Thursday, November 15, 2012

What’s NOT Cancelled This Saturday: Anna Dagmar, Anothony da Costa and Caitlin Canty at First Acoustics

Red Molly at First Acoustics most recent show, the Saturday before superstorm Sandy arrived
Superstorm Hurricane Sandy changed around plans for a lot of people and it’s got to be acknowledged that for those most affected things won’t be the same again and such recoveries as may still be in store could be a long way off.

One way in which things changed for many, although much less drastically, is that music performances touted by Noticing New York as alternatives for those eschewing the Ratner/Prokhorov-owned “Barclays” Center were cancelled.

Coco Wilde, who runs First Acoustics cancelled the Saturday, November 3, 2012 evening performances of Suzie Vinnick appearing that night with Friction Farm.  (In terms of time frame, that Saturday night was the evening preceding the marathon that the Bloomberg administration belatedly cancelled.)  So, although I had promised this as one Saturday night’ alternative to Barclays fare it didn’t happen.  I don’t know if it was any more irksome for those determined to go out and entertain themselves in that week following the storm that although Coco cancelled the First Acoustics night, the Barclays Center was open for a basketball game that night.  During the recovery fray, the city and MTA mobilized special bus service in support of the event at the 18,000 seat arena.  If you remember, the subways weren’t coming to Brooklyn.

Coco says that Suzie Vinnick and Friction Farm will now perform in next year's 2013/2014 season.  She says those with tickets for the cancelled night can use them for the next season performance, use them instead for (or bring friends to) another concert this season, or she will refund them.

Another event that didn’t happen was Shepley Metcalf’s Thursday, November 1st performance at the Metropolitan Room singing the songs of Laura Nyro.  Lower Manhattan was still without electricity at that point and that meant the Metropolitan Room on 22nd Street just west of the Flatiron building was dark and closed.  And it would have been quite difficult for us Brooklynites to get to anyway without subways and no special supporting bus service for the establishment supplied by the city and the MTA.

Shepley Metcalf at the Metropolitan Room on the 10th
I can report, however, that nine days later with power restored to lower Manhattan together with much of the subway service linking Brooklyn to Manhattan, Shepley did make her second scheduled performance at the Metropolitan Room.  The place was packed.

I can also advise you that this Saturday’s First Accoutics evening featuring Anna Dagmar, Anothony da Costa and Caitlin Canty is going ahead as planned.

Metropolitan Room coming attraction for Pia Zadora
First, to bring you up to date, Shepley’s performance was ultimately wonderful and whereas in looking forward to it I wrote about Barbra Streisand’s period of covering Laura Nyro songs, in her show Shepley mentioned that too and unveiled a curious little surprise in that regard: She invited everyone in the audience for a visit downstairs following her performance so that she could prove she had pictures of a young Streisand attending her father’s wedding to her step-mother.  (Noticing New York has been paying special attention to Streisand recently given the questionable lapses associated with her performance at the “Barclays” Center so this extra coincidental connection to our cousin Shepley is interesting.)

I couldn’t help noticing, while at the Metropolitan Room, that they had posters up for upcoming performances by Pia Zadora.  I don’t know what others in the world who don’t have the associations with Ms. Zadora that I do think of her.  There’s an ample variety of reasons people are apt to think a lot about Ms. Zadora, starting with the fact that she famously starred as the Martian Princess in the 1964 film  “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”  My associations involve a fun-to-tell story (but I won’t tell it here) story that involves my good friend from high school, Randy Morrison going back to when Pia was performing in “Henry, Sweet Henry,” the Broadway musical adaption of the “The World of Henry Orient” with Don Ameche.  Pia does a wonderful version of “I Thought About You,” one of our favorite songs, a song that claimed our attention mightily when it ws performed as a duet by Cynthia Holiday and Jim Malloy, backed by the Bob Cunningham trio, at First Acoustics.

You may want to know that the most recently held First Acoustics performance, held the Saturday before that odd Sunday the subways were closed in anticipation of the pending storm, went spectacularly.  The women of Red Molly, called back repeatedly by applause, found themselves confessing that they had run out of encores, and had to improvise.  Penultimately, they sang our entrancing favorite, an a capella version of Susan Werner's "May I Suggest."  And they finished up- I recall the suggestion came form the audience-  with "Fever."

Abbie Gardner after Red Molly's performance
Afterwards, I was able to confirm by talking to Red Molly’s Abbie Gardner that her, separate-from-the-group “My Craziest Dream” performance was going to involve backup support from her musician, song-writing father.  I don’t know if it actually happened since that event was scheduled for November 3rd in Dobbs Ferry and Westchester, as we know, was also exceedingly challenged by power problems.  It’s a performance I someday want to catch.

I knew I was going to love seeing Red Molly at First Acoustics a second time and since I last saw them they have been very busy writing dulcetly superb new songs.  The extraordinary pleasure I hadn’t experienced before was seeing the energetic Union Street Preservation Society.  Their music went straight into my preferred playlist afterward and I told Coco she has to plan on having them back again, sooner rather than later.  I told her she had to because, as extraordinarily good as they were that Saturday night, I argued we were only getting 80% of what they were capable of: They are regularly a five member (sometimes more!) band and one of their number had taken off that night because his wife just had a new baby.  If they are this joyously good at 80%, I said, think what they will do at 100%.

Union Street Preservation Society at First Acoustics the Saturday before the subways were shut down
It turns out that Union Street Preservation Society has a background performing at Freddy's, the local bar and music venue that was razed along with a lot else to make way for the "Barclays" Center.  They performed there not long before it was closed and they have now been performing at the new, reincarnated Freddy's farther out in Brooklyn the third Friday of every month.  Union Street Preservation Society guitarist David Leiberman also recommends an upcoming integrated performance they will be doing with Andy Statmen and his trio at Barbès in Red Hook, January 17, 2013.  Red Hook was hard hit by the storm and Barbès soon hosted benefit concerts for storm relief.

I think that Mr. Leiberman, who was front and center much of that First Acoustics night, was taken, when I talked with him after USPS's performance, with my idea that any musicians deigning to perform at the highly subsidized "Barclays" Center should kick back their subsidy so that we can reduce by maybe $20 per, the cost of tickets to real local music entertainment in Brooklyn.

What to expect this Saturday night?  You could just let yourself be in for a surprise. .  That’s a fabulous way to approach the Saturday nights of life. . .

I have not yet heard any of the three acts performing Saturday night but the beauty of the internet is such that its connectivity makes it so easy to peek and guess about what the future might hold.

Here's video of Anna Dagmar . . . would you say there’s a classically yearning relentlessness to the rhythms?  Like an old Irish or English folk song?  Coco assures me that on Saturday Dagmar, a pianist, IS bringing a classical quartet to back her up.

And here is a video for Anothony da Costa . . .  Quiet, exact,  rolling guitar picks and wistful remorse?

Lastly, not leastly, we have video of a Caitlin Canty ballad, one of four videos up her website. . . This is slow and pretty; she also has video of faster music.

Hope to see you at the concert in Brooklyn Heights Saturday.  More information about First Acoustics and the rest of this season’s performances is available and linked to in this article: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, Alternatives To The Scandalously Spawned, Scandalously Named Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” Center: Protest & Locally Nurtured Concerts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reflecting Pictorially, And Otherwise, On The Un-Truth And Consequence Of BP Markowitz’s Assertion Arena Is In Business District, Not Brownstone Neighborhood

Noticing New York photo looking, like the the Times photo below, down Park Slope's Fifth Avenue toward arena
Though the Mark Jacobson article that appeared in New York Magazine to accompany the opening of the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena was somewhat meandering and incoherent it did have paragraphs worthy of attention, the result of interviews he was granted.  (Haunts: What does the Brooklyn of the new Barclays Center have to do with the Brooklyns that came before it? A native son walks among the ghosts, Sep 23, 2012)

One of those paragraphs was where Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz propounded the idea that the arena has not been plunked down and shoehorned into a residential brownstone neighborhood, that it was instead in a “business district”:
 “All this talk about ‘the neighborhood,’ ” Markowitz postured. “These people moved into brownstones on Dean Street because it was cheap. They thought they found paradise because they got out of Manhattan. What they’d really moved to was a business district, a place that had always been a business district, except they didn’t know with that hole in the ground at Atlantic Yards. But a business district is for business, and now, thank God, it is doing business. If these people wanted to move to a bedroom community, they should have gone to Mill Basin. Marine Park. Bay Ridge. Those are bedroom communities. Brooklyn has many wonderful bedroom communities! But the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue is not one of them.”
Is it true that the arena, sited on a new superblock combining what was previously three smaller individual blocks, was put into a “business district,” not into a neighborhood of residential brownstones?  I went out and traveled the outer circumference of the arena taking pictures,* set forth here, to reflect on this proposition.  Looking at these picture, the answer, I think, is mostly not true.  This article is partly to invite you to form your own judgments.  (Click on any photo to enlarge.)
Picture in the Times looking down Park Slope's Fifth Avenue at arena
(* In one respect I was inspired by the picture that accompanied the September 21, 2012, New York Times Liz Robbins article: In Brooklyn, Bracing for Hurricane Barclays. That picture (see above) was of a vista I so often see, sighting down the length of Fifth Avenue, that keeps reminding me that although Atlantic Yards is so often described as being in Prospect Heights or adjacent to Fort Greene the arena itself is smack dab at the end of the neighborhood of Park Slope, which I think most quintessentially represents that neighborhood. Park Slope was named one of "10 Great Neighborhoods in America" by the American Planning Association in 2007.  At the time Markowitz said he wasn’t surprised by the choice, that “Park Slope has it all . . great shopping and eateries, the creative arts ... and a long tradition of progressive politics and activism.”  In 2010, statistics geek and New York Times number cruncher Nate Silver, last week getting accolades for his accuracy in predicting the results of the presidential election (and Senate races), ranked Park Slope as New York’s most livable neighborhood, citing its well-rounded perfection.  Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, from which various pictures in this article were taken, ranked high on Silver’s New York Magazine list at 4, 9 and 18 respectively.)
Looking down Park Slope's Fifth Avenue again

It Matters . . . Like Maybe "1000 Percent"?

Does it matter if the borough president’s assertion that the arena was put into a “business district,” not into a brownstone neighborhood, is false?   Well, as with most things that people say publicly and emphatically when they know what they are saying is false, it probably does matter.  The more emphatically something false is publicly said, the more it probably matters.  In this, borough president Markowitz’s statement about what kind of neighborhood the arena was shoehorned into has much in common with his strenuous efforts to sell the Atlantic Yards mega-project to Chinese investors, saying “Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards” when he certainly knew and believed that as he stated later in a subsequent interview:
It will certainly be written, in the days to come, as among the most contentious developments in America's history--there's no question. . . It's not just New York history, it would be in the nation.
The Forest City Ratner Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly is of course the larger envisioned land grab of which the arena, spearheading it, though itself gargantuan, is a just fractional part.
Dean Street looking east, the around-the-corner arena visible
Brooklyn Borough President Says He Knows Better

Dean Street looking east, just before arena intersection
Markowitz certainly knows what kind of neighborhood the arena was actually put into.  As borough president it's part of his presumed job and you don’t get elected without knowing the basic territory of the borough.  A few days ago, on November 4, 2012, Markowitz came to an event at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation I was attending and proudly advised the assembly this about himself:
I know Brooklyn as good as anyone, better than most. 
Why does it matter that the arena was squeezed tightly in amongst a neighborhood of residential brownstones?  Is it because of the multiple inconveniences and negative side-effects residential neighbors are now experiencing that they would not have experienced but for the arena?  The throbbing bass music emanating from the arena that can be heard pounding its way into neighboring apartments?   The disconcertingly abrupt corporatizing takeover and transformation of the neighborhood once famous for the local flavor of its businesses?  What about the shutting down of the residential streets behind the arena to accommodate crowds of tweens roiling with such Beatlemaniac enthusiasm to glimpse Justin Bieber that their screams can be heard through the closed double-paned windows of the surrounding residences?  (See the picture from Atlantic Yards Report below.)
From Atlantic Yards Report
All of this is important, but more important than anything else is what Markowitz was addressing in his statement, the exact reason he felt it important to reconstruct the truth into something that was rather its opposite.
Flatbush Avenue looking north, Park Slope on left, Prospect Heights on right, arena in background
Justice And The Managing of Expectations

Looking north on Flatbush again from farther away
What Markowitz was playing with was the issue of expectations.  Expectations in human relations have a lot to do with what’s considered moral and what’s not.  They also have a lot to do with what the law founds legal rights upon, including the law of land use and the control society establishes over uses to which land is put.  I studied land use and land use control law in both urban planning school and law school.  The issue of expectations came up particularly when I was studying out of a text, “Land Use Controls: Cases and Materials” by NYU professor John D. Johnston Jr. and my own professor, George W. Johnson, teaching the course at Brooklyn Law School.  During the course of the year we were also reading essays about the economic underpinnings of these concepts of justice and the consonance with the way these evolving rules of justice produce benefits for society.
Looking north on Prospect Heighs' 6th Avenue, arena just around corner on left
When it comes to land use law, don’t move next to an airport and expect that the airplanes are not going to fly thunderously overhead.  Conversely, if you suddenly put an airport in the middle of a residential neighborhood expect that the neighbors will do some rightful complaining.  Similarly, if you locate yourself beside an existing train line, maybe beside the depot, be thinking in terms of owning a diner to serve the train travelers. But if a railway company runs a new train line through a residential neighborhood and is belching smoke, making noise and sending cinders into the sky that are causing local fires and igniting local homes, figure that you’ll be sued and will probably have to shell out for some damages, notwithstanding that the government may have assisted you with eminent domain and subsidies to help you locate the new technological advance of your rail line advantageously where you wanted it.

Closer to arena on 6th Avenue, arena now visible
This being America, a new nation with vast open expanses to be claimed (and the fact that we tend to forget about the original native Americans or their rights) the law tends to pay lot of deference to those who (among the newly arriving European Americans) got to a location first.  If, in early America, you located a glue factory (that most famous example of nuisance proscribed regularly by so many restrictive covenants regulating land use in old deeds) out in the middle of what people thought of as nowhere you’d probably be okay, no bother, but don’t go and locate the same activity close by a town where people are already living.

More Condemnation (When There Has Been So Much Already!)

Looking west on Dean Street where arena replaced residential buildings and others were knocked down by Ratner, leaving vacant property to forestall reasons for community resistance
Now, what about those railroads that, though noxious in previously unforseen ways, the government still thought should be located nearby already existing homes so trains could get into the center city: Do the neighboring home owners whose homes have lost value have a remedy?  If the noxiousness they have to live with is sufficiently bad they probably have a remedy in “inverse condemnation.”  Those who have a rudimentary familiarity with the Atlantic Yards saga will be acquainted with what “condemnation” means in the context of eminent domain and also how eminent domain was abused for the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly, essentially privatizing its purpose as well as who was in the driver's seat when it came to the government using its power to take local real estate away from other private owners to give it to the Ratner firm and thereby squelch local competition.
Looking west on Dean Street from farther away
“Inverse condemnation” is the name of the kind of lawsuit people can bring when the government effectively deprives property owners of the expected value of their land without first formally condemning their property or compensating them for it.  In effect they say to the government: “Though you didn’t legally seize or take my property rights, you have now done so as a practical matter so the legalities of appropriate compensation should follow.”  Railroads, although they are technically private entities, can be sued in “inverse condemnation” because the regulating involvement of government has essentially blended them into government for this purpose.  The railroads can also be sued via a lawsuit brought for nuisance although if the activity the government is specifically permitted is unavoidably a nuisance the remedy granted would be to collect financial compensation damages only, not an injunction to cease the activity.

The arena and its owners are much analogous to the railway companies of the days of yore.

The Seamless Web of Expectations

Looking west on now partially demapped Pacific Street toward where Daniel Goldstein's building used to stand.  Newswalk, with its expensive new residential condos, stands in foreground
The law often concerns itself with the goal of protecting expectations.  It is not just a matter of making such protections part of the bundle of rights that are the package we think of as property ownership.  The law enforces contracts because the law believes that people's expectations when entering contracts should be protected and society will benefit as a result.  The law of torts, that set of laws that makes you liable to others for careless and bad acts, is full of expectations regarding how human beings in social congress with other human beings are entitled to expect those other human beings to act.  It is doubtful that there is any area of the law, criminal or otherwise, where the protection of expectations about the behavior of our fellow citizens doesn’t play a critical role.  It is for reasons like that this that the law is often referred to as being a “seamless web.”

Zoning Out On The Issue of Expectation Management

An impossible shot to take this time of year: Looking west on Atlantic Avenue - When lush tree leaves fall you will see arena and residential Atlantic Commons
In the area of land use control it is not always a question of who came first that permits or proscribes what uses will be permitted where.  In the modern United States our set of expectations regarding what can and can't be done with land gets reshaped through zoning.  Zoning amounts to a surrendering of rights of owners to use property as fully as they otherwise might expect to be able.  That would be a diminishment of the value of the land for which the owners are not paid except that the concept is that if everyone surrenders, having their rights restricted, everyone in the end benefits because society as a whole benefits.  That underpinning concept is not, however, so arguably applicable in the case of Atlantic Yards where Forest City Ratner designed all the restrictions that apply to the Atlantic Yards project, thereby making it, in essence, preferentially subject to no restrictions at all, while neighboring property owners are subject to a normal and conventional set of real restrictions.

A Sleeping Falsehood

Again lush leaves around Atlantic Commons obscure arena
Markowitz in his New York Magazine article quote does acknowledge that there are residential brownstones on Dean Street within the area near the arena he was talking about. For the sake of blaming those who chose to live in the residential buildings of the neighborhood of being the victims of their own illegitimate expectations Markowitz sets up something of a false dichotomy: If a neighborhood can’t be called a “bedroom community” then it must be a “business district.”  But most residential neighborhoods in New York are something more in-between.  Brooklyn Heights, Greenwich Village, Williamsburg, Astoria are all residential neighborhoods but all have streets and intersections bustling with ground floor commercial activity, a lot of which. . . restaurants, clothing stores, opticians, and phone stores that seem to be the modern purveyors of electronics. . . are entirely consonant with the residential use being made of most of the neighborhood space.  That’s something important to remember when you look at the minority of pictures in this article where you see commercial space.
Atlantic Commons on Cumberland Street just to the north- New townhouses from the 90's built by Ratner, subscribing to the Brownstone Brooklyn model
What To Not Expect When You’re Expecting?

Looking from Cumberland Street, the Atlantic Commons complex of homes with the arena looming over them in the back
Mark Jacobson in his New York Magazine article precedes Markowitz’s quote with his own take on things (attempting uber-cleverness he dubs it a "Big City kōan") suggesting that it's irrelevant that people might have been accustomed to having expectations about property in the past because in modern day New York City one is not entitled to any expectations about one’s neighborhood’s future:
Maybe Scarlett O’Hara’s dad thought he was in control of Tara’s perimeter, but down here on the street we know better. We know that vacant lot next door that has been letting in the breeze and sun for twenty years could be sold tomorrow, turning your view into a sheer wall.
That’s not true.  Certainly one can often find oneself surprised by development in New York and expectations that turn out not to be true but the arena could be placed where it was only because of what nobody should ever have expected: Government officials chose to supersede zoning and those officials also chose to abuse eminent domain in unforeseeable ways.
Atlantic Commons townhouse built by Ratner with subsidies and sold to an owner who likely didn't suspect there'd one day be that arena there in the background
Thinking Outside The Box of Historical Wisdom To Push The Envelope

Looking south on S. Portland Avenue- Residential buildings on both sides of the street- Arena not visible in background, but Ratner mall across the street from it is
One thing you get a feeling for studying the law of land use control is that it took generations to develop the laws that control land use, including what people think are the best zoning approaches and ways to administer the zoning laws.  That includes concentrated efforts to think out (explaining the thought process along the way) procedures for how zoning in an area is best changed and how exceptions should be granted.  All of that was worked out in the context of adversary parties contesting ideas in the courts of law or political constituencies competing to have their ideas recognized and given weight.

Townhouse on S. Portland that looks out at arena
The arena and the larger Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly were conceptualized by an entirely different process: Past wisdom and precedent were disregarded and it instead became a one-sided process of unelected state employees at an obscure but powerful public authority, the Empire State Development Corporation (the actual name of which is the Urban Development Corporation), figuring out how far they could push the legally permissible envelope to benefit the developer over all those who were not partaking in this process, which was basically everyone else.  In doing so they used powers that agencies had been granted for purposes never intended or foreseen.

Arena visible on left
Because these obscure unelected officials were endowed with the authority of government the courts that normally oversee these processes (and are instructed to in New York in the case of eminent domain) concluded (I think incorrectly) that they had to defer to whatever the developer and these officials did with little or no examination.

The brand-new Atlantic Terrace rental building built by the Fifth Avenue Committee with subsidies, while Ratner fought to ensure he had a mega-monopoly on the neighboring 30+ acres
Perhaps these obscure government officials credited themselves with the ability to know better than the accumulated wisdom of preceding generations, prior established jurisprudence and zoning code insight that would have prevented the arena from being located where they wanted to put it.  Alternatively, they may have thought that they could supervisorily oversee the arrival of the arena in a fashion that wold supersede any and all negativities residential neighbors would experience.  If they thought that, push now coming to shove has proved that they haven’t, in fact, managed to figure it all out yet.

Finger To The Wind Predicts a Residential Neighborhood. . . Successfully!

Another view of Atlantic Terrance on Atlantic Avenue (Atlantic Commons in near foreground)
When people locate in New York they do take into account that the neighborhoods they pick to live in are likely to change.  There is always the possibility that one might be wrong but the typical New Yorker probably prides him or herself on being pretty good in sensing where a neighborhood is likely headed and like card players they place bets on whether they want to stay or they leave for another neighborhood they pick what they suspect could be a luckier hand.

View south on Fort Greene Place, arena in background just beyond Ratner's two malls linked by skywalk.  An office tower is atop mall on the right
For those who relatively recently moved next to what just became the arena superblock, they knew they were moving next to completely and newly renovated residential buildings.  The photos in this article don’t show those newly renovated residential buildings torn down to make way for the arena.  They can be viewed here: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, “Barclays”? Atlantic Yards?: On Lopate, NY Mag Architectural Critic Justin Davidson Disses Brooklyn Neighborhoods With Manhattancentric Illiteracy.

Looking south on Flatbush Avenue, Ratner mall and the arena on left
Those renovated buildings represented an already emerging trend that looked almost certain to continue and probably would have.  And even if the Ward Bakery Building, an old bread factory, was where it was because was part of a manufacturing district, the expectation was that it too was likely to be renovated for residential use.  Again, the probabilities are reasonably high that that would have happened.  If not, the beautiful old building would have been adaptively reused in some other way quite compatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood and historic district.

Again, looking south on Flatbush
For those who put their moistened fingertips into the air to determine which way the neighborhood was headed the best possible clue about where their neighborhood was headed can be provided in retrospect: Except for the arena,  Forest City plans to build nothing but residential buildings on all the land it seized from all the other local private owners by eminent domain and on the land it was given by the MTA for a below-market price in its no-bid political deal.  So, if people moved to this neighborhood as Mr. Markowitz describes, thinking it was assured of trending to a residential neighborhood, they were, except for the arena, pretty much dead on on the money.

Ironically, some of those making this otherwise correct guess about the future residential character of the surrounding area may have been homeowners purchasing new, recently built (in the 90's) brownstone-style townhouses in the Atlantic Commons development directly from Forest City Ratner.  The Ratner firm received heavy public subsidies to build that complex of homes, which is another story worthy of revisiting. 

Expectations of the Great   

Looking west on Atlantic toward arena; sometimes the oculus, visible here, is quite bright even from this distance
There is another way that Mark Jacobson's notion in his New York Magazine that New Yorkers can’t have expectations about the future of the neighborhoods is false: There are many New Yorkers who can expect with virtual certainty that the state will never override local zoning, or use eminent domain or demap streets and avenues to put an arena across the street from them.  That includes Mayor Bloomberg in his townhouse just off Central Park, the residents of upper Park Avenue on Manhattan’s East Side, the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, and the list goes on and on.  Despite Mr. Markowtiz’s cheerleading for Forest City Ratner and the arena and his declarations that it was a victory for Brooklyn, the arena was only placed where it was because most of the Brooklyn populace is relegated to second class when it comes to political power.
Again looking west on Atlantic Avenue, new residential building with arena in background
Cheer The Arena Anyway?

Again, view west on Atlantic Avenue
New York is full of mixed uses. There are those like the famous urban theorist Jane Jacobs who would even argue that compatible mixed use environments constitute an ideal to be striven for.  Is it therefore really so bad that the arena, an unusual, if extreme, example of mixed use arrived in this neighborhood, upsetting expectations and turning things upside down with its corporatizing top-down environment style transformations?
The Markowitz view of things: view at 4th Avenue approaching the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, which with Ratner mall and temporary one-story PC Richards placeholder built by Ratner, is a business intersection.  Residential buildings on Atlantic are behind where the viewer is standing in this picture  
You could try to make the argument that it isn’t so bad, but the fact that the borough president wants instead to argue against the preponderance of apparent fact that the arena wasn’t squeezed into a residential neighborhood environment is a clear indication that there he is uncomfortable with people really understanding and appreciating the actual result.

Photos other than this panoramic collage, working counterclockwise around the arena site, have been looking, through the connections of neighborhood streets, toward the arena.  This, looking away from the arena (where there isn’t a connector street) shows how the arena’s main public space is oriented to Ratner’s mall across the street, forming what may be spoken of as a business district. The malls turn their back on surrounding neighborhood.
Markowitz is, in the end, an inexcusably inveterate cheerleader for Forest City Ratner and the arena anytime, anywhere and at all costs: When the other day he appeared before the Unitarian Congregation to proclaim that he knew “Brooklyn as good as anyone, better than most”  he also went out of his way to invite the congregation to cheer for the Nets. . .

. .   Was it presumptuous for him to do so?  The congregation, to which I belong, has not yet formally joined the many Brooklyn churches who with their clergy have joined together to decry the many injustices of the arena and its creation.  Surely though, Mr. Markowitz must sense the truth, that even absent any formal declaration by the congregation in joining these other churches (something the congregation may yet do), there is a strong sense on the part of many of its congregants respecting the injustices behind the creation of the arena and Atlantic Yards.

Again looking west on Atlantic Avenue along the block that precedes Markowitz's idealized commercial intersection two images above
The violation of expectations that Mr. Markowtiz is intent on obscuring is probably one of the least of the major injustices involved in bringing about Atlantic Yards.  Mr. Markowitz's invitation to cheer for the arena and the Nets was therefore necessarily provocative of enormous discomfort.

I, for one, when invited by Mr. Markowotz to cheer, could think there was only one appropriate response: I hissed.

The pictures in this article are only the pictures of the parts of the neighborhood surrounding the arena itself.  As I said, you can decide for yourself how much they mostly reflect a fair amount of residential character.  Also again, to see the residential character of what was removed to make way for the arena, what people in the neighborhood previously lived next to, go to Noticing New York’s earlier article: “Barclays”? Atlantic Yards? On Lopate, NY Mag Architectural Critic Justin Davidson Disses Brooklyn Neighborhoods With Manhattancentric Illiteracy.

.  .  That still leaves the issue of the character of the neighborhood that surrounds the nearby superblock of parking that was newly created to support the arena.  What kind of properties surround and are being subjected to having the superblock of parking as a new neighbor?  Suffice it to say it is more property of a residential character, much of it again part of brownstone Brooklyn, but my pictures demonstrating that will have to await a soon forthcoming follow-up Noticing New York article.
Again, same block looking west on Atlantic
The other side of the street
Same Atlantic Avenue block
Local flower shop on same block
Looking west on Pacific Street at residential buildings that might consider that they are blighted only because of the way the Ratner PC Richards building turns its cinder block back on them.  Lit-up arena terminates the street it closed.  
Looking west on Pacific Street at arena again- Despite camouflage of trees it's very close
Pacific Street, a composited view of both sides of the street, again looking west at the arena

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Yes It’s All Connected: “Rejecting The Politics of Deceit,” “ Repudiation of . . The Politics of Fear, Intolerance and Disinformation”

It expresses an opinion. . .

    . . . It favors “rejecting the politics of deceit”

    . . . It endorses “repudiation of . . . the politics of fear, intolerance and disinformation” . . .

    . . .repudiation of “trickle-down economics” . .
        . . . It acknowledges that a significant preponderance of the voters believe “taxes should be raised either on the rich or on everyone.”

Is it Norman Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report?  Perhaps specifically his “Atlantic Yards and the Culture of Cheating” series?

Certainly sounds like that could be the case and it so easily could be. . . But that’s not what it is.

What it is, is the editorial run by the New York Times, which the Times itself likely considers one of the most important it runs, one that runs every four years, the editorial commenting on the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election, the year titled “President Obama’s Success” (November 6, 2012) and, in the print edition, subtitled “A victory based on jobs, spreading the tax burden and rejecting the politics of deceit.”

This is just to say, once again, what I keep trying to remind people of: That everything is connected and that the New York Times’ good reporting about so much else is undermined and misses comprehensive perspective when its reporting about the scandals of the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly is biased, incomplete and poor.

In the larger scheme of things it’s all part and parcel of a much bigger story.

Here are links to a few of the past Noticing New York articles making connections:
•        Thursday, November 8, 2012, What’s In A Name?:The “Barclays” Name, As In “Barclays” Bank and “Barclays” Center Gets Some New Negative Associations

•        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

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

•        Monday, September 17, 2012, NY Times Runs 3rd Article Mentioning That, Given Scandal, Promotionally Naming Subway Stations & Arena “Barclays” Is Problematic
•       Sunday, June 26, 2011, “Page One: Inside the New York Times” Reviewed; Plus The “New York Times Effect” on New York’s Biggest Real Estate Development Swindle
Appearing teasingly is a search of the Times site, words that were were the editorial's subheading don't appear in the editorial itself on the Times website
But wait. .  Maybe the Times election outcome editorial doesn’t actually endorse “rejecting the politics of deceit” or repudiating “the politics of fear, intolerance and disinformation.”  The style of the editorial is an unusual one that can only be employed at election time: Whatever may be implied and unusual though it may be, at no time does the editorial say what the Times as paper of record thinks. . .  It is only recites in favorable-sounding terms what the voters decreed as their state of mind.  Something else that is interesting: the subheading in the print edition, “A victory based on jobs, spreading the tax burden and rejecting the politics of deceit,” doesn’t appear as part of the online editorial; you can only find it on the web in the teaser summaries leading to it when you search the Times site.  That deletion of a reference to deceit is a little like the way we can find ghostly remnants of the article the Times recently deleted that reported criticism of the Ratner/Prokhorov “Barclays” arena when it opened.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What’s In A Name?:The “Barclays” Name, As In “Barclays” Bank and “Barclays” Center Gets Some New Negative Associations

Above (click to enlarge), the Barclays subway station as we'd like to see it, with a poster quoting Tuesday's New York Times article
Coming back to New York Tuesday evening from Philadelphia I finally got a chance to settle down with the New York Times on the train.

"Heavy Scrutiny article in DealBook column- In background is HSBC Bank criminal money laundering article
There in the business section in the DealBook Online column there was a one-paragraph article remarkable in its succinct indictment of the character of Barclays Bank, the same financial institution the name of which our local public officials have deemed fit to promotionally burnish by naming after it two local Brooklyn subway hubs and the Bruce Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov arena that was deeply financed by the public.  The article, (see image above) headed “Heavy Scrutiny” reads as follows:
HEAVY SCRUTINY   Barclays seems to be facing the wrath of several regulatory agencies in the United States according to White Collar Watch.  Four months after reaching a $453 million settlement with regulators over manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is seeking a $435 million civil penalty over accusations that the bank manipulated energy prices.  The bank has also disclosed that regulators are examining whether payments related to raising capital from investors in the Middle East during the height of the financial crisis violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The DealBook Online column alerts readers of the print edition to articles that can read in the online edition of the Times.  The full online article can be found here: A Triple Whammy for Barclays, by Peter J. Henning, November 5, 2012.

Going back just a few days the Times ran three other articles on Barclays' most recent additional reputational woes during the preceding week, an October 31 article about how with the addition of the two new investigations Barcalys has suffered losses and its shares are declining and, on November 1st, another pair of overlapping articles (with conflicting information about possible fines for Barclays?) about the energy market manipulation.  See below and click on the links for further information:
•    Facing New Legal Worry, Barclays Reports a Loss, by Mark Scott  (“The British bank Barclays faces more legal trouble after disclosing two new investigations by American authorities, clouding already weak ...”) Excerpts below:
The British bank Barclays disclosed on Wednesday that it faced two new investigations by American authorities, including one examining whether the company had violated anticorruption laws in its capital-raising efforts during the financial crisis. The news further hurt the share price as the bank reported weak third-quarter results.

The new joint investigation from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on the bank’s capital-raising efforts follows similar efforts by British regulators. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also investigating the past energy trading activity in the bank’s American operations. The commission’s staff on Wednesday recommended taking action against the bank and levying a $470 million fine.
•    The Latest Headache at Barclays, by William Alden (“Barclays faces accusations that it manipulated California energy markets.”) Excerpt below:
Federal regulators are seeking $469.9 million in penalties from the bank, and $18 million from four former traders.

Regulators, relying on e-mail evidence, claim that four traders at Barclays manipulated energy prices to profit on swap contracts. One trader said a particular strategy was “fun,” while another said he was “trying to drive price” in his swap bet, according to messages cited by Reuters.
•    How Barclays Allegedly Took Losses to Make Bigger Gains, by Peter Eavis (“In outlining its accusations of market manipulation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission contends that Barclays traders were prepared ...” ) Excerpts below:
In an order filed on Wednesday against Barclays, the commission says some of the bank’s energy traders manipulated electricity prices from the end of 2006 to the end of 2008. In a regulatory order, the commission is demanding Barclays pay a $435 million penalty and disgorge an additional $35 million.

        * * * *

The commission lays out how it thinks the alleged manipulation worked. It says Barclays put on trades that were intended to skew the prices for electricity in what the industry calls the physical market. Those allegedly skewed prices then affected the value of other bets on electricity prices, in the so-called financial market.

The Barclays traders, the commission says, were prepared to take losses in the physical market to move the prices of electricity there.

The physical bets were “not intended to get the best price on those transactions and was not in response to supply and demand fundamentals in the market,” the commission wrote in its order.

Those allegedly manipulated prices lifted the value of the financial bets Barclays had placed, according to the commission. It also argues that the gains in the financial bets were greater than the losses on the physical trades, effectively leaving Barclays with an overall profit during the period when the manipulation is alleged to have occurred.
  If you go back a few days more to October 18th you come across another article about more improper behavior by Barclays separate and apart from these other three focused upon scandals, how the bank is having to set aside “an additional £700 million ($1.1 billion) related to the inappropriate sales of insurance to British customers.”  (See: Barclays Sets Aside $1.1 Billion More for Insurance Claims, by Mark Scott.)

The article concludes:
In the wake of a number of banking scandals, British politicians are examining ways to improve the culture inside the country’s financial services sector. A parliamentary commission is expected to offer suggestions for new legislation by the end of the year.
With all this new material, the guerrilla political street artists who are stealthily modifying the MTA’s Barclays branded subway pillars to say things like: “Barclays always has the best fixed rates” and other interesting variations of criticism of the bank are going to have to crank out new editions of their work if they are going to keep pace in educating the subway-riding populace about what they need to know about the multiplying misdeeds of Barclays.

Notwithstanding that the real news about Barclays Bank is universally very negative right now, if you go to the Times site and do searches for “Barclays” you will find that the bank's name is busily being burnished at the Times site, see images below (click to enlarge).  Searches for “Barclays” pull up listed article results that are preceded by paid advertisements for Barclays Bank.  The listed articles themselves are mostly reflective of all the practically full-out positive hype the Times has been giving the opening of the “Barclays” arena including silly and biased Bloomberg administration-assisted stories (at the top of the list) like how the arena is bringing more yellow cabs to Brooklyn (not mentioning the failure to properly handle the black car problems brought to the area by the arena.
"Barclays" search- no date limitation

"Barclays" search for last 7 days
Even an article that hints at some possible controversy (Sports of The Times: Packing Brooklyn’s Arena and Packing Away Discord, by William C. Rhoden, November 4, 2012) is uninsightful and in the end dismissive of the multiple scandals associated with the arena’s creation itself.    

The Times has basically buried the scandal about how the MTA gave away the right to brand Brooklyn subway hubs with the name of the bank, never adequately explaining to the public that those rights were given away by the MTA virtually for free.  Glaringly, the Times has only three times mentioned the anomaly of devoting vastly valuable public resources and assets to subsidize the promotion of such a questionable bank.  I’ve suggested that the mention of this anomaly should be almost routine in the many articles the Times runs effectively hyping the bank’s name.  Instead, those articles, like the direct advertising from Barclays you see on the Times site;  never mention or hint at the awkwardness.

Norman Oder has these two articles available that provide much assessment focused on the Times  recent hyping of the arena while its coverage of the related real significant news events languishes: (City Journal) The Barclays Center’s Media Enabler: From the start, the New York Times was reluctant to challenge Brooklyn’s new arena, November 6, 2012 and (Atlantic Yards Report) Wednesday, November 07, 2012, My City Journal essay on the New York Times's record covering Atlantic Yards: "The Barclays Center's Media Enabler".   

Concludes Mr. Oder in the first of those two articles:
“You’re not buying news when you buy the New York Times,” the late publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger once said. “You’re buying judgment.” When it comes to Atlantic Yards, you’re not getting enough.
Having one's bank's name on Brooklyn subway hub stations is not a guarantee of good advertising 100% of the time.  Monday around rush hour, just after 5:00 PM, I was headed back to Brooklyn from Manhattan’s West Village on the subway when I was subjected to the following announcement: “Because of an investigation at Barclays the following trains are not running to Brooklyn, 2, 3, 4 and 5.”  Given that the superstorm Hurricane Sandy had still shut down many other lines (the N, R Q, W etc.) the announcement suggested that the one way to get to Brooklyn that evening was to take the D train. Downtown 2 and 3 trains were being taken out of service when they reached 14th Street.

I took the number 1 train down to its current last stop at Chambers Street and walked across the bridge.  On my long walk home I couldn’t help thinking how appropriate investigations of “Barclays,” in fact, would be, including investigation of the political confections between the developer/subsidy collectors for the “Barclays” arena and the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly, which the arena spearheads.  Unfortunately, I knew that the investigation going on at Barclays that evening didn’t involve our local politicians ( Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz, MTA and ESD Officials, etc) and Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov.  We can hope that they do in the future.

Meanwhile, until we rename the “Barclays” arena and Brooklyn’s subway hubs now christened “Barclays” some other name more appropriate than “Barclays,” negative incidents like that evening’s bad commuting news will be outweighed buy all the positive hype from Times and those constant reminders on the subway as you hear (or see) the publicly paid-for promotions of the nefarious Bank with announcements like, “Next stop, Barclays Center.”
Once more (click to enlarge) the poster we'd like to see in the Barclays subway stations