Showing posts with label Corporate Branding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Corporate Branding. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Asked To Name Subway Station After Ed Koch MTA Says It Doesn’t Name Subway Stations After People. . . . Only Nefarious Banks Like Barclays

 (click to enlarge) The poster we'd like to see in the Barclays subway stations
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) is seeking to have the Lexington Avenue 77th Street Subway stop named after former mayor Ed Koch. . .

. . . Says the MTA:  “We do not rename subway stations after people.”   But the system does rename subway stations after corporations, no matter how disreputable they are, including the Barclays Bank.  (See Daily News on the Kock request and MTA response: MTA puts brakes on naming subway station after former Mayor Ed Koch,  ‘We do not rename subway stations after people,’ says MTA spokesman, by Ginger Otis, Peter Moskowitz and Pete Donohue, Monday, February 4, 2013.)

For more about renaming subway stations after corporations of not-so-resplendent reputation, including Barclays Bank, see:
•        Thursday, November 8, 2012, What’s In A Name?:The “Barclays” Name, As In “Barclays” Bank and “Barclays” Center Gets Some New Negative Associations

•        Friday, June 29, 2012, Government Gets Branded

•        Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Promoting Obfuscation of What Government Does and Doesn’t Do To Give The Private Sector (Including Ratner) More Credit

•        Thursday, September 27, 2012, Noticing New York Public Comment At Today’s MTA Board Meeting On the Subject Of MTA’s Devoting Public Assets To Advertising

•        Thursday, September 20, 2012, Embroiled In Embarrassment of Hosting Controversial Advertisement MTA Considers Banning “Issue Advertising”: What About Barclays LIBOR Scandal?
Here, hot off the presses, is the latest New York Times story about Barclays Bank misconduct in the selling of securities: Barclays Sets Aside $1.6 Billion More for Legal Costs, (Legal/Regulatory), by Merk Scott and Julia Werdiger, February 5, 2013.
Above (click to enlarge), the Barclays subway station as we'd like to see it, with a poster quoting a New York Times article

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hooray! MTA Breaching Contract With Ratner Removes “Barclays” From Subway Station Names

MTA's ad for new map app that is sans "Barclays"
     'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

        From Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy.  (Hamlet Act III, Scene 1.)

Sometimes when you allow yourself to hope for things you might actually see what you are hoping for come true!

The MTA needs to unwind the deal it made that has plastered the name of notorious scandal associated “Barclays” Bank on two subway hub stations in its system and associated maps and signs.  Among other things, this advertising for the bank puts the MTA in the very awkward position of appearing to endorse the bank’s infamously antisocial activities.  (See Noticing New York’s testimony before the MTA: Thursday, September 27, 2012, Noticing New York Public Comment At Today's MTA Board Meeting On the Subject Of MTA's Devoting Public Assets To Advertising.  See also: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Promoting Obfuscation of What Government Does and Doesn’t Do To Give The Private Sector (Including Ratner) More Credit.)

 In general, the MTA should cut way back on its dismaying efforts to max out advertising in the system.  The naming of subway stations after corporations, most conspicuously represented at present by the poorly handled naming of subway hub stations after “Barclay” Bank for which the MTA got a mere far-below-market pittance, is just the best current example of what is wrong.  Advertising revenues supporting the MTA system are absolutely minimal: More than 99% of the system is paid for by sources of funds other than advertising.  See:  Monday, September 17, 2012, NY Times Runs 3rd Article Mentioning That, Given Scandal, Promotionally Naming Subway Stations & Arena “Barclays” Is Problematic.

Well, yesterday I noticed that the MTA, despite its contractual obligation to Ratner to put the “Barclays” name on the subway stations, (including when the stations appear on system maps) has removed “Barclays” from the station names!  It came up in the context of advertising in which the MTA was advertising itself with ads within its own system.  The MTA has a new mobile device map app. (I guess mobile device map apps are in our future to replace paper system maps.)
Close up on missing "Barclays"
In an ad for the map app the MTA ("The Weekender . . to go") chose to prominently display two important subway stations in the system.  Probably because they are so important they chose to display the stations renamed “Barclays” but (because the renaming is controversial or awkward?) they showed those stations dropping the “Barclays” name!  Hooray!  Let’s hope Barclays gets eliminated everywhere form the public system in the future: It’s such a drag to be riding a train and then hear an announcement. . “Next stop. .. .” and then hear that despicable “Barclays” name.

This picture is poor quality but you can see the campaign's motto "Improving, non-stop" at the bottom
Notably, a New York Times article covering the introduction of The Weekender web site (distinct from “The Weekender” map app, covering service changes and expected delays)  chose, albeit it was a year ago, to use a visual that showed the same deletion of the “Barclays” name: See below.
(From: Ahead of Its Time / An Icon Goes Digital, by Stephen Heller, September 16, 2011)
Will Ratner sue the MTA for a breach of contract?  If so it will be interesting to see what they sue for: A small proportion of the infinitesimal $200,000 per year amount they paid for the subway station rights. . . or for the actual “benefit of their bargain” which at the time the MTA handed them the naming rights deal was valued at one hundred times that amount?

Addendum: “Barclays” Center and the CitiField Baseball Stadium Scrubbed From AIANY Subway Corridor Panoply

One more thing in the vein of things one might hope for in the MTA subterranean environment, also in the context of advertising that appears on system walls: A year ago I wrote about how the AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) had plastered the images in the A Train subway entrance corridor under the IFC Center with images that included promotional visuals of the “Barclays” Center and the CitiField baseball stadium.  I referred to it as a “Hall of Shame” of subsidy grabbers and provided what I viewed as my own corrective images.  See: Sunday, November 6, 2011, Rogues Gallery: The AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) Subway Corridor Posters Under the IFC Center Showing “Urbanized”.
AIANY's "Barclays" image October 2011
Another AIANY "Barclays" image from October 2011
One of Noticing New York's corrective images.  More in NNY's 2011 article.
So here is more good news: This year a new set of updated AIANY architectural images are back in that corridor and, AIANY perhaps thinking better of it this time, has eliminated from the panoply any such obviously controversial subsidy-grabbing projects harmful to the public.  See 2012 images below.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Silly Little Post About Barbra Streisand And Freddy's Bar. . And Money That's In The Wrong Place

Back on July 25th I published a sort of silly little post that I suggested might give readers a small peek into the inside world of blogging. . .(See: Silly Little Blog Post About Dumb Little Blog Ad: My Excoriation of Barclays Paid-For Name Building Earns More Barclays Spending To Get Its Name Out.)

I recounted how an ad popped up on my Google Blogger screen (as they do) right after I hit the button to publish a Noticing New York article that extensively castigated Barclays Bank (and its resigned-in-disgrace, chief executive Robert E. “Bob” Diamond) for not being inclined to do the right thing by community standards but nevertheless paying to have the `honor' of having their names prominently appear on things like the “Barclays” Ratner/Prokhorov basketball arena opening in Brooklyn and the (Bob) “Diamond Building” on Colby College’s campus (See: No Sparkle In Barclays’ Bob Diamond: Societal Mores Unmoored, What And Who We Honor Today- That Which We Used To Shun) . . .

. . . .  The Google Blogger ad that popped up was, if you can believe, for Barclays BankTelling me I should “open an account today” with Barclays!

As I explained, the ad probably popped up because (scary to think) Google Blogger knew what I was writing about!

As I explained (in more detail) when I wrote that earlier silly little post, I'd previously had a similar experience:  It was when I was writing about how Bloomberg was spending too much money to get re-elected  (Sunday, November 1, 2009, Bloomberg vs. Thomson (54% to 29%?): It’s Not What You Think. (For Instance the “P” is Missing and What Might “P” Stand For?).)  The ensuing advertisement Google Blogger generated  told me I should  "vote for Bloomberg! "

Now, while writing another article I have had another similar internet experience.  Yet again, I was writing about how people are spending too much money promoting the wrong things and I was writing once again about the Ratner/Prokhorov arena that has promtionally been named "Barclays."   (See: Wednesday, October 10, 2012, Weighing The Change In Brooklyn: The True Cost Of “Barclays” Center Glitter, The Cost Of “Barclays” Center Tickets.)  In the article I zeroed in on concerts Barbra Streisand is scheduled to be performing in the Ratnner/Prokhorov "Barclays" arena.  Ms. Streisand, a self-described activist, is one of the singers who has not answered an open letter from the community questioning why she is performing at the scandalously spawned and scandalously named arena.  (The other, incongruously, is singer/song-writer Leonard Cohen.)

I was asking whether it made sense that government should be subsidizing tickets to the Barbra Streisand concerts to the tune of $20 a ticket when that same $20 would have paid for an entire night out at Freddy's, the local bar and music venue that was evicted from the neighborhood through eminent domain abuse to clear the way (together with much of the rest of the neighborhood) for the "Barclays" Center.  Freddy's, or a versin of what it had been, had to move to another neighborhood in Brooklyn where it now pays higher taxes (like the rest of us) to subsidize the Streisand concerts and the other activities at the "Barclays" Center.  I asked readers to consider: What would happen if, instead of subsidizing "Barclays" Center's corporatizing takeover of Brooklyn, the same amount of money was spent on subsidizing 3.6 million trips (with $20.00 each) to local tax-paying cabarets and restaurants?

In composing the article I did research for it by watching a video about Freddy's Bar and Grill that I found on Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report site.  Many videos you can play on the internet automatically include advertising snippets.  What do you think happened when I clicked and started to watch the video about Freddy's?  You can probably guess by now: Two eyes appeared floating on top of the video about what a wonderful neighborhood bar Freddy's was.  It was an ad for Barbra Streisand and the eyes were hers. ----  That is the image you see at the beginning of this post.

It wasn't an ad for her performances at the "Barclays" Center and I don't know exactly why it appeared.  Was the explanation, as before, that Google again knew what I had been writing about?  Or was it because I was clicking on the web from Brooklyn and all of Brooklyn is being targeted with Barbra advertising because of the upcoming concert?  Or did the ad appear because the internet knew I was interested in that spot where Freddy's once stood, perhaps even in the music once offered there, and calculatingly pulled up the new substitution?

I don't know exactly but I get the overall point:

Write about how an obscene amount of money is being spent promoting Bloomberg: You'll get an advertisement promoting Bloomberg in response.

Write about how absurd it is to be spending public resources promoting the name of a nefarious bank like Barclays:  You'll get an advertisement telling you Barclays is so great you ought to bank with them.

Write about how unfair it is that local music is being put out of business by having to subsidize Barbra Streisand at the "Barclays" Center: You'll get an advertisement telling you to go out and buy Barbra's music.

Suffice it to say too much money being spent on advertising is on the wrong side of things.  I won't go into the question here about whether the funds spent on all this lavish Bloomberg and Barclays advertising or the subsidies for Barbra Streisand's concerts were come by fairly.  You probably know that it is my Noticing New York viewpoint that just wasn't the case.

I'll leave you with this. . .   Maybe you’d like to click on this video by Peg Byron about the old Freddy’s and see what advertisement comes up for you.  Whatever ad comes up the Freddy's video itself is a good one I suspect you will enjoy watching.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Media and Activists: Putting The News Of The Jay-Z Concert Opening Of The “Barclays” Center In Context

Could we, over the past weeks, have been more awash in well-financed hoopla for the opening of the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” (LIBOR) Center arena?  (The hoopla is paid for by the taxes the arena doesn't pay--- The arena pays no taxes.)

I was amongst those protesting outside Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” (LIBOR) Center arena on the Friday night of its celebratory opening with a Jay-Z concert.

Before the concert, the new plaza was filled with lines of people waiting to go into the Jay-Z event at the moment right before the arena’s doors were opened. They reached almost into the new subway entrance.  (Earlier in the day the plaza belonged more to the protestors who were now outnumbered.)  Media people were also in the crowd, milling around with TV cameras and microphones looking for what they could report about the long-hyped event.

Then the doors opened and in virtually no time the plaza largely cleared, leaving again the protestors and the media now high and dry of concert fans.  This is when one of the network reporters proceeded directly to where I was standing with Lucy Koteen, Lucy being another of the protesting crowd that now remained.  I recognized the reporter from earlier in the evening though I can’t tell you which network he works for.  (I don’t watch much network news: It’s fluffy and there are so many commercials.)

The reporter was easy to recognize: He had the kind of telegenic jut-jawed good looks for which I remember the young Mayor John Lindsay.  He also had the sort of voice I figured he could depend on sounding relaxed no matter what.

The reporter remembered me from earlier in the evening too.

He cocked his head sideways and said: “You were in back of the shot I was filming earlier this evening.”

“Yes,” I acknowledged. He had been filming a shot with a young couple where he had been trying to get them to tell him about why they were excited to be holding their tickets and going in to the arena.  I stood behind them in the crowd.  I said nothing but my I'm Still Calling it Atlantic Av- Pacific St T-shirt was visible.  It seemed fair.  I’d watched another TV reporter with her cameraman whirling around in the crowd, apparently trying to set up a shot without any protestors in the background.  She kept flipping her angles this way and that.  I’d walked behind one or two of her attempted angled shots as well.  I never saw her get around to filming anything.  Most of the protestors were not paying too much attention to these media people; they were just there in the bigger swirl talking with regular citizens in the crowd.

I do believe it is a time-honored tradition, no matter what the news media is shooting, for people to want to play the game of being in the behind-the-scene crowd shot.  (Sometimes they waive, like on Thanksgiving.)  I admit, however, I was playing a bigger game.  I had a message to get across.
I don’t know if the reporter who now came up to Lucy and me previously realized that my “I'm Still Calling it Atlantic Av- Pacific St” T-shirt conveyed, by implication, the message that I am not calling the subway hub “Barclays,” the promotional renaming of the station that the MTA gave away as a virtually free present to Bruce Ratner, but now, as I stood next to Lucy who was wearing the same T-Shirt while holding aloft a protest sign, he must have recognized that the shirt conveyed a message of community dissatisfaction.*
(* Interestingly, when I went around to the VIP entrance where fans were jammed in to see sports figures speaking into microphones for the press before entering the arena I got a lot of compliments on my shirt- so I guess you can be a sports fan yet not be a fan of the subway station’s renaming.  As a general litmus test, I find when wearing the T-shirt around Brooklyn, the subway system, or the rest of the city that I get lots of thumbs up and questions about where to buy the Ms. Wit-manufactured shirt from people wanting their own.)
The reporter looked at Lucy and then cocked his head toward me.  “So you want to be interviewed on TV?” he said, fixing me in his grey-eyed gaze.

“Sure,” I said, sounding definite enough but I hope not silly or overeager.

“Well, don’t get into my shots,” he scolded.

“Just providing some context,” I said.

“I’m the news media,” he said.  “It’s my job to  provide the context.”  He was very firm about emphasizing the words: "my" and "job."

“I’m an activist,” I said, “and I think it’s my job to provide context.” I think I was less emphatic and a bit more friendly.

He and his cameraman then quickly set up, a bright light flicked on and a microphone appeared in front of Lucy’s face, “Why are you protesting the opening of the arena?” he asked, a professional uplift in his voice.

Lucy said something about how Ratner hadn’t kept his promises, how eminent domain had been abused to give a huge amount of land to him, and perhaps something about how it all had been a rigged deal at the expense of the community- I don’t remember exactly what she said.

Then the lights flicked off again.  There was something about how the reporter collected his things and coolly indicated the rest of the gear should be stored away, something about the way he then ignored me, that gave me the feeling that he thought he was teaching me a lesson: I had gotten in his shot and now he was showing me how he could dispense justice by leaving my life on the cutting room floor of reality.  He could consign me to nobody-ness.

Of course the interview with Lucy could actually have been play mere acting: She never showed up on the news that night.  I somehow doubt that he ever considered that she would.  He was done for the day anyway.
As I looked down as the newsman gathered up his things I could see at our feet one of theDaily News bricks implanted in the plaza.  The bricks are implanted there (along with "Barclays Center" bricks) to remind us that the plaza has been named “The Daily News Plaza” after the New York daily newspaper (owned by a real estate developer) that is now in a publicity partnership with Forest City Ratner, the arena and plaza’s owner.  As may be expected, the Daily News is reliably friendly to the messages Forest City Ratner wants conveyed.

Yes, the media absolutely does get to decide a great deal about what people hear and don’t hear, see and don’t see: Just how easily people can discarded on the cutting room floor of media reality is demonstrated by the way that New York Times, the city’s most important daily newspaper, disowned, and banished into oblivion, an article it had published about the community protests.  (See: Saturday, September 29, 2012, Report: How The Times Expunged Its Own First Draft Of History On “Barclays” Center Opening To Replace It With The Pro-Ratner Narrative It Favors and Monday, October 1, 2012, New York Times Ghost Article: The Searchable Remnants On The Web Of Banished (Anti-Ratner/Anti-Jay-Z?) “Barclays” Center Opening Article.)

Writing Noticing New York gives me a crack at the last word, something the newsman might not have counted on.  Nevertheless, I know that the audience I get is at no given moment anywhere near equal to a single night’s television network viewership.  Still, maybe by writing thoughtfully, keeping the truth in mind, and providing something more carefully etched and permanent I can achieve a degree of catch-up.

I don’t know what would have come of anything if the reporter had actually interviewed me before departing.  Here are the remarks I was ready to offer to all comers from the press that day:
I think the message is getting out that Ratner’s promises don’t get honored and people should have paid attention that this was his reputation.

More important to remember is that Ratner’s promises were all insanely tailored for his benefit at community expense: stealing, shutting down streets and avenues for absurd density, deep subsidies diverted from competing developers and so-called “affordable” housing that would be pretty much what the market, tax code and subsidy programs would bring anyway . . . Then there’s the notion that Ratner gets exclusive development rights over 30+ acres for 25, perhaps 40 years . . .

   . . .  That doesn’t just wipe out Ratner’s competition; it's intended to knock out the public’s negotiating power.  Until Ratner’s monopoly is taken away from him nobody has the power to enforce promises, to demand quality, keep costs in check, or to get back our public streets and sidewalks.
If the reporter had interviewed me he might have found out that I am a lawyer and an urban planner and a former high level government official, that I worked for the government in the areas of development and public finance and used to negotiate major development deals with developers with my eye on public benefit.  I might therefore know something about what I am talking about.  Would that have been of interest to him?  . . .  Maybe not.

. . . . That’s my last word for today with respect to setting the context.

Monday, October 1, 2012

New York Times Ghost Article: The Searchable Remnants On The Web Of Banished (Anti-Ratner/Anti-Jay-Z?) “Barclays” Center Opening Article

(Ghostly image above is explained below.)

My lawyer’s counsel to clients has always been that with computers and the internet you cannot expect that anything will truly disappear, so that what is most important is what you do in the first place; what you try to delete is likely to come back to haunt you.  Hence, the image above: a ghost fashioned by arrangement of the searchable scraps that still turn up of reporting the New York Times published about the protests on Friday that accompanied the weekend’s opening of the “Barclays” Ratner/Prokhorov Center.  (Community protest events were held from Wednesday through Saturday.)  Friday was the official opening of Barclays Center with a Jay-Z concert although the night before, also evoking community protest, was the heralded but more private, opening of Jay-Z’s “40-40 Club.”

Jay-Z is the superstar rapper with roots in Brooklyn who was made a small-fraction partner of the developer/subsidy collector, Forest City Ratner, in exchange for help selling the developer’s mega-monopoly to the community.  In this regard the developer’s divide-and-conquer strategy, with which Ratner had appreciable but mixed success, involved an effort to create racial division in the neighborhood.  Having enlisted Jay-Z in a front man role early on, a Jay-Z event opening of the arena was almost a forgone conclusion.

The Times reported the community’s organized objections to the arena’s opening that occurred on Friday and then deleted that reporting, apparently because it was too anti-Forest City Ratner, and maybe because it was too anti-Jay-Z.  The developer built the Times headquarters in partnership with the Times and now owns it.  The Times has used Jay-Z to promote its sales (see below) and conversely has promoted Jay-Z (see below).  The reporting that was deleted served to make clear that, to whatever extent the developer had succeeded in creating racial divisions in the community, the community was now far less divided in its opposition to the Ratner mega-monopoly and to Jay-Z's promotion of it given the outing of the developer’s bad faith in regard to nearly every one of his "promises."

The haunting part for the Times is that the deletion of the article that contained the reporting critical of Ratner and Jay-Z was apparently a violation of the Times own policy.  For a complete and easy read of the description of the protests the Times deleted from its web site compared against the pro-Ratner, pro-Jay-Z narrative it substituted that was much more disparaging in tone to the community’s objections see: Saturday, September 29, 2012, Report: How The Times Expunged Its Own First Draft Of History On “Barclays” Center Opening To Replace It With The Pro-Ratner Narrative It Favors.

When you click on the searchable links to the deleted Times article still on the web you now get either that substituted article or something like the image below that also isn't what you are looking for:
To see how pieces of the deleted article can still be stitched together for an ectoplasmic remanifestation of the original, now-deleted, article summoned out of the internet ether, a reassembling of what still appears when the reporting is web-searched—  even though it is no longer corporeally available on the Times web site itself—  see the arrangement of those assembled scraps that conclude this article.

Promotional Hype For Jay-Z Linked To Community's Criticism

Some of what appears in a web search for the article’s deleted reporting is mildly amusing and instructive.

In the words of the original Times reporting Umar Jordan is “a community organizer from Bedford Stuyvesant who also once supported the project.”  He spoke decisively about how he now opposes it.  When you search for Umar Jordan’s deleted criticisms you find out that, because he addressed himself to Jay-Z, his statements were picked up by a slew of sites that robotically snip and incorporate into their feeds mentions about Jay-Z, making, in this case, the automatic (and incorrect) assumption that the Times was issuing more of the promulgated Jay-Z hype these sites are designed to traffic in.  See below:
The above pro-Jay-Z oriented sites (“Jay-Z rocks Brooklyn arena he helped get built,” “Jay-Z Pays Homage to Notorious B.I.G. At First Barclays Center. . .,” “Jay-Z christens Barclays Center with Brooklyn Iove,” “Backstage With Jay-Z at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center,” “BeyoncĂ© Says Hello, Brooklyn At Jay-Z’s Big Barclays Bash”) that come up when you search for the deleted Umar Jordan statements would, had the Times not expunged the reporting, linked to these paragraphs in the deleted reporting:
    Umar Jordan, a community organizer from Bedford Stuyvesant who also once supported the project, addressed himself to Jay-Z and told him that he should have made the arena “affordable for young children who grew up in the projects like you did.”
     “We’ve been robbed; Brooklyn’s been robbed,” he told the crowd. “I’ve seen people go to jail for less.”
(* Someone should look at the suspicious economics of these robotic sites, who finances them and what they are designed to do in churning out such headlines.)

While the Times chose to delete these most recent statements by Jordan opposing the project, the Times still makes available, as part of its undeleted records, statements Jordan made in 2006 in favor of the mega-project.  The Times prominently featured and relied upon those comments as evidence of a racial divide in the community.

It Was International News!

Looking for some of the deleted reporting what I found was Asian news sites (see the searchable scraps at the end of the arrangement below) that were recycling for a faraway foreign audience (with accompanying cuneiform characters) Times reporting you could now no longer find, headlining how: “Brooklyn Barclays Center grand opening with mixed . . . " (And then something inscrutably missing at the end to complete that thought: Who knows?)

The reporting of the community’s Friday protests wasn't the only reporting on the entire web, but in terms of the importance of readership in shaping public opinion and the Times Effect it was likely the most important.

Other Reporting of Weekend Protest Events On The Web

I thought my image of a ghost assembled from the scraps of disappeared reporting on the web should have a face and eyes so I used my image (originally available here) from Thursday night’s Candlelight Vigil, about 150 people led by local politicians and clergy:
A mega-bright Barclays “oculus” promotion for the opening of the Jay-Z 40-40 Club, the mega-wattage illuminating it paid for by the tax bills Jay-Z and the “Barclays” Center don’t pay . . .  and candles walked counterclockwise twice around the arena in community protest illuminating the alternative message for the evening.
Atlantic Yards Report coverage of that Thursday evening is available here: Friday, September 28, 2012, As 40/40 Club opens the night before arena debuts, a vigil and march draws 150 people, James, Montgomery.

The Times banished coverage concerned Friday protests, but aside from reading the Times reporting in Noticing New York, you can read more about Friday’s protests in Atlantic Yards Report, see: Friday, September 28, 2012, Under Barclays Center oculus, groups challenging Atlantic Yards call for reform, joined by Occupy and two who "drank Ratner's Kool-Aid" but changed their minds

Atlantic Yards Report video coverage of the Saturday protests is here: Sunday, September 30, 2012, Second night of Barclays Center operations: no traffic jams, lots of cops, Atlantic Avenue overrun post-event (with NYPD coordination/dismay), idling vehicles proliferate nearby.

Preserved Image From The Deleted Times Article

I found that I could also Google up an image that went along with the deleted Times reporting, but again when you clicked on the Google link it was not available (see below).

Atlantic Yards Report actually has preserved scrib document version of the banished Times article that shows it came complete with that photo of all the protesters.  I have cribbed from it to provided the image below.  Interestingly and ironically, it includes a “Switch” advertisement (see below) . . .  entirely by coincidence! 

Parting Word On Impartiality Of The Times

Arthur Ochs (Punch”) Sulzberger, former publisher of the Times and scion of the prominent publishing family that owns it, died Saturday.  Today the Times ran on its editorial page a signed piece by Andrew Rosenthal, "an appreciation," in which it lauded Mr. Sulzberger, and by extension, took the opportunity to revere the Time's own heritage. Mr. Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, expressed his certainty that the paper “was the best newspaper that ever existed.”  The point he offered was that the paper became great by not taking sides, that the Sulzberger family had bought it in1896 “determined to produce high-quality, dispassionate journalism at a time when newspapers were openly partisan.”

Is the paper still above taking sides unfairly?  That greatness looks as if it is also a ghostly thing of the past.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Noticing New York Public Comment At Today’s MTA Board Meeting On the Subject Of MTA’s Devoting Public Assets To Advertising

Following up on three Noticing New York articles on the subject (Thursday, September  20, 2012, Embroiled In Embarrassment of Hosting Controversial Advertisement MTA Considers Banning “Issue Advertising”: What About Barclays LIBOR Scandal?, Saturday, September 22, 2012, Clarification From MTA: Despite Furnishing Assets, Subsidy And Subway Station Renaming Transportation Agency Disavows Promotion of Barclays Bank, and Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Promoting Obfuscation of What Government Does and Doesn’t Do To Give The Private Sector (Including Ratner) More Credit) I appeared at today’s MTA board meeting and gave comment about revisions reportedly under consideration by the MTA to revise its policies about how freely its public assets are used to promote or promulgate questionable or embarrassing messages the MTA might not want to be seen as implicitly endorsing.

I was the first of nine speakers this morning, eight of which spoke about the subject of advertising.  The other, in a wheelchair, spoke about accessibility of the system to the wheelchair-bound. The subject of the use of the MTA system’s assets for undesirable advertising had been brought to the fore and covered in the press because Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative won a case against the MTA wherein the MTA was recently judicially ordered to run ads from her organization that include anti-Arab slurs and tell subway riders to “Support Israel” in the Middle East conflict.  I have made the point in Noticing New York that the MTA’s very costly devotion of assets in the promotion of “Barclays” is comparably, and in several ways more, embarrassing.

The MTA is more intricately involved in the Barclays promotion and, given the record, its complicity is easier to argue and seem to have been more premeditated.

My own comments this morning focused on the MTA’s promotion of Barclays.  The general focus of most of the other speakers was on objection to the anti-Arab slur ads now in the subway.  (The ads essentially call those in conflict with Israel “savages.”)

Aside from me, the third speaker also brought up the subject of Barclays, as well as the fourth speaker who, yelling, also mentioned it.  Another speaker got into the effects on the MTA’s budget of the LIBOR rate-fixing manipulations with which the Barclays name is automatically associated.  Throughout the remarks, and in signs brandished, the 99% mantra was championed.  The woman in the wheelchair who spoke similarly had Occupy Wall Street messages stuck to the back of her chair.  If I’d had time I might have referred to the fact that the misdeeds of Barclays are considered symbolic of abuses by the 1%.

The last speaker was Pam Geller herself defending her ads which seem designed to garner publicity with provocation.  She was drowned out twice with an OWS-style “mic-check” attack.

* * * *

Here are my Noticing New York comments from this morning: 
    •    You have difficult decisions before you: when government gets enmeshed in lending out public assets for corporate advertising and corporate promotion it creates confusion about:
    •        what government really does and doesn’t do, and
    •        what government is or is not endorsing.
    •    One easy answer is to cut back on advertising.  Anyone who thinks that advertising is bringing in significant sums to support the MTA budget has lost track of their decimal points.  Should the subway hubs be named after corporations, all odds with respect to their continued respectability be damned?
    •    Your new policy will have to consider whether there will be grandfathering: Will your policy mean that MTA resources that have been devoted to ill-advised, unseemly promotions (Barclays Back being an example) be terminated?  Or will such ill-advised arrangements nevertheless be honored, treated as automatically immune from revocation because of grandfathering, or as existing contracts that you deem cannot be voided?

    •    Forewarned is forearmed.  As you are able to envision such awkwardness in the future (given your experience with Barclays), what standards will you invoke so that MTA contracts can be revoked?  In the future you would not want to have New York subway stations continue to be conspicuously named after a bank like Barclays that, for example, the MTA may need to sue for losses it has incurred through the LIBOR scandal.

    •    You may think that the answer is to distinguish between running “issue advertisements” and advertisements that are simply promotions of corporate names and products.  I suggest that this would be unfair. It would just result in an inherent bias toward support of corporatism.  It would mean, for example, that despite Barclays misdeeds that bank could still advertise, presumably implying that its name remains respectable.  The sole restriction?: Maybe you wouldn’t permit overt arguments in MTA ads that Barclays misdeeds constituted no wrong.  But the implication of respectability would remain.- meanwhile, balancing ads that argue that the faults of Barclays should be observed would be banned as issue advertisements.  Would this be fair?    

    •    Perhaps the answer is for the MTA to be theoretically neutral, accepting ads  from any and all comers provided fair value is paid to run them.  But by these standards the MTA should be in trouble for its Barclays promotions because the compensation it received when it agreed to rename subway hubs after “Barclays” was only a mere fraction of true value; at the time it was 1/100th of what the developer was believed to be getting for putting the bank’s name on the Ratner/Prokhorov arena.
Below is a final point I could not speak fast enough to squeeze into the two minutes we were allotted to speak. As it was, I was tripping over my words to get out as much as I could. With only two minutes it is a challenge to think whether to sacrifice: 1.) Comprehensiveness, 2.) coherence and cogent points, or 3.) speech that is slow enough for good effect and emphasis.
    •    These concerns are part of a much bigger problem: What kind of world is it when the government acts as if its own interests (and those of the public) are inherently subservient to burnishing the image of big private sector corporations over less flattering realities?- In that regard I refer you to the MTA’s collaboration in a Daily News promotional article for the “Barclays” Center selling to the public the absurd notion that Forest City Ratner provided construction of a new subway entrance to the public gratis and at no taxpayer expense.
When I left the meeting the MTA board had gone into executive session without yet discussing the advertising policy and from the agenda available at the meeting it is not clear that they intended to get to it today.  I will have to rely on other reporting and update this post if I hear that they said anything with respect to it after the executive session.

Much of the interesting discussion before the board went into executive session concerned upcoming changes in board meetings.  There will be fewer board meetings: It was discussed whether that would be closer to 20% or 30% fewer with ex-governor David Paterson doing the math in his head that it will be closer to the latter. It was argued that, for transparency sake, more information would be going out to the public sooner in more readily accessible form.  Most interesting though is that the MTA board process will start including special sessions where the public will be able to ask questions that will be answered there and then by MTA staffers or board members.

Here is a starter question: The MTA went to court to test its legal right not to run the anti-Arab advertisements from Pamela Geller’s organization- Why hasn’t the MTA thought about similarly testing is legal right not to keep the “Barclays” name on its subway hubs?

Here is a brief WNYC report on the hearing that is also taking comments: Protest Breaks Out at NY MTA Meeting Over Ad Policy, by Transportation Nation,  09/27/2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Promoting Obfuscation of What Government Does and Doesn’t Do To Give The Private Sector (Including Ratner) More Credit

This is a necessary follow-up to two earlier Noticing New York articles about the trouble the MTA has gotten into with corporate advertising and branding, something the MTA is scheduled to evaluate and take public comment about tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM (details below).

Confusion When the Government Is Enmeshed In Corporate Advertising

The main problem when government gets enmeshed in advertising, lending out public assets as vehicles for corporate advertising and corporate promotion, is that it obfuscates what government does and doesn’t do.

Notwithstanding how promotional advertising images are seemingly plastered everywhere in the transit system these days, anyone who thinks that corporate advertising and promotions pay for any substantial portion of government services isn’t keeping track of their decimal points.  The public pays for virtually all of what government provides; in the MTA’s case that's more than 99%.

And then there are the questions about whether government is endorsing any of these ubiquitous messages that appear rampantly on the public's property. . .

. . .   Does the MTA endorse the Anti-Arab slurs or the “Support Israel” in the Middle East conflict advertisements appearing in subway stations, run by Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative?   No! The MTA disavows the messages in those ads.  (See: Thursday, September 20, 2012, Embroiled In Embarrassment of Hosting Controversial Advertisement MTA Considers Banning “Issue Advertising”: What About Barclays LIBOR Scandal?)

. . .   Does the MTA endorse promotion of the Barclays Bank, virtually synonymous with the LIBOR scandal in connection with which the MTA, amongst other New York government entities, may be suing Barclays for losses?  The MTA has deeply subsidized the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Center basketball arena that promotes that bank’s name and the MTA has named two subway hub stations in Brooklyn after the bank.   No! The MTA says that it similarly disavows such promotion of the bank. . . .

. . . But, if that’s so, why does MTA Chairman Joe Lhota show up at the heavily promotional hoopla event celebrating the opening of that “Barclays” Center arena?  (See: Saturday, September 22, 2012, Clarification From MTA: Despite Furnishing Assets, Subsidy And Subway Station Renaming Transportation Agency Disavows Promotion of Barclays Bank.)

The Tracy Collins photograph (below) captures Mr. Lhota’s arrival at the ribbon-cutting festivities.
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota: Photo by Tracy Collins
Lack of Government Self-Respect

As I have made the point before, (also here), government’s surrender to advertising evidences a lack of self-respect, particularly when it means that appropriate credit is not given to government for what it does.  When government surrenders to messages and promotions that clearly need to be disavowed, such as promotion of Barclays Bank, then the abject lack of self-respect stands out in even starker relief.

But the willingness of government to prostrate itself in making the corporate sector look good at government’s expense may be even more pervasively ingrained.  It appears to extend beyond just awkward images that result when handing over public assets for an advertising fee.

Daily News Runs Exclusive: Promotional Article On "Barclays" Center Plaza Subway Station Entrance

I am writing this follow-up because after I wrote the article about how the MTA was formally disavowing “promotion” of the “Barclays” Bank while at the same time sending Mr. Lhota, its chairman, to the highly promotional ribbon-cutting event for the “Barclays” Center a reader observed that Mr. Lhota had already been promoting the “Barclays” opening, featured in a Daily News article just eight days before Mr. Lhota’s attendance at that ribbon-cutting.  (See: First look at the $76 million Barclays Center subway station, by Jason Sheftell, Thursday, September 13, 2012, and the Atlantic Yards Report take on that Daily News story, Friday, September 14, 2012, Daily News gets first look at new subway entrance opening Monday, accepts Forest City's claims about budget and timing; exec claims they don't want anyone driving to arena.)

The Daily News article, which was an exclusive, appeared before the newspaper announced (on the day of the ribbon-cutting) that it had entered into a sponsoring partnership with the developer/subsidy collector so that the plaza outside the “Barclays” arena will be called the “Daily News Plaza.”  Examining how so-called “news” organizations prostrate themselves and become unquestioningly complicit in the promotion of real estate developer schemes is a subject for other articles.  This article is about the disrespect government shows itself with such prostration.

The September 13th Daily News article featuring Mr. Lhota was essentially about that just-mentioned plaza outside the arena in that it focused on the completion of the subway entrance in the center of the plaza.

Daily News' Astounding Claim

The article prominently made an astounding claim lauding Forest City Ratner, the developer/subsidy collector (see the screen-shot below- click to enlarge).  It’s a statement about the new subway entrance that shortchanges the government:
It cost $76 million. No, it’s not paved in gold. But not a cent of it came from taxpayers’ pockets.

“It cost $76 million” and “not a cent of it came from taxpayers’ pockets”?  That sounds absolutely too good to be true, and it is.  As we are all supposed to know by now, when you hear something that is `too good to be true’ you are almost certainly on the other end of a con.  The government has paid plenty to Forest City Ratner, far more than the value of the supposedly “free” $76 million subway entrance.  The developer has collected all sorts of subsidies: Hundreds of millions in direct cash, write-downs on the value of land it’s getting from the MTA, donation of free streets, avenues and sidewalks, being excused from real estate taxes, . . . the list goes on and it amounts to a substantial net loss for the public.  All told, Forest City Ratner is looking to walk away with subsidies totaling $2 - $3 billion.  And construction of a subway entrance in all of this is somehow counted by the Daily News as a free gift from the developer?

But shifting credit due to government to the private sector is the very theme of the article in which Mr. Lhota was collaborating to produce.  Below, see the article’s picture of Mr. Lhota at the site.
(Daily News caption: Forest City's MaryAnne Gilmartin and MTA's Joseph Lhota outside the station, opening Monday at 8 a.m.)
Promoting Ratner

Mr. Lhota’s words in the article extol the benefit of private-public partnerships, with Mr. Lhota using the opportunity to promotionally “give Ratner credit” for what government paid for.
The reporter writes:
From the MTA’s perspective, the station marks the kind of public and private dealmaking that attempts to place the city and its people first.
This is followed by Mr. Lhota’s words:
“There is a real disconnect in this country between real estate and mass transit,” says Joseph J. Lhota, chairman and CEO of the MTA. “In Asia, the mass transit companies are real estate companies. They build mass transit around big developments in order to enhance the value in the area. I give Ratner credit. This is part of a 30-year vision for downtown Brooklyn — MetroTech, Atlantic Yards and now Barclays. The job growth in downtown Brooklyn leads the entire city. How long are people going to criticize this project before they realize this is good for New York City?”
So that means Mr. Lhota is backing Ratner’s government-assisted mega-monpoly over Brooklyn’s key subway lines, more than 50 acres of monopoly, with 30+ contiguous acres extending out from the arena site!  And one way he is promotionally backing it even more is through the article's denial of the resources the government committed in bringing this about.

Altering Public Opinion?

While the article indicates that there is unfavorable public opinion of the Ratner mega-mopoly it credits Mr. Lhota with knowing how to use the tactics of private-public partnerships to alter public opinion in Mr. Ratner’s favor.  It says Mr. Lhota:
. .  knows the only way to change public opinion is with repeated successes.
. . . repeated successes that are paid for by the government without acknowledgment.

Private-Public Partnerships As Morally Suspect

In contradistinction to Mr. Lhota, renowned urbanest and thinker Jane Jacobs viewed private-public partnerships as suspect arrangements.  Her 1992 book, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics,” has probably not gotten the attention it deserves.  In it she argues that mixing of government and business tends to result in a degradation of fundamental moral systems and principles. With such intermixtures, government officials reorienting themselves to serve business interests are prone to forget that they are supposed to perform an essential guardian role protecting the public interest first, foremost, and above all else.

Conversely, according to Jacobs, businesses acting with the force of government behind them become less honest, less collaborative, less respectful of contracts, a whole host of problems.  Jacobs’ book includes an entire chapter on what she refers to as the “monstrous hybrids” of morality that evolve when the properly separate moral systems of government and business get improperly mixed.  (If the proof is in the pudding, Atlantic Yards does seem to have collected a complement of people of very sketchy morals.)

Falsification of Costs With Subsidies

Another point that interrelates in a key way: Jacobs was also wary of subsidies.  She expressed this in her 2000 book, The Nature of Economies.”  That book was written as a follow-up to “Systems of Survival” and, like it, is in the form of a Platonic dialogue between characters that explores ideas that are clearly Jacobs’ own, including the following:
 . . . subsidies falsify both costs and prices. . .And as I indicated earlier, lies of that sort warp development.

 . . . . An oddity of the Soviet System was that the costs of most production and services were unknown.  Really unknown.  Managers of factories, offices, farms, mines, hospitals, Theaters, whatever— they literally did not know the costs of what they were producing.  Budgets existed, to be sure— allocations of expenses— but these were so infused and confused by subsidies that they bore little or no relation to actual costs.  Cost accounting didn’t matter in any case, because prices were fixed by edict.
So, although Mr. Lhota may be waving the banner of free enterprise when he extols private-public partnerships, as Jane Jacobs would see it he is really promoting a system that has more in common with the Communism of the old Soviet Union.

Russian Problems Persist

In Jacobs’ estimation post-Soviet Russia doesn’t handle things any better.  The country is:
    . .  as cavalier about costs and prices for quite different reasons . . . Russian enterprises still ignore cost accounting.  Their people don’t know how to do it, and they don’t seem to learn, because they evidently don’t understand its importance as guidance to what they are doing well and what they’re doing badly.  Monopolies, established by cronyism and strong-arm methods, along with pervasive extortion and corruption, falsify actual cost anyhow; racketeering enterprises prefer eliminating competitors to competing with them on prices, quality and services.
No wonder Bruce Ratner and Russian Oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov feel comfortable with each other as partners.
What About Falsification of Benefits?  Like Jobs?

Jacobs mentions that costs are falsified when they are fixed by “edict.”  She might also have said that benefits in these situations are similarly likely to be false or “pretend” figures.  It sort of parallels the symmetry of the Soviet era joke Jacobs quotes in “The Nature of Economies”: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

Ratner development in New York City is promoted because it ostensibly will create jobs.  Lhota (before he says people need to realize the benefit of the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment) says, “The job growth in downtown Brooklyn leads the entire city,”  but the job figures for the Atlantic Yards mega-project itself are simply falsified and unreal.  See: Thursday, July 12, 2012, Do Forest City Ratner's part-time arena job numbers add up? If a maximum of 800 people work an event, it seems doubtful.

When Charles Bagli, the principal real estate reporter for New York Times, was asked Monday on the Brian Lehrer show about how the Atlantic Yards mega-project was doing in terms of creating jobs he began by saying:
First of all, when I cover these kinds of developments I try to avoid using the numbers because they can be very misleading or very concocted. . . 
Notwithstanding that the numbers are so misleading and concocted that the New York Times reporter, who is probably best qualified to know, doesn’t think they should even be reported, there are all sorts of extraordinary numerically stated exaggerations “thrown about” by all sorts of people, including politicians like Senator Charles Schumer, as the reason mega-projects like these should proceed.  Based on the theory of these benefits that couldn’t be quantified in real numbers Ratner was allowed to wipe out his competitors with eminent domain.

In “The Nature of Economies” Jacobs argues that instead of clearing the deck with eminent domain abuse to benefit the likes of monopolist Bruce Ratner, real economic development is based on fostering economic ecosystems of complex, naturally evolving, diverse ensembles, which she sees as being at the root of real qualitative development:
 . . . the richest— which means the most expanded— economies are diverse economies.  The practical link between economic development and economic expansion is economic diversity. 
  In Jane Jacobs’ last completed book, Dark Age Ahead (2005), she envisioned a future where our civilization might not have survived and wondered what advice people looking back from ten thousand years in the future might be able to offer, with hindsight, as to what “could have forestalled fatal deterioration of the wonderful North American culture.”  She suspects that the advice would be this:
    “Let things grow.  Don’t let currently powerful government or commercial enterprises strangle new departures, or alternatively gobble them as soon as they show indications of being economic successes.  Stop trying to cram too many eggs into too few baskets under the keeping of too few supermen (who don’t actually exist except in our mythos).”   If people of the distant future care sufficiently and have sufficiently good documentation, they might note that an American president named Theodore Roosevelt, who portrait likeness they could still see, carved into Mount Rushmore, had staved off destructive corporate cannibalism for about a crucial half century before it was loosed in the 1960s and intensified in the 1980s.   
Back To Private Sector Promotions On The Government's Dime

In getting into a description of why monopolies are bad in general (and they are), I have let this article stray a trifle from what is intended to be its main point: That government acts with a demeaning lack of self-respect when it is willing to prostrate itself to make its corporate sector private partners look good at government expense.  The false accountings one sees in Mr. Lhota’s Daily News article also intentionally confuse the issues of how much is lost and how little gained with these mega-projects.

I started by describing the problem the MTA is scheduled to evaluate and take public comment about at tomorrow morning's meeting: The difficulties presented when government gets enmeshed in lending out public assets as vehicles for corporate advertising and corporate promotion, and how that creates confusion about what government really does and doesn’t do, and the difficulty in making clear what government is or is not endorsing.  But these concerns are part of a bigger problem: What kind of world are we confronting when the government consistently acts as if its own interests and those of the public are inherently subservient to promoting the image of big private sector corporations over less flattering realities?

The MTA may have stated that despite the very substantial resources it has committed behind the “Barclays” campaign it doesn’t, in fact, endorse the Atlantic Yards promotions of Barclays Bank. But what about the bigger picture: The MTA’s participation in a Daily News article that promotes Forest City Ratner with the howler that the construction company is handing out subway station construction projects at zero cost to the taxpayers?  That's an interpretation that is only possible when government collaborates in a public relations charade about the real numbers.

Keeping track of the real bottom line, the real cost of things, is essential. Mr. Lhota was once the Budget Director for the City of New York.  Presumably he knows exactly how to keep track of the bottom line . . .  and he ought to do that.
MTA Board Meeting To Evaluate MTA Involvement Supporting Corporate Promotions

The issue of MTA advertising and promotions are to be considered at its board meeting tomorrow morning, where the public will be permitted to address the MTA directors on the subject:
Thursday, September 27th
Board Mtg. – 9:30 a.m.
MTA Headquarters
347 Madison Avenue, 5th Floor Board Room
New York, NY 10017

Public Speaking Procedures
•    Registration opens 15 minutes before scheduled start of committee meetings and 30 minutes before the start of each board meeting.
•    Registration must be done in person.
•    Statements must be about agenda items only.
•    Two minute speaking limit.
•    Speaking time may not be transferred.