Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tales of Two Landlords Bridged by an Iconographic Clash

In a moment we are going to circle back to the huge precedent-setting advertisement that Forest City Ratner ran (full page) on the back of this week’s Brooklyn Paper. (See: Saturday, March 21, 2009, Sign of the times: Forest City Ratner buys welcome ad in the Brooklyn Paper.) First we have to explain a few things.

Tale of One Developer-Landlord: Forest City Ratner

There is a lot of concern about the Brooklyn Paper’s recent acquisition by Rupert Murdoch (and the fact that it is almost certainly being consolidated with Murdoch’s Courier-Life chain papers). The concern is . . . Well, here is the New York Times reporting what Norman Oder has to say:

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that The Brooklyn Paper’s news coverage of Atlantic Yards will diminish somewhat (as it already has), and its editorial criticism will diminish even more,” wrote Norman Oder, a critic of the development, on his blog Atlantic Yards Report.
(See: Brooklyn Up Close: A Scrappy Local Paper Ponders Its New Parent, by Gregory Beyer, March 20, 2009.)

The concern is accentuated by the fact that Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards, will now be the paper’s new landlord; the coverage of the Courier-Life for which Ratner was already landlord has historically been problematically deficient.*

(* Note that there has been longstanding concern that Forest City Ratner is also the New York Times’ landlord/business partner; now that the Times selling its half of the Times building, just landlord. See: Wednesday, December 17, 2008, Time to Times; Dear, Dear, Dear)

Tale of Another Developer-Landlord: Walentas

This problem of who is the Brooklyn Paper’s landlord reminds us of another of its landlord problems that people have been worrying about recently. This problem also has to do with unwanted real estate development, the Dock Street project which is proposed to be put next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

In our previous reporting about the Dock Street project we wrote:

We note that we often place much stock in the reporting and positions of the Brooklyn Paper and that the Brooklyn Paper is editorially supporting Dock Street (see the link above). We also note that those opposing the project have pointed out that the Brooklyn Paper is a tenant of the developer.
(See: Wednesday, February 4, 2009, Reject the “Bundle” Bungle: Saying “No” to Walentas Dock Street Project Next to the Brooklyn Bridge.)

As the Brooklyn Paper is moving into Ratner premises at MetroTech, David and Jed Walentas, the developers of the Dock Street project, will no longer be the paper’s landlord but, critically, they were when the issue was in play.

Testimonial Substantiation: Pages Ripped from Brooklyn Paper Headlines Submitted at City Planning Commission Hearing

The issue of Walentas as Dock Street developer and Brooklyn Paper landlord came up in sharp relief at the City Planning Commission’s Wednesday, March 4, 2009 hearings on the Dock Street project. (See: Saturday, March 14, 2009, At the City Planning Commission Hearings on Proposed Dock Street Project: A Reprise.)

At the CPC hearing, pages of the Brooklyn Paper were introduced into testimonial evidence as substantiation for the supposition that the Dock Street project would not deleteriously detract from the public experience of seeing the bridge. We noted above that the paper editorially supported the project. Pro-Dock Street testimony was delivered that averred that investigative reporting by the paper also substantiated the fact that the “iconic” views of and from the Brooklyn Bridge would not be impaired. That pro-project testimony was thereupon followed up by testimony from those opposing the exceptionably large project pointing out that the Brooklyn Paper’s position and reporting were suspicious and ought to be discredited due to the fact that the Walentases were the paper’s landlord.

Iconographic Clash of Developer Landlord Images

Here is what we find especially ironic in these two deference-to-landlord stories. As Norman Oder points out in his Atlantic Yards Report story today, “Forest City Ratner has not been shy about appropriating Brooklyn Bridge iconography in advertising.” He notes:

As a commenter notes, the advertisement portrays the Brooklyn Bridge, which happens to be closer to the Brooklyn Paper's longtime DUMBO offices, rather than the generic MetroTech office park.

There it is! That iconic view of the Brooklyn Bridge so important that Forest City Ratner has on multiple occasions used it, passing up other opportunities to more accurately represent itself.

(Brooklyn Paper image from today’s Atlantic Yards Report. Click on any image to enlarge.)

The interesting thing is that the view of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Brooklyn Paper’s Forest City Ratner advertisement this week is almost exactly the same view of the bridge that the Dock Street opposition has pointed out, using visuals (such as that below) is about to be sacrificed if the Dock Street project is ever built.

(Picture from Save the Brooklyn Bridge.)

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