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Report rips NY Times on Ratner

The Brooklyn Paper
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Charging that the New York Times has shied away from critical coverage of Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards housing, office skyscraper and basketball arena plan because of its own land deal with the developer, about two dozen Brooklynites gathered outside the newspaper’s Manhattan headquarters last Thursday to draw attention to the issue.

Thing is, almost nobody covered the event.

While the more assertive members of the group descended upon any employee of the Times who would enter or exit the building’s bronze-finished revolving doors, no reporters from the city’s daily newspapers — the Daily News, New York Post, New York Sun or the Times — showed up for the 1:30 pm press conference outside the newspaper’s 229 W. 43rd St. headquarters.

The only reporters who did turn out were from Brooklyn-based weekly newspapers.

The event was spurred by the release of a 169-page report on the Times’ coverage of Atlantic Yards, authored by a freelance journalist named Norman Oder.

“About 25 people showed up,” said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the anti-Atlantic Yards neighborhood group Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which helped publicize the independently published report and has made it available on their Web site, www.dddb.net.

The hefty tome details the Times’ coverage of the $3.5 billion project proposal, which Ratner’s Forest City Ratner Companies says will cost the city $1.1 billion by the end of 30 years.

Each chapter of the report, which employs calculations used by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, information from transcripts of public meetings, press releases, development agreements, and a bevy of articles that have appeared in The Brooklyn Papers and the New York Observer, among other daily and weekly newspapers, to make the case that there have been many gaps in the coverage by the Times.

Because Forest City Ratner is currently developing the Times Tower, where the newspaper’s headquarters will relocate, on Eighth Avenue at 40th Street in Manhattan, Oder wrote in the report’s introduction, “It might be expected that the Times, the company’s flagship newspaper, would offer thorough coverage, taking care to dispel any hint of conflict of interest.”

“An assessment of the Times’ coverage of the Atlantic Yards unearths numerous stories missed,” Oder wrote, characterizing the reporting as “inadequate, misleading, and mostly uncritical of Forest City Ratner.”

“The Times seems to have abandoned its responsibility to look carefully at Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn’s largest developer,” he wrote.

The Times could not be reached for comment by press time.

Oder was inspired, he said, by an article that ran in the Times on July 5, titled “Instant Skyline Added to Arena Plan.”

“I was outraged. They already had 17 towers planned, including the tallest building in Brooklyn,” he said.

The article also made a waves for running the exclusively obtained photographs of a lit-up, intricate model of the buildings to be designed by Frank Gehry.

Oder, a freelance reporter who has written for the Daily News, Village Voice, New York Press, New York Newsday and Gotham Gazette, said he first tried writing to the Times in letters to the editor which never ran, and received no reply.

[The Times did, in its July 5 edition, run eight other letters of complaint from Brooklynites regarding its Atlantic Yards coverage.]

Then he reached out to Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn to see if the group had done its own investigation on the Times coverage.

“I never dealt with them before,” said Oder, who then offered to take the Gray Lady to task.

Though the groups endorsing the report include DDDB, the Fort Greene Association, Park Slope Neighbors, the Prospect Heights Coalition and NoLandGrab.org, in his introduction, Oder claims “final responsibility for the report.”

Goldstein said the group of protestors hit up everyone that crossed their path.

“We certainly believe we made people in that building aware that this report exists,” said Goldstein. “People were coming in and out of that building, and we leafleted everyone who came through.”



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