Response to New York Times’ Article Regarding The Meditation Room


Mr. Andrew Keh’s article, “Arena’s Meditation Room Raises Its Own Existential Questions,” (New York Times, March 20, 2014) is one of the most insidious, iconoclastic, pervasively inaccurate, and grossly unfair articles that I have ever read.

Why would the internationally renowned New York Times allow such an article to escape editorial scrutiny – and allow it to appear on the front page no less? It raises questions regarding your motives and opens the paper to suspicion. Or perhaps the “old gray lady” has become senile.

The article made it appear that Mr. Bruce Ratner agreed to the Meditation Room to avoid delivering on the “big ticket” items of jobs, housing, construction, etc.  In violation of fair journalistic practice, the editors didn’t even allow FCRC a chance to comment or respond.  There was a time when your paper would have conducted a vigorous verification of the facts, checked the accuracy of quotes, and given both sides of a controversial issue the opportunity to respond.  But in this case, for this article, this customary diligence did not happen.   Why not?

In all my 55 years in the ministry, I’ve never seen such a sustained, virulent attack on a man (and a project), who, granted the controversy surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project (AYP), has done many good things in the community.  If I did not know any better, based on this article, I would think that Mr. Ratner was bent on destroying the community.  But a fairer evaluation would commend, or at least acknowledge, Mr. Ratner for agreeing to and diligently working to fulfill a legally-binding, laundry list of benefits for the community, including eagerly agreeing to the novel idea of a Chapel/Meditation Room. One of the more egregious examples of the unfair treatment of Mr. Bruce Ratner is that his critics have done everything imaginable to block the progress of the AYP, including numerous court decisions to stop construction; then, turned around and accused him of not finishing the project as scheduled.

Another point that needs to be trumpeted:  with all the construction that is happening in downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Ratner is the only developer that has entered an agreement with the community.  In fact, he initiated a call to the community to formulate a Community Benefits Agreement (“CBA”).

Now, given the venom of your article and the negative saturation of social media your paper helped to produce, it isn’t likely there will ever be another CBA with developers in the downtown area.  Why don’t you, honorable editors, challenge other developers who have resisted any community involvement in their projects?

Let me provide a point-by-point response to the fallacies of your article.  I hope you, honorable editors, will be fair enough to give me equal space.

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