New York Magazine on the “Atlantic Yards” Project

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For a few years now, the city’s media elite has studiously avoided serious, honest coverage of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. That is why it is so refreshing to see that this week’s New York magazine is running the single best story on the mega-development project that I have yet seen in any mainstream press. It’s by political reporter Chris Smith and it is a must-read.

Or, if you want to skip to Smith’s conclusion:

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.

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