Monday, July 19, 2010

Doctoroff, updated, with video: was there really any "citywide planning"

So I updated my July 15 post on Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's Atlantic Yards revisionism with a link to video and additional verbatim comments.

The Atlantic Yards discussion comes about two-thirds of the way through. The video confirmed my observation that Doctoroff was, in his wry and easygoing way, evasive, suggesting that Atlantic Yards was needed as a "center" for Downtown Brooklyn.

But the really disingenuous part came at the end of the segment. Doctoroff said, "But there are situations where the imperatives for the city from the strategic perspective demand that you have sort of a broader audience that you're appealing to than just the local community."

"That's in fact the whole principle of citywide planning," responded architectural critic Paul Goldberger, his interlocutor.

Both are conceptually correct, but the concepts don't apply in this case.

Citywide planning: what if?

Had there been citywide planning, then Winston Von Engel, Deputy Director of the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning, wouldn't have said in March 2006. "We concentrated on the Downtown Brooklyn development plan for Downtown Brooklyn. Forest City Ratner owns property across the way. And they saw the yards, and looked at those. We had not been considering the yards directly."

Had there been citywide planning, there would have been a fair bidding process for the railyard and for the project rather than one developer with an inside track.

Had there been citywide planning, some agency would have been responsible for the weeds that meant the railyard appeared blighted.

Had there been citywide planning, the project would have--as Doctoroff agrees in retrospect--gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Had there been citywide planning, there would have been much less parking approved.

Had there been citywide planning, public transportation would be enhanced.

Had there been citywide planning, there would have been a real cost-benefit analysis.

Had there been citywide planning, Bruce Ratner would not have been able to say, as he did at the groundbreaking in March, that, when he met with Mayor Mike Bloomgerg in July 2003, some five months before the project was publicly unveiled, that the mayor declared, "Let's get this done."

2 comments:

  1. Hi Norm
    Judd here - well, you are right in many ways - there is no comprehensive planning. No state plan, no city plan - and that's the way the law is in NYS and NYC; none is required. It's unfortunate. I wish that many of the AY advocates would push for sensible state and city-wide planning as an antidote to the piecemeal non-planning that goes on all the time. BUT it is also true that the need for "relief valves" for certain unwanted land uses necessitate exemption from local planning processes. I am studying long-distance electric transmission now, one area of planning that the Federal government has certain authority over. Same was true for power plants. Could one say the same for basketball arenas? Whether officially or not, the ESDC is effectively the "relief valve" for land uses that probably would fail to pass the local land use process.

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  2. Yes, but... Doctoroff did say AY should have gone through the city process.

    More importantly, a basketball arena is not electric transmission.

    Are there versions of arenas that are more public than others? Sure. It probably depends on the amount of public ownership, the amount of public oversight, and a greater public benefit from the deal.

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