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

You can Google up the story the Times published, “Barclays Center's Opening Is Met With Protests” (see image above): Google will tell you the story is available on the web but because the Times removed its first draft of history from the Times web site you won't find it there.  The Times expunged a narrative that was relatively favorable, by Times standards, to those opposing Ratner’s Atlantic Yards to replace it with an article representing the pro-Ratner narrative the Times has been favoring, one complimentary about the opening of the “Barclays” Center arena and snarkily dismissive of the opposition to the Ratner/Prokhorov megadevelopment.

Here is the first description of protests against the arena, focusing on the morning press conference, now consigned to the dustbin by the Times:
    The M.C. was Candace Carponter, a spokeswoman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, one of the groups representing residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. She called the arena “a monument to crony capitalism,” saying that “the vast majority of Brooklyn will not benefit” from the 22-acre, $4.9 billion project, which includes the arena and more than a dozen housing towers. She said that a commercial tower that was supposed to deliver the thousands of promised jobs had not been built and that only a few full-time jobs would result from the arena itself.

    “Ratner has not fulfilled any of his promises, not a single one,” she said.

    Kathleen Noriega told the assembled protesters that she once had been a supporter of Mr. Ratner’s project because he had promised hundreds of construction jobs through an apprenticeship program. But those in the program did not get training in construction, she said, but instead performed difficult demolition work for no pay. Ms. Noriega is involved in a lawsuit against Forest City Ratner.

    As she spoke, protesters held up signs saying “Brooklyn Swindled” while one of the “billionaires” waved a sign reading “We Don’t Pay Taxes. Only Little People Pay Taxes.”

    Daniel Goldstein, another spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, who lost his home to eminent domain, said the project was advertised as an attempt to “stem the tide of gentrification” but instead, he said, “this is a gentrification machine.”

    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.”

    The protest news conference began on the outdoor plaza, but when the rain became stronger, the protesters moved under the shelter of a canopy at the entrance to the arena built by Mr. Ratner’s company.
Replacing it on the web and in the print version of the Times is a new depiction of the protests, worked over by the Times editors, much more in line with what the Ratner publicity crew might themselves have published.  (See: For Brooklyn’s New Arena, Day 1 Brings Hip-Hop Fans and Protests, September 28, 2012.)

Ironically, (see image below) the half page of pretty color pictures* that accompany the pro-arena story appearing in the Times print edition ran opposite a large black and white photo of Richard J. Lipsky, a former Ratner lobbyist, coming out of a courthouse accompanying a story about his sentencing for political corruption.  There is a very intriguing possibility that Lipsky, who has recently been spilling more beans to federal prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence, may be implicating Ratner and/or others in the Atlantic Yards circle of players, many of whom are morally sketchy enough to have already met comeuppances in a variety of ways.
 (* There are even more pretty pictures and elaborate diagrams of the arena’s interior where the Times carries over to devote another full page to the arena hype two pages later.  See below.) 
Should the Times have deleted a story?  The Times often covers unfolding events with evolving web versions of their stories.  Normally, the earlier stories get updated and added to with the original content remaining.  Sometimes entirely new versions of stories are written but that doesn’t mean that the old versions get removed or replaced by different stories written with completely different by-lines.  Google, attempting to take you to the story about protest that you googled (or provided to someone else as a link) now takes you to an entirely different story with a new by-line.  Joe Berger's by-line was on the original story.  The rewriting of history came courtesy of the by-line of N. R. Klienfield, who is noted to have been assisted in his writing by five other Times writers (Howard Beck, Joseph Berger, Sam Dolnick, Matt Flegenheimer and Michael M. Grynbaum.) for a total of six reporters contributing the content the editors could arrange to their liking.

Here is what the Times substituted for the above description of the protesting press conference:
    After so much queasiness and competing prophecies of just what it will mean to put a big arena on this Brooklyn plot, the concert was the first chance to see how it works. Would the traffic be impossible? Would the food satisfy the borough’s increasingly exacting standards? Would drunken fans wake up sleeping families and their dogs? Would enough people come?
     But before any of those questions could be answered, the protests — a staple of the construction zone for years — went on.
    The protests outside the center throughout Friday were, for the most part, modest in size and often included farce as a means of expression. They involved a news conference beneath the entrance canopy, sermons, bits of street theater and coordinated Twitter posts.
    The demonstrators, some of whom slept on the street the night before, rarely numbered more than 50.

    Several women, done up in outlandish wigs, rhinestone jewelry and garish sunglasses, wore sandwich boards that said: “Billionaires for Barclays. Who’s in Your Pocket?”

    The activist performer Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping appeared in a white suit, white boots and clerical collar and lamented that “Bruce Ratner figures” are destroying neighborhoods around the world.

    About 6:30, a small group of protesters spied Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, heading toward a side entrance. They chased him down the block shouting, “You can’t negotiate with a monopolist!”

    In reaction to the protesters, Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Mr. Ratner, said, “We are 100 percent committed to the affordable housing, jobs and other benefits of Atlantic Yards and welcome those who were against them at the start to work with us to achieve them going forward.”
Maybe I should be flattered that, near the end of this section the Times chose to quote me.  I was the one who said, “You can’t negotiate with a monopolist!”  It was not all I said.  When Markowitz stopped for what he evidently intended to be a pro-arena photo-op and hobnob with the press I was among those who intervened and I shouted the following:
    Take the monopoly away from Ratner!

    Take the mega-monopoly away from Ratner!

    You can’t negotiate with a monopolist!

    The “Barclays” LIBOR Center Pays no taxes!
I repeated these lines in rotation more than once.  I think I know Borough President Markowitz well enough to know that if he thought he could have provided a credible response he would have tried one.  Instead, he fled fast into the arena, flustered and apparently shaken.

My remark actually referred back to the Times' own cover story from two days prior, written by Charles V. Bagli and Joseph Berger (Mr. Berger, you'll note, was the reporter whose byline was on the expunged story).

In that front cover Bagli/Berger Times story the paper informed the public how, at the mega-project's inception, New York government officials did us all the immense disservice of awarding what amounted to a 30+ acre monopoly to a developer who had a reputation (only "solidified" by Atlantic Yards) for not honoring promises.

In the words of that article developer and subsidy collector Bruce Ratner had a:
reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms.
(See: Nets Helped Clear Path for Builder in Brooklyn, September 26, 2012, and the Atlantic Yards Report review of it, Thursday, September 27, 2012, Front-page New York Times profile of Bruce Ratner buries the lead: "promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms".)

The favor the Times editors may have done me of including my remark about not being able to negotiate with someone having a monopoly might have been granted with the thought it would not be readily comprehended, without the benefit of context, by someone skimming fast through a rave about the arena.

It really shouldn’t be so hard to understand.

Here are the remarks I offered to all comers from the press yesterday:
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.
The Times, however, perhaps remembering its business relationship with Ratner, likes to play along with Ratner’s narrative and the idea that he should keep his mega-monopoly.

* * * *

 PS: (Added 09/30/’12) Here is Norman Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report take on the Times revisionism, presented in the form of an open letter to the Times Public Editor, that points out how the Times’ deletion of the earlier story from the Times web site violates what the Times Public Editor says the stated the policy of the Times should be: Saturday, September 29, 2012, An open letter to the New York Times Public Editor: Why not retain both versions of Barclays Center opening coverage? (The changes were dramatic and dismissive).

And Mr. Oder notes another paragraph from the article that the Times banished to the void of oblivion.
While the concert went on, there was a free screening of a documentary, “Battle For Brooklyn,” near the arena. The movie chronicles the long fight waged over the project, focusing on Daniel Goldstein, who was displaced from his apartment and has been the leader of the opposition.

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