Tuesday, March 04, 2008

DBP's Joe Chan: projects improve thanks to compromise

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) President Joe Chan, honored as one of the "40 Under 40" by Crain's New York Business, comes off as a decent, engaging guy in the accompanying video. Notable is his anecdote about teaching in the South Bronx, feeling demoralized after a tough day, and hearing a student tell him, "It's all good."

That kind of advice has undoubtedly stood Chan, who later studied urban planning, in good stead, since circumstances surely have changed in Downtown Brooklyn since the 2004 rezoning, which was aimed to increase office space but instead has resulted significantly in market-rate housing.

$9 billion in investment?

Crain's summarizes the plan optimistically:
In just over a year, he has shepherded 56 projects totaling 23 million square feet in downtown Brooklyn. Total investment: $9 billion.

“The ultimate goal is to create economic opportunity: jobs, affordable housing and a permanently strengthened local economy,” Mr. Chan says. “That’s why we’re here.”


Note that this total investment, ostensibly to reach fruition by 2012, includes the $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, which certainly won't be finished by 2012.

Also note that the goal of affordable housing was not stated during the rezoning and will be harder to accomplish, given the limited carrots and sticks available (though some legislators will try.)

The art of compromise

Near the end of the video, Chan discusses the art of compromise. "Doing business, either in the private sector or the public sector, is staying focused on your fundamental goals but also being grounded in compromise," he says. "Usually, in retrospect, the compromise that you make, certainly from a public purpose standpoint, at the end of the day, projects make more sense and are better, as a result of compromise, as we've learned from our rezonings."

Atlantic Yards, however, was not a rezoning.

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