Since he launched The Atlantic Yards Report in 2006, Norman Oder has written 3,747 blog posts on the contentious Brooklyn development project. It’s probably enough to fill an encyclopedia, let alone a lowly paperback.
But that is exactly what Mr. Oder is setting out to do, when he announces later today—in his 3,748th post—that he is leaving his full-time job (that’s right, he’s got a day job) at Library Journal to dedicate himself to writing a book about Atlantic Yards.
The Real Estate Desk has a call in to Mr. Oder for more details, so check for an update soon.
UPDATE: “It would be nice if I were David Remnick and could get up in the morning and finish a monumental best-selling book in my pre-office hours. But I need to go back and really wrap my head around this.”
And that is why Norman Oder is leaving his job of 14 years to strike out on his own. He doesn’t even have a book contract yet. “I’m giving up significant income to do this,” Mr. Oder said on the phone from his Park Slope home not far from the Atlantic Yards site. “O.K., not significant income. I’m giving up reasonable income.” (As fellow journalists, the Real Estate Desk can attest to the truth of this statement.) Mr. Oder said he has saved up some money and can make do by living frugally–in New York, no less–though he will continue to supplement his income with his New York Like a Native tour service.
But why quit? After all, this is a guy who regularly posts hundred- to thousand-word, exhaustively reported blog items before 6:30 each morning. Putting together a book should be a breeze. “I’m tired. Very, very tired,” he said. But that can’t be the only reason.
“I think the story needs to be told,” Mr. Oder said in his demure way. “It’s been told in dribs and drabs. It will be mythologized, and it will be spun, and parts of the story will get lost. The story needs to to be synthesized and made sense of. And made compelling.”
Therein lies the challenge–how to make DEISes, State Appeals Court cases, and eminent domain sexy. No one knows this stuff better than Mr. Oder. He had yet another blockbuster scoop this morning (more on that in an upcoming post) that was so juicy it was apparently leaked to the Journal to stem the bleeding. But can he write a best-selling book?
“I don’t profess to be writing the next Power Broker,” Mr. Oder said. “I hope it will be substantial and interesting.” He points to Times Square Roulette and Little Pink House as inspirations, but says the former is too long and the latter “scants on policy.” What he so loves about the prospects of the book is all the complex pieces involved.
“It’s about a certain project in a certain time. It’s about development in a certain time. It’s about Brooklyn in a certain time. It’s a story about our time. It’s got politics and planning and architecture and neighborhoods. And journalism, that will be a big subplot.” (The blog started as the Times Ratner Report, a critique about the lack of coverage of the project.) “This is a story about a whole bunch of things.”
Here’s hoping he can get that all sorted out before the arena opens in the fall of 2012. It would make a way better door prize/giveaway than Ratner bobbleheads.