The New York Times's Oddly Sexual Report on a Park in Williamsburg

The New York Times's latest dispatch from Brooklyn is not only questionable for its newsworthiness; it's also a little bit porny.

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The New York Times's latest dispatch from Brooklyn is not only questionable for its newsworthiness; it's also a little bit porny. Sara Beck, a freelancer, spent nearly 2,800 words reporting on the history and relevance of a recently renovated athletic area in Williamsburg. We stumbled across the item thanks to a tweet from Reuters' Lauren LaCapra who happens to live nearby. LaCapra wrote on Tuesday morning, "BREAKING: People run on a track at McCarren Park." We clicked and the sprawling park profile that we found was wonderfully written and, for lack of a less sexual word, titillating. The lede:

Aristotle believed circular motion to be a distinguishing characteristic of perfection. If you have ever seen a world-class runner cruise around a track, you may well agree that a body curving in motion is a sight of beauty.

And a few sentences later, the hook that kept us reading: "In New York City, bodies tend to rest in motion, so places like the McCarren Park track cater to the needs of the physically curious, the committed and the compulsive."

We can't help but wonder what's up with the sort of sexual language. Maybe we need to get our head out of the gutter, but the idea that The Times published an elaborate allegory about how people like to have sex in in the park did cross our mind. Perhaps Beck was just being a little bit coy in drawing some allusions to McCarren's somewhat scandalous reputation. A year ago, photos of a young couple literally going at it in the bushes (link possibly NSFW) surfaced on the local blog, Free Williamsburg. Then, six months ago The Village Voice declared that the park had its own dominatrix. And Beck is also careful to point out that "the area was a hot spot for flirting and showing off" back in the day. We emailed Beck to learn more about the motivations behind her McCarren coverage (and interesting angle) and will update you when we hear back.

Of course, it's difficult to write about sports without some innuendo. Whether to describe a runner in motion or tussle on the handball court, however, Beck lays it on thick. This episode stars an anonymous park-goer who goes by the creative nickname, Beyonce:

Shouting, grunting and slapping noises from the handball court grab the attention of Sean Keogh, an administrator and player for the Shamrock Soccer Club, which was formed in 1960. For a second he is distracted when he hears Beyonce cursing, goading his teammates to "hit the ball!" Athletic posturing and insults ensue. When Keogh shouts in his Irish accent to pipe down, the men yell back: "Hey! At least we bring our fights out into the open!"

Sex jokes aside, the article is not without its catalog of facts, either:

At 6:45 one morning, there are 31 people at the track, most of them runners, some of them walkers and one group of three in matching navy sweatsuits who stroll arm in arm. A father and his two children kick around a soccer ball before school. One man hits a tennis ball against a wall. A dog runs free near a crab apple tree.

"I've been here a thousand times,” Galvan said from Lane 9, "but each time is like the first time. …"

But as LaCapra suggests, it does seem a little bit like The Times is reaching if they're trying to pass off the crowds that gather daily at McCarren Park as news. It's voyeuristic, at best, but as we've learned in recently history, The New York Times loves gawking at Brooklyn, especially the parts where all the hipsters hang out. Over a year ago, our own Ray Gustini scratched his head over the hyperbolic growth in the paper's use of the word "hipster" -- 250 times a year according to an estimate from The Times's own Topics blogger Phillip Corbett. Beck actually doesn't use the h-word once, but anybody who's spent time hanging out in McCarren park knows its full of the bearded, bespeckled, skinny jeans wearers. (Take this metaphor from one parkgoer, for example: "'Running here is like playing Paperboy,' Liam Harrison, 32, an animator, says. 'You know, that 1980s video game? You better be prepared for all kinds of obstacles.'") Last holiday season, Brian Williams even poked The Times in the ribs for its fawning coverage of the Brooklyn hipsters. While sitting next to Brian Stelter, The Times's twenty-something wonderboy of a media reporter, BriWi told Joe Scarborough on MSNBC:

I think the media story of the year, in 2010, was the NYT’s discovery of Brooklyn. Once a day, there’s a story about all the riches offered in that borough. There are young men and women wearing ironic glass frames on the streets. There are open air markets, like trading posts in the early Chippewa tribe, where you can make beads at home and then trade them for someone to come over and start a small fire in your apartment that you share with nine others. Artisinal cheeses. For sale, on the streets of an entire American borough. It’s been fascinating to watch the paper venture over the bridge. Venture through the tunnel. Go out to the outer reaches. The outer boroughs of the city. All different sections of the paper.

This week it's the Sports section. Next, who knows, we could be reading about what brand cigarette the iPhone-toting Bushwick girls smoke. Oh, wait, The Times covered that in August.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.