De Blasio’s right hand man knows Downtown well

Anthony Shorris, who will be first deputy mayor, with Mayor-elect De Blasio.
Anthony Shorris, who will be first deputy mayor, with Mayor-elect De Blasio.

BY JOSH ROGERS  |  When Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes over City Hall in two weeks, the man he will rely on most to help him run the city is a former Downtown Little League parent whose son attended Tribeca’s P.S. 234.

Anthony Shorris, who will be de Blasio’s first deputy mayor, will be coming back to government with deep personal and professional ties to Lower Manhattan.

“He’s a very thoughtful guy who loves neighborhoods,” said Mark Costello, former president of the Downtown Little League, who spoke often with Shorris five to eight years ago when their children’s class and sports schedules coincided.

Costello, who has long advocated for more park space Downtown, said he often sought out Shorris’ expertise in urban planning.

Costello said Shorris, 56, believes in “Jane Jacobs humane scale growth….

“We have so much new development [in Lower Manhattan] and so much growth and it’s a huge challenge to make sure the community has the community infrastructure to keep pace with that — parks, fields, school seats, supermarkets,” Costello said.

He had not heard of Shorris’ appointment, but said “it’s a wonderful family that sat in the bleachers at ball games and made cookies at school events.”

But not everyone Downtown was thrilled to hear about the appointment.

Community Board 1 member Pat Moore, had also not heard of Shorris’ new job, but she immediately remembered the name from when Shorris was executive director of the Port Authority under Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

“I have bad, bad, bad ill will memories of him,” Moore said, recalling the near round-the-clock construction noise at the W.T.C. at the end of 2007.

Moore, who lives across the street from the site,  said it was impossible to get answers or a meeting with Shorris or any other Port officials.

At the time, the Port was racing to prepare the W.T.C. Tower 3 and 4 sites for Silverstein Properties in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid late fees of $300,000 a day.

De Blasio’s transition team did not respond to an interview request for Shorris.

Catherine Mcvay Hughes, Community Board1’s chairperson, said it was unfair to criticize him for the noise problems at the end of 2007.

“Shorris actually approved [the Port’s] policy to provide soundproof windows for residents that were within 100 feet of the WTC perimeter,” Hughes wrote in an email to Downtown Express. “Some can argue that they wished that it was sooner, but these transactions are complicated. This is an example that he had an approach to be mindful of the quality of life of residents.”

When former Gov. David Paterson took over for Spitzer in 2008, one of his first acts was to replace Shorris with Chris Ward, who also missed some expensive Silverstein deadlines, but is often credited with finally ending the chronic W.T.C. delays that began under Shorris’ predecessors.

Before Shorris joined the Port he was deputy schools chancellor and he backed C.B. 1 in a key decision involving Millennium High School.

While the school was under construction in 2003, the community board threatened to withhold funds it had raised for the school unless the Dept. of Education agreed to give  Downtown students admissions priority.

Shorris wrote a letter to the board agreeing to the demand on the grounds that the school was being funded in large part by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., whose federal funds were targeted to help the area south of Houston St. recover from 9/11.

When de Blasio announced Shorris’ appointment on Dec. 4 he made it clear that Shorris would be the highest ranking official under him and that most of the aministration’s commissioners would be reporting to the first deputy mayor.

“This will be the person who will have my imprimatur to help make sure that our agenda is implemented each and every day in the government,” de Blasio said.

Shorris said, “I do think Bill brings an extraordinary vision of a progressive and a fairer and a more just New York City, and that’s one I have shared my whole life.”

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