NEW YORK—One of the unheralded heroes of the first two Bloomberg mayoral terms in New York City was Dan Doctoroff, a very smart man who thinks big and had the vision to try bold ideas in economic development.
He may not have succeeded in bringing the 2012 Olympics to New York, but his grand effort there has resulted in projects that have greatly improved the city: Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Hunters Point, the No. 7 train extension, and water taxis.
Since he left government more than five years ago to head up Bloomberg LP, his grand vision has been missed. But he recently spoke to the Municipal Arts Society and laid out some more bold ideas that need to be heeded by the next mayor and deputy mayor of economic development.
First, he spoke in philosophical terms about what three ingredients will make a great leader of a sprawling metropolis like New York: does he or she understand what makes New York unique in an increasingly competitive world? Does he or she believe in the virtuous cycle of the successful city? Does he or she have the vision to fuel the imagination of the city and the courageousness and decisiveness to get things done?
On all of these counts, Mike Bloomberg (and Dan Doctoroff) passed with high marks. The rezoning of large swaths of the city, the unlocking of rail yards and underdeveloped parts of New York’s waterfront, as well as the aforementioned projects prove that if you aim high, you can get there most of the time.
So, what can the next mayor aim to do to continue the virtuous cycle of the city, where growth can help underwrite necessary subsidies for the creative class and emerging neighborhoods? What grand ideas can we pursue to continue to make New York the capital of the world?
Doctoroff threw out a few very good ideas recently. Move the Javits Convention Center, an inadequate and geographically undesirable building, to Sunnyside Queens so it can expand dramatically and anchor a new commercial center.
Now that Brooklyn has caught fire economically with the Barclays Center and its growing tech hubs, isn’t it time Queens became our next economic hotspot?
And if you built an elevated platform in Sunnyside, perhaps you could make that an Olympic Village for New York’s 2024 bid? We saw the economic and structural benefits London gained from this summer’s Olympic Games and I’m sure it made people like Dan Doctoroff and his colleague Jay Kriegel a bit hopeful that someone else in New York will pick up the torch for 2024. I’d be happy to help lead that charge.
Another idea Doctoroff mentioned was making Governors Island into a 24/7 community with constant ferries (gondolas?) so that it could become a hub for global health. He’s right: biotechnology, new hospitals (an endangered species in New York), and medical research centers could flourish there.
I’d add a few other ideas to Doctoroff’s so New York’s other boroughs would benefit from large ideas: first, make the Bronx a new center for green energy education, research, and manufacturing. New York could lead the way in energy innovation and Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz Jr. recently expressed to me his interest in pursuing this route.
And perhaps Staten Island, its magnificent waterfront decimated by Hurricane Sandy and certainly in need of bolstering from future storms, could become a bustling marina like Baltimore did in its urban renewal in the 1980s. New York City could attract private investment to help pay for these needed infrastructure improvements. It only makes sense to rebuild bigger and better than before.
New York needs to continue to think big in the coming decade so we can continue to grow and attract the best and the brightest from around the world.
Tom Allon is a 2013 candidate for mayor of New York City.
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