Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A year after Ratner/Gilmartin got Onassis Medal, award goes to former Deputy Mayor Doctoroff; some caveats

Last year, it was Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner & MaryAnne Gilmartin. Now it's former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

For the second straight year, the Municipal Art Society has chosen a figure associated with aggressive building for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal, which "bears Mrs. Onassis’ name in recognition of her tireless efforts to preserve and protect New York’s great architecture" but surely is being awarded for broader reasons.



From the announcement:
This year, MAS is proud to recognize Daniel L. Doctoroff for his tireless dedication to the people and places that make New York so diverse and inspiring. From his visionary leadership of New York City’s economic revitalization to his spearheading of the city’s comprehensive sustainability plan; his commitment to creating new cultural destinations and parks throughout the five boroughs to his bold visions for the future of New York City, our 2015 recipient has had and will continue to have a transformative impact on the city for decades to come.... 
Prior to joining Bloomberg L.P., Dan served as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York. With Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Dan led the city’s dramatic economic resurgence, spearheading the effort to reverse New York’s fiscal crisis after 9/11 through a five-borough economic development strategy. This plan included the most ambitious land-use transformation in the city’s modern history; the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site; the largest affordable housing program ever launched by an American city; and the formation of new Central Business Districts and Industrial Business Zones. Dan also led the creation of PlaNYC, a 127-point plan designed to create the first environmentally sustainable 21st century city that sets the course for a 30% reduction in global warming emissions by 2030.
Some caveats

Doctoroff's achievements are considerable, and he was a public servant. He's still aiming big, promoting the development of Sunnyside Yard.

I'm not arguing that the caveats noted below outweigh Doctoroff's achievements--let's give history some time--just that he shouldn't be lionized without some serious asterisks.

Doesn't anyone remember how, upon Doctoroff's departure, Majora Carter, then of Sustainable South Bronx, described how her group had been “asked to leave” discussion of major projects in the Bronx, such as Yankee Stadium, because her organization disagreed with the city policy?

Like his boss Bloomberg, the professed technocrat was not above twisting arms. The best way to get in Bloomberg’s good graces was to contribute to Doctoroff’s nonprofit Olympics organization, NYC2012, which had received a Conflicts of Interest Board ruling that allowed both Doctoroff and Bloomberg to raise money.

As wise man Richard Ravitch told Tom Robbins, then of the Village Voice, real estate officials were afraid to announce their true feelings regarding the West Side Stadium because they "don't want to get into a fight with the mayor, or with Dan Doctoroff."

Despite Doctoroff's claim, in an admiring assessment, that the mayor "was beholden to no one and had the gift of thick skin," Bloomberg favored the mogul class. If Bloomberg ran the city "with a sober analysis of facts," as Doctoroff put it, how can we square that with Bloomberg's statement, as reported by Ratner, regarding Atlantic Yards: "I want to get it done... Get it done no matter what."

Doctoroff's rezonings helped reimagine the city, but in several cases the push to build--for example, along Fourth Avenue in Park Slope, in Downtown Brooklyn--meant windfall profits for landowners with limited public benefit, such as below-market housing. (That affordable housing program, though large, didn't make much of a dent.) At the same time, some less dense districts may have been downzoned too aggressively.

In financing for the West Side Stadium, the two baseball stadiums, and the Atlantic Yards arena, the city pursued a clever end-run around the Federal Tax Reform Act of 1986, which repealed the use of tax-exempt private activity bonds—municipal securities used by private companies, also known as industrial development bonds—for privately-owned sports facilities. So another Doctoroff legacy is the use of: PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) to pay off tax-exempt bonds.

More praise for Doctoroff

From an earlier MAS announcement:
“Dan’s dedication to making New York City more livable, resilient, and innovative makes him a stand-out candidate for the Onassis Medal,” said MAS Board Chair Eugenie L. Birch. “From rebuilding Lower Manhattan to spearheading the ambitious launch of PlaNYC, Dan has brought his remarkable vision to some of the most pressing and influential projects shaping the future of our city. We are delighted to announce him as our 2015 honoree.”
“Dan’s tenure as Deputy Mayor was remarkable not just for the scope and vision of his projects, but also for the holistic approach to city-building that inspired them,” said Vin Cipolla. “A great city is made up of more than just buildings—parks, transportation networks, and job opportunities are essential to ensuring that our neighborhoods are complete and sustainable. Dan’s ability to knit together the strands of good city building embodies MAS’s core principles and we are pleased to celebrate his work this June.” 
...“Dan’s contributions to the fabric of New York have quickly become integral to our understanding of our city in the 21st century. From the now-bustling streets of Lower Manhattan, to the acres of green space, to the development of the Hudson Yards and High Line, and so much more, his impact can be felt in neighborhoods across the five boroughs,” said MAS Executive Director Margaret Newman. “His contributions to the city can truly be called historic and I look forward to celebrating his lasting achievements at the 2015 MAS Gala.”
His self-description

Doctoroff served as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding for seven years, beginning in January 2002  and leaving in December 2008. As stated on his LinkedIn page:
Our five-borough economic development strategy included the most ambitious land-use transformation in the city’s modern history; the largest affordable housing program ever launched by an American city; the formation of new Central Business Districts and Industrial Business Zones; and the creation of new destinations like the Harbor District, which will link together new parkland and miles of waterfront esplanades in Lower Manhattan, Governors Island, and Brooklyn. These projects have helped lead New York to its strongest economic position in decades.
During my tenure at City Hall, I also led the creation of PlaNYC, a 127-point plan designed to make New York the first environmentally sustainable 21st century city. The plan focuses on every facet of New York’s physical environment – its transportation network, housing stock, land and park system, energy network, water supply and air quality – and sets the course for a 30% reduction in global warming emissions by 2030.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:07 AM

    MAS is an arm of the real estate industry at this point, reaping $ from Dan and Bloomberg's friends. Funny the critic you quote here, good to remind people when they used to stand for something good.
    I lost my business at the Bronx Terminal market where we were for 45 years before Dan threw us all out for that mall.

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