Urban Blogging

Interesting article in the NYT about urban activism around a Brooklyn real estate project that has found a focus in the blogsphere. The Atlantic Yards project, a vast residential, commercial and arena development near Downtown Brooklyn, has come in for some tough criticism:

But Atlantic Yards may well be the first large-scale urban real estate venture in New York City where opposition has coalesced most visibly in the blogosphere.

“If Jane Jacobs had the tools and technology back when she was fighting Robert Moses’ plans to bulldoze Lower Manhattan, I bet ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ would have been a blog,” said Mr. Naparstek, 35, referring to Ms. Jacobs’s seminal 1963 book criticizing the urban renewal policies in vogue among city planners of that era.

About a dozen blogs follow Atlantic Yards closely. The authors are usually Brooklynites, some of them experts in fields like urban development. But even the amateurs among them have boned up on arcane zoning provisions and planning-law quirks that can induce headaches among the less devoted.

The result is an unusual ferment of community advocacy and opinion journalism, featuring everything from manipulated caricatures of Forest City Ratner executives to technical discussions of traffic flow.

As is typical of these blogging projects the blog critics include experts in the area (architects for example) who also blog and bloggers who quickly show their aptitude in the area by coming to terms with obscure planning law. While this has always been true of urban activism, I think the public nature of blogging pushes people into doing more and better research.

The response to this project highlights the fact that blogging is a multidimensional writing/research/communication modality.

This article is in the Time’s technology section not its media section although the implications for traditional media are perhaps more important than the mere fact of the technological delivery:

Mr. Oder said he spent up to 25 hours a week on atlanticyardsreport.blogspot.com, a successor to his original blog, Times Ratner Report. Hardly a hearing, community meeting or news story relating to the project escapes scrutiny.

He started blogging last September, he said, because “Brooklyn would be one of the largest cities in the country if it were a separate city.”

“Then,” he added, “it would have its own daily newspaper, which would pay a lot more attention to the largest real estate development in its history.”

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