Showing posts with label Jay-Z. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jay-Z. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More On Jay-z And Beyoncé- Criticism of Beyoncé’s Morality In Lip Syncing . . . A Distraction From Real National Issues

The issues involved (do you know which ones?) were of national concern so I posted an article I've written to address the kerfuffle concerning Beyoncé’s lip syncing of the National Anthem after Obama's second inaugural speech as a National Notice article.

You can get to it here: Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: Criticism of Beyoncé’s Lip Syncing . . A Distraction From More Serious Issues And Moral Choices.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Another “Times Effect”: The Times As Gatekeeper Of Populace’s Populous Debate. . Unpublished Noticing New York Comment On Beyonce’s Moral Choices

What’s most important in this world?  What the New York Times pays attention to or what our multitudinous citizenry invests its time and energy in scrutinizing?  Sometimes a Venn diagram would show those two things as substantially overlapping with the New York Times exercising a gatekeeper role to ensure it remains so as much as possible.

In a New York Times Sunday Review article last weekend Mark Bittman, food journalist and author and columnist for the Times, picked up reminiscently on what has been a repeated theme in past Noticing New York articles: Whether Beyoncé Knowles is behaving morally when she questionably associates with and puts her image and influence behind questionable things.  In this case Mr. Bittman's focus was $50 million that went into a Beyoncé Super Bowl Pepsi promotion, half of which was going directly to Beyoncé and her “creative projects.” Mr. Bittman's concern is that the consumption of sugary soda is a significant public health problem.  See: Why Do Stars Think It’s O.K. To Sell Soda?, January 5, 2013.

On Tuesday I covered and commented on Mr. Bittman’s Beyoncé article here in Noticing New York: January 8, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: More Criticism of Beyoncé’s Moral Choices In a New York Times Op-Ed Piece.

However newsworthy Beyoncé’s connection to sugary soda really is, the public who have participated in making Jay-Z and Beyoncé the world's richest celebrity couple definitely seem to care.  In my Noticing New York article I noted that Mr. Brittman’s column had generated voluminous reader comments (410 reader comments with still another hundred comments awaiting moderation before they show up) and wondered if the comment I submitted to his article would show up.  At the time of this writing, the comments to the Bittman article published by the Times site moderators are up to 425 with comments having now been published.  In answer to my wondering: My comment has not been published.

Although in one case it is close, to date, the number of published comments on the Bittman Beyoncé column exceed, in some cases substantially, the number of comments on any of the other articles in the Sunday Review set up to take comments.  Here are the number of comments published on other pieces appearing in the January 5th Sunday Review (commenting for most of them are now closed).  Collectively, they do evidence that the Times comment sections provide an active and important forum for public comment.
    •    Can Social Media Sell Soap?, (appearing on the front page of the Sunday Review) by Stephen Baker: . . . 90 Comments

    •    The Surreal World: Capitol Hill (appearing on the front page of the Sunday Review) by Maureen Dowd:. . . . 287 Comments

    •    The Myth of Universal Love, by Stephen T. Asthma. . . . 325 Comments

    •    How to Choose a College, by Frank Bruni. . .183 Comments

    •    The Blessings of Atheism, by Susan Jacoby. . . 297 Comments

    •    Diary of a Creep, by Rend Smith. . . 423 Comments

    •    Dying for Freedom (about Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation), by Jim Downs. . . 323 comments

    •    Rapturous Research (about the exhilaration of authors when exhaustively researching an historical topic), by Sean Pidgeon . . . 153 Comments

    •    More Risk-Taking, Less Poll-Taking, by Thomas L. Friedman. .   264 comments

    •    Boehner, American Hero, by Ross Douthat. . .315 Comments

    •    The Public Editor: When Reporters Get Personal, by Margaret Sullivan. . .47 Comments
The New York Times published comments to Mr. Brittman’s Beyoncé morality story in three categories: “All,” “Reader Picks” and “NYT Picks.”  The additional fifteen comments published by the Times since I wrote on Tuesday appear as “Reader Picks” or “NYT Picks.”

For an idea of the additional comments the Times published while not publishing my comment here are the lead-in sentences of the last fifteen comments (they are largely reiterative of the 410 comments that went before):
    1.    Soda and diet soda are great items for celebrities to endorse, especially at the superbowl, where many ads (and parties) are focused on alcohol.. . .

    2.    Yes, if you isolate seeds from 200 apples and crush them (not swallow them) and eat them you will die of cyanide poisoning. But a few seeds will do nothing, . . .

    3.    Well Soda is American; an American thing to do: drink soda. . .

    4.    Once again Mark Bittman found food Jesus and now like a true fanatic he thinks we all have to convert.. .

    5.    Why don't they advertise the sugar free diet versions of these drinks? . .

    6.    How much money does Beyonce need? Seems like she and other celebrities take anything that comes their way without any thought to. . .

    7.    Doesn't anyone have any responsibility for their own actions anymore? One soda is fine. . .

    8.    Great article. Fit Fathers has been saying the same thing. Stars are hypocritical by. .

    9.    Get real. Soda, bacon, candy, beef, etc has been with us long before obesity. . .

    10.    Thanks Mr. Bittman for being willing to ask why popular entertainment figures are willing to endorse this particular seemingly innocuous product that actually causes . . .

    11.    In light of last week's CDC report on the lack of correlation between longevity and body mass (at least for "moderate obesity,") . . .

    12.    Give me a break. Comparing soda to cigarettes is a stretch, the vast majority of consumers consume soda with no ill effects . . .

    13.    It is a little laughable to think that Beyonce could be ashamed to endorse junk food. Almost everyone eats a little junk food now and then . . .

    14.    Can't wait until these celebs start endorsing 5 Hour Energy and Red Bull.. . .

    15.    Somehow it's fitting that Beyonce works to fill bodies with empty soda calories...after all she fills . .
Here is my comment that the New York Times editors moderating comments declined to publish:
Am I going to be the first reader to mention in my comment black actor and activist Harry Belafonte’s observation that Jay-Z and Beyoncé, now privileged with wealth and influence, have “turned their back on social responsibility”?  Mr. Belafonte wasn’t talking about the scourge of sugary soda, albeit a legitimate health problem, he was talking about broader societal issues.

Also, will my comment be published here and will it be selected as a New York Times “pick” if I mention that Jay-Z and Beyoncé have also both shilled for the so-called “Barclays” arena (part of the eminent domain and subsidy abusing Atlantic Yards project) which: 1.) The Times itself, with a conflict of interest, has shilled for even in its news pages, and 2.) partners to promote Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s almost equally sugary rival?

See the following Noticing New York article: [I then included the link to Tuesday's Noticing New York: Tsk, Tsk: More Criticism of Beyoncé’s Moral Choices In a New York Times Op-Ed Piece]
My inclusion of a link in my comment was not the reason for its exclusion.  Other comments published include links.

As I have pointed out before, the documentary “Page One: Inside The New York Times” described what it identified as the “New York Times Effect,” mostly using the Times’ own staffers to describe it, which refers to the way the Times leads the way in establishing what is, or is not, news.  It may be that the Times not only has an effect in leading the way to establish what is on the agenda for consideration as news but also has an effect on after-flow of the ensuing public discussion of those issues.

The morality of promoting sugary soda will be discussed; it happens to be a concern that New York Mayor Bloomberg has personally championed.  The morality of bringing the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly into existence, including the so-called “Barclays” arena, will not be part of the public discussion.  As it so happens the same mayor has indicated that he wants the issues surrounding Atlantic Yards and the arena forgotten: “No one will remember how long it took.” (And by implication the associated issues and problems with the mega-project), says the mayor.  Says his mega-project-supporting ally, the Brooklyn borough president: “no one will ever remember what the fight was about.”

Not by happenstance, the top ranks of the city’s power elite are thoroughly permeated by individuals quite happy to see the mega-project issues similarly vanish from the public consciousness.  And the Times, which has relationships with all of these individuals, including the subsidy collector/developer Forest City Ratner itself, accommodates, scrubbing its news stories, even retroactively, of any mention of the issues, 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.

Before I started writing Noticing New York I submitted prospective pieces to the Times that were not published.  If I ever were published in the Times I am sure that what appeared there would receive a greater readership than what I publish in Noticing New York.  That would have its advantages, but the advantage of a blog like Noticing New York is that when the Times does not publish what I write it can readily be published here instead, hopefully providing some balance.

If you have a reasonable comment on the Times Beyoncé article that the Times moderators won’t publish, I am happy to publish it here in Noticing New York.

Meanwhile, I have tried submitting the following new comment on the Bittman column to the Times:
I previously submitted a comment on this article that did not survive moderation to get published here.  It related Mr. Bittman's observations to the similar way that Jay-Z and Beyoncé have promoted the “Barclays” arena and the Atlantic Yards mega-project of which the arena is a part.  I notice that there is no mention in any of the comments published here to Beyoncé’s association with Atlantic Yards.  I am wondering whether any other of the comments that did not survive moderation to get published referred to Beyoncé’s and/or Jay-Z’s Atlantic Yards or “Barclays” activities.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tsk, Tsk: More Criticism of Beyoncé’s Moral Choices In a New York Times Op-Ed Piece

Oh, my!  In an Op-Ed piece appearing in the last New York Times Sunday review Mark Bittman, food journalist and author and columnist for the Times has taken issue with Beyoncé Knowles’ morality for hawking sugary soda to her audience.  Mr. Bittman notes that Pepsi is putting $50 million into a Beyoncé Super Bowl promotion, part of which money will go to support Beyoncé’s “creative projects.” A correction to the article makes clear that about half of the $50 million that will be spent will go directly to Beyoncé and her “creative projects.” See: Why Do Stars Think It’s O.K. To Sell Soda? January 5, 2013.

Mr. Brittman’s leveling of this criticism at Beyoncé is reminiscent of the criticism I have leveled in Noticing New York articles at Beyoncé and her husband, Jay-Z, for shilling for the highly subsidized, eminent domain-abusing so-called "Barclays" arena and thereby being partly responsible for bringing it into existence at the expense of Brooklynites, the local community and the citizen taxpayers of New York.  See: Friday, April 8, 2011, “Reverse Morality” Clauses for Celebrity Endorsers: What Are They? Something Celebrities, Including Jay-Z, Should Try Enforcing.  Maybe it should be noted that the “Barclays” arena also partners to conspicuously sponsor the promotion of sugary soda: It sponsors Coke, the main competitor of Pepsi.

Beyoncé’s morality has also been previously called into question for her 2009 New Year’s Eve special performance for the Gaddafi clan (Gaddafi as in Lybia) in St. Barts in the Caribbean.  (See: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, An Insert Preview - Music Superstar Ethics: How Completely You Can Sell “You can say what you say, but you are what you are.” Jay-Zzzzus!)

Her husband, Jay-Z, also seems to have repetitive problems in terms of his choice of associates: Friday, March 11, 2011, Lightning Keeps Striking: It Couldn’t Happen To Some More Deserving People . . Over and Over, Again- Ratner, Illegal Bribes and Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

From Beyoncé’s looks and superbly healthy-sounding voice one might intuit (without it’s being guaranteed) that the 31-year-old Ms. Knowles is not a big consumer of sugary beverages herself;  She is merely selling a brand.

But is it fair for Mr. Bittman to be picking on poor Beyoncé?  After all Charlie Rose, who is such an unimpeachable PBS paragon of legitimatizing influence that New York’s Channel Thirteen itself uses him to sell trust in the station, also shills for sugary soda (once again Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s rival) and Rose has similarly shilled repeatedly for the “Barclays” Center arena and its subsidy collector/developer Bruce Ratner.   . .

. .  But wait: Are there no parallels to Beyoncé performing specially for the Gaddafi clan New Year’s Eve in St. Barts?  Maybe there are: On the second occasion when Rose had Bruce Ratner on his program to promote the “Barclays” arena he also hosted at the same time the arena’s co-owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch who, as is almost necessarily the case in Russia, is embroiled with his wealth and its procurement in Russian politics.  This entailed some very uncomfortable groveling by Rose as he joked with Prokhorov about Russian politics as he worked to keep the tone of that program light in keeping with the show's overall happy sales pitch theme.

Isn’t Beyoncé just doing what so many of us decide to do?: Taking a job, making a living where one can be found in a world where options for an honest living are fast being gobbled up by our own homegrown oligarchs and our often less than suitably reputable corporations?  But Mr. Bittman argues that Beyoncé and her husband ought now to be past the point of desperation for money and to the point of making moral decisions:
I suppose it would be one thing if she needed the money or the exposure but she and Jay-Z are worth around $775 million.
Mr. Bittman’s hyperlink takes the reader to the information that Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the richest celebrity couple in the world.  But they weren’t always.  Perhaps one can theorize that the original moral compromises were made somewhere along the way to this status . . . so why then should anyone begin to make fine moral distinctions at this point?

Why would we expect Beyoncé and Jay-Z to make finer moral distinctions than Charlie Rose?  Because they have more money?

There is perhaps a more valid moral criticism of Beyoncé and Jay-Z that has been made.  Mr. Bittman characterizes Beyoncé as “a politically aware woman” because:
she with her husband, Jay-Z, raised money for President Obama and supported Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, meant to encourage children to exercise.
There is, however, disagreement about the political awareness and/or sincerity of the couple.    A reader comment selected by Times editors as amongst the best asks why Beyoncé  merits the label “politically aware” (several reader comments question this assessment) saying that she seems instead “much more ‘profitably aware’”.  Jay-Z himself says he doesn’t understand Occupy Wall Street’s concerns about the one percent and the ninety-nine percent (“what are you fighting for?. . . I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?. . . This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on.”)

The criticism of Beyoncé and Jay-Z that may be the most astute comes from black actor and activist Harry Belafonte when he concludes that the now-privileged couple have simply “turned their back on social responsibility”:
“I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. . . . That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example.”
See: Harry Belafonte: Jay-Z, Beyoncé ‘have turned their back on social responsibility’, by Alexis Garrett Stodghill, August 8, 2012.

There is no question though that Beyoncé has an influence on the culture.  Mr. Brittman’s column has so far generated 410 reader comments (with still another hundred comments awaiting moderation before they show up- We'll see if my comment shows up).  That’s a lot!  Most are primarily a defense of sugary soda as being something that’s not all that bad, not so much a defense of Beyoncé herself, but the top comment amongst the readers’ pick of the collection (which proceeds on to some other pithy observations) begins:
Did you imagine that celebrities are not just like ordinary people whose judgment can be distorted by the lure of money?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Most Important Thing About Economy + Central Issue In Election: Obama On Jon Stewart’s Daily Show Rejects Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Paradigm

Obama on Jon Stewart 10/18/2012 with a pinch representing Ratner and Prokhorov amongst the few benefitting from a skewing of wealth that slows the economy
President Barack Obama appeared on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show last week and at about thirteen minutes into the program (6:05 in this video) he stated clearly what he said was “the most important thing is when you think about the economy” and what he said was “the central issue in this election” which must be addressed.

And then President Obama rejected as detrimental to the nation’s economic growth the paradigm that fundamentally underpins the creation and extraordinary government assistance to the Bruce Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov-owned “Barclays” Center and the larger Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly of which the Jay-Z-promoted “Barclays” Center is a part.

Citing the historical record for authority, Mr. Obama stated what many of us (perhaps not every Republican) might consider a basically self-evident truth: That economic growth is impaired by setting up the economy so that “a few folks are doing very well at the top and everybody else is getting squeezed.”

This is the same point I made just days ago, responding to an email I received from Barbra Streisand in which she asked me to support President Obama.  I said that the case she made for Obama and his agenda would have been much more compelling had she focused in on this disparity in wealth as the most central and important of this election’s issues.  I even commented how the International Monetary Fund has issued a report saying that this “widening disparity” in wealth is gumming up and slowing down the U.S. economy.  I likened it to how things grind to a halt at the end of a Monopoly game, when further moves cease to be possible because all the money is piled up in one place.  (See: Friday, October 19, 2012, Political Thoughts In Her Email Aside, Streisand Owes Response To Community Letter Asking “Why Play Barclays?” Plus Maybe A $700,000 Check!)

The Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly and the so-called “Barclays” Center that spearheads it is a glittering example of what not to do if the economic precepts cited by Obama are of concern to anyone.  As I keep saying: The heaped-up gleam and glitter of the “Barclays” Center seized and hoarded by the wealthy Ratner and Prokhorov, just like a folkloric pirate treasure chest, symbolizes exactly this kind of piled-up, economy-destroying redistribution of wealth.

And it is because of the huge amount of public subsidy that has been directed into the “Barclays” Center that, when Barbra suggested that I send money to support Obama and his agenda, I, in turn, suggested that Ms. Streisand write a $700,000 check to compensate the public for all the subsides that went to Ratner and Prokhorov for her two concerts at the arena.

No doubt you want to know what Obama said about the economic effects of skewing benefit to a few and exactly how he said it.  Here is his statement:
The most important thing is when you think about the economy, I am absolutely convinced that, when you look at the historical record, that when middle class families do well, when there are ladders of opportunity for poor families to get into the middle class, the entire economy does well, and when a few folks are doing very well at the top and everybody else is getting squeezed the economy grows slower.  And that is the central issue in this election that we've got to make sure we address.
You see that little pinch Obama is making with his fingers above?  That little pinch is Mr. Obama referring to the “few folks” like Mr. Ratner and Mr. Prokhorov who we have been setting up to do “very well at the top” with schemes that squeeze “everybody else” and slow the economy like Atlantic Yards and its “Barclays.”

I know that not everybody is always going to follow through to make all these connections. . .

. . .  The New York Times as a prime example doesn’t make such connections and is unlikely to observe how all of the following, to compile just a short list, are all of a piece with the preferential transfer of wealth to Ratner and Prokhorov going on in Brooklyn: The fact that, despite what Romney initially told the public, his tax liability for 2011 turned out to be a mere ten percent; that the wealthy pay proportionately less (increasingly so) of their income into the Social Security System but are taking escalating benefit from it, the harm to the public from the ongoing Barclays LIBOR scandal and the Times ongoing reality and fact-skewing promotion of Jay-Z and the “Barclays” Center.

I know also that politicians don’t also follow through on all the precepts they express when running for office. . .

. . .  But isn’t it interesting that Obama in a tight, hard-fought election rejects the foundational underpinnings that brought us the “Barclays” Center and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly?

(Below is interview where Obama's statement is at 6:05)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Will The “Daily News” Plaza at the “Barclays” (LIBOR) Center Be A Public Space For Free Speech?: Police Issue A Directive To The Contrary

Demonstrators in "Daily News" Plaza at end of Saturday FUREE March 
A lot of the interaction between the protesters protesting the opening of the Ratner/Prokhorov Barclays (LIBOR) Center Arena, the media and those showing up for Jay-Z’s first night concert there almost didn’t happen.  That interaction almost didn’t happen because the city police didn’t want it to happen.  More specifics on this shortly.  It was important that what did happen happened in the large triangular space in front of the arena now named the “Daily News” Plaza.  It’s named that as the result of a sponsoring partnership the Daily News (owned by a fellow real estate developer) has entered into with the arena owners.

Privatization of Public Space and Forest City Ratner’s Mega-Monopoly

Given Bruce Ratner’s corporate takeover of huge swaths of Brooklyn’s most central and important areas, there is a crucial concern as to whether the spaces that his Forest City Ratner organization owns and controls will be treated as public spaces.  With government assistance, including deep preferential subsidies and the abuse of eminent domain, the Ratner organization now exercises dominion over more than 50 acres of Brooklyn that sit astride the convergences of the borough’s key subway lines.  Because Ratner is being preferentially granted the right to build at unprecedented density the effect of that mega-monopoly is multiplied several fold.

(Above a map on the governmentally-assisted Ratner mega-monopoly.  Below depiction of how that mega-monpoly overlays with the subway lines) 

Three things are important with respect to the potential for free speech in this regard: 1.) The privatization of previously public space, 2.) Monopolization of a huge amount of space in Brooklyn by Ratner (precluding pluralism), and 3.) The interconnections between Ratner and government in terms of bringing this about and then perpetuating the privatized Ratner mega-monopoly.

What kind of public space will there be for the vast number of citizens living under the Ratner sway in terms of forums for public discussion and debate?  Will the historical expectation of such forums, such public commons, be eliminated with the privatization of public space that the government assisted?   The government turned over to Ratner streets and sidewalks that were previously public, together with property that had been owned by other property owners in the neighborhood.

The issues of free speech in a world of privatized public space present fundamental questions that Noticing New York explored in an article prompted by the Bloomberg administration’s pending eviction of Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zucotti Park, once known as Liberty Plaza.  (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?)  The John Zucotti after whom that park is now named was once a government official but at the time Liberty Plaza was renamed after him he was a powerful zoning lawyer prominent in the real estate industry.
Future of the Ratner/Prokhorov “Daily News” Plaza As A Place For Free Speech

Is it possible that the large triangular “Daily News” plaza outside the arena could be used as a central commons for public discourse?  It's well suited in several ways: It’s centrally located and, especially with the new subway station entrance, very easy to get to.   It’s broad, flat and, for much of any given day, substantially devoid of other uses.  A tradition could easily spring up for it to be used much as it was used during the four days of community protests against the arena’s opening and Atlantic Yards, as a place for groups to convene, express and call attention to their opinions.

A downside is that the plaza is very noisy.  This might be readily guessed simply by witnessing all the traffic on the multi-lane avenues that flank it, but the plaza is made even more noisy by the roar of subway trains that pass periodically underneath it.

Admittedly, it isn’t the plaza outside of City Hall; You don’t, as you do there, have the feeling that you may be addressing nearby government officials housed within the formal dignity of a building built to honor the relation of the elected and the electorate.  Instead, the huge dark cooperately logoed “Barclays” Center and its “oculus” loom over you.  Like an oversized flat screen in a sports bar, the “oculus” perpetually reformulates moving images that show hypnotically distracting advertisements from all the corporations who have deemed it beneficial to associate themselves with Ratner’s scandalous doin’s in his ruin of Brooklyn.
The insistent flashing ads in the oculus, together with the arena’s general overbearingness in the space are, it’s worth remembering, financially juiced by the arena’s nonpayment of taxes.  We, the public, pay the expenses the arena doesn't.

The plaza between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue is not City Hall Plaza but in an era where the “Barclays” Center aptly represents a corporatizing takeover of the borough and where real estate developers like Ratner now own the politicians you can find in City Hall and Brooklyn’s Borough Hall, perhaps it represents an even more fitting space for delivering messages to the people who are now really in power.

Who Actually “Owns” This Space?

Will those in power let it the plaza space be used as public space?  That partly depends on a technical question as to who is deemed to have technical legal ownership of the plaza.  At one point a contingent of Occupy people, experienced in such newly pertinent “free speech” distinctions, arrived and asked where the property line was.  I must confess that even as a real estate property lawyer I had not thought about this in advance.  I wasn’t even sure there was a line traversing the plaza although, obviously, the public had to have some sort of rights if they were going to be able to enter and exit the new subway station entrance which the Daily News absurdly claimed that Ratner altruistically gave to New Yorkers as a “free” present.

Apparently there is some sort of formal property-dividing line somewhere between the subway entrance and the arena, probably about where the Ratner/Prokhorov owners of the arena typically set up their sign (see below) about how they want the plaza to be used.  Even with that subtraction of "Ratner/Prokhorov" space there is still ample space for public forums remaining.  But should Ratner and Prokhorov technically be thought of as having the right to control the plaza as private space?  There are all sorts of leases going back and forth so that the space could be deemed “public” to qualify for the public’s payment of its costs.  In theory the plaza space is a public benefit furnished to the public so as to help justify the Ratner takeover of everyone else’s property.
Photo above from Atlantic Yards Report post about fortification of Ratner/Prokhorov perimeters
And then there is the concept that the Ratner people have themselves promotionally advanced: That the “30,000 square foot open space plaza” should be a public meeting place comparable in ways to the very public “Grand Central clock,” a location where you can pass the time, watch the passing public pageant, and wait for your friends to join you.

As it was, the protestors congregated only on “their”, the “public” side of the line.

Police Direction That The Plaza Not Be Used For Protest

Not long before 5:00 PM police, crossed over the “line” to come over from the “Ratner/Prokhorov” area to tell all of the protesters, myself included, that they didn’t want us there.  I was there with some of the “Billionaires for Barclays” group, some of the Occupy’s Guitarmy and some other protestors.   

A white shirted officer, accompanied by surrounding group of several other officers, came over and asked who was “in charge.”  Nobody was.  We were all there for similar reasons but nobody was “in charge.”  This earned a sigh from the officer.

“You have to go have to go over to the other side of the street,” he said, pointing across Flatbush at the sidewalk beside the Bears Community Garden.

“Why?”  I am not sure who asked, or even if I did myself.

“Because I’m telling you to,” he said.

“Why?”   I think we all knew the real answer: It was because, with 5:00 PM approaching they expected press and ticket holders to be arriving soon and they wanted to accommodate Ratner and company by removing demonstrators from the picture.

“Because you are obstructing the sidewalk and blocking traffic.”

“No we aren’t,” came the response and with the not huge number of demonstrators present we certainly weren’t.

“I’m directing you to move across the street and if I direct you, you have to go where I tell you,” said the officer.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “We have to do whatever you tell us?  If you tell us to go into that building there,” I said pointing to Ratner’s Atlantic Center across the street, “then we have to go there?  And if you tell us to go into that building there,” I said pointing to Ratner’s Atlantic Mall, also across the street, “then we have to go there?”
(Above, seen in the form of a panaramic collage, a partial view of Ratner's mall properties in back of the "Daily News" Plaza.)

I must admit I was surprised to find myself talking to a police officer this way.  It’s fairly ingrained in me to defer to authority.  Still I was annoyed with what they were trying to pull and if they succeeded it would make the demonstrations less visible and less meaningful, much the way that the Bloomberg administration has previously chosen to structure the handling of protests: segregated “free speech zones”  where people can be ignored and segregated “free press zones” placed at a very safe remove from those “free speech zones.”

“I see no difference,”
I said, waving my arms to indicate the other areas of the plaza around the subway entrance “between these people here, and those people there, and those people there.”

Actually, I did see a difference: The people the officer was asking to leave were expressing an opinion that was opposed to the arena.  But in all other respects, it's true, there was no difference.  All day the newly opened plaza had attracted a fair number of the curious, some fans as well.  To the extent that the people I gestured at included some fans wearing fan-ware then they too could have been considered to have been expressing an opinion about the arena, just an opinion that Ratner was happy to have expressed on the opening night of the arena.

Of course, as could readily be expected, not very long after the officer’s direction to move, the plaza would soon be tread by Borough President Marty Markowitz, interested in drawing as large a crowd of press and fans around him as possible so that he could express his opinion that the opening of the arena was a glorious thing.

At this point something happened that I didn’t expect: The officer backed off.  “Well, just keep moving,” he said.  “Don’t block anything.”

He and his surrounding flank of officers moved off but he left me feeling nervous, like my rights to the space were diminished.

Maybe that’s why when a man in a suit stepped out of a car onto the plaza and I asked him, “do you see any difference between the people standing here and the people standing over there, or there?”   His brown suit was conservatively tailored and carefully pressed so I thought for a moment he might have been one of the black ministers who had led the Candlelight Vigil of a hundred and fifty people protesting the opening of the arena near that spot the night before.  He wasn’t: He was from the media and there was a cameraman with him.  He didn’t answer me.  He only stared off to the horizon, a faraway look in his eye.

Occupy Style Mic Check In Plaza: Oculus Sound System Revs Up

This press fellow didn’t return to our vicinity when a few minutes after the police moved off the group of protesters circled up for a “mic check,” the Occupy style of communication, amplified by crowd repetition, typically used to address a group.

As soon as we started the mic check, the “Barclays” Center oculus sound system revved up.  It’s something I have never heard before and haven’t heard since.  “Oh, no,” I thought, because Norman Oder had already speculated in Atlantic Yards Report that the potentially very loud sound system might have been intended as a crowd dispersal feature: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Ads at the oculus and arena entrance: lots of sound (and maybe crowd dispersal capacity). . . .
  
. . . If that was the reason the system was being turned on, someone controlling the volume knob must have thought better of it pretty fast: Almost as fast as the volume started to come up it was turned back down again to zero.

The mic check, which I participated in, addressed such things as crony capitalism and the LIBOR scandal that the Barclays Bank has been thoroughly implicated in.  Never mind that scandal: Barclays is still getting its name implicitly celebrated back to “respectability” by having the arena and subway hubs bear its name and its former president, Bob Diamond, who had to resign in disgrace is similarly having his name implicitly celebrated back to respectability by having a building beside the admissions office at Colby College bear his name.

Caskets Arrive In Plaza Reanimating Free Speech

If the police had planned to move in again to move us out later they probably lost their chance when a short time thereafter a crowd of anti-gun violence activists showed up with two caskets to call attention to their message.  They were weren’t protesting the arena, Jay-Z or the developer’s tactics although maybe they should have, but they saw the space as public forum and opportunity.  (See: Saturday, September 29, 2012, Activists bring anti-gun violence message to sidewalk outside Barclays Center.)

Controlling Public Space For Free Speech vs. Things Under Control Of The Press

The police may have wanted to play along with Ratner’s game plan and help set the scene for the press where for the day of the opening everybody would appear to be saying that the opening of the arena was just great, as though no one is appalled.  They achieved that but it also mattered less given that the media, including the New York Times, engaged in compliant, self-censoring viewing and reporting on the opening events hoopla with blinders on.  (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 Wednesday, October 3, 2012, Media and Activists: Putting The News Of The Jay-Z Concert Opening Of The “Barclays” Center In Context.)

Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly: The Intimidation And Comfort Factors

Does the “Barclays” Daily News Plaza work as place for public free speech?  That will depend partly on how it is managed.  Late that night of Jay-Z’s concert, after the Jay-Z crowd had moved inside the arena, another protestor, a less experienced one, confided in me that she felt very uncomfortable being in the plaza.  She described it as “creepy” and was eager to get away.
Lynda Robb Johnson who sees that protesting might be fun with President Ford’s daughter, Susan Ford Bales, on the Jim Roselli radio show in Chautauqua NY.
A number of weeks ago I heard Lyndon Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb, say that say that she thought that many of the protestors that came out to protest against her father’s perpetuation of the Vietnam War came out to have a good time.  I appreciate that the harsh criticism her father was subjected to was no doubt painful for her but I think more often the opposite is true in two respects: Being part of the group in power has its enjoyable aspects and it’s uncomfortable to protest. The times I got out to protest the Vietnam War were uncomfortable for me and I find protesting, in general, can be very uncomfortable.  I put the discomfort aside, because I believe it’s something important to do, like voting.  And I am very thankful to the people who have more stamina than I do in pursuing it.

What happens when that level of discomfort is cranked up?  I certainly felt uncomfortable when the officer directed us to remove ourselves away from the arena.  And my fellow protester the night of the Jay-Z opening concert is right: There is a lot going on around the arena that does make one feel creepy and uncomfortable.

The night of the Jay-Z concert uniformed anti-terrorist personnel guarded the arena Starbucks franchise.
The day after when the FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) march ended at the arena a phalanx of red-jacketed arena ushers deployed to define a “do-not-cross” line that fended protestors out of the plaza’s center.
Even Monday evening, three days after Jay-Z’s opening concert and two days after the community’s four days of formal protest had concluded you could still see the police manifesting a significant presence as they planned their strategy for the day.
The overall manpower deployed is stunning.  See these yellow-jacketed pedestrian safety fellows going into action for the day.
Some, not all, of this would hardly be necessary except that the arena with its takings and with its celebration of the privileges of an elite over the rights of the common citizen has created the kind of tensions and divisions in the community that kind of abuse certainly ought to create.

Will the deployment of all this manpower stifle free speech in the plaza?  Newspapers used to represent a celebration of free speech.  Will the plaza, named “Daily News” after a newspaper provide a place for free speech?  Or will it in the end only celebrate the dominance of commercial speech?

The answer is important because, until the day comes when it is taken back, Ratner has been given an unspeakable mega-monopoly in Brooklyn.  You can no longer walk formerly public streets and sidewalks either to get to a protest or to protest on them without Ratner’s permission because those streets and sidewalks were given away to Ratner by the city.  With mega-monopolies like this being handed out in the city where will the public find places to speak?
(Above, police barricades on both sides of the Sixth Avenue behind the Ratner/Prokhorov "Barclays" arena.  Below, gates closing off Pacific Street, now owned and controld by Ratner.)

More fence going up around Ratner's superblock
Partial view of the very long fence around Ratner superblock now mostly used for parking
The Times On The Subject Of Brookfield Properties As Purveyors Of Public Space And The Eviction Of Occupy Wall Street

In the end we may lose our interconnected freedoms of free speech and public assembly, or at least the meaningfulness of those rights, not with a bang but with a simper. . . The simper of media praise for how we should be forgetfully contented with whatever mix of entertainment salves corporations chose to serve up in exchange for those displaced freedoms.

This week the Times, which in many way provided egregiously bad reporting on the free speech issues underlying Occupy Wall Street’s eviction from Zucotti Park, ran a story praising Brookfield (insert “Office”) Properties “a high-end commercial real estate operation” for its art presentations in what it refers to as “the public spaces” of the “office buildings it operates.”  Brookfield is the nominally “private” owner of Zuccotti Park without whose participation there couldn’t have an eviction.  (Purveyors of Office Space and Lively Arts, by Allan Kozinn, September 30, 2012.)

The article on Brookfield’s hosting of the art presentations broached the free speech issue in Brookfield’s control of its space.  It did so in delicate, mild, lauding terms: A composer is quoted as saying “They have been really open-minded and flexible” . . . “You can talk to them about the power of an idea, and that’s really liberating.”  But the article also communicates that because Brookfield views the space as “public space” (not despite it’s being public space), it exercises control: “they don’t want anything that’s too far away from family fare in terms of language or imagery.”   The quote, coming from John Schaefer, WNYC’s radio host of avant-garde music programs, sounds almost like an endorsement.

The article speaks in terms of all of Brookfield’s public space generally but pays a fair amount of attention to its Battery Park City Winter Garden space which in many ways is functionally very critical as public space, integrating with and connecting other carefully designed Battery Park City space.  Immediately outside it on the other side of the expanse of windows there is more public plaza along the water.  I haven’t researched to determine whether or not Brookfield is contractually obligated to publicly use the Winter Garden space.  It’s not mentioned by the Times.

Why, of all times would this be the moment that the Times runs such an article?  It hints that maybe it's because the 25th anniversary of the arts program is approaching (but not really here).  Or, is it because with the weather changing that people will remember that we are coming up on the anniversary of Brookfield’s decision (the first half of last October) to evict Occupy Wall Street?  Because the Brookfield PR department, mobilizing prophylactically, contacted the Times to work something out?  The Times article makes absolutely no reference to Brookfield’s role in the eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zucotti Park.   

The Privatized Barclays Space And The Forceful Commercialism There

In the end the “free” public entertainments provided by Brookfield sound rather pleasant as written about by the Times.  At the “Barclays” Center, with its unremitting, illuminated ads, promotion of the commercial messages we are supposed to consume is much more in-your-face as is also the New York Times writing about it.

I’ve noted before that the New York Times has been using Jay-Z for its own promotion and, conversely has been in reciprocal fashion promoting Jay-Z.  It continues.

Friday morning, my listening to public radio station WNYC was interrupted when I thought I heard announced that the New York Times would be running a week-long lifestyle series about Jay-Z concerning his likes and tastes.  I now think that I misheard and that the New York Times isn't running a week-long lifestyle series about Jay-Z concerning his likes and tastes and that the story instead was that Jay-Z would be live-streaming his last “Barclays” concert to launch a YouTube channel and that, as part of this launch, JAY Z's new YouTube channel, “Life+Times,” (not the New York Times) will be running that week-long lifestyle series.  Per its promotion “Life+Times” is a content-rich hub that seamlessly blends the interests  of JAY Z” with practically everything else under the sun, “editorially” providing an “insider’s perspective.”

So it won't be the New York Times running such a series, but communicating with other people while still under my misapprehension that the Times would, I didn’t encounter any real surprise or an awakening of new outrage, only a dismayed resignation that this is what things have come to, that with all the other hype the Times has already run, it is absolutely to be expected that the Times would run such silly and fawning promotion of Jay-Z.  What are things coming to when our reality is that you can no longer tell the difference?  When the meaningful apsects of free speech dwindle and necessary public conversations get replaced with  . . .   You tell me!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick Reminder: This Saturday, October 6, 2012: You Can Catch Buskin & Batteau and Freebo at First Acoustics (Rather Than Head To The Barclays LIBOR Center)

Here is a quick reminder: This Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:00 PM you can you can catch Buskin & Batteau and Freebo as part of the First Acoustics music series.  That’s instead of going to yet another one of those Jay-Z concerts being held that night in the Ratner/Prokhorov Barclays (LIBOR) Center, that place Jay-Z helped to promote in selling the community out.

More about the First Acoustics series (so you don’t even consider going to the corporatized  “Barclays” Center) is available here: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, Alternatives To The Scandalously Spawned, Scandalously Named Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Center: Protest & Locally Nurtured Concerts.  All the links you need are there.

The season just opened with Roosevelt Dime and Honor Finnegan.  Writing when that last concert was upcoming, I concentrated on my excited expectations of seeing Roosevelt Dime.  You never know exactly what to expect!:  Roosevelt Dime was great, but I had no idea how blown away I would be by Honor Finnegan who has an unusually beautiful voice combined with some great song-writing talent and performance skills.
Honor Finnegan at First Accoustics
I’d heard Honor once before as part of a night of Joni Mitchell's Blue: A 40th Anniversary Celebration.  (That performance evening, a different women singers paying tribute to Joni Mitchell, is scheduled to conclude this year’s First Acoustics season.)  Nevertheless, I wasn’t prepared for how marvelously Ms. Finnegan could handle a whole set by herself.

Ms. Finnigan’s “Life Is Short” (also on her CD- All her best songs are) is morbidly funny, and her bluesy, “Internet Junkie” which I had heard her sing before is . .   mordantly amusing.  You may want it as a regular song cycling through on your play list.  Hearing it again reminded me how good it is.  Honor can also evoke classic Billie Holiday.  Too bad if you weren’t there.

Roosevelt Dime at First Accoustics
One surprise about Roosevelt Dime was a knowing riff we got from the stage about the virtues of Red Molly (coming at next at the First Acoustics on October 12th).  I handed out a Noticing New York rave for Red Molly in the last post I put up about the First Acoustics series.  It turns out, as we were told that night, Roosevelt Dime and Red Molly participate regularly with some other musicians in a "new compositions" workshop.  It’s something I am going to try to be around for at least once.

I am looking forward to being pleasantly surprised again this Saturday.  Visiting their sites it looks like we’ll hear some wonderful warm guitar music from Buskin & Batteau and something similar but maybe a little jazzier from Freebo.

Meanwhile, I am wondering how many performers and how many of us of the public for very good reasons are going to be shunning the “Barclays” Center: I am suggesting for at least the next seven years.

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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Scourge of Sidewalk Cracks, Once Used As Excuse To Clear Neighborhood For Ratner, Now In Evidence At Brand-Spanking-New “Barclays” (LIBOR) Center

(Above, photos of two "Barclays" Center sidewalk cracks- click to enlarge)

The frightful scourge of sidewalk cracks, the excuse that was used to clear a neighborhood for its takeover by Forest City Ratner is now very much in evidence around the brand-spanking-new Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” (Libor) Center arena.  Oh my!  Wasn’t everyone promised that if the neighborhood were eliminated, Ratner’s munificence, exemption from taxes, and superior ownership abilities would mean that we wouldn’t have to continue to live with sidewalk cracks?

Seriously, it’s not that sidewalk cracks are the worst thing in the world: After all, they can be found everywhere. . .  There are all sorts of sidewalk cracks around Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. You can find some really bad ones around Borough President Marty Markowitz’s new home. Noticing New York found some cavernous sidewalk cracks around Senator Charles Schumer’s home on one of the best blocks on Prospect Park West. You could even find sidewalk cracks besetting other Forest City Ratner properties, including such properties in my own neighborhood of fashionable Brooklyn Heights.  If sidewalk cracks were a real problem then I’d be in a thicket of of difficulty because sidewalk cracks are everywhere in my neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights.

No, it’s not that sidewalk cracks are truly so frightful.  What’s terrible is that the bane of sidewalk cracks was used by the ESDC, now going by the shortened acronym of ESD (the Empire State Development Corporation, aka UDC or New York State Urban Development Corporation) was used as a pretextual excuse to find “blight” when it scornfully pointed out sidewalk cracks so that it could clear out and turn a whole neighborhood over to politically-connected Forest City Ratner.

The mega-monopoly that Forest City Ratner was shooting for, and which government handed over to Bruce Ratner, is more than 30+ contiguous acres in the area of this most recent taking and more than 50 acres in all that government has assisted Ratner to acquire over Brooklyn’s key subway lines.  In terms of aggregate buildable square footage, FAR, (as opposed to just square feet) it constitutes an even more extreme government-supported monopoly given the density (and government subsidies) being preferentially assigned to the Ratner properties.

The way it worked was that, in order to constitutionally justify the taking of property to compile Ratner’s mega-monopoly, the ESDC board sent out the firm of AKRF and told it to find blight and AKRF, complying with its contract’s specifications and following instruction went out and found blight. It did so, in important part, by pointing out sidewalk cracks, notwithstanding that Senator Charles Schumer, who likely doesn’t think his sidewalk crack-ridden neighborhood is blighted and probably doesn’t think that Brooklyn Heights is blighted either, said that he knew that the neighborhood that AKRF found was blighted (very close to his own, and one he bicycles through) was similarly not blighted.

Notwithstanding the pretext of blight used to take the property for Ratner, and notwithstanding that Schumer declares that he recognizes and opposes the evils of monopolies, Schumer was a supporter of the Atlantic Yards/“Barclay” (LIBOR) Center project because it would provide affordable housing.  He said he relied upon the Ratner-financed ACORN to reach that conclusion.

Well, it is now clear that Ratner is not honoring many promises, including those with respect to housing.  Forest City Ratner might, with deepening preferential subsidies, start building one residential building next year and, if it does, that 32-story, 363-unit, perhaps modular, building is supposed to contain just nine 2-bedroom units of housing that's truly affordable to low income families.  Maybe Schumer will be backing away from his support of the mega-project.  Local politicians stayed away from the events celebrating the opening of the Ratner/Prokhorov arena.  Schumer, likewise, was not reported to be in attendance although he was present for the festivities announcing Ratner’s mega-project in December of 2003.

 As Schumer, with a knowledge about monopolies and their evils, should know there is a key interrelationship between monopolies and the lack of benefit: Noticing New York has emphasized this before.  . .  Giving Ratner a mega-monopoly:
    . . ..  doesn’t just wipe out Ratner’s competition, it's intended to knock out the public’s negotiating power. 
The “Barclays” (LIBOR) Center sidewalk cracks, visible in the evening gloom, were pointed out by Patti Hagan on one of our first walks around the newly opened arena.  Patti was also the community resident who, activist-style, first sounded the alarm in 2003 that there was a neighborhood (and competing development!) that Ratner wanted to remove from the footprint of the mega-monopoloy he sought.

It’s ironic though: The mega-monoply was given to Ratner because we shouldn’t have sidewalk cracks? . . . But with Ratner we still have sidewalk cracks?  Brand-spanking-new ones on the sidewalk of a building that doesn't pay taxes?

Let’s consider the “Barclays” arena sidewalk cracks just one more reason to take the mega-monpoly away from Ratner so as to restore the community’s ability to negotiate for real benefit.

Here are some more pictures (click to enlarge).


(Below, next two pictures, a crack even outside of Jay-Z's  Rocawear store.)