The Mayoral Equation
Billy Gray Dec. 17, 2013, 3:25 a.m.
William Bratton’s selection as police commissioner under Bill de Blasio will stand as perhaps the mayor-elect’s most prominent appointment. But as the clock ticks on Michael Bloomberg’s administration, two questions remain unanswered: Which projects begun under Mayor Bloomberg will unfold as planned? And who will shepherd Mr. de Blasio’s development goals?
In its final weeks in power, the Bloomberg administration is rushing to consolidate the mayor’s imposing real estate legacy. A New York Times article on Monday reported that $12 billion worth of projects were being pushed through for approval in the mayor’s twilight hours. They include grand projects like a massive Ferris wheel and outlet mall on Staten Island, America’s largest indoor ice rink in the Bronx and the Domino sugar factory redevelopment on the Brooklyn waterfront.
Some of these legacy projects—a $1.2 billion Hudson Yards, for instance—will have reached a development phase that protects them against modifications or cancellation by the time Mayor Bloomberg leaves office Jan. 1. Others like the Domino sugar project in Williamsburg and a $350 million soccer stadium may be amendable under the de Blasio administration.
But despite his progressive leanings and stated desire to rein in big business, Mr. de Blasio has championed many of the Bloomberg era’s most contentious developments, including the Atlantic Yards project not far from his beloved Park Slope home. Still, the expansion of affordable housing is emerging as the cornerstone of de Blasio’s administration before it begins. And although a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio did not immediately return a request for comment for this article, Mr. de Blasio wrote in a previous email to this paper that “I fundamentally believe that the relationship between the city and its real estate developer community needs a reset. Towering, glitzy buildings marketed to the global elite is not the type of development New Yorkers are looking for.”
And who will assist Mayor-elect de Blasio in shaping the city? Mayor Bloomberg’s former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden are the Bloomberg aides most closely associated with the sweeping rezoning of New York during the mayor’s tenure: 12,000 blocks, almost 40 percent of the city, have been rezoned for dense high-rise development since 2001.
Front-runners to succeed Ms. Burden include Anna Hayes Levin, Michelle de la Uz and Kenneth Knuckles, all three of whom currently sit on the commission. Ms. Levin is reportedly the front-runner for the job, in part because Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (who will become comptroller next month), and not Mayor Bloomberg, appointed her. Ms. Levin demonstrated a (somewhat rare) ability to clash with Mayor Bloomberg when she criticized his initial plan for the Hudson Yards site. Ms. Levin and the other two hopefuls could not be reached for comment through a City Hall spokeswoman.
The onslaught of projects racing toward approval in Mayor Bloomberg’s final weeks may not make up for a stinging real estate defeat: the nixed plan to rezone east Midtown. But that project may come back in different clothing. After all, the real estate industry does have a say in Mr. de Blasio’s crucial early choices: Members of his 60-person transition team include Douglas Durst and MaryAnne Gilmartin.