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Letter to Exec. Editor Keller
 |   Times Report Main Page
For Immediate Release: September 1, 2005

The New York Times & Forest City Ratner's Atlantic
Yards: High-Rises & Low Standards
Report: Newspaper Shirks Duty to Cover Development by its Own Business Partner, Ratner
Coalition Requests Response from Executive Editor, Public Editor


NEW YORK, NY–The New York Times's coverage of Forest City Ratner's proposed Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn over the past two years has been inadequate, misleading, and mostly uncritical, according to a report–The New York Times & Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards: High-Rises & Low Standards—by independent Brooklyn-based journalist Norman Oder. The report was released today by the author, and endorsed by four Brooklyn neighborhood groups–Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn; Fort Greene Association; Park Slope Neighbors, Prospect Heights Action Coalition–and the media watchdog NoLandGrab.org.

The report is being delivered today to Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Executive Editor Bill Keller; Assistant Managing Editor and Standards Editor Allan Siegal; Metro Editor Susan Edgerly; Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins; Editorial Board Member Carolyn Curiel; and Public Editor Byron Calame. The groups endorsing the report request that the Times promptly issue corrections of errors and that Editor's Notes disclosing the Times's business relationship with developer Forest City Ratner be appended to archived versions of articles. The groups also request that Public Editor Calame conduct a thorough and prompt investigation of the Times's coverage of Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards.

The 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.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein said, "Norman Oder's report states: '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. Other media outlets have reported crucial information on the Atlantic Yards project that the Times has omitted, as this report points out; it suggests more issues to pursue. They include: number of jobs promised; the public costs of the project; polls showing most New Yorkers oppose a taxpayer-funded arena; and Forest City Ratner's public relations tactics. Also, the Times has not consistently disclosed its relationship with Forest City Ratner–even after its own Public Editor, the ombudsman position established in 2003 to independently critique newsroom operations, urged such disclosure.

Goldstein concluded by quoting Oder's report: "The Times's inconsistent coverage of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards development doesn't mean that reporters and editors at the Times have been told to go easy on Forest City Ratner. However, given the two companies' corporate relationship, the newspaper should report on FCR exactingly, taking care to dispel any suspicion of conflict of interest. The Times has failed to do so."

The report and executive summary, with backup documentation, is available at www.dddb.net/times.

For further information on report contents, contact Norman Oder: TimesReport@hotmail.com; 646-373-6539


For further information on the groups endorsing the report, contact:
Develop Don't Destroy-Brooklyn: Daniel Goldstein, press@dddb.net, 917-701-3056
Fort Greene Association: Phillip Kellogg, theFGA@HistoricFortGreene.org, 718-875-1855
NoLandGrab.org: Lumi Michelle Rolley, lumi@nolandgrab.org, 917-972-1805
Park Slope Neighbors: Eric McClure. Atlantic Yards Campaign Coordinator. eric@parkslopeneighbors.org; 718-369-9771
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 2000.

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 FCR plan.

Fort Greene Association (www.fortgreeneny.com) is devoted to historic preservation, neighborhood and park enhancement, as well as cultural, economic, and housing advancement.

NoLandGrab.org (nolandgrab.org) 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.