen the new documentary film "Page One: Inside the New York Times" and have yet to see "Battle For Brooklyn" (or vice versa) there is a compelling argument that you should see both as the movies make powerful companion pieces.

Both films address the question of what can happen when the New York Times is not around to do its job.

"Battle for Brooklyn" is screening at Cinema Village in Manhattn, showtimes and tickets are available here.)

Michael D.D. White has published an extensive discussion of the two films on his Noticing New York blog, and though it is a long read, we deem it a must-read—especially as it hones in on some very questionable reporting and editorializing during the weeks when the Vanderbilt railyards were put out for bid in a phoney request for proposal by the MTA. Here is an excerpt:

"Page One: Inside the New York Times" Reviewed; Plus The "New York Times Effect" on New York's Biggest Real Estate Development Swindle

...Mostly using the Times’ own staffers to describe it, the film educates its viewers about something dubbed “The New York Times Effect,” which refers to the way the Times leads the way in establishing what is, or is not, news. In fact, if it's not in the New York Times it can be as if it’s not really true, but if it is in the New York Times then everyone follows suit in reporting the story. From the film:
There is actually something called the “New York Times Effect.” In the world of analogue newspapers there was an observable effect. If on day one the New York Times ran a piece on a particular story, political or business issue; on day two, the tier two newspapers would all essentially imitate the story.

“The Times Effect” and Atlantic Yards

When it comes to “The Times Effect” on local reporting and Atlantic Yards, the biggest real estate project proposed in New York City, some of the most important events occurred in a 60 day window of time May 24, 2005 to July 27, 2005 shown about a third of the way through the film “Battle For Brooklyn.”

On May 24, 2005 New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the “MTA”) put out a perfunctory RFP soliciting bids for the railyards it was planning to transfer to developer Forest City Ratner. The 42 page RFP was a palpably insincere gesture. It allowed only an absurdly short 42 days for response. It was 42 pages whereas the MTA’s comparable later RFP for its Hudson Yards railyards site ran 1,369 pages. Doubtless, all the city’s big developers correctly perceived that, as a political matter, they were NOT supposed to bid against Forest City Ratner because even though the public property of the railyards had never been bid, this was viewed as a done deal. In fact, according to statements that the MTA later retracted in connection with court proceedings, the MTA considered that it had already sold the rights to the Yards to Forest City Ratner prior to September 2003.

Clearly not expecting a response, the MTA planned to act on the Ratner plan on Wednesday, July 6, 2005, the same day that responses to the RFP were due.

Pretty depressing.

In the “Battle For Brooklyn” film a quietly desperate but dogged Daniel Goldstein is shown reacting to the notice of the MTA’s wired deal coupled with the compounding frustrations of how “The Times Effect” was working against him. Undeterred, Goldstein has formulated a plan:
The MTA put out a proposal leaving all of 42 days to put together a proposal. Somebody had the idea to call this other developer: This developer had owned property and had plans to build a large building, but Bruce Ratner had the state condemn that property to build the New York Times headquarters. Somebody suggested they might be interested, and they were right. Ratner with their partner the Times are doing a leading promotion on how wonderful Frank Gehry is, and his plan is, how he respects the neighborhood, isn’t it just great!
In fact, on July 6, 2005, the developer Goldstein contacted, Extell Development, put in a bid of $150 million against Forest City Ratner, three times as high as the Forest City Ratner bid of only $50 million. The Extell bid was actually arguably of even greater comparative value to Forest City Ratner’s because it was only for the 8.4 acres of railyards and did not involve eminent domain abuse to lock up an additional 13.6 acres of private property with a questionable upzoning. Providing the same or better creation of affordable housing, it didn’t involve the same overbearing immensity as the Ranter plan, nor did the Extell bid involve enormous subsidies of a billion or more for a money-losing basketball arena.

On July 27, 2005, the MTA Board authorized exclusive negotiation with FCR rather than with Extell.- - Gary Barnett, the president of Extell, commented when interviewed later that, “We are shocked—shocked—that we bid $150 million, [compared with the] Ratner bid $50 million, yet he somehow managed to get it” thus invoking Captain Renault’s acknowledgment of the open tolerance of corruption in Casablanca.

Times Reporting Within Critical Window

The Times briefly reported (May 26, 2005) the issuance of the MTA’s RFP but printed nothing picking up on its bogus character. The bogus character of that bid deserved to be major story. The brief report of the RFP came several days after the Times ran a story under a press release-style headline touting that the Ratner project would theoretically provide lots of affordable housing: Brooklyn Arena Plan Calls for Many Subsidized Units, by Michael Brick, May 20, 2005.

Goldstein’s concern about how the Times was promoting the Ratner project virtually as if its was an extension of the Times existing real estate partnership with Ratner was well founded and prescient. On July 5, 2005, the day before the MTA board planned to approve the project, not expecting the pending Extell proposal in response to its solicitation, the Times published a front-page article about the Atlantic Yards project (Instant Skyline Added to Brooklyn Arena Plan, By Diane Cardwell), when Frank Gehry's new design sketches were released exclusively to the Times. In an accompanying "appraisal" the Times architectural critic effused over the fantasy design (An Appraisal: Seeking First to Reinvent the Sports Arena, and Then Brooklyn, by Nicolai Ourousoff).

The very next day, July 6, the day of the intended MTA approval, the Times followed with another largely complimentary story about Ratner’s plans: Brooklynites Take In a Big Development Plan, and Speak Up, by Robert F. Worth, July 6, 2005. The day after that the Times had to run a story about Extell’s competing bid, “tailored to address some of the major criticisms of the Ratner proposal.” Its headline?: Brooklyn Plan Draws a Rival, and It's Smaller (by Diane Cardwell, July 7, 2005.)

Does it look like the Times stories were being selectively tailored by the Times to help the Ratner project? Certainly, Ratner knew the schedule for various events related to the bid during this window, not that it would have been appropriate for public officials to have been feeding him all these details. Ratner was therefore in a position to, in turn, feed appropriate stories to the Times.

But here is more...
Continue reading

Posted: 6.27.11
DDDB.net en español.
Battle for Brooklyn
Screening Schedule

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Eminent Domain Case
Goldstein et al v. ESDC
[All case files]

November 24, 2009
Court of Appeals

[See ownership map]

EIS Lawsuit

DDDB et al v ESDC et al
Click for a summary of the lawsuit seeking to annul the review and approval the Atlantic Yards project.

Appeal briefs are here.

Appellate Divsion
Rules for ESDC
What would Atlantic Yards Look like?...
Photo Simulations
Before and After views from around the project footprint revealing the massive scale of the proposed luxury apartment and sports complex.

Click for
Screening Schedule
Isabel Hill's
"Atlantic Yards" documentary
Brooklyn Matters

Read a review
Atlantic Yards
would be
Click image to see why:

-No Land Grab.org

-Atlantic Yards Report
-Atlantic Yards Deathwatch
-The Footprint Gazette
-Brooklyn Matters
-Noticing New York
-NY Times "The Local" FG/CH
-Brooklyn Views
-Council of B'klyn N'hoods
-The Brooklyn Paper
-The Brooklyn Wire
-Atlantic Lots
-Who Walk in Brooklyn
-S. Oxford St. Block Assoc.
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-Freddys Bklyn Roundhouse
-Ctr for the Study of Bklyn
-Pardon Me for Asking
-Clinton Hill Blog
-Only The Blog Knows BK
-Sustainable Flatbush
-A Child Grows in Bklyn
-Williamsburg Warriors

-The Real Estate
-Rail Yards Blog (H. Yards)
-OnNYTurf-Atlantic Yards
-Manhattan User's Guide
-Streets Blog
-Urban Place & Space
-New York Games
-Field of Schemes
-News 12 Brooklyn
-Queens Crap
-Dist.35 Comm'ity Gazette
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