Location: What do you think about the concept behind the city’s plan to rezone 125th Street, where the city wants to allow for significantly more development along much of the corridor?
Mr. Stringer: It’s one of the more famous streets in the world and a rezoning is appropriate. But this community needs much more than just a sliver rezoning, so we need to think beyond 125th Street.
Is it feasible to think that you could both revitalize Harlem but also avoid displacement?
That is the single biggest challenge I have as borough president. … My pledge to the people in the borough was yes, I recognize that the skyline is going to change, and it should and needs to, and I’m going to support that change. But I’m also going to do it with community participation.
On the West Side, you’ve advocated making 33rd Street a passageway for pedestrians, partially closing it off to cars. … What’s the reasoning behind it?
Part of what we want to do is create open space—the challenge for Manhattan is to marvel in our tall buildings, but at the same time create pedestrian space and walkways.
How would you rate the job of Dan Doctoroff, the former deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, now that he’s gone?
I think that Doctoroff and his team, and the mayor … set a very high bar and a high standard as to what is possible for the city. They recognize, as I do today, to think big and to take on big projects and entice people to think about the changing skylines of the city. How you balance community and thinking big has been the challenge of the last few years, and I think he will be judged kindly by history.
Yes, he had missteps, and obviously the stadium was not the finest moment, and he overplayed the Olympic hand, but the bottom line is, he is the first deputy mayor in memory who we will actually be able to say he left an imprint on the changing skyline of the city—and not just in Manhattan.
How would you change the property tax structure?
Right now, vacant property is taxed at a lower rate above 110th Street than south of 110th Street. The reason there is that way back when, 20 years ago … a lot of landlords abandoned property and left New York, leaving the city to own those properties, and no one wanted to tax them because they knew everybody was on shaky ground. Now that we have development way beyond 110th Street, we should change that.
So a higher tax discourages a landlord from sitting on it?
The public interest is not served by having a tax distinction above 110th Street right now. And with a city that’s going to need a lot of revenue, that makes a lot of sense.
There are still a lot of projects that are out there that the Bloomberg administration is still implementing as we speak—do you think all of them will get in the ground before the mayor leaves office?
I think every administration wants everything all nice and tidy before they leave. I think the mayor has already established his legacy on major projects. I think if a few take a little longer, if we need to take a close look at some, I don’t think that hurts the legacy, I think that’s just smart urban planning. I’m not on a deadline; I don’t think you have to operate that way.
Do you wish the borough president’s office had more definitive power, like it used to?
The city charter gives me a say in land use and development, and in any measure, we have taken that advisory role and fundamentally changed the way this office is perceived. … So it doesn’t matter whether I serve on the Board of Estimate, or [that] the job may have been more powerful 50 years ago. It’s 2008, this is the hand I’m dealt and we’ve made the most of it.
What do you think about the position of public advocate?
It’s one of the three [citywide elected] positions in city government.
How about a role for yourself?
It’s enticing. It’s something that, could we take this and transform an office citywide? I mean, how could you not be enticed by it? But right now, in the beginning of 2008, we’ve got a lot we have to do here before we think about ’09. And, maybe it’s the point I am in my life, I am just not going to spend years and years thinking about a job I may want when I have a real job I have to do here.
With fund-raising, you, like a lot of other candidates, have raised a lot from the real estate industry. Did they come to you or is it visa versa?
I don’t even know how much we’ve raised from anybody. You know, you have a fund-raising event, people contribute. If they don’t, they don’t. I know that we have a lot of low donor contributors, and we’ve always had a balanced group of people who fund-raise.
You started in Albany before the city. Is Albany as dysfunctional as it’s perceived?
The thing I’ve loved about Albany is that when the legislative process works, it is the most exhilarating process in the world. I was able to take part in great debates on the death penalty, on child health, plus these major civil rights issues over my 13 years. … In Albany, when you have a debate, you’re debating in front of state senators—it’s a back and forth, it’s a real discussion. When that works, it’s pretty. So I think we’ve got to get it to a point where it’s like that all the time.
Do you think Spitzer is going to have a second act? Will he rebound?
This whole notion of looking at him as a snapshot—you can’t do it that way. You’ve got to look at the complete picture. The Bill Clinton of 1994 was certainly a different Bill Clinton four years later, if you go back and see the Gingrich revolution shatter the Clinton presidency, and look what happened to the economy. … He hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface.
On Pier 40, what do you think is going to happen there? You have two votes on the Hudson River Park Trust board. Do you think the love of the parking and open space that’s there now will defeat the Related Companies’ entertainment-complex proposal?
What I think we’re moving toward is, we need some combination of a proposal that will recognize a need to create revenue for the park, but a proposal that in no way will overwhelm the neighborhood and the surrounding community, and to make sure that we don’t have something that’s so overwhelming.
If the governor and the mayor split, you could turn the scales.
And that’s why when you said we had no power, I tried to tell you that we try to use every ounce of our leverage.
Follow Eliot Brown via RSS.