First the good news: Mayor Bill de Blasio could not have made better choices in naming Carl Weisbrod as chairman of the City Planning Commission and Vicki Been as the new head of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Both appointees are highly qualified, creative and knowledgeable—just what City Hall needs in those critical agencies.
Mr. Weisbrod, 69, has been around government and the real estate industry for decades, earning the respect of developers and politicians alike—no easy task. New Yorkers may not know his name, but they certainly know his work: He helped transform Times Square from the dirty, dangerous place it was in the early 1990s to the thriving, crowded, safe place it is today. His tenure as the president of the Times Square Business Improvement District was critical in the revitalization of the Crossroads of the World.
He later turned his attention to Wall Street when he took over the Downtown Alliance during the Giuliani years. His creative partnerships with private industry helped to bring new life and energy to Downtown, thanks to the addition of new residential units in unused or underutilized offices buildings. After 9/11, Mr. Weisbrod’s experience and leadership helped calm the neighborhood’s anxiety and begin the rebuilding process.
He’s a pro, and he’s a fabulous addition to the de Blasio team.
Likewise for Ms. Been, who joins City Hall after serving as director of New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. At NYU, she gained the respect of developers and land-use experts for her depth of knowledge and obvious competence. As a well-known advocate for affordable housing, Ms. Been will be a key player in implementing the mayor’s often-stated desire to create housing that is within the financial grasp of middle-class families and individuals.
The city’s real estate industry remains wary of the new mayor, and with good reason. But his appointment of two competent and accomplished professionals in Mr. Weisbrod and Ms. Been should help alleviate some of those concerns. The city’s housing and planning agencies are in good hands. That’s a good thing. And now for the bad. …