PRINCE OF THE CITY
DOCTOROFF LOOKS BACK (AND FORWARD) ON REMAKING NYC
By TOM TOPOUSIS
December 9, 2007 -- After six years as deputy mayor for economic development, overseeing an extraordinarily ambitious agenda for rebuilding New York City, Daniel Doctoroff announced this week that he would be stepping down from the post and will return to the private sector to become president of Mayor Bloomberg's financial services firm, Bloomberg LP.
What were your biggest disappointments in six years as deputy mayor for economic development?
Obviously the big disappointments were the stadium and the Olympics, really only one of which was in our control. I think the remarkable thing about the stadium is it's really the only major disappointment. We have a list of 289 current major initiatives.
The truth is that of everything we've tried to do the stadium is really the only one we've been defeated on. On rezoning, we're 70 and zero, including some of the most massive attempts to shift the way we think about land in the city ever undertaken, whether it's the Hudson Yards or Jamaica, and hopefully within the next couple of weeks Manhattanville.
It's kind of like Muhammad Ali at the end of his career, he had a couple of losses, but he still managed to be the champ. I'm quite proud of the record we've assembled.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Waterfront development - we have projects underway in the city today to essentially regenerate 60 miles of waterfront in the city and waterfront that had largely been ignored for decades. I'd say we have completely rethought the way in which we use land, we're essentially dragging New York City from a mid-20th Century way of thinking about land use and pulling it into the 21st Century and making it possible to use what we've got for the purposes that we need it over the next 100 years.
The second one is housing. A decade ago we were producing roughly 10,000 units of housing in the city per year. This year in the midst of a huge housing slump nationwide we will set a new modern day record and produce about 32,000 or 33,000. And a big chunk of those, the majority of them, are affordable. We have the nation's largest affordable housing program ever. Our plan to create 165,000 units over a 10-year period of time will actually house 500,000 New Yorkers. We are creating or preserving affordable housing for as many people as live in the city of Atlanta.
(Asked about specific projects around the city, Doctoroff listed developments from all boroughs, but stressed the impact the Bloomberg Administration had on rebuilding the World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan even though he called the city “a junior partner.")
With respect to the site, we were to some extent a junior partner because we didn't control the LMDC, we didn't control the Port Authority, we didn't control the state DOT, we don't control Battery Park City. So we initially focused on the rest of Lower Manhattan and produced the mayor's Lower Manhattan Vision Plan, which goes back to 2002, and which has been the blueprint for everything that has happened in Lower Manhattan.
Now when the site bogged down and when we felt at certain key points that things were not going well, we stepped in and we got things back on track. We were the ones who basically blocked the original six ugly plans. Later on when we felt that (Ground Zero developer Larry) Silverstein's deal with the Port Authority was not self-sustaining - and, by the way, was going to drag things out till 2017 or 2020 - we did the hard analysis and got everybody together and forced a complete renegotiation with real deadlines, real hammers, between Silverstein and the Port Authority, where the city participated by in fact taking 600,000 square feet of office space.
Would we have loved to have it happen a little faster? Sure. If we had been in control like we proposed with the land swap, then it would have been done faster, but you know things happen. It's a complicated site laden with emotion.
Any thoughts or reflections on state Assembly Shelly Silver, who single-handedly blocked the West Side stadium?
I look back and I think about the biggest regret I have is not going and being more solicitous and get the state Legislature more involved earlier in the whole stadium thing. I don't know whether it would have made any difference at the end of the day. And, you know, we tried to learn from that experience and not repeat it in the case of PlaNYC, where we've been much more aggressive in reaching out, prepared to be more flexible, etc. Look, he's got a complicated job. I can't say I completely understand all the elements that go into doing that job, but I respect how difficult it is and I hope he recognizes that we've learned a little something along the way.
Describe NYC in 30 years.
It is going to be New York as we know it now, but it will be much more environmentally conscious. It will be easier to get around if we are successful in getting congestion pricing done. It will be significantly cleaner, people will have much greater access to parkland. There will be enough housing created that we can actually begin to moderate housing prices. And it'll have 9 million people. That's the city I see.
I see a greener, greater New York.