Meet Avi Schick, New York’s New Steamroller

Officials and people who have worked with him, who insisted on anonymity given the powerful post Mr. Schick currently has and could have, point to his handling of downtown’s Deutsche Bank building deconstruction since a fatal fire last summer as an example of his unnecessarily argumentative nature. Over the months that followed the August fire, Mr. Schick engaged in numerous battles, often public, with the Environmental Protection Agency, repeatedly attempting to loosen the heavy regulations on the tower despite resistance from Mayor Bloomberg, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, members of the community and others.

The E.P.A. held the line and ultimately won many of the fights, and those involved with the deconstruction say Mr. Schick’s resistance slowed the project down substantially. He once said deconstruction would begin by November 2007, but today the building still stands the same height as it did last summer, though abatement work is under way.

“The prosecutorial lawyer’s approach has impeded the ability to reengage in the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building,” said an official involved in redevelopment downtown.

Others say delays in downtown reconstruction, which happened both before and after Mr. Spitzer took office, are extremely frustrating, and the state has not done enough to avoid them.

People familiar with plans note a recent idea brought forward by Mr. Schick to possibly move the Performing Arts Center slated for the World Trade Center site to the above-ground site of the Fulton Street transit hub being built by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. While the idea is just that—not yet a proposal—those people criticized the concept as one that would further slow development at the World Trade Center site.

Mr. Schick’s position at ESDC was newly created by Governor Spitzer, as the former governor took the job of one man, under the Pataki administration, and divided it up to have an upstate chairman, an upstate president, a downstate chairman, formerly Mr. Foye, and a downstate president, Mr. Schick.

Now more than a year since Mr. Spitzer created it, this division is the source of much criticism by business leaders and elected officials, who say both ESDC’s leaders and clients are hamstrung by the lack of a clear power structure. The structure led to sparring between Mr. Schick and Mr. Foye, who divided up projects and who both reported to the governor, according to multiple people familiar with the organization.

“They ended up effectively having three people in charge of economic development, and having very different visions of what should be done,” said the president of the Partnership for New York City, Kathryn Wylde, who has pushed for more effective governance at ESDC.

“There is no strategic economic development plan for the state—there’s no way to set priorities or manage them,” she said. “It’s irrelevant what individuals you put in if you don’t fix the structure.”

The Paterson administration has thus far been mum on its thinking regarding ESDC leadership, though the state is said to be considering a number of individuals to replace Mr. Foye. The chairmen of both the State Senate and Assembly committees that oversee the ESDC, Senator John Flanagan and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, said they would rather see one person in charge of development statewide than the current model.

As for Mr. Schick, who is said to be in the running for the downstate chairmanship, his spokesman issued a brief statement saying he is “honored to continue to be of service.”

Meet Avi Schick, New York’s New Steamroller