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[Please see Norman Oder's ongoing coverage of Atlantic Yards at his Atlantic Yards Report blog.]

The New York Times and
Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards

High-Rises and Low Standards:
A Pattern of Inadequate, Misleading, Mostly Uncritical Coverage

(September 2005)
PRESS RELEASE  |  Letter to Exec. Editor Keller  |  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (pdf, 2.9mb)
FULL REPORT (pdf 4.3mb)

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, 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 blog link.]

-- 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 blog link.]

-- 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 (public@nytimes.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 (executive-editor@nytimes.com) and Standards Editor Allan Siegal (ams@nytimes.com).
ECONOMIC STUDIES referred to in report (all files are pdf format, in chronological order):

Estimated Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State Treasuries
by Dr. Andrew Zimbalist
Executive Summary
May 2004

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 University
June 2004

Slam Dunk or Airball? A Preliminary Planning Analysis of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Project
by Pratt Institute Center for Community and Development
March 2005

Estimated Fiscal Impact of the Atlantic Yards Project on the New York City and New York State Treasuries
Updated Report by Dr. Andrew Zimbalist
Executive Summary
June 2005

Estimated Fiscal Impacts of the Proposed Atlantic Yards Project
by the New York Economic Development Corporation
June 2005

City 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.
[ pdf  |  word doc ]

May 26, 2005
Transcript from The City Council's Economic Development Committee Hearing on FCRC's development proposal.
[ pdf  |  word doc ]
FOREST CITY RATNER Documents referred to in report:

Forest City Ratner Pamphlets:
1. May 2004 Flier
2. October 2004 Flier

Forest City Ratner's promotional tabloid:
The Brooklyn Standard (pdf)
Information about the Times Report author and endorsers:

For further information on report contents, contact Norman Oder: TimesReport@hotmail.com; 347-623-3102

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.