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Doctoroff's resignation draws praise, but AY is conspicuously ignored

So Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Dan Doctoroff, the city's point man for major projects like Atlantic Yards, will leave (see mayoral press release) to be president of Bloomberg LP, the company founded by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The praise has been mighty--though a close look at Atlantic Yards might cloud some of his legacy.

Indeed, AY is conspicuously absent from the mayoral press release, which mentions numerous other projects, including redevelopment of the West Side of Manhattan and the West Side yards RFP; the #7 subway line extension; preserving the High Line; re-zoning the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront; re-zoning downtown Brooklyn; negotiating incentives for new stadiums for the Yankees and the Mets; renegotiating the lease with the Port Authority for the land under the airports; awarding the long-delayed contract for street furniture; overseeing the creation of office of Small Business Services; developing Lower Manhattan Vision; designing a new agency to promote and market the city around the world; and rezoning Jamaica Center.

[Update: AY also was conspicuously absent from most of the press coverage, including that in the Times. Interestingly, New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo included AY among "deals yet to be nailed down," though the other examples have not passed public review and AY has done so; perhaps he was factoring in the pending lawsuits that delay AY construction.]

Yaro on Doctoroff

On the Brian Lehrer Show today, Robert Yaro of the Regional Plan Association cited Doctoroff's work on PlaNYC 2030, calling it "the most public process that the city's ever had." (Note that PlaNYC's recommendations for developing over railyards differ significantly from the Atlantic Yards process.)

As for the failure of the West Side Stadium, Yaro suggested that Doctoroff learned from it, and it set the stage for that redevelopment of the West Side.

Collaboration regarding AY?

Host David Cruz asked what qualities are needed in Doctoroff's successor. After citing vision and energy, Yaro declared: The third thing is collaboration. It wasn't always the case at first, but he's learned on the job, and I think is a model for how the city ought to collaborate with neighborhood groups, with different civic groups, all the diverse interests that it takes to get things to happen in New York City.

Well, let's say that Doctoroff certainly learned on the job. He claimed last February to the New York Observer that AY had "an enormous level of community input."

Even Yaro's mainstream RPA, a qualified supporter of Atlantic Yards, testified in August 2006:
Unfortunately, the public review process for the Atlantic Yards project is part of a pattern in which the State and the City enter into an agreement with a single developer prior to a full debate of alternatives... The details of the project were largely devised behind closed doors by the developer, and only minor modifications have been made in response to public criticisms. While the developer has held numerous public meetings and provided information to the community, most of the decisions regarding the site had already been made. As a result, the public has no way of knowing if this project is the best possible one for the site.

Doctoroff: lesson learned

Doctoroff last April was asked about Atlantic Yards on the Brian Lehrer Show, and was a little more candid.

DD: But I think that’s an extreme case, probably. We’ve rezoned the waterfront in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan, where we, significantly, in a negotiation, by the way, with the local community, significantly increased the density, and part of it was to extend the subway over to the area which made taking that kind of density feasible. So we don’t do anything, any more, really, without consulting the community. I think we’ve gotten a lot better at that over the course of the past five years.
(Emphases added)

On WNYC radio today, Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn said Doctorff learned from that project to include communities in that process: We do hope that his replacement, and Mayor Bloomberg, will start listening and learning from what's going on in Hudson Yards, and fix all that is wrong, and that has resulted from the pitiful process that we've seen with the Atlantic Yards project.

WNYC even acknowledged Doctoroff's acknowledgment on the Brian Lehrer Show that he'd learned from the "extreme case" of Atlantic Yards.

Robert Moses redux?

Cruz asked about the inevitable comparison to Robert Moses.

Yaro: In the sense that he's had a big vision for the city. The difference is that Dan has really worked with people, and has reached out to people, and Moses never did.

Mayor Bloomberg seconded that, telling WNYC radio, "He leaves an extraordinary record of accomplishment and, unlike Robert Moses, he did it by working with communities, not bulldozing them."

Doctoroff last February 1 distinguished the current administration's achievements from the Moses era, asserting that they had been “Making Omelets Without Breaking Eggs.” He got a forceful response from Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx.

And consider the interview in Gothamist with Brian Berger, co-editor of New York Calling, who said "the prevarication and governmental abuses marking the so-called Atlantic Yards project ought to be an insult to every sentient New Yorker."

Impact on AY?

Cruz asked about the impact of this resignation on projects like Atlantic Yards and Hudson Yards.

Yaro: Most of them are on autopilot at this point, so they're moving ahead. Obviously it's going to take a continued strong voice in City Hall and I would imagine that, whoever Dan's successor is, they're going to have to stay on these projects and keep them moving.

Autopilot? Some in Brooklyn, even project supporters like Council Members Bill de Blasio and David Yassky, may differ.


  1. Just how conspicuously the Mayor’s press release ignores Atlantic Yards is incredible, very telling and should be an extraordinary caution to NYC politicians. Because it will be so extraordinarily blighting and such an unjustified diversion of City funds (is the City Council listening to this?- The funds can be reclaimed!) Atlantic Yards is arguably the most important and pivotal thing happening in New York City at the moment. Many other things would probably be happening in some form or fashion anyway just as the West Side was underway before Doctoroff arrived and just as much of the impetus for the High Line preservation has grass roots origin and sustenance. But without Doctoroff/Bloomberg and Pataki/Spitzer (and Markowitz) Atlantic Yards would not involve such a devastating aberrant and destructive proposal. Much of the Mayor’s 2030 Plan is an in futuro baby-in-the-womb. The Mayor and Doctoroff deserve credit with respect to it but the future we face will inevitable have to bring much of this sustainability approach to the fore anyway. Others were ahead on this curve and it would have been nice if this could have been embarked upon in time so that it would not largely have to be some other mayor footing the bill after the real estate boom has cooled and Atlantic Yards has helped rob the kitty.

    Notwithstanding that, very much for the worst, Atlantic Yards is Doctoroff’s biggest legacy item, the Mayor’s press release mentions Doctoroff accomplishment items, including THIRTEEN bulleted items all of which are less significant than Atlantic Yards and does not mention Atlantic Yards. But because Atlantic Yards is the big one, everyone reacting does.

    So, it is time for other politicians to think. When their time comes, will their failure to be effective in the face of the Atlantic yards debacle be the elephant in the room that goes unmentioned as smaller resume-filler stuff is shuffled up to the front as a distraction? An ineffective distraction- because ineffectiveness (in stopping Atlantic Yards) will beget such ineffectiveness.

  2. And where is possible to find the elephant in the room legacy item for Doctoroff’s City hall career not reported on just as if the Mayor’s revision history press release, scrubbed clean of Atlantic Yards, were an accurate guide to his tenure? The New York Times managed to run an entire article on Doctoroff’s departure that doesn’t mention Atlantic Yards. Does that seems strange or just a recurring theme?


    “Deputy Mayor Leaving to Run Bloomberg L.P.” (Published: December 7, 2007)

  3. In his interview on WNYC the morning of 12/07/2007 Mr. Doctoroff stressed, as he has done other times, that part of the legacy he leaves behind is a greater appreciation that New York City is a city that goes through real estate cycles (does this observation portend a cooling?). But, to the extent that this is so, the Bloomberg administration’s stress on success and prosperity via income from the cyclically closing of real estate transactions rather than increasing real estate values and therefore general tax revenue is inconsistent. Decisions that disregard or discount the interest of neighboring full tax-paying properties in favor of the interests of closing individual real estate transactions (for properties that will be off the tax rolls for an extended period of time thereafter) are an example of this inconsistency.

  4. While I'm not as anti-Doctoroff as some, it seems to me that he, the Bloomberg administration and, indirectly the public sector, are all being greatly overpraised!

    People talk as though boom times have never, ever occurred in New York City before, and that such boom times are impossible unless they are first directed and/or financed (directly or indirectly) by City Hall! Which is especially odd, since most of Doctoroff's supposed successes haven't even come to fruition -- for good or bad -- yet.

    And in addition to the Atlantic Yards boondoggle, there are the West Side stadium boondoogle and the Olympic bid boondoogle. (Yes, I do think it's fair to count them as two separate boondoggles.) It seems to me that the Bloomberg administration (along with the Pataki administration) was actually more of an obstruction to the redvelopment of Lower Manhattan rather than a catalyst!!! And did the Republic convention scare away or divert as much economic activity as it was said to have generated?

    Overall it seems to me that Doctoroff, and the Bloomberg administration that he represented, were/are more interested in meddling in the city's economic development than truly helping it along. So much so that, as with Atlantic Yards, they were/are willing to actually throw out TRUE economic development (which isn't likely to be as photogenic) in order to foster faux economic development (which often is photogenic).

    Plus a lot of the rezonings that Doctoroff is being praised for (and which appear to account for a large bulk of the praise) may have actually been the work of Amanda Burden.

    It still seems to me that the biggest public sector contributor to the city's economic growth has been Rudy Giuliani's restoration of a sense of public safety -- which seems to me to have enabled a great blossoming of many city districts and businesses.


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