Whitman’s not falling just yet - Brooklyn Paper

Whitman’s not falling just yet

The Housing Authority swears up and down it has no plans to convert the Whitman/Ingersoll Houses into private condos. Why, then, have these rumors persisted?

First, as Ed Brown, the head of the Ingersoll Tenants Association, pointed out, public housing tenants have ample fodder for existential anxiety. They’ve watched their neighborhood transform into one of luxury condos, multi-million-dollar brownstones, and $3.25 lemonades. Where, exactly, are they supposed to fit in?

Then there’s another issue at play: the blogosphere. On Aug. 2, in a posting entitled, “What’s really going on at the Ingersoll Houses?” Brownstoner.com reported that Ron Hershco (developer of the luxury high-rise, the Oro) told a meeting of local real estate types at the Brooklyn Historical Society that the public houses would be converted to middle-income units.

Brownstoner’s report was picked up by other online outlets. As the saying goes, a lie can travel half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on. A couple of hours later, Brownstoner later posted a correction: “We just received the following statement from Ron Hershco’s attorney. ‘Ron answered the question based on what he had been told by Bob Scarano a couple of years ago. He has no current information regarding the Housing Authority’s plan. We apologize for any confusion.’

This isn’t the first time Brownstoner helped spark hysteria by failing to use the telephone. On July 27, it posted an article — “llegal paint job on landmarked block of Clinton Hill” — alongside a photo of a lovely brownstone partially painted white. The ensuing online uproar was deafening. Fortunately, the Daily News walked over to the house and asked its 82-year-old owner what was going on. It turned out the white substance was primer.

“Blogs sure got the word — the wrong word — out very quickly,” said Housing Authority spokesman Howard Marder, of the Whitman/Ingersoll Houses incident. The right word, according to Marder, is that the city has no plans to turn over the houses to private developers.

“I’ve been saying that for five years,” said Marder, in frustration. He’s been saying it ever since the city began a $150-million modernization of the buildings. The refurbishment of the apartments and their 61 elevators has necessitated moving residents out of their homes in stages. The city has promised tenants that they will return starting this fall.

Given the often-rocky relations between residents of public housing and the city, and the insane pace of development in the neighborhood, it’s no surprise that those being moved out are somewhat dubious.

The higher that anxiety level, the more incumbent it is upon us — professional journalists and citizen-journalists, — to at least try to discern the truth.

Dana Rubinstein is a staff reporter for The Brooklyn Paper

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