Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Installment Re Proclamation of Bloomberg as First Amendment Champion: Times Editorial Struggles With Bloombergian Press Suppression

If you were following the National Notice stories about the incongruity of recent characterizations by the New York Times and Bloomberg biographer Joyce Purnick of Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a backer of free speech, incongruous given their historical coverage of the man, there is a new installment now available in that series. The new story also has the Occupy Wall Street at its core. It chronicles how the Times editorial page had to struggle with reconciling its odd new characterization of Mr. Bloomberg with the editorial it needed to write criticizing the way Bloomberg’s police department suppressed the press during its eviction of the OWS protesters from Zucotti Park.

The New story is: Monday, November 29, 2011 Times Editorial Page Quandary: After He’s Dubbed Free Speech Champion Bloomberg’s Police Suppress Press During Occupy Wall Street Eviction.

Prior articles in this series are:
• Sunday, November 20, 2011, Question of Truth For The Times: The Meme of Bloomberg as Champion of the First Amendment & Free Speech, Firmly Planted Before OWS Eviction.)

• Tuesday, November 22, 2011, Orwellian Purnick Purge: Bloomberg Biographer Rewrites Billionaire Mayor’s Record On First Amendment Free Speech Rights.)
The following Noticing New York articles pick up on the theme and relate it to Noticing New York concerns like Atlantic Yards and a long line of earlier stories about what the Times has been getting wrong:
• Wednesday, November 23, 2011, National Notice Article on Orwellian Reversal As Bloomberg Biographer Proclaims OWS-Evicting Billionaire Mayor "Firm Supporter of the First Amendment"

• Sunday, November 20, 2011, How Could The Times Get Yet Another Story (In Addition to Atlantic Yards) So Wrong: OWS Evicting Bloomberg as Defender of Free Speech
There is yet one more to add to that Noticing New York list:
• Friday, November 25, 2011, What Oscar Snub of “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Might Tell Us About A Misplaced Losing-the-Battle (and War) NY Times Bet

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Oscar Snub of “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Might Tell Us About A Misplaced Losing-the-Battle (and War) NY Times Bet

How many New York Times reader review rating stars has “Battle For Brooklyn,” the Michael Galinsky/Suki Hawley documentary about Atlantic Yards earned? Answer: It’s was rated 5 out of a possible 5 with 14 unanimously positive written reader reviews on the New York Times movies page. That’s good to know and commit to memory because going to the Times reader review page you were likely to see it rated at only 1 or 1.5, the inaccurate underrating being due to a an uncorrected computer glitch snafu.

This mistaken underrating was not the first case of the Times, for whatever reason, giving this Oscar-caliber film less than its due.

I use the term “Oscar-caliber” advisedly because “Battle For Brooklyn” is on the short list of films up for the for Best Feature Documentary.

In fact, “Battle For Brooklyn” and “Bill Cunningham New York,” both films reviewed by Noticing New York appear, respectively, as Number One and Two on the short list list of 15 films winnowed down from the 124 films that originally qualified in the category. (For the Noticing New York Reviews see: Friday, June 17, 2011, I Went To See “Battle For Brooklyn” This Weekend and You Should Too Because . . . . and Saturday, April 30, 2011, A List of Reasons Lovers of New York Should See “Bill Cunningham New York,” A Documentary About Photographing New York Fashion.)

Appearing as Numbers Number One and Two on the list is not meant to speak to the actual likelihood of those films winning the Oscar (although who knows): The films wind up being listed as One and Two because they are listed alphabetically. But it is an interesting coincidence that of 15 films on the list these top two are the two films reviewed by Noticing New York this year.

(Last year, three films that made the short list of 15 documentaries were written about here: “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,”“Gasland,” and “Inside Job.” “Gasland”and
Inside Job” were then nominated and “Inside Job” won.)

It may be an interesting non-coincidence that another film written about here, a film specifically about the New York Times, was snubbed for this year’s short list: “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” The inclusion on the list of the two other films written about here matched up against the exclusion of “Page One” may say something telling about a misplaced bet the New York Times has been making about what news that paper covers and how it covers it. Styling itself as a national newspaper the Times is apparently making a bet that it needn't treat coverage of significant local New York news with the same kind of journalistic professionalism. (The Noticing New York review is here: Sunday, June 26, 2011, “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Reviewed; Plus The “New York Times Effect” on New York’s Biggest Real Estate Development Swindle.)

Reviews for the Oscar short-listed “Battle For Brooklyn” and the now snubbed “Page One” appeared in the Times on the same day and on the same page. (See: the photo of the print edition’s page above.) The review of “Page One” was above the fold, filling about half the page. The review for “Battle of Brooklyn” was below the fold taking up minimal column space but was accompanied by a large rendition of a Tracy Collins photograph (see below- I can catch myself in the background) elevating the stature of the coverage. This subordinating treatment of “Battle of Brooklyn” in retrospect now looks like another clear underestimation of the film. The review for “Page One”(subcontracted out to Michael Kinsley for conflict-of-interest reason) wasn’t even that flattering, the reviewer misguidedly gave the misimpression that the film was a total mess.

Those who read the Noticing New York review of “Page One” may remember that “Page One” was recommended by Noticing New York as a very good film and well worth seeing, but that I complained about what had been left out and therefore recommended seeing it conjunction with “Battle For Brooklyn” to fill in what was omitted. Specifically, I pointed out that the film did little to address the absence of coverage of local news countrywide and specifically how that deficiency is a big story in New York City itself. The Times is not stepping in to fill a vacuum. Even worse, as exemplified in the “Battle For Brooklyn,” the local news narrative concerning Atlantic Yards as led by the theoretically dependable and unimpeachable Times has resulted in an economic and political fiasco.

One could analyze the problem with “Page One” as being twofold: First, there are the omissions and inadequate work on the part of the Times itself; second, these omissions and failings were not pointed out by “Page One.”

What a strange quirk of fate then that one of the other films edging out “Page One,” “Bill Cunningham New York,” should be another film which is also about the Times since its subject is the well-known Times reporter who covers both high society and street fashion. What's more, “Bill Cunningham New York,” like “Battle For Brooklyn,” also covers the subject of local news coverage more prominently than “Page One.” In my Noticing New York review of the Bill Cunningham movie I came up with a list a ten reasons why Noticing New York readers should want to see the Cunningham movie. With the principal focus of Noticing New York being development and urban design in New York, together with associated politics, I was able to supply a list of ten reasons for readers to see the film. I commented that the film will give them a prism through which to see the city and to think about quite a variety of related subjects; for instance, how much Cunningham sounds like Jane Jacobs: “I let the street speak to me, and in order for the street to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is.”

You see, (and this is something Jane Jacobs might say too) everything is related.

In writing often about New York Times coverage, most recently how the Time screwed up coverage of Bloomberg’s eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park, I have been making the point that you cannot cover the news selectively. Local coverage is related to national coverage. You cannot selectively cast a blind eye to the misconduct associated with Atlantic Yards as the New York City’s biggest boondoggle. If you try to elide the evils of Atlantic Yards in your pages it will leave holes in the paper-of-record stories about everything else. One of the really big stories about Occupy Wall Street (and even the Tea Party) is the rampant crony capitalism the nation is dealing with. If you are not reporting the real story of Atlantic Yards and the crucial involvement of mayor (who wants to be a national candidate and voice) you are not going to be first, foremost or reliable in reporting about key aspects of the national dialogue.

Something about “Battle For Brooklyn”and “Bill Cunningham New York” was speaking to those selecting films for the Oscar short list in a way that “Page One” addressing the grand theme of the Times as a national paper and institution did not. All three documentaries “Battle For Brooklyn” “Cunningham” and “Page One” involve unfolding of events that could not have been predicted when they were begun. I tend to think that even though “Page One” involves a lot of gripping material it was an easier film to make than “Battle For Brooklyn.” The paper provided access and eloquent talking heads for a year: It is hard to think that with all the national and international stories the Times covers the result was not going to be fascinating. “Battle For Brooklyn,” was undertaken with less certainty about what might result. It was filmed over the course of eight years and in figuring out how to introduce appropriate balance in its perspective faced challenges of access given the heavy duty politics and PR manipulation that has always been so large a part of the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment’s story.

One reason “Page One” can be regarded as a lesser film in the overall contest as films head toward Oscarland is that it does not evade the trap, which must have been apparent from the beginning, of producing a self-laudatory result full of praise for the Times. If it had taken on and absorbed some of the local news coverage issues presented by “Battle for Brooklyn” (or perhaps even “Bill Cunningham”) it might have become a truly great film. Let’s see if New York gets featured amongst the Oscar winners this year. Let’s see if “Bill Cunningham New York” wins for best documentary or perhaps the David against the 1% Goliath/Occupy Wall Street themed “Battle For Brooklyn.”

In that regard we are only talking the documentary film world reporting on the real world. But the Oscar race is a clue to a bigger real world story. That bigger story is about how the New York Times could become a significantly greater paper by setting aside its misplaced bet that it can get away with sidestepping proper coverage of important local news stories like Atlantic Yards or Columbia University’s the similarly problematic use of eminent domain to take over West Harlem or. . . the list of stories goes on. It is a long one because everything is connected.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

National Notice Article on Orwellian Reversal As Bloomberg Biographer Proclaims OWS-Evicting Billionaire Mayor "Firm Supporter of the First Amendment"

Readers of Noticing New York and followers of multitudinous Atlantic Yards shenanigans will be well acquainted with how thoroughly Orwellian local New York politics can be as any semblance of fixed reality is readily allowed to go down the memory hole.” As Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Reports (whose “down the memory hole” phrase we quote here) has ample and regular opportunity to note, much of what vanishes down that hole goes flushed out of our consciousness via articles written by an abetting media.

Its “Orwellian” when those in power say that things are the way they want the public to perceive them with no respect for history or the way things really are. We’ve seen “Orwellian” in eras past and likely we will see it again to disguise the non-completion of Atlantic Yards. It was “Orwellian” back in 1986 when it was proudly announced to the NYC public that the Jacob Javits Conference Center had been completed relatively on budget ($487 million vs. $375 million) and on schedule (only two years late) ignoring the fact that the completed center was only half as large as what was planned when construction was begun. But now it seems as if we are living with “Orwellian” as we have never before.

There is a new National Notice article up for your delectation of things Orwellian. It involves the reversal Bloomberg biographer, Joyce Purnick, made when she declared just weeks ago on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show that New York City’s billionaire mayor is “a firm supporter of the First Amendment” when in her 2009 biography of Mr. Bloomberg she describes him as anything but. Ms. Purnick’s new point of view arrived coincidentally with the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to depict Bloomberg as a civil libertarian as he orchestrated eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park. (All the details are al available here: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, Orwellian Purnick Purge: Bloomberg Biographer Rewrites Billionaire Mayor’s Record On First Amendment Free Speech Rights.)

Noticing New York readers may recall that we once considered Ms. Purnick’s Bloomberg biography “Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics” in the context of how it expunged from his portrait depiction of “significantly errant Bloombergian megadevelopment” and particularly Atlantic Yards, notwithstanding Ms. Purnick’s having been thoroughly briefed on that megadevelopment’s outrages. See: Saturday, October 3, 2009, What Purnick Has Purged: The Bloomberg Bio Mysteriously Missing Atlantic Yards.

The National Notice article is a follow-up to an earlier National Notice article about how, in much the same way, the New York Times started running stories proclaiming that Bloomberg was a champion of the First Amendment and free speech in connection with its coverage of his eviction of the OWS protesters even though the Times history of coverage on Bloomberg in this regard is very much to the contrary. (See: Sunday, November 20, 2011, Question of Truth For The Times: The Meme of Bloomberg as Champion of the First Amendment & Free Speech, Firmly Planted Before OWS Eviction.) It definitely seems as if Ms. Purnick was trying to fall in line with this flattering revisionism offered by the Times rather than stand by her own reporting in the previously published biography.

There is always a concern that biographies written by biographers getting special access to their subjects will be too adulatory. The prior Noticing New York article included observations that Ms. Purnick’s book was mostly admiring of Bloomberg. Usually however the problem envisioned with respect to such bias is that the biographer will be too deferential to its subject when the biography comes out, not that the biographer, due to an ongoing deference to the subject of their book, will subsequently act as if the book they wrote no longer says what it said when they wrote it.

Think what it would be like if biographers treated the facts of the biographies they’ve written as malleable to the ebb and flow of political fashion. In 2007 when a march was on to rehabilitate the image of Robert Moses and three separate museums mounted exhibits asking visitors to rethink Moses (and thus also their view of mega-projects) do you think Robert Caro was approached to to revise his Pulitzer Prize-wining Moses biography, “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York”? No, those looking to burnish Mose’s image went elsewhere. Caro wrote his warts and all portrait of Robert Moses as he thought was honest in the first instance. He was certainly not about to realign it to some new PR campaign.

Ms. Purnick, alas, is no Robert Caro.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fracking Double Whammy: New York Loses Two Aces In The Hole When Confronting Climate Change (i.e.Weather Weirding/Global Warming)

The changes brought by climate change, of which there will be many, including drought, escalating temperatures and rising sea levels, will have immense effects around the planet. Last week the New York Times ran a story about a new 600-page report, published Wednesday, about the effects that climate change will have in New York State. The report was commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a public-benefit corporation, and reflects years of work “by scientists at state academic institutions, including Columbia and Cornell Universities and the City University of New York.” (See: From Shore to Forest, Projecting Effects of Climate Change, by Leslie Kaufman, November 16, 2011.)

According to the Times, there is lots of bad news: tress will die, invasive species will alter forests, orchards will go defunct, dairy cows will suffer heat stress and beach communities would be inundated by a sea level rise as much as 55 inches and “effects of climate change would fall disproportionately on the poor and the disabled.”

Any good news in the report? Yes, there is. According to the Times New York has an ace in the hole that could give it a special advantage over other states when confronting the devastating effects of what people also refer to as “weather weirding” and in the past more frequently called “global warming”:
Art DeGaetano, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, said that its findings need not be interpreted as totally devastating. . . . “. . there will be opportunities as well. We expect, for example, that New York State will remain water-rich and we may be able to capitalize when other parts of the country are having severe drought.”
There is a problem with that analysis: The prospect that New York can capitalize on its status as a “water-rich” state vanishes if, as is likely to happen, New York’s water resources are contaminated by hydraulic fracturing. No kidding, New York is a state with a wonderful supply of water, water everywhere but as Noticing New York has previously covered the entire state faces pollution from fracking that the Andrew Cuomo administration is proposing to introduce. Say goodbye to the value those water resources would have. (See: Friday, July 29, 2011
Conundrum: If Gov. Andrew Cuomo Traded The Moratorium on Hydrofracking To Get Gay Marriage Would That Be Good Or a Bad Thing?)

There is another ace in the hole New York has been keeping in reserve that, according to the Times, New York stands also to lose when the higher sea levels associated with climate change arrive:
. . . New York City’s backup drinking water supply may well be contaminated as a result of seawater making its way farther up the Hudson River.
So if you were hoping that the city could resort to its backup water supply if there is a fracking contamination problem with its main supply; Fuhgeddaboudit!

Is that fair? After all, where does global warming/climate change come from anyway? By pumping carbon dioxide and gases like methane into the air by burning fossil fuels. Fracking, although a brand new, recently invented “technology” will exacerbate the situation and greatly accelerate the arrival of change. (There is also the “game over” (for the planet) plan to exploit Canada’s tar sands by building the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

That means that fracking will first significantly contribute to global warming and weather weirding and then it will, adding devastation to devastation, destroy our New York State aces in the hole available to deal with it. Holy cats!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Could The Times Get Yet Another Story (In Addition to Atlantic Yards) So Wrong: OWS Evicting Bloomberg as Defender of Free Speech

You are almost certainly going to want to read my new National Notice article about how the New York Times misguidedly covered Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park, implanting in its stories the deceptive meme that Bloomberg is a champion of First Amendment free speech rights: Sunday, November 20, 2011, Question of Truth For The Times: The Meme of Bloomberg as Champion of the First Amendment & Free Speech, Firmly Planted Before OWS Eviction.

How could the Times have gone so wrong in its coverage of yet another major news story?

Noticing New York has frequently covered and criticized the grossly inadequate, misleading and biased coverage that the New York Times has provided with respect to the Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards megadevelopment and associated issues such as the abuse of eminent domain that is also occurring elsewhere, like Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem. Here are some links to that coverage:
• Sunday, June 26, 2011
“Page One: Inside the New York Times” Reviewed; Plus The “New York Times Effect” on New York’s Biggest Real Estate Development Swindle

• Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Whither the New York Times? Noticing New York Comment Respecting a Manhattan Institute Sponsored Debate

• Sunday, August 21, 2011
Heritage of "Journalistic Enterprise and Courage" Duly Noted: The Modern Day New York Times Meets and Likes Its Boss Tweeds

• Wednesday, September 7, 2011
The New York Times Takes an Editorial Position on the Subject of Encouraging Competition and It’s Inconsistent With Its Position on Atlantic Yards
Heretofore the Noticing New York thesis about such atrocious coverage by the Times was that it was all the more insidious and dangerous because the paper of record is, in otherwise confidence-inspiring ways, head and shoulders over other newspapers in New York City, even all the rest of country. The Times dereliction with respect to the Atlantic Yards family of issues seemed to be a willful and conscious choice related to a deal the Times knowingly made with the devil when it attempted to buttress itself financially (while garnering some attention-grabbing cultural surface glitz) by partnering with real estate developer and subsidy-collector-specialist Forest City Ratner to use (abuse?) eminent domain to build a New Times Square headquarters building.

The problem is, as pointed out in prior Noticing New York articles, you cannot selectively cast a blind eye to the misconduct associated with the city’s biggest boondoggle because everything is connected. You cannot expect to elide the evils of Atlantic Yards in your pages because it leaves holes in your paper-of-record stories about everything else. Do you want to report about the Brooklyn Borough President's shady capitalization on conflicts of interest involving charities created for that purpose? There’s a gaping hole in this tale you tell unless Atlantic Yards gets featured front and center.

Whatever the Times may have conceptualized about ghettoizing its coverage of Atlantic Yards into some sort of safely segregated backwater, where real news could be ignored and PR advertorial-style fluff could innocuously occupy space on its sports and other pages, it hasn’t panned out. Bruce Ratner’s penchant for perpetually and outrageously pushing boundaries of public offense has worked to ensure that the Atlantic Yards stories never stop rotating through news cycle while raising all sorts issues, issues embarrassing for the Times to report on and embarrassing for it to ignore.

You can’t report the news selectively. Everything is connected. In fact, the biggest story the Times is failing to cover well when it doesn’t cover the all Atlantic Yards issues is the story of crony capitalism. That has national implications. Without a crystal clear and firm handle on cony capitalism the Times can’t adequately cover New York City’s mayor, Bloomberg, a man who has national political aspirations. And without a crystal clear and firm handle on cony capitalism how good is your reporting on Occupy Wall Street going to be?

The inadequacy of Times coverage of both Occupy Wall Street and Mayor Bloomberg brings us back to the aforementioned new National Notice article about how the Times was styling Mr. Bloomberg as a defender of free speech while it covered his eviction of Occupy Wall Street. How could the Times have gotten yet another story so wrong? To learn about how wrong they got it, read National Notice.Link

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whistleblowing and ESD: Culture and the Questionable Spirit In Which the State Agency Most Responsible For Atlantic Yards Wields Omnipotent Powers

Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno was recently fired (as was university president Graham Spanier) for his inadequate whistleblowing in connection the sexual abuse scandal involving minors. In a National Notice article I contrasted Paterno’s firing for insufficient whistleblowing with what lawyer and Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald is saying happens to whistleblowers in government which is essentially the opposite. Greenwald is saying that government whistleblowers, at least federal government whistleblowers within the Obama administration, are being punished for effective whistleblowing. (See: Friday, November 11, 2011, Damned If You . . . WHAT? Deep Doo Doo (or Don’t Don’t) Questions For Whistleblowers: Does All It Hinge On Private vs Public Sector Employment?)

(Picture of fired Penn State football coach Joe Paterno above from Wikipedia.)

Is this a difference between the private sector and government?: Is it that in the private sector you are damned if you don’t blow the whistle effectively while in government you are punished if you do? Possibly. And possibly the explanation is found in another thesis that Greenwald argues and has set forth at length in his new book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful: That there is now a club, a political and financial class, that is above the law, essentially the 1% Club. By virtue of that thesis the elimination of effective whistleblowing within government simply follows from the fact that for all practical purposes there is now an identity of interest between government and the 1% Club. Greenwald referred to Simon Johnson’s Atlantic Magazine article “The Quiet Coup.”

Whistleblowing and New York Agencies: Presenting ESD

When I wrote the National Notice article referred to above I could not help thinking back to the earlier Noticing New York article about whistleblowing I wrote about effective and ineffective whistleblowing in New York government agencies, particularly state authorities. One of my focuses was the Empire State Development Corporation (aka The New York State Urban Development Corporation) which, with a new name shift, is now calling itself by the further abbreviated moniker “Empire State Development.” (See: Wednesday, February 3, 2010, Two Things About the Pataki Administration and a Hope About What Is Secretly Going on Behind the Scenes Respecting Atlantic Yards.)

One of the things I wrote about ESDC at the time was that:
. . the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency theoretically most responsible for Atlantic Yards, does not have a whistleblower protection policy even though it was legally required to have adopted one by the Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005, the provisions of which were signed into law on January 13, 2006.
And ESDC's noncompliance was being lapped by a new change in law because:
More whistleblower requirements that ESDC is supposed to follow are coming effective March 1, 2010 with the amendments to the Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009.
Crime Scene Return

I figured I would return to the scene of ESDC’s crime of noncompliance with the law to find out whether the state agency was finally getting around to complying. ESDC is belatedly coming into compliance with the law but it can easily be said that it does not look as though there is enthusiasm for a spirit of encouraging whistleblowing at ESD or at its coadministered sister agency, the Job Development Authority.

Fully on notice about its noncompliance given my February 3, 2010 Noticing New York article, ESDC finally adopted the whistleblower policy it was legally required to on April 26, 2010 (i.e. also missing the March 1, 2010 deadline of the second law).

It was on the agenda for April 26, 2010 for administrative action as Agenda item #4. According to the minutes, when one of the board members asked, they were told that this was the first time the agency had such a policy but there is no mention recorded in the minutes or in the memo presenting the policy to the directors that the agency had been improperly without such a policy for many years.

JDA, ESD’s coadministered sister agency that was involved in issuing the (rather questionable) bonds for the Atlantic Yards Prokhorov/Ratner “Barclays” arena did not act to adopt the required whistleblower policy until more than a year after ESD, June 28, 2011. (Interesting to note: In terms of government operating in a fancifully pure world, there is apparently, as of yet, absolutely no reference on the entire ESD site to “Prokhorov.”)

Inert Policies: No Periodic Reporting

The responses I received after inquiries to the ESD press office inform me that the policies, since their adoption, have been essentially inert.

The ESDC whistleblower policy requires that periodic reports be given to the board of directors and that those reports be no less frequent than annually. Specifically:
Periodically, but not less than once annually, the Audit Committee, in consultation with the Senior Vice President-Legal and General Counsel, shall provide a written summary to the ESDC Board(s) for the period setting forth the status of pending matters reported pursuant to this Policy Statement, including all claims of whistleblower retaliation.
That would mean that the first such report to the ESD directors would necessarily have been required by April 2011, at least. There was no such report furnished to the directors.

The ESD press office offered the interpretation that no report has been required because, to date, no “claims have been received for whistleblower retaliation.” This is not an impossible interpretation for a way in which the policy could, under its terms, be administered at ESD and JDA. Yes, the required reports could be interpreted as nonrequired in such a situation, but it is not the way to administer the policy if you want to create a consciousness that the whistleblower policy is important. Is it too lawyerly on my part to point out that the more conservative dot-the-“i”s and-cross-the-“t”s way to do this would be to provide the required regular periodic reports reminding the directors of the policy and affirming in those reports the negative, that no matters are pending.

Minimalist Policy Covering Only Retaliation

As it is, as written, very little is required to be reported under the ESDC whistleblower policy because the ESD policy constitutes only the very minimum required by the law it is finally complying with. The policy in all respects focuses exclusively only on prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers and does not in any other respect encourage, require or provide structure for whistleblowing or employees to report information concerning acts of wrongdoing, misconduct, malfeasance, or other inappropriate behavior that they discover, know about, or otherwise obtain information about. If it did, the periodic reports would have more to cover.

At this point, were it to be assumed that ESD is now in compliance with both the law and its policy, the absence of required reports under the policy can be interpreted only to mean that no employees have complained of retaliation for their whistleblowing. It does not mean that no employees have blown the whistle about internal ESD misconduct. It does not even mean that employees who have blown the whistle are not being retaliated against, only that if they are being retaliated against they have not yet complained about it (if they even know they are being retaliate against).

No Duty to Report Internal Misconduct: Misconduct Not Proscribed

It is instructive to compare the whistleblower policy of the state housing and finance authorities that was included in my earlier Noticing New York article about whistleblowing.

Those agencies have an express policy of not condoning the misconduct itself:
It is the policy of the Affiliated Agencies . . . . that illegal or unethical activity, including but not limited to corruption, fraud, criminal activity, abuse and conflict of interest, by the Members, Officers or employees of the Agency or any person having business dealings with the Agency, will not be permitted, tolerated or condoned.
The ESD/JDA policy expresses no such equivalent. The policy for these other state agencies call for the reporting of internal misconduct:
Employees discovering or otherwise obtaining information concerning acts of wrongdoing, misconduct, malfeasance, or other inappropriate behavior by an employee or Member with respect to investments, travel, the acquisition of real property and the disposition of real and personal property and the procurement of goods and services shall promptly report such activity directly to: [then follows a list of reporting options.]
The ESD/JDA policy has no such requirement for its employees to report internal misconduct. (A sleepy ESD board director would probably not have noticed this by reading the description in the memo presenting the policy for adoption.) Does the policy therefore permit (even hope for) such nonreporting, the kind of government model Glenn Greenwald was apparently talking about vs. the kind of proactive spirit everyone, in retrospect, now feels should have been exhibited by Joe Paterno?

Spirit of Whistleblower Access and Assistance As Possible Alternative

What kind of spirit should an agency be showing with respect to whistleblowing? The Public Authorities Reform Act of 2009 (“PARA”) has provisions about the establishment of a “Whistleblower Access and Assistance Program” and that law also was supposed to involve the State Attorney General in commenting upon the Whistleblower polices of individual authorities like ESD and JDA. That bespeaks a spirit that favors encouraging and assisting whistleblowers but as technically written the program is to be implemented at a statewide level: a public authority such as ESD is not legally required to partake in that spirit. If it wants, an authority like ESD can apparently do the very minimum ESD has done.

And it appears that the ESD policy, as minimally compliant as it now may be, is sinking out of everyone’s consciousness given the absence of things like regular reports to ESD directors that could remind those directors that there are standards extant and applicable to the reporting of misconduct.

Reporting Agency Misconduct Externally

Are there any ESD employees mulling over reporting internal misconduct? Or are there even employees who have reported misconduct at ESD/JDA internally and are now noticing that their reports are not being followed up on? There is one piece of good news for them in the ESD whistleblower policy: It appears that the ESD policy protects ESD employee whistleblowers who report misconduct externally “insofar as the actions taken by the employee are legal” and/or the employee is disclosing the information “to a governmental body.”

Could the policy have been even clearer in saying that such external reporting is an option open to employees witnessing internal misconduct? Probably. The policy of the other state agencies says:
Where appropriate, employees may also, in addition, report such activity to outside local, state and federal governmental authority having jurisdiction over the illegal or unethical activity.
Should ESD employees consider reporting misconduct at ESD externally? For a possible answer we can come full circle to the Paterno and Penn State scandal.

The Culture of Cover-Up vs. Natural Moral Values

(Chris Matthews on Real Time above.)

Chris Matthews on last week’s Real Time With Bill Maher had some harsh words for those who think that just reporting misconduct internally is sufficient and harsh words for those who allow themselves, when it comes to their whistleblowing decisions, to get inculcated with the values of the organization where they work rather than the natural values with which they grew up. His remarks came about 42 minutes into the program:
You know what I think? I said this at college graduations— I believe in it so much! When you grow up as a kid and you join an organization, whether it’s the U.S. Congress or Penn State College, as you call it, you’ve got to have your values before you walk in the door, you’ve got to know what’s wrong and what’s right because they ain’t gonna teach you there. All they teach you there is how to win football games, how to cover your butt. You’ve got to have those values. That guy, McQueary [assistant coach Mike McQueary]— he said he was a young guy— he’s twenty-eight years old: OK?— He’s the guy they we’re all talking about, the guy, the guy they put on PAID LEAVE today. Paid leave! Give him a break? This guy should have known the minute he saw what you just described. The minute he saw it he should have gone to the cops; he shouldn’t have said, `talk to Dad about it.’ Because his first instinct was, `My God! This is horrible!: I can’t believe I am seeing it!’ Then he allows himself to be propagandized into the system— `Oh, well we really don’t want to tell anybody outside of the system.’ And he begins to ask the system to teach him the value system: AND THEY TAUGHT HIM IT: Cover it up! You never ask a system to teach you values because the values of the system is always cover-up.

His first impulse was right: `I can’t believe what I saw!’
Can Anyone Believe What We Saw With ESD’s Handling of Atlantic Yards?

Is the misconduct at Penn State so much worse as to defy comparison with the misconduct people envision occurred as state officials shilled for Forest City Ratner, bending procedures and protocol and bending the letter and spirit of laws, so as to favor a rigged deal for developer/subsidy-collector Forest City Ratner over the interests of the public? The acts alleged to have occurred at Penn State involving sexual abuse of very young minors are truly terrible. The abuse of minors is all the more terrible specifically because minors are understood not to be in a position to protect themselves. But when it comes to what people suffered at the hands of state officials were community members in a position to protect themselves?

The ESD officials wielded virtually omnipotent powers as they abused eminent domain, together with ESD’s other vast abilities to supersede conventional legalities for Bruce Ratner. In what kind of culture were all these powers wielded? I agree with and think that Tom Ziller (at SBNation.com) has accurately described the Prokhorov/Ratner basketball arena as “simply Vaseline for a real estate project [and, I add `accompanying land grab'] in Brooklyn that will make his company billions more than an NBA team could ever be worth.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lawsuit Against Forest City Ratner And The Fallacy Of Relying On A White-owned Monopoly To Create Construction Work For The Minority Community

(Above, Maurice Griffin, one of the plaintiffs at the press conference today about the new lawsuit against Forest City Ratner and BUILD brought by former Atlantic Yards supporters.)

I attended today’s press conference at City Council Member Tish James’ office that was held to call attention to the lawsuit* filed today against Forest City Ratner and BUILD in connection with the nonmaterialization of promised Atlantic Yards jobs. BUILD is one of the AstroTurf community organization, which operates essentially as an arm of and supported by the Forest City Ratner organization to provide 1.) the illusion of community support for the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment and 2.) to a certain limited degree, some actual community support for the mega-project which, according to the lawsuit, it does partly by bamboozling. BUILD’s primary function is to sell the idea that Forest City Ratner’s construction of Atlantic Yards will create jobs for minority community members in Brooklyn.

(* See: Tuesday, November 15, 2011, Seven (of 36) trainees who went through job training program for Atlantic Yards construction jobs sue Forest City, BUILD, others, claiming promises were a sham, Tuesday, November 15, 2011, The missing Independent Compliance Monitor for the Atlantic Yards CBA: it should have reported on the construction job training initiative, now subject of a lawsuit, and Tuesday, November 15, 2011, Given the lawsuit against BUILD and FCR, will the New York Times revisit the 2005 "modern blueprint" claim? )

The lawsuit, brought by seven construction workers (out of a group of 36 trainees) who are members of the minority community and who formerly supported Ratner’s Atlantic Yards, alleges that the workers were snookered by Forest City Ratner and BUILD. Some of the charges are quite serious, including that they were convinced to do construction work without pay (“a sham training program”) apparently as part of the scheme to dupe them and extend their belief that they would eventually be getting promised jobs.

I am going to let others report more deeply on the lawsuit and press conference as I know, for instance, that Norman Order of Atlantic Yards Report will and when he does I will link to it at the bottom of this article.

I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of the lawsuit, the question of what Forest City Ratner really ought to owe everyone. The plaintiffs are represented by South Brooklyn Legal Services and one of the attorneys I spoke to today commented that it was sort of absurd that Forest City Ratner had to be sued for not delivering what was essentially the jobs “sweetener” promised for getting control over all the acreage associated with Atlantic Yards. I think that actually trivializes the debt that Forest City Ratner is walking out on.

It is astounding to think that with the resources of its huge mega-monopoly Forest City Ratner is stiffing people for even these few jobs. The 22 acres of Atlantic Yards are contiguous to other Ratner-owned acreage, making for 30 contiguous Ratner-owned acres at the site, with 50+ Ratner-owned acres in the area. That’s an awful lot of mega-monopoly tying up resources in the community accompanied by an unwillingness to hand out jobs.

More important, it should not be overlooked that the creation of the Ratner mega-monopoly precluded and destroyed other jobs. Therefore, I don’t think it is a case of Ratner just owing the community or individuals the few jobs that were the promised sweetener in connection with all the Ratner takings; what Ratner owes the community ought to be commensurate with all the jobs destroyed or precluded by the mega-monopoly.

The Ratner/BUILD combination was promising jobs for minority construction workers. Is turning a mega-monopoly over to Forest City Ratner really a way to create those construction jobs? Or is it the reverse? Jane Jacobs devoted analysis in her book “The Economy of Cities” to what exactly creates jobs for minority construction workers and firms. Her analysis was that the agglomeration of inherently smaller construction projects into much larger ones was a subtle form of discrimination that actually serves to remove work from the minority community, almost, some might believe as if that were the intention.

Her description on page 226 of her book sounds very much like a description of the development of Atlantic Yards except that it is describing a much smaller agglomeration. The language, in one long paragraph from 1969, might sound a little dated by the standards of what today’s political correctness prescribes, but it makes sense. (I inserted “develop their businesses” below in substitution for a descriptive term that those unfamiliar with definitions used with the book would not know.):
. . . if whites in the Unites States really were to ignore what blacks do, if they really were unaware of what goes on in black communities in American cities, blacks would, in fact, actually have a chance to [develop their businesses]. But black people in their ghettos are regulated absolutely by whites. A black neurosurgeon, Dr. Thomas Matthew (about whom I shall have more to say shortly), replied when he was asked by a white government official how city agencies might help Negro self-help projects, “Get out of my way, and let us try something.” Among well-meaning whites, the latest fad is to give tax exemptions to white corporations to build new housing for blacks and grants of millions to white-owned public utilities and other large corporations to train blacks. This is much like foreign aid to a colony that is not allowed to develop its own work. Along the same lines, a few years ago New York City and the Federal government undertook, with fanfare, to rehabilitate a group of thirty-seven buildings in Harlem. Black-owned construction firms were theoretically free to bid for the work, but there was a booby trap. All thirty-seven buildings were put into one “package.” Therefore, only firms able to get bonding (required by city and Federal regulations) for so large a job could bid for it, and the only firms that could get the bonding were firms that were already doing big jobs, which meant that they were white contracting firms. Of course the works went to a large, white-owned company. If the contracts had been awarded for each building individually— an eminently practical procedure and customary in cases where buildings are being rehabilitated privately in white areas— black contractors could have competed for the jobs. An association of black construction and contracting organizations in New York, struggling to establish a foothold for their work, had begged the city to put the buildings out to bid separately, to no avail. The association, again to no avail, then asked the House of Representatives to investigate this situation and find out why the city was freezing them out of work they were capable of undertaking.
In other words, Jane Jacobs concluded that if you want to create construction work for minority individuals and firms it is not a good idea to agglomerate available construction work and hand it over to monopolies where only white-owned development firms like the Ratner firm are going to be allowed in charge. In the most current popular vernacular we might also regard this, putting aside race entirely, as handing everything over to the 1% Club and expecting some crumbs back.

When I attended the press conference I had just come from the confrontation over the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park so this was on my mind. After the press conference I spoke to one of the plaintiffs about putting everything “in control of the 1% Club and then expecting something back.” First he said that he didn’t care if a job was coming from a member of the 1% Club, he just wanted a job. Then he said that his thoughts on the 1% were really somewhat different. “How can the economy function,” he said, “if the 1% have all the money?”

The question is can you view yourself as truly having a seat at the table when all you are being offered is crumbs? And it’s especially irksome and unfair when the crumbs you are being offered are from a man to whom there was no reason to give control of your table in the first place.

PS: (Added 11/16/2011) As promised, here is the link to comprehensive coverage of the press conference in Atlantic Yards Report (videos included) that links to other local coverage: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, “I was robbed,” claims plaintiff in lawsuit against BUILD and FCR; defendants deny promising jobs and union cards, setting up contest over credibility; claims over unpaid wages in "sham" training program may be easier to prove.

See also ARYs:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Brutally weird: Times covers lawsuit against BUILD/FCR amid longer article about promotional event for the Nets


Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Documents from the lawsuit against BUILD & FCR: the press release and the legal complaint

Breaking News: 1:00 AM Bloomberg Moves In To Evict Occupy Wall Street Protesters

(Above, a picture of Mayor Bloomberg’s dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, at Occupy Wall Street, explained here.)

Noticing New York and National Notice usually don’t cover breaking news. A breaking news focus doesn’t readily permit the kind of considered contextual articles that seem to be the most valuable addition that can be made to the prevalent media chatter. This article will make this exception to cover important breaking news.

Bloomberg reportedly had the New York Police Department move in at 1:00 AM last night (without warning) to remove the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park. According to one of the protesters who was there, interviewed on the BBC, the police moved in with knives to cut up and shred the property at the encampment. Reportedly about 70 protesters were arrested. (Another report said 200.) On the BBC you can hear protesters chanting to the police: “Who do you serve: Who do you protect?” and “Shame on you.” You can also hear, “Don’t push me.”

The dispersed protesters are now reassembling at a number of other nearby city sites. There were reports that Bloomberg closed down subway stations to divert the public away from the area.

Bloomberg seems to have chosen his time to evict the protesters so as to fold it in into reports of attempted evictions occurring elsewhere in the country. So it will be less noticed? So, with the help of a short public memory, it will hopefully disappear after a quick run through the 24- hour news cycle?

Bloomberg held a press conference this morning to explain his actions. Most notable in the press conference from standpoint of what Noticing New York and National Notice have previously reported were the following:
• Bloomberg cited health and safety reasons (not suppression of the protesters speech) as the principal reason for removing the protesters. In doing so he gave what I believe were inaccurate (and to my mind manufactured) descriptions of the conditions in Zucotti Park. The many times I have been to Zucotti Park while the protesters were there I never found or felt it was unsafe. I never found that it was difficult to enter or use the park except for the impediments in doing so that came from police barricades and sometimes from shoulder to shoulder police. I did not note that the many elderly choosing to be in the park seemed to feel any concern about their safety. A paralyzed protester in an expensive wheelchair and on a breathing apparatus also did not seem in the least perturbed about his safety. Why did Bloomberg feel it necessary to stress multiple mischaracterizations in this regard during his press conference? Why bother to say things like “there were reports of. . [insert inflammatory thing that didn’t happen] . . . but the police could find no evidence of this”?

• Bloomberg also said several times that the protesters had to be removed because they were violating Brookfield’s property rights. That’s something already written about by Noticing New York and National Notice. Brookfield is the theoretical owner of Zucotti Park. Zucotti Park is the kind of quasi-public space we now see replacing and substituting what used clearly to be public space. So Bloomberg is making the case that Brookfield’s ownership private rights were an operative factor justifying constriction of the protesters’ rights to free speech and free assembly. The argument that free speech violates property rights is increasingly easy as the skewing of wealth in this country to the 1% conjoins with a rapid and continuing privatization of what was previously public.

• Bloomberg was very clear that going forward he (together with Brookfield) intends to be in control of exactly how he wants the protesters to exercise their free speech rights in Zucotti Park. He said this will extend to the police searching people entering Zucotti Park, randomly or as the police see fit.

• Bloomberg said that he did not believe that the protesters were exercising their free speech rights. At the same time Bloomberg has been working to have the press report repeatedly that he is a strong believer in “free speech.” Again, one theme of Bloomberg’s press conference was that he is willing to tell the protesters how they may and should express themselves.

• At one point during the press conference Bloomberg mocked the strength of Occupy Wall Streeters’ ideas and their inability to get their ideas out in other ways. Some of their ideas are that a 1% Club, of which Bloomberg (who became the city’s wealthiest man while mayor) is conspicuously a member, exercise too much control in this country. That most certainly extends to control over who gets to say what and where and with what kind of amplification by the media and with what kind of assistance by paid advertising.

• In the press conference Bloomberg said that throughout the crisis he had been in constant contact with Brookfield Properties. This was despite the fact that earlier in the coverage of Occupy Wall Street the Bloomberg’s administration had prevailed upon the New York Times to report that Bloomberg’s staff was under “strict orders from Mr. Bloomberg” not to “lobby the owner of the park, Brookfield Office Properties.” I did not hear anyone at that press conference ask Mr. Bloomberg about the fact that his live-in girlfriend companion, Diana Taylor, is on the board of Brookfield.
Informative background with respect to much of the above is available in an earlier and thorough Noticing New York article written about Bloomberg’s intention to evict the protesters back on October 13th: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?

(Above, another picture of Mayor Bloomberg’s dogs, Bonnie and Clyde, at Occupy Wall Street, explained here.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here’s Reminder: Map For Saturday’s Occupy Brooklyn 2:30 PM March To Evict “Corporate Greed” (And Maybe Ratner's “Crony Capitalism”)

(Above, map of route for Occupy Brooklyn's 2:30 March tomorrow, Saturday the 12th, to “evict corporate greed.” )

Maybe you already know about Occupy Brooklyn’s planned march tomorrow at 2:30 to “evict corporate greed.” If you do, then the map of the proposed march tomorrow should serve as a reminder for that event and also for the teach-ins that begin at 10:00 AM at the Korean War Veterans Plaza at Cadman Plaza which is near Brooklyn Borough Hall, at Cadman Plaza West/East between Tillary and Johnson. If you didn’t know about it before, this is your opportunity to put it in your calendar.

The map of the proposed march should be a reminder of something else: The vastness of Forest City Ratner’s government-assisted mega-monopoly on some of the most valuable and densely zoned real estate in Brooklyn. It is interesting to note how much of the march, which will be 2.5 miles of walking in all, will involve going either over the property of Forest City Ratner or will be tightly flanked by Forest City Ratner’s property. The marchers would have to walk even longer distances if they were going to travel along all of the property over which government is in the process of giving Forest City Ratner mega-monopoly control. In all it's 50+ acres. See the map below of the mega-monopoly to evaluate the close overlap. See also the second map that follows below to see how the mega-monopoly sits astride a confluence of Brooklyn’s key subway lines and most important subway stations.

Presumably, the route was set in large part because this this is all real estate that is considered central, conspicuously visible and important to the populace of Brooklyn.

While the theme of this march may be to “evict corporate greed” and while there are those marching who will likely have major gripes with capitalism itself, this astounding Forest City Ratner mega-monopoly (which absolutely should be “evicted”) is not the inevitable result of “corporate greed” nor the result of what should be considered normal healthy capitalism. The Forest City Ratner mega-monopoly could only have come about with the complicity of government. It is the result of what is referred to as crony capitalism, something that, in principle, the Wall Street Journal editorially rails against which in this respect aligns the Wall Street Journal (but perhaps not the Atlantic Yards-supporting New York Times) with the Occupy movements.

Crony capitalism is draining to the economy in general and subtracts from the economic well-being of the 99%. I’ve been making the point, with articles under both the Noticing new York and National Notice banners, that opposition to crony capitalism, the teaming up of big corporations with big government, is something that should be a shared cause of both the right and left, both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement, including uniting them in opposition to the government assisted Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly. (See: Monday, October 24, 2011, On NPR, Echo of Coinciding Principles Noticed: What the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street Ought To Agree On and Tuesday, October 25, 2011, Opposition To Crony Capitalism As Uniting Cause: Resource-Grabbing Mega-Monopolies (Like Atlantic Yards) As Catalyst For Great Recessions/Depressions.

In his Atlantic Yards Report today Norman Oder made the same point that, “Atlantic Yards isn't an example of `anti-capitalist outrage.’ It's an example of `anti-crony-capitalist outrage.’” (See: Friday, November 11, 2011, Is Atlantic Yards (site of OWS protest) an example of "anti-capitalist outrage"? Maybe against crony capitalism.)

Also today, Mr. Oder made the point, writing about a similarly themed march yesterday outside J.P. Morgan Chase building in Ratner’s at MetroTech, that though the illusion of job creation is dangled before the public when the special subsidies and benefits get handed out to create these Ratner monopoly campuses, those jobs are likely not to materialize. (See: Friday, November 11, 2011, A protest at MetroTech and questions about subsidies.)

Yep, there’s no question about that, per Noticing New York articles on the subject: Saturday, March 26, 2011, The American Jobs Creation Act, Job Creation That Wasn’t: What Happens When Government Doesn’t Manage Its Programs.

The march through Brooklyn is an important form of free speech, one that is likely all the more important where other forms of participatory democracy to influence politicians seem increasing futile. You may want to exercise this right before it vanishes or is circumscribed entirely beyond recognition. For an extended discourse on how this right of free speech and public assembly is put into jeopardy by privatization of traditional public space, including for instance, the Ratner absorption of streets, avenues, sidewalks, parks and plazas that were previously publicly owned space, see: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?

I hope that same article will also give amusing insight into why I created images, like the one below, of Bonnie and Clyde, Mayor Bloomberg’s dogs, hanging out with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
For links to more Noticing New York and National Notice articles about themes related to Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement and to view some marvelous photographic portraits of Occupy Wall Street protesters, see: Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Faces of Occupy Wall Street: A Wonderful Site For Wonderful Sights.

So there is the march, which is surely worth showing up for and then the teach-ins. Will those teach-ins also be worth showing up for? Probably. Again, they begin at 10:00 AM. I understand that Common Cause New York will be teaming up with Occupy Brooklyn to lead a teach-in “concerning some of our core issues like money in politics and corporate personhood” that will begin at 1:30pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall at Korean War Veterans Plaza, Cadman Plaza W. between Tillary St. & Johnson St. (Nearby trains: 2,3,4,5,R to Borough Hall, A,F to Jay Street). There is also a Facebook event page on this.

See you there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Public Hearings For Big Real Estate Projects: Refining Your Sense of the Absurd

What’s the difference between “surreal” and “Kafkaesque”?

This is the kind of distinction you will find yourself making if you want to become a connoisseur of the flavors that public hearing futility comes in.

I just wrote about public hearings held where it is a forgone conclusion that those testifying are going to be ignored by those holding the hearing. And I wrote about a famous incident where, at one hearing, Jane Jacobs was arrested for protesting such absurdity. (See: Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Big Politically-Connected Real Estate Projects: Ignoring The Public Majority With Futile “Participatory Democracy” Hearing Process.)

Jane Jacobs suggested the intent of the hearing she was attending might have been considered simply as a steam valve by those holding it to help abate public indignation and wrath. And that gets into something else discussed, whether when attending such a hearing you should address yourself to those holding the hearing who won’t listen to you or, to make yourself feel better, to an audience of other members of the public who feel as you do. That assumes you are let into the hearing at all.

To describe the hearing when she was arrested, Jacobs invoked `surreal’ and `eerie.’

But `surreal’ and `eerie’ just won’t do as adjectives to describe some hearing where the machinations to ignore the public are ratcheted up steps further. After I wrote about the hearings that a club of politically connected “plutocrats” have complacent faith they can ignore I started thinking about a brilliant animation of a real hearing transcript done this summer by Norman Oder that appeared on his Atlantic Yards Report site. It appears below:

To appreciate it fully you should go to the post where it first appeared that also includes 13 links to prior articles about how absurd the hearing was. One of those posts makes a reference to “Theatre of the Absurd” writer Samuel Beckett, so you will have to chose between your authors in evaluating the situation: Kafka or Beckett? (See: Tuesday, August 23, 2011, Five years ago... there was a big public hearing--some retrospectives, and a new video.)

Basically, as Mr. Oder describes and his animation vivifies for you, over five years ago on an 88-degree August day thousands of Brooklynites tried to attend the first hearing on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement. As the hearing officer says, it was to be the only hearing but many of those wanting to testify were denied admittance to Klitgord Auditorium due to its lack of capacity. There was then the odd spectacle (chose your additional adjective) of people being called to testify by the hearing officer who were not being admitted into the building.

Webster’s defines Kafkaesque as “suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; especially : having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.” Kafka’s world is one where everything seems bureaucratically engineered to thwart those in the stories standing in for the Kafka persona. There isn’t anyone in particular to blame or to whom to attribute the futility that is felt but the tantalizing inexorability of the hopelessness becomes in his books and stories almost a personality unto itself.

If in the Kafka books there were individuals who to whom the engineered futility could be attributed then the adjective that would apply wouldn’t be `Kafkaesque,’ it would be `Machiavellian’ or it would be some sort of conspiratorial political thriller. . . Is there an adjective for this genre? Maybe we need one.

Maybe we need one because here is something else I was thinking about in connection with the absurdity of all the legal bells and whistles that surround these hearings and also the way that the courts have jettisoned eminent domain protection from the state and federal constitutions for the sake of the plutocratic class: There is a theory, a rather frightening one, that there is now a club, a political and financial class, that is above the law. I heard this theory propounded by Glenn Greenwald, the author of “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful” on a Leonard Lopate show segment yesterday.

Mr. Greenwald theorizes that we have been on a downward slope since the pardon of Richard Nixon and that there is now a elite club that expects to behave with impunity. He was utterly too convincing in the case he made. I hope it’s not true.

Here is a link and WNYC summary of the segment and you may click below to listen to it:
Glenn Greenwald on Our Justice System
Monday, November 07, 2011

Glenn Greenwald argues that, over the past four decades, the principle of equality before the law has been replaced with a two-tiered system of justice—the country's political and financial class is virtually immune from prosecution, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in greater numbers than in any other country in the world. With Liberty and Justice for Some reveals the mechanisms that have come to shield the elite from accountability. He shows how the media, both political parties, and the courts have abetted a process that has produced torture, war crimes, domestic spying, and financial fraud.

Yeah, maybe we are in a world where we need some new adjectives if the background to the stories being written will be such a world as Mr. Greenwald describes. Suggestions anyone?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rogues Gallery: The AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) Subway Corridor Posters Under the IFC Center Showing “Urbanized”

(Above, an example of how AIANY's postered Greenwich Village subway hall promoting subsidized projects SHOULD look, not how it actually does. Click to enlarge.)

On our way to catch and write about “Urbanized,” the new Gary Hustwit documentary about urban design* we discovered, heading up from the A Train, that the subway corridor directly under the IFC Center theater hosting the film is lined with AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) posters featuring different architectural projects. Some of those images are of Hall of Shame subsidy grabbers, and for sure at least the pictures of the of the net-public-loss Atlantic Yards Prokhorov/Ratner (“Barclays”) basketball arena are destined to be disgruntling.

(* Noticing New York’s review of Urbanized” is here: Saturday, November 5, 2011, Now Appearing In Gary Hustwit’s New Documentary “Urbanized”: Amanda Burden, New York’s High Line and Community Protest)

Prokhorov/Ratner (“Barclays”) Basketball Arena

CitiField Baseball Stadium

A second heavily subsidized expensive new sports venue, the Mets new CitiField baseball stadium was also amongst the images. Now seems like a good opportunity to recall something Noticing New York paid attention to in the summer of 2009: Prompted by the federal bailout (with Citibank among those getting substantial rescue funds) and the public’s hostility to the way that stadium had been financed with excessive public subsidies, suggestions were being made all over the place that CitiField should be renamed. (See: December 4, 2008, Citi Field by Any Other Name, by George Vecsey, December 5, 2008, Citi Field by Any Other Name, Part II, by Andrew Das, December 5, 2008, Answers From Brian Lehrer of WNYC, Part 3, by The New York Times, The Brian Lehrer Show, December 05, 2008, Bailout Stadium, Friday, December 05, 2008, and Mon Nov 24, 2008, So what should we, the American taxpayers, rename Citi Field? By 'Duk.)

The huge preponderance of suggestions (138 from Brian Lehrer listeners alone) for the renaming of the stadium reflect the public’s anger: “Debits Field,” “Field of Nightmares,” “Field of Schemes,” “Bailout Ballpark.” “The Field That Ruthless Built (reserved for the Yankees new stadium)” “Shea-m (Shame) Stadium,” our own “Shady Stadium” suggestion, or taking a cue from Bill Maher “SITTY Field with the H.”

Bank of America Tower

Also present amongst the images was the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park. Though that building, currently the second tallest in New York City, may have things to recommend it, Bank of America is in the headlines right now due to consumer outrage over its decision (now retracted) to charge its customers ludicrous fees to use their debit cards, and the size of the tower bearing the bank’s name (bringing increasing density to Bryant Park) was facilitated by assistance the government gave the developer in wielding the threat of abusive eminent domain.

Positioned Pitches

(Above, from the promotional site for "Urbanized")

How did the AIANY gallery wind up being displayed in that underground Greenwich Village subway corridor? Does AIANY regularly display such posters at that location? Did AIANY envision that “Urbanized” would be showing above in the IFC Center and that they could catch the exact audience they’d like to reach? That seems a bit far fetched (even if we can find Hustwit on AIANY's calendar and actually, in NYC, October is “Archtober” in which AIANY has an annual New Work exhibition). More likely, the posters were there at the same location for the same reason that the film was. Greenwich Village is a place where you can find people interested in the arts, including architecture; maybe not business or corporate types but individuals susceptible to the seduction of well-crafted images. Maybe people you want to reach because they are an on-the-edge demographic you don't think you already have assuredly on board with your message. And if you want to reach out effectively to those people it's good to offer your wares around hub subway stations where flows of such people converge.

The subway images promoting the Prokhorov/Ratner arena and these other government assisted, government subsidized projects is also part of something else that has been a Noticing New York preoccupation recently: The pummeling we are getting everywhere we go reflecting a severe imbalance in the public dialogue delivered via paid speech. Big picture, the skewing of wealth in this country is working in conjunction with the increasing privatization of the traditional avenues and elements of public speech (including but not limited to public spaces and streets in which to speak). That means that we are forever being subjected to ubiquitous, insistent cues and reinforcements of (for example) the way Forest City Ratner wants things perceived. (See: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?)

Corrections Please

(More on the calculations with respect to the above is available here.)

And because the images on these subway corridor walls are of government-assisted, publicly- subsidized projects this is essentially a self-pummeling since the images are ultimately paid for by the public itself (and those who have been the victims of eminent domain), notwithstanding that it was skewed wealth that initially tilted those subsidies into the developers' pockets. Cyclically, if the message does get through, then no one amongst us is supposed to object the next time one of these developers persuades politicians to tilt more subsidies into their pockets.

Given that correction is desperately needed to the not-so-subliminal subterranean subjugation I thought I would do in this article what have been doing in others, provide examples of the images we should instead be seen on subway posters and on billboards blasting their message to the public around the city.

To see more in this vein go to:
• Monday, May 2, 2011, “Welcome To Brooklyn” Where the Game Is Frivolous Spending On Boondoggle Basketball Arenas- Getting the Image Right

• Wednesday, October 26, 2011, Longing For Correcting Images to Jay-Z’s Hip-Hop Hype and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “Strategy of Distraction”

• Sunday, October 30, 2011, Unhappy Halloween: Recalling Last Year’s Tricky “Treats”: The Ghastly Ghosts Lurking In PR Messages From Atlantic Yards To Zucotti Park