Evaluating the Mayor’s Development Legacy

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Clearly timed to coincide with the upcoming election, The New York Times today tries to grade the effectiveness of Mayor Bloomberg’s pro-development strategy over the past eight years. They don’t say so explicitly, but it looks to us like the authors would not give it anything higher than, say, a C-. The article claims that the administration’s approach was based on the simple idea that the city needed to grow in order to both survive and thrive. So the mayor set out to create opportunities for developers and make it easier for them to finance their projects; to that end, more than a hundred neighborhoods, or one-fifth of the city, were rezoned and low-interest bonds were made much more accessible. (To be fair in recent years, there have been several rezoning initiatives to limit the scale of potential development.) The most visible change, the article notes, is not in Manhattan, where tall towers have always risen, but in outlying neighborhoods. The writers use City Point, the large-scale development project on the site of the former Albee Square Mall now set to receive $20 million in recovery bonds, and Downtown Brooklyn as a whole as Exhibit A in their case against Bloomberg’s vision, noting that the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn was originally aimed at created new office towers and that none have materialized. Personally, we think it’s too early to pronounce Downtown Brooklyn a failure by any stretch. The mini building boom in the area, which gave Brooklyn one of its more interesting new pieces of architecture in the form of The Toren, should reach a tipping point this winter as two gigantic new rental buildings come online. The big test will then be whether or not a critical mass of the kinds of businesses that upscale residents want will follow: restaurants, gourmet food markets, wine stores, etc. That patient view is urged in the article by two not-impartial voices, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and EDC head Seth Pinsky. For good or bad, the rezonings will probably be [the mayor's] most significant development legacy, said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, an independent research group. They’ve never got as much attention as the large-scale development projects he was pushing, like the Olympic stadium, but the rezonings are what will ultimately transform a large chunk of the city. Developers will be rebuilding on these for years to come.
A Stalled Vision: Big Development as City’s Future [NY Times]

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  • I walk by the Oro, the Torren, and the Avalon every day on my way to work, and I am baffled as to who they think is going to pay big bucks to live in those monstrosities. There are few services nearby (although a supermarket is apparently being built on Myrtle), no good schools (although they aren’t being marketed to families anyway), and you have to contend with the worst part of Flatbush Avenue every day. To me, these are just hulking empty monuments to failure and greed.

  • I thought the article was good, but there wasn’t a lot of new information and it was a pretty transparent bash against bloomberg, as bstoner points out. so that was lame. One thing that jumped out at me: I had always considered the construction boom to be more a product of lower level city corruption than any real top-level initiative (politically speaking, I mean. obviously there was an economic force behind it). Now I would call it equal.

    I lived in w-burg when that east river park was a wasteland — people used to sneak under a fence and around little homeless warrens and out onto the rocks to check out the view. I was always wondering why no one developed that area, and I just assumed that some kind of impenetrable city politics held it back. Kudos to Bloomberg for cutting through it and getting it done.

  • insightful commentary on downtown from Mr. B as per usual.

  • Bloomberg’s record on development is pretty lackluster. Sure private development was strong if generally aesthetically mediocre, but the big projects, where the import of the Mayor’s office actually matters, his record is awful. Cases in point:

    1. Ground Zero: Nothing
    2. Coney Island. Nothing
    3. Hudson Yards. Nothing
    4. Atlantic Yards. Nothing
    5. Willets Point. Nothing.
    6. Downtown Brooklyn. Some high rise buildings have been built, but it is completely unclear what is the vision for the area.
    7. Highline Park. Mission accomplished by private money, but the City actually was helpful.

    ** I don’t support all these projects, but Bloomberg obviously does.

    I am always amazed when people claim that Bloomberg is some sort of business genius that has done wonders for the City. He is obviously a great leader of a financial technology company, but as the leader of a major city he has accomplished virtually nothing in terms of major developments. The man has no vision, he is a polite manager, but nothing more. I am not saying that Thompson is better, but the idea that Bloomberg is some sort of outstanding success is beyond my comprehension.

    I ask if Bloomberg is a success, then what would be considered failure? Things getting worse? If that is the standard, then there is no future for the City. The CIty must look forward and not take pride in static incompetence.

  • Grand Pa is right — the mayor of Miami oversaw a lot of new construciton too! And that of Vegas — so what? It was everywhere!

  • the mayor;s office has very little to do with Ground Zero- or very little it can do. That is the Port Authority- they own the land and control what goes on there.

  • AN OBVIOUS BROWNSTONER BLOOMIE ENDORSEMENT.

    AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!!! 8 IS ENOUGH!!!

    ***Bill Thompson for Mayor (TUESDAY!!!)***

  • “Personally, we [Who is we? The editorial board at brownstoner?] think it’s too early to pronounce Downtown Brooklyn a failure by any stretch. … The big test will then be whether or not a critical mass of the kinds of businesses that upscale residents want will follow: restaurants, gourmet food markets, wine stores, etc.”

    As the article states, Downtown Brooklyn “was rezoned to foster development of new office towers to compete with New Jersey.” To point to a handful of projects on Flatbush Avenue and then beat the drum for residential services misses the point.

    I find it funny that joe thinks this article bashes the mayor. I spoke today with some of the people quoted in the article and every one of them said the reporters used only their most gentle comments. It could have been much tougher.

  • bash against BLoomberg? c’mon already, quite the opposite of what I read..we know the Times loves him and just as much as Bloomberg would like to dump the homeless in CrownHts. Article only pointed out that ecomomy has put on hold some of ‘vision’ (a highly complimentary word of the rezoning.

  • First the Mayor was all for the development and making money left and right now that the economy has tanked he is all for public housing and helping lower income families. How elections change a person!