Dan Doctoroff’s complex legacy

Dan Doctoroff’s impending departure as deputy mayor for economic development for the Bloomberg administration after six years does not come as a surprise. His leaving City Hall had long been rumored.

Clearly, Doctoroff is a man with visions on a grand scale. He has been likened to another figure who pushed through bold, sweeping transformations of the city with brute force, Robert Moses — which readily gives an indication of the mixed and intense feelings Doctoroff has provoked, particularly among residents and neighborhood groups.

Before becoming deputy mayor, Doctoroff headed the NYC 2012 effort to land the Olympics here. In turn, as deputy mayor, he championed a West Side stadium that would be the Games’ main venue. But, in a double defeat for him, the stadium plan was killed by community opposition and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the city lost its Olympic bid.

In addition to spearheading an array of high-profile development projects, like the Hudson Yards — previously the hoped-for site of the defeated stadium — Doctoroff also did 79 contextual rezonings throughout the city that will change our neighborhoods well into the future.

Significantly, though, along the way, Doctoroff failed to forge a consensus vision for the West Side — particularly the Lower West Side. As a result, uncertainties abound:

Notably, the Hudson River Park Trust, of which Doctoroff is a board of directors member, is still considering whether to approve a monumental entertainment complex, featuring two Cirque du Soleil theaters, for Pier 40 at W. Houston St. Also, the Department of Sanitation, in order to get its garbage trucks off Gansevoort Peninsula, is plowing ahead with a proposed huge three-district sanitation garage at Spring St. Finally, the city wants to put a marine waste transfer station on Gansevoort.

The community rejects all of these projects. In the case of the M.T.S., it’s clear that the city has not given fair consideration to an alternative plan being offered for Pier 76 at W. 36th St. And the sanitation garage was mysteriously moved from an already-approved site near the High Line in Chelsea when real estate there become red hot. Basically, these various West Side projects should have been included under one coordinated development umbrella; but, under Doctoroff, the approach was piecemeal. In Hudson Square, this means that the Department of Sanitation, which is planning the Spring St. mega-garage, has by default become the lead agency planning the future of this neighborhood, rather than the Department of City Planning.

 In his capacity as a Trust board member, there are also lingering questions about Doctoroff’s past business ties with The Related Companies, which is backing the Cirque du Soleil plan for Pier 40 and is also a leading contender in the Hudson Yards site.

Doctoroff now takes the helm of Bloomberg, L.P., a move which has raised eyebrows about the mayor’s ability to keep separate his government role and business interests.

One thing is for sure: Doctoroff leaves a complex legacy in New York City that will last well into the 21st century.