Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New York Magazine Looks Under the Atlantic Yards Rock


So, here's a question: Do a seriously anti-Atlantic Yards article in the Village Voice, which put a very human face on the project's impact, and a massive New York Magazine article, in which the writer finally comes down squarely against the project, equal an editorial endorsement from the New York Times? (Bonus Question: Does it matter?)

No one will argue that the Atlantic Yards mega-project and the surrounding controversy aren't finally being aired out a bit in the print media after being relentlessly covered, day in and day out, by the Brooklyn Blogade.

The New York article, written by political reporter Chris Smith, is a lengthy look at some of the players and the issues surrounding the raging Atlantic Yards battle--one that has kept the project from becoming the "slam dunk" for which supporters had long ago hoped.

It's interesting to read as the writer talks to the key players and concludes that Atlantic Yards will be a disaster for Brooklyn:
But why—living where I do, looking at ten years’ worth of construction trucks chugging down my block, followed by increases in traffic, noise, school crowding, and buildings that will blot out the sun, not to mention 15,000 new neighbors—should I like Atlantic Yards?...in the end I can only conclude that Atlantic Yards is a bad deal...As a political reporter, I know that money and spin usually win. But in looking at Atlantic Yards up close, it’s outrageous to see the absolute absence of democratic process. There’s been no point in the past four years at which the public has been given a meaningful chance to decide whether something this big and transformative should be built on public property. Instead, race, basketball, and Frank Gehry have been tossed out as distractions to steer attention away from the real issue, money.

Ratner’s team has mounted an elaborate road show before community boards and local groups, at which people have been allowed to ask questions and vent, and the developer has made a grand show of listening, then tinkering around the edges. But the fundamentals of the project—an arena plus massive residential and commercial buildings—has never been up for discussion. Ratner, with Gehry’s aid, has built a titanium-clad, irregularly angled tank and driven it relentlessly through a gauntlet of neighborhood slingshots. And Bloomberg and Pataki—-our only elected representatives with the power to force a real debate about Atlantic Yards-—instead jumped aboard early and fastened their seat belts. What at first seemed to me impressive on a clinical level-—a developer’s savvy use of state-of-the-art political tactics—ends up being, on closer inspection, truly chilling.
We were also glad to see that Smith gives blogger/reporter Norman Oder--the creator of the vital Atlantic Yards Report--his props, as they say. Smith writes that Oder "has spent at least 25 hours a week dissecting the details of the Atlantic Yards plans and posting his analysis at atlanticyards report.blogspot.com. Oder is a skeptic in the tradition of I. F. Stone, proving how much can be accomplished with a URL and an obsession." As an admire of the thorough reporting that Oder is doing, the important topics he is covering and the vital record he is creating, it is gratifying to see his work get some of the recognition it deserves.

When all is said and done, Smith provides us with an excellent send-up of Atlantic Yards that makes the Times perfunctory editorial endorsement look intellectually challenged and ethically suspect.

We keep wondering whether one article or endorsement trumps another, but the real question may be whether any of this matters. The Atlantic Yards battle is likely to take place inside a courtroom and on the pages of massive legal briefs unless, of course, a powerful New York political leader experiences some sort of epiphany and turns on the project. It is hard to imagine Eliot Spitzer or Christine Quinn doing more than questioning the shut-up-and-take-your-medicine nature of the Atlantic Yards process.

As Smith points out in the passage quoted at length above, Atlantic Yards has turned into one of the most anti-democratic development processes to come down the pike since a man named Moses held sway. So, when push comes to shove, we can all huff and we can all puff, but the Governor, Mayor, Borough President and Developer have put togther a project that can transcend public opinion because, in their construct, the opponents don't matter.

Call it the House that Arrogance Built.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey -- I think our so-called huffing and puffing matters GREATLY. That might just be my white-upper-middle-class entitlement speaking ("of course everyone wants to listen to me") but I think not. I actually asked the guru, Norm Oder, this very thing last night viz. who actually has any control over this? His preliminary answer is that after the ESDC invevitably ratifies the project, the Public Authorities Control Board needs to unanimously approve it. Members? Silver, Bruno, and Pataki. This is why delay -- which can be somewhat affected by Christine Quinn -- is critical. Stall long enough, and Pataki's out of office. And if enough of an outcry is raised, Silver may be swayed.

I have to bone up on my 60s history, but didn't Jacobs et al raise enough of a stink that it then affected councilman Mario Procacci (? may have name wrong or sp) who voted against the Moses highway? I'm sure this is a reductive account but the basic point is that the Jacobites were in a comparably disenfranchised situation, no say, no hope, and still prevailed. (cue uplifting music.)Politicians all have higher ambitions. If they think this is gonna come back and bite them in the ass, they'll change their tunes.

'Course, then Silver won't have any developer money for his war chest...

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps I should clarify that "This is why delay..." etc. are my opinions, not Mr. Oder's. He furnished the cold, hard, facts.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is a little slam dunk eminent domain case Mr. Ratner has to deal with

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmmmm... not so sure about that. The key clause ''a court confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favoritism to private parties should treat the objection as a serious one and review the record to see it if has merit'', on which the eminent domain case is said to rest, was written by Kennedy in his *concurring* opinion; however, he signed on to the broader majority opinion, and so his concurring opinion may not carry weight. Some SCOTUS genius should explain this all, and I am not this person, but this is what I heard. Fertile grounds for discussion, however. Wish it weren't buried in a now-stale blog page comment section...

10:21 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home