It took the fiscal catastrophe of the 1970’s to remind New York’s political leaders that smart economic development can be good social policy as well. A booming economy solves many ills, as the past 15 years have shown.
While city government has attracted plenty of smart, business-centered managers over the past 30 years, Daniel Doctoroff stood out for his energy, his vision and his determination. His resignation as deputy mayor for economic development after six remarkable years is both regrettable, because he is so talented, and understandable, because six years in City Hall is a lifetime. He leaves behind a legacy of achievement and of long-term plans that will continue to shape 21st-century New York in the years to come.
Mr. Doctoroff took charge of economic development in January 2002, just months after the 9/11 attacks killed 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage. The city’s immediate economic outlook seemed bleak: A recession already had taken its toll before the attacks. With downtown a smoking ruin, the city’s economic revival of the 1990’s seemed destined to stall.
Fortunately it didn’t work out that way. The city’s rebound after 9/11 was extraordinary and unexpected. While it would be wrong to suggest that Mr. Doctoroff single-handedly revived the city’s economic outlook, there’s no denying that his vision and hard work were critical in formulating a post-9/11 economic development strategy that will continue to unfold after the Bloomberg administration leaves office in two years.
The array of projects attached to Mr. Doctoroff’s tenure is extraordinary: the rezoning of parts of the West Side for high-rise development; the Queens West development in Long Island City; Moynihan Station; the creation of an environmentally conscious master plan for the city; and the beginning of actual development—at last—at the West Side rail yards, to name just a few. Mr. Doctoroff’s vision was not limited to the business core of midtown and downtown Manhattan. He was responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s five-borough strategy, which strengthened the city’s economy at the neighborhood level.
Of course, Mr. Doctoroff had a share of high-profile setbacks to go along with his string of successes. His effort to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics failed, as did his related attempt to build a Jets stadium on the West Side. Ironically, however, Mr. Doctoroff and Mr. Bloomberg’s Olympian plans did make way for the massive rezoning on the West Side and the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront—resulting in the best of the Olympics, without the Olympics.
Mr. Doctoroff occasionally alienated civic activists, who found the deputy mayor to be less than diplomatic and politic. But Mr. Bloomberg brought Mr. Doctoroff to City Hall to get things done and to dream big dreams, not to engage in neighborhood politics. The city as a whole is far better off for his service, and his talent.
It would be a mistake to conclude that Mr. Doctoroff’s departure marks the beginning of the end of the Bloomberg administration. Although the mayor cannot run for a third term in 2009, he has made it clear he still has work to do. Part of that work will involve implementing the vision of his deputy mayor for economic development.