NY Times Attacks Courageous Brooklyn Anti-Development Activist

by Randy Shaw on September 26, 2012

Daniel Goldstein spent years battling the Atlantic Yard Development project in Brooklyn, which saw Forest City Ratner—the development partner with the New York Times Company for its headquarters– skirt the democratic process and every jobs and affordable housing commitment it made to the community. The rigged approval process for the mammoth project was upheld by New York’s highest court, and the Barclay Center soon opens—without any accompanying affordable housing units. The Times has apparently not forgiven Goldstein for opposing Ratner, for it ran a huge September 25 story on a neighbor’s opposition to Goldstein’s adding an extension on his single family home. Unlike Atlantic Yards, which required massive rezoning and a gift of public land to the developer, Goldstein’s project complies with existing zoning—but that did not stop the Times from analogizing opposition to his extension with Goldstein’s protests against Atlantic Yards.

If you do not know the sordid history of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards development project, the background and details can be found here. Ideally, the incredible film, “Battle for Brooklyn” on the struggle to prevent the project will be on DVD so all can see the principled courage of Daniel Goldstein, the founder of the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Goldstein lost his activist struggle and related lawsuit, and because his home was taken by eminent domain, he was compensated to move. He relocated to Brooklyn’s South Park Slope neighborhood, likely seeking to live in peace after devoting his life to defeat a project that symbolizes—as much as any Robert Moses outrage—how New York City development interests avoid democratic control and ignore community concerns.

But after the NY Times learned that Goldstein is building an extension on his house, the paper concluded that the critic of Atlantic Yards has set off “a real estate battle of his own.” Does this new battle involve thousands marching in the streets in protest, as occurred with Atlantic Yards? Is Goldstein following Ratner’s lead and seeking massive zoning variances and public subsidies for his “development”?

The obvious answer to both question is no.

In fact, a single neighbor is opposing Goldstein’s “project.” The Times reports that a “petition was circulated” and complaints were made to the Building Department, but only a single opponent is quoted and deep into the story we learn that “many people on the block have no problem with Goldstein’s extension.”

Sounds like a classic case of next- door- neighbor nimbyism. Yet the Times attempted to compare this neighbor’s opposition to the thousands of community residents who joined with Goldstein in a multi-year struggle to stop the decimation of a residential community. The Times was so committed to falsely and maliciously portraying Goldstein as a hypocrite toward development that it highlighted its story on the front page of the national edition.

I’m sure Bruce Ratner and his buddies at the NY Times Corp. are having a good laugh over the story, but neither can ignore the fundamental truth: None of Forest City Ratner’s promises about jobs and affordable housing at Atlantic Yards have been implemented, and attacking Goldstein only remind readers of this record.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron and author of The Activist’s Handbook

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