[Please see Norman Oder's ongoing coverage of Atlantic Yards at his Atlantic Yards Report blog.]
New York Times and
Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards
High-Rises and Low Standards:
A Pattern of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage
BY NORMAN ODER (September 2005)
RELEASE | Letter to Exec. Editor
Keller | EXECUTIVE
SUMMARY (pdf, 2.9mb)
FULL REPORT (pdf 4.3mb)
New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner (FCR), which has proposed
a massive set of 17 towers plus a basketball arena for the Brooklyn site
(spanning at least 22 acres), are partners in building the Times Company's
new headquarters on Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan.
As a business collaborator, the Times Company has an interest in Forest
City Ratner's overall success. As a newspaper, the Times has an
obligation to cover FCR in all its ventures, including the $3.5 billion
Atlantic Yards project, without fear or favor.
A thorough assessment of the Times's coverage, from FCR's announcement
of the Atlantic Yards development in December 2003 to the present, reveals
numerous stories missed, legitimate critics ignored, issues downplayed,
and mistakes uncorrected.
While the report does not accuse the Times of bias, the paper has
an obligation–given its business relationship with Forest City Ratner–to
report exactingly, to remove any specter of bias. For some two years, the
Times has not done this. For example:
-- Why hasn't the Times reported that public costs
for this project over 30 years would top $1 billion, by the developer's
own admission? [Update from 9/1/05 report date: On 9/15/05, the Times
did mention this, almost as an aside. See
-- Why did the Times ignore two polls, one its own, that show that
most New Yorkers oppose a taxpayer-funded basketball arena in Brooklyn?
-- Why didn't the Times Magazine disclose the parent company's
ties to Bruce Ratner in a Q&A with the developer, and why didn't the Magazine
heed the subsequent admonition from the paper's Public Editor that those
ties should be disclosed?
-- Why has the Times not reported how the developer's projected
number of office jobs has shrunk to 6,000, and might be much less than that?
[Update from 9/1/05 report date: On 9/16/05, the office space was projected
to house 3,900 jobs or 4,875 jobs, depending on the formula used. The Times
has not reported this either. See
blog link. On 11/6/05, the Times finally addressed the jobs issue. See
-- Why did the Times City Weekly section of 6/19/05, devoted to
"The New Brooklyns," mention the arena only twice, but say nothing
about the much larger development project around it? And why did the editorial
in that section decry subsidies for stadiums in Queens and the Bronx, but
say nothing about subsidies for the arena in Brooklyn?
What You Can Do:
Write New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame (email@example.com)
and ask him to read and publicly respond to "The New York Times and
Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards; High-Rises and Low Standards: A Pattern
of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage." Also suggest
he take a look at the follow-up blog: TimesRatnerReport.blogspot.com.
While you're at it, why not CC Executive Editor Bill Keller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Standards Editor Allan Siegal (email@example.com).
STUDIES referred to in report (all
files are pdf format, in chronological order):
Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New
York State Treasuries
by Dr. Andrew Zimbalist
Estimated Fiscal Impact of
Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Arena and 17 High Rise Development on NYC
and NYS Treasuries
by Jung Kim, MS London School Of Economics and Gustav Peebles, Ph.D., Columbia
Slam Dunk or Airball? A Preliminary Planning
Analysis of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project
by Pratt Institute
Center for Community and Development
Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State
Updated Report by Dr. Andrew Zimbalist
Fiscal Impacts of the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project
by the New York Economic Development Corporation
Council Hearing Transcripts referred
to in report:
May 4, 2004
Transcript from The City Council's Economic Development Committee
Hearing on FCRC's development proposal.
| word doc
May 26, 2005
Transcript from The City Council's Economic Development Committee Hearing
on FCRC's development proposal.
CITY RATNER Documents referred to in report:
Forest City Ratner Pamphlets:
1. May 2004 Flier
2004 Flier (gif)
Forest City Ratner's promotional tabloid:
about the Times Report author and endorsers:
For further information on report contents, contact Norman Oder: TimesReport@hotmail.com;
For further information on the groups endorsing the report, contact:
Develop Don't Destroy-Brooklyn: Daniel Goldstein, firstname.lastname@example.org, 917-701-3056
Fort Greene Association: Phillip Kellogg, theFGA@HistoricFortGreene.org,
NoLandGrab.org: Lumi Michelle Rolley, email@example.com, 917-972-1805
Park Slope Neighbors: Eric McClure. Atlantic Yards Campaign Coordinator.
Prospect Heights Action Coalition: Patti Hagan, 718-219-2137
Norman Oder, the writer
of the report, has been a journalist for more than 20 years. As a freelancer,
he has contributed to a wide range of publications, including Columbia Journalism
Review, American Journalism Review, New York Newsday, New York Daily News,The
Village Voice, New York Press, and Gotham Gazette. He earned a Master of
Studies in Law as a journalism fellow at Yale Law School. A licensed tour
guide, he also has operated a part-time tour business in Brooklyn since
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB; www.dddb.net)
leads a broad-based community coalition fighting for development that unites
communities instead of dividing and destroying them. It co-sponsored the
creation of six alternate development plans (for both an arena and for the
site targeted by FCR), which illustrate deep flaws and weaknesses in the
Fort Greene Association (www.fortgreeneny.com)
is devoted to historic preservation, neighborhood and park enhancement,
as well as cultural, economic, and housing advancement.
is a media watchdog group and blog devoted to the Atlantic Yards project.
Park Slope Neighbors (www.parkslopeneighbors.org)
is a neighborhood organization, which was formed in 2005, committed to the
protection and enhancement of quality of life in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Prospect Heights Action Coalition is a group of "street
fighters" defending Brooklyn's neighborhoods from predatory developers.
It was the first organization to publicly expose and oppose Forest City
Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.