Yesterday, answering questions during a forum on community development at the New School, Doctoroff returned to the same theme. A questioner asked Doctoroff about the proposal in PlaNYC 2030 to deck over railyards for housing.
While the questioner did not point out that the document issued Sunday points to a community planning process for railyards vastly different than that for Atlantic Yards, he did pose two important questions: “Do the economics of that require very high density? And so, what have you learned from Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards about navigating the politics?”
Doctoroff didn't answer the density question with any granularity. He responded, “The first thing we’ve learned is that it’s absolutely critical to get the communities involved right up front. I will be honest—to the extent that we’ve made mistakes in the past, it’s because we haven’t reached out early enough or aggressively enough to communities. There are a certain number of opportunities, we think, where the cost of decking is naturally lower than the cost of land in the city today and therefore it will make sense. That isn’t true everywhere, but no matter what we do, it’s going to have to be done in close consultation with the local communities. That’s one of the things we’ve really learned to do very effectively over the last five years. We start out, before we even go public with even an idea, reach out to the local community.”
Of course, there's an inherent tension between community consultation and the decision not to press the state to let at least part of the Atlantic Yards project go through ULURP, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. And the city agreed to support Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards via a February 2005 MOU months before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a request for proposals for the Vanderbilt Yard.