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‘Times’ Not Fit For Journalism Students

Spring Break!
Today's Times profiles a class at SUNY Stony Brook devoted to teaching kids the difference between "good" and "bad" journalism. As we meet the students, they're enthusiastically parsing an article titled "Girls Go 'Wild' For Booze, Sex" for instances of sloppy research and biased news-gathering. The bane of our era, they are told in many, many words, is the temptation to massage data until it fits a preexisting viewpoint (we thought Stephen Colbert simplified the whole notion a year ago, by coining the term truthiness). So, how did the Times article itself do, pitted against Stony Brook's exacting standards?

When Irish Eyes Are Buying

We're used to our Dublin friend's many sisters hitting Fifth Avenue for weekend shopping trips — "because everything's so affordable," they say. Now it seems the Irish regard for Manhattan as a colossal bargain bin extends to real estate. The combination of the economic miracle known as the Celtic Tiger and the weak dollar has made for an entirely new class of condo buyer: the recreational Irish investor. Unlike the Saudis or Japanese, who tend to cause nativist paranoia every time they buy a trophy skyscraper or storied hotel, the Irish are keeping a somewhat low profile, with individual buyers partial to smallish apartments in unfinished high-rises; owning a pied-à-terre in Manhattan, apparently, is becoming a kind of upper-middle-class Dublin cliché. The Irish eye for real estate is even starting to figure into developers' plans: Esplanade Capital, reports the Times, is planning to unload an entire 43-story condo onto a Dublin company that will then handle the unit-by-unit sales locally. Hey, they built this city, they may as well own it. An Irish Taste for Real Estate in Manhattan [NYT]

Inside Bill Clinton's Puzzling Mind

Bill Clinton is a crossword buff; he even makes an appearance in Wordplay, the film about puzzle maniacs and their patron saint, Will Shortz. Sunday, finally, he moved from a mere solver to a published author: The Times Magazine published a crossword with the clues — although not the grid itself — designed by the former president. The magazine seemed vaguely unimpressed with Clinton's effort — his exercise didn't supplant the usual puzzle but was published alongside it, and Shortz appended an "editor's note" pretty much wiping his hands clean of it: "The clues in this puzzle are a little more playful and involve more wordplay than in a typical crossword." Ouch. We went ahead and solved the damned thing today, on five hours of sleep and battling a hangover. (Don't say we never do anything for you!) After the jump, a journey through the presidential puzzle. Needless to say, the crossword equivalent of spoilers follow.

They Paved Paradise

To make good on his PlaNYC promise of putting every New Yorker within a ten-minute walk of a park, Mayor Bloomberg will need to break out some sledgehammers in Brooklyn. A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey tags the borough as the most paved-over place in the United States. Yup, Brooklyn rocks even more blacktop than Manhattan. It achieves the distinction mostly through its sheer size — 70.6 square miles, only 8 percent of which is parkland. One can see the statistic as yet another wistful reminder that we're islanders living in a finite space — and quickly running out of it. Or, as befits Brooklyn, we can simply shrug: Fuhgeddaboudit, who needs parks, anyway? You can always barbecue on the subway. Trees? Nah. Blacktop grows in Brooklyn [NYDN]

Murdoch Won't Meddle With ‘Journal’ Edit — But Wants Shorter Articles, More D.C. Coverage, and Is Flummoxed By Walt Mossberg

Rupert Murdoch has today gone to — of all places — the Times to make a very public case for his Wall Street Journal bid. We were sold on the story by its photo alone, of Rupe luxuriating on a white couch — sorry, a "taupe sofa," according to Richard Siklos and Andrew Ross Sorkin's account — but it got even better as we read on. The mogul makes a number of specific points about how he'd improve the paper. He's bored by some long articles and wants to take the Saturday Journal glossy to compete with the Times Magazine. He'd like to see more coverage of Washington. He reads but doesn't quite "get" tech columnist Walt Mossberg. Then there are the Rupert classics: globalize and synergize. Television! India! China! (The Great Wall Street Journal?) Those ideas of change aside, Murdoch swears that he "won't meddle" with the editorial side or cut staff. Unless he will: "I'm not saying it's going to be a holiday camp for everybody," he says. The paper's union rep is already organizing an e-mail drive asking the Bancrofts to stay strong. Murdoch on Owning the Wall Street Journal [NYT]

Starrett City Sale: Not Dead Yet

Let's check in again with David Bistricer, the real-estate investor on an increasingly quixotic quest to buy Starrett City, an enormous, subsidized enclave in Brooklyn. His two previous bids for the property were rebuffed by every elected official in New York, with the possible exception of the Marriage Bureau's Commissioner of Deeds, and ultimately shot down by the federal Housing Secretary, despite his $1.3 billion offer and, on the second go-round, two influential black ministers in tow. But he's back! Now, reports the Times, Bistricer has forged an actual working relationship with one of the ministers, the Reverend Calvin O. Butts. (It's not too much of a stretch; Butts is a successful developer in his own right.) They're preparing to approach Starrett City's current owners with an undisclosed new offer. The previous offers have foundered because no one sees how Bistricer will make money on his enormous investment without drastically raising rents, so apparently the new negotiations will have an unusual twist: In a kind of reverse auction, the buyer and seller might have to agree on a lower price before the deal can go through. Why don't negotiations for things we're trying to buy ever work that way? Investor-to-Be in Starrett City Is Bargaining for New Deal [NYT] Earlier: How to Win Friends and Influence Starrett City

Time Is Running Out

Today is your last chance to help decide who makes Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people on Earth; polls close at midnight. The newsmagazine, as we know, thinks quite highly of You, and so it has set up a Website on which you can vote for Your favorite candidates. Who's leading? Well, we'll grant that Time perhaps set itself up for trouble by putting David Beckham's picture first on the voting page, and we'll also acknowledge that this is, of course, the Internet, but, still: wow. Currently, the leaders are Rain (a Korean singer), Stephen Colbert, hockey star Sidney Crosby, video-game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, and Dane Cook. (To be fair, the highly substantive science writer Richard Dawkins is ranking sixth — though he's seeming vulnerable to a late-breaking challenge from Kiefer Sutherland.) Noted statesmen as Sanjaya, John Mayer, and Salma Hayek are comfortably in the top 100, while it appears that John McCain, the Pope, and Osama bin Laden won't be making the voters' cut. Oh, You. (Time editors, by the way, will announce their own, presumably less-top-40-focused choices in Friday's magazine.) —Ben Mathis-Lilley The Time 100 — Are They Worthy? [Time.com]

Spitzer's Mansion to Go Green

In a one-home version of PlaNYC 2030, the state's first lady, Silda Wall Spitzer, is turning the governor's mansion fashionably green. The 39-room Queen Anne was built in 1875, and, as you might imagine, it isn't a model of energy efficiency. The planned $650,000 renovation — the state will pick up a third of that, just as it would if you were to green up your mansion — actually doesn't sound all that drastic: a few solar panels, a switch to electric mowers and hybrid vehicles throughout the property (no word on what will power the steamroller), and, um, new lightbulbs. The goals are similarly modest: halving the greenhouse-gas emissions from the mansion and reducing its yearly electric bill, which the AP places at $86,000, to a mere $60,000. (The nation's most currently notorious utility bill, Al Gore's, is $30,000.) We like the Spitzers' realism, but one is left wishing for something a little more inspirational. Shouldn't a truly green governor, like, grow his own wheat and make electricity? We know, we know: Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno must be tying his hands. Governor's Mansion To Become Greenhouse Model [AP via amNY]

Today in Legal Proceedings: Braunstein and Lidle and Miss America, Oh, My!

In the criminal-justice system, as you know, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups: the police, who investigate the crimes, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. Then there are the shyster defense lawyers, who try to convince juries that deranged and confessed torturers should get off; NTSB air-safety boards, who can't quite figure out who was flying the plane that crashed into the buildings; and Miss America, who entraps sexual predators. Yesterday was a busy day for all of them, and these are their stories. Da-dum.

Times Building Sells; Sulzbergers Forego $350 Mil

Even by New York standards, this was an impressive flip. Tishman Speyer, which bought the soon-to-be-old New York Times HQ for $175 million in late 2004, has sold it for $525 million: triple the price after just two and a half years. So it now seems that if the Sulzbergers had held on to the building just a bit longer instead of unloading it to Tishman Speyer, they could have built themselves two trophy skyscrapers nearby. Or at least paid off Hassan Elmasry.

Subway Hero's Story: More Lawsuits!

There's a new chapter in the Subway Superman saga, and it takes what used to be a straight-ahead narrative (one good deed and a few just rewards) into a progressively sadder territory. When Robert Kolker's New York profile last left Wesley Autrey, two weeks ago, he was getting ready to sue his lawyer, Diane Kleiman; Kleiman and her partner had allegedly tricked Autrey into signing a contract giving her 50 percent of his life-story earnings. Now Kleiman is doing what lawyers often do when they're being sued: countersuing.

Dem Debate: Love or Hate? You Decide!

With this morning's papers come two distinct takes on last night's Democratic presidential debate. See if you can spot the difference. Newspaper A: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was professorial and emphatic"; Senator Barack Obama "reserved and cautious." Overall, it was "a surprisingly sedate and meandering affair" during which candidates "did not tangle at all." Newspaper B: Clinton and Obama "locked horns last night," "differing broadly on how they would respond to a new terror strike." Obama "took a pointed jab at her and the other candidates," but "Clinton came down the strongest." Ah, the marketplace of ideas. In Debate, Democrats Show More Unity Than Strife [NYT] Friendly Fire: Dem In Debate Clash Over Iraq, Terror [NYP]

Coming Soon: Bloomberg to Issue All New Yorkers Protective Helmets

It may be the surplus, or the general vogue for do-goodery, but it's becoming increasingly hard not to feel the mayor's fatherly hand on our collective shoulder. In the last several months, we've been told to eat better, promised a little cash for good behavior, and handed free (and small) condoms. Next up, dry-cleaning tax credit, haircut subsidy, free antiperspirant? Not yet. But there is a new, $3 million gesture of love: free nicotine patches. The Health Department will be giving them away until May 15 to anyone who calls 311 and asks for one, as the Sun reports today; the patch-averse can pick up nicotine gum instead. You can apparently also use the cancer-ravaged vocal cords of a guy named Ronaldo to scare someone straight with an anti-smoking audio message. What a caring, and ever-so-slightly creepy, city we live in. City to Distribute Nicotine Patches, Gum [NYS] Bureau of Tobacco Control [NYC.gov]

Staten Island Wants You

Ladies and gentlemen, Staten Island is burning. Well, not quite yet; but a new report from the Center for Urban Future extrapolates the mysterious borough's stats into 2020, and comes up with a less-than-pretty picture. According to the prognosis, "without a change in direction," Staten Island is in for "an economic decline and a significant deterioration in its quality of life." The doomsday scenario is this: The population will grow, but the young people will keep skipping the island for trendier addresses. As a result, the borough's makeup will soon begin to resemble a kind of lower-middle-class retirement community. This, in turn, will attract a certain kinds of businesses: day care, social services, ESL courses, and downscale retail -- "low-skilled" and "low-paying" jobs all (the report's words, not ours). What's the Center's solution? Artists! Hip, happening, broke-ass artists!

Has Bloomberg Picked a New (Somewhat Crunchy) Transportation Chief?

Here's a sign Bloomberg may not be kidding about his commitment to this PlaNYC deal. Meet his likely new Department of Transportation head, Janette Sadik-Khan. Eagle-eyed Streetsblog notes that Sadik-Khan, who has been mentioned as contender for the job but not yet announced — has just quit her job at an engineering firm in what's believed to be preparation for a mayoral announcement. The word is she'll be moving into departing commish Iris Weinshall's office as soon as May 14. Sadik-Khan seems to have beaten out the other serious contender, Michael Horodniceanu, who did a traffic-czar stint under Dinkins, in a face-off policy wonks were watching closely because the two candidates seemed to embody two opposite approaches. Horodniceanu is a cars-first traditionalist; Sadik-Khan is a mass-transit innovator. It's encouraging, then, that the person in charge of developing Bloomie's big ideas — new commuter rail into Manhattan, rapid buses, etc. — is actually into this sort of thing. And it's equally encouraging that Sadik-Khan (or at least in the only photo we could find online) looks remarkably like someone you'd see in a Decemberists ticket line. Sadik-Khan Is Next at DOT [Streetsblog]

We Want to Work for the Port Authority

Today's Daily News takes a look at the Port Authority's payroll, and the only possible reaction to the findings is this: "Where do we sign up for a job there?" The paper made Ralph Berlangieri, a gardener who took home $102,700 in 2006, the exposé's marquee star, but there is a wealth of talented supporting players. One electrician, for instance, earned $124,000 last year; 50 Port Authority cops take home more than $200K. Of course, police officers and electricians put their lives on the line, albeit in two different ways, so perhaps deserve big paydays. But then there's the toll collector making $86,000, a garage attendant with a $67,000 salary, and not one but two full-time salad makers at $40,000-plus each. But, hey, don't worry about it: The Port Authority's got plenty of money to spend. After all, it's not like they have to keep cutting back the big downtown PATH station for lack of sufficient funds. Oh, wait. 103G(reen) Thumb [NYDN] Related: Career Opportunities [Port Authority]

Spitzer to Back Gay-Marriage Bill, Sort of

Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer's stand on gay marriage was clear and vocal: He was all for it. (Indeed, the Spitz was going to "force [it] down the throats of New Yorkers," as overmatched challenger John Faso unfortunately phrased things.) But Governor Spitzer's stand was less clear-cut; eyebrows raised when there was no mention of the issue in his first State of the State address. ("We had to prioritize," was the curt word from Spitzer's camp, "and this is how we prioritized.") But now it appears the guv is playing a shrewd game. Four months and change into his term, he's introducing legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage. As promised.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Mayor Bloomberg's released PlaNYC 2030, his environmental agenda for the next quarter-century, yesterday (on Earth Day! get it?) at the Museum of Natural History (nature! get it?). It's almost too sprawling to recap, not to mention hell to pronounce ("plan-why-see twenty-thirty"?), but we know we'd be thrown out of the Bloggers' Association if we didn't do our best to take the most multifaceted matter and reduce it to five talking points. Herewith, our attempt to suss out the essence of the 127 proposed projects.

Three Days Before Bloomberg, Spitzer Announces an Environmental Plan

In the run-up to Earth Day — and, gosh, it's beginning to feel like an actual holiday — the political talk in New York has turned an emerald shade of green. Mayor Bloomberg will unleash his vision of the city's next 25 years on Sunday, so Governor Spitzer scooped him a bit yesterday. Spitzer outlined the centerpiece of his plan, lowering the state's energy demand instead of spending money to meet it, to "1,100 business executives" at a Crain's breakfast forum. (How much carbon was released by 1,100 limos idling outside?) Spitzer's plan, "15 by 15" (as in a 15 percent cut in emissions by 2015) has the distinction of being the nation's most aggressive, besting even California. What's interesting is that the state's energy use is projected to increase by the same 15 percent between now and then, which means the task is basically keeping it level while continuing to build. Early reactions indicate that the plan managed to please environmentalists without repulsing capitalists, a neat feat in itself; it also dovetails rather beautifully with Mayor Bloomberg's central wish-list item — a 30 percent reduction by the year 2030. Emission-free by 2100, anyone? Spitzer Outlines Aggressive Energy Plan [Crain's]

Tom Cruise Dissed by Bloomberg, Vallone

You may have heard that Tom Cruise was sponsoring a Scientology-flavored detox program for 9/11 first responders (the fund-raiser is tonight, in fact), and that the City Council was about to honor him for it. Yesterday, reports the Post, Mayor Bloomberg finally decided this wasn't such a great idea. The initiative to give Cruise official kudos belongs to Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who claims that the program was secular in itself and the religion of its underwriter was thus irrelevant. Yet even the most casual fans of Xenu & Co. could spot that some features of the New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project — specifically the sweat-and-vitamins regimen — were indistinguishable from the intro stage of Scientological indoctrination. Not to mention some of the families' claims that the patients are being told to stop taking anti-depressants. Bloomberg didn't provide any pithy sound bites on the matter, but he'd be hard-pressed to beat a remark by Councilman Peter Vallone; commending Cruise, Valone said, would cross the line between "cult and state." Mike Thumps Tom [NYP]