Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has been caught in another lie: His star architect Frank Gehry was not born in Brooklyn, as Ratner has long claimed.
Gehry’s birthplace would not be all that newsworthy were it not for the fact that Ratner touted Gehry’s supposed Brooklyn origin as evidence of his 16-skyscraper project’s outer-borough roots.
But Gehry was born in Toronto. In Canada.
The lie was hiding in plain sight on Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Web since at least 2004. The Web page — www.atlanticyards. com/html/ay/gehry.html — said that Gehry was “born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1929.”
The lie might have remain concealed on the widely unread official Atlantic Yards site, but a Ratner lawyer repeated the lie in court in January — prompting the Atlantic Yards Report to pounce.
Journalist Norman Oder said the lie “can’t be an honest mistake,” citing architecture critic D.J. Huppatz, who once pointed out, “the born-in-Brooklyn connection [is] a fabrication designed to further make the Gehry design palatable to the local community.”
There is no doubt that Gehry was indeed born in Canada, not Brooklyn, thanks to a transcript of a 2004 episode of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air.”
“You were born in Toronto,” interviewer Terry Gross said, by way of opening.
“Yeah,” said Gehry in response.
“And [then] you move[d] with your family1 to a small mining town in Canada called Timmins,” Gross continued.
“Timmins, Ontario,” Gehry responded.
There is no mention of Brooklyn in the entire transcript.
It’s the second time in as many months that Ratner and his legal team have been caught lying. As reported in The Brooklyn Paper last month, a Ratner lawyer was forced to admit in a court document that the company’s claim of a tax revenue windfall was not an analysis by state officials but was merely concocted by Ratner’s paid consultant.
Some opponents saw the latest Ratner lie as further evidence that the developer “is willing to manipulate reality to promote his project,” said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.
“If they manipulate basic, easily proven facts, it’s not hard to imagine what they do with more opaque, easily manipulated facts like their convoluted financing scheme, ‘affordable housing’ plan, and their overall claims about the project’s ‘public benefit.’”
Then Goldstein showed a bit of compassion towards Gehry, the architect.
“I wonder if Frank Gehry approves that his history — the fact of his birthplace — is being manipulated and used to score some twisted Atlantic Yards PR point,” Goldstein said.
The extent of that “manipulation” is limited, however. Gehry’s office confirmed that the architect was indeed born in Toronto, but added in an e-mail, that the visionary “lived in Brooklyn from the age of 1–2 years old at Flatbush and Avenue J.”
Gehry’s spokeswoman, Jill Konek declined to comment further.
And by week’s end, the controversy seemed to be settled. A return visit to the Atlantic Yards Web site showed that Ratner had finally updated it to reflect the truth: It now reads merely, “Born in 1929.” It no longer mentions any Brooklyn connection for Gehry.
Forest City Ratner spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt admitted the error, but said, “The reality is that it was simply a miscommunication between his office and ours. He evidently lived in Brooklyn briefly at one point, but was not born here. We apologize for any confusion and have corrected the Web page.”
“[We] appreciate you keeping us on our toes,” he added.
Now that Bruce Ratner has been caught lying about his starchitect Frank Gehry’s birthplace, we thought it wise to offer this handy chart to honor the genuinely Brooklyn-born and mock the poseurs:
Born in Brooklyn
Actor Scott Baio
Mobster Henry Hill
Comedian Woody Allen
Rocker Pat Benatar
Failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani
Legendary basketball star Michael Jordan
Pro wrestler Steve “The Brooklyn Brawler” Lawrence
Future Gov. David Paterson
Not born in Brooklyn
Architect Frank Gehry
Mob buster Eliot Ness
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld
“Focker” Dustin Hoffman
Failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
Not-so-legendary basketball star Quentin Richardson
Pro wrestler George “The Animal” Steele
Future ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer