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?