Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bklyn Papers Editorial Rips Ratner's "Dog and Pony Show"

We've always loved the expression "dog-and-pony show" and use it whenever possible to describe distasteful and orchestrated displays, so we are very taken with Brooklyn Papers editor Gersh Kuntzman's smack down of the Forest City Ratner affordable housing session held at the Brooklyn Marriott earlier this week in an editorial headlined "A dog-and-pony show." The editor writes (we don't usually copy entire articles, but this merits fully copy and paste treatment):
The timing could not have been more suspect. On the eve of a massive protest rally at Grand Army Plaza this Sunday and weeks before he will release an environmental impact statement, Bruce Ratner and his public-relations minions set up a dog-and-pony show to highlight the lone element of his mammoth $3.5-billion Atlantic Yards mega-development that could arguably be viewed in a positive light: 2,250 “affordable” rental units.

In hopes of drawing a huge crowd to his “affordable housing information meeting,” Ratner even promoted the event in Queens and The Bronx — far from his housing-hungry Brooklyn supporters. (Way to back your allies, Bruce!)

And, indeed, thousands of people, from all over the city, showed up, eager to put in an application for a cheap rental in a Frank Gehry-designed high-rise.

Oh, but wouldn’t you know it: No applications were available — and won’t be for at least three years — because this full-house event was not really about serving apartment hungry New Yorkers, but about using them as props in the Forest City Ratner media campaign.

The company did give plenty of details about its 2,250 “affordable” units, but the Devil was hiding in many of those details: the “affordable” units now comprise 32.8 percent of the entire project — down from an earlier commitment by Ratner of 50 percent.

Yes, some apartments — a mere 225 — will be doled out to families earning less than $28,000 per year, but 900 of them will actually be set aside for families earning more than $70,000.

Forest City Ratner said it worked out the formulas with ACORN, the affordable housing advocacy group the company is paying to support the project, but many people who attended the information session were disappointed that so many units were being set aside for higher-earning families.

Left unsaid, as it often is by Forest City Ratner, is that the developer would be subsidized by the city, state and federal governments to build the affordable units within the larger, lucrative project. He is not doing it out of the goodness of his caring heart, but out of the canniness of his business head.

Those subsidies might be a good public investment when they create truly affordable housing — but the plurality of Ratner’s units would be available only to families making $70,000 or more, and would be built after tearing down existing buildings where people, some of them low-income families, already live.

In the end, rounding up 2,000 people to the Brooklyn Marriott for a photo-op had more to do with public relations than affordable housing.

There are two other articles on the project in this week's edition. One is Ariella Cohen's report on the session headlined "On the cheap" and the other is her preview of the anti-Ratner rally that takes place tomorrow (7/16) at Grand Army Plaza headlined "Zanes leads Sunday Ratner rant."

[Dog-and-pony show photo from]


Anonymous NoLandGrab said...

Tellingly, neither the dog or pony look like they are into the stunt, despite being all dressed up for the occasion.

9:28 AM  
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3:46 AM  
Anonymous Guitar Master said...

I wish I could blog as good as you, but what I can do is give you a nice Guitar Lesson!

10:49 PM  

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