Mayor To Name Development Tsar To Oversee Downtown Brooklyn
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The Bloomberg administration is looking to boost downtown Brooklyn by naming a Brooklyn development tsar to oversee the planned growth of the city’s third largest business district.
If the city’s initiative moves ahead as expected, the tsar would oversee a new organization that would coordinate economic development in the area and market downtown Brooklyn as a mixed-use neighborhood that is a cultural and entertainment destination. Development analysts said the reorganization shows the mayor is prioritizing Brooklyn’s development, but critics said a centralization of development functions would stifle local input.
A leading candidate to head the new organization is a senior adviser of Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, Joe Chan, sources said. Mr. Chan has strong Brooklyn roots: He is a former director of real estate for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and a director of a local development corporation for East New York.
About two years ago, the city passed an ambitious rezoning plan for downtown Brooklyn, envisioning as much as 5.4 million square feet of new commercial space and about 1,000 new units of housing.
The Brooklyn residential market has been booming, with tens of thousands of apartments planned, but as with most of the city the market for developing commercial space has been slower.
The city’s proposed organization would attempt to streamline Brooklyn’s development advocacy community by folding in the functions of a number of existing development advocacy groups, including the Fulton Mall and MetroTech business improvement districts, the Downtown Brooklyn Council, and the BAM local development corporation.The organization may also have some construction function, sources said.
The president of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, said the new structure would allow visions of downtown development to progress from vision to reality.
“By centralizing responsibility and leadership, this new position will help maximize the area’s economic and cultural benefits,” Mr. Markowitz said yesterday.
The president of the Real Estate Board of New York, Steven Spinola, said the proposed reorganization is “a signal of the resources that the city is prepared to put behind this effort” to boost downtown Brooklyn.
Mr. Spinola said the consolidation would improve efficiency and the distribution of resources by coordinating several entities under the same roof. He said areas earmarked for development in other boroughs could ask for a similar consolidation.
With a visible building boom across the five boroughs, widespread rezonings, and the city’s support of several large infrastructure projects, Mr. Bloomberg can be assured that his
mayoral legacy will include his bold, active vision for development.
Critics of the administration’s building initiatives, however, have complained that the mayor has prioritized development over the input of the local community. One example, some say, is that City Hall’s funding of some local business improvement districts has decreased in recent years, and that centralizing planning comes at the cost of local knowledge and community input.
Council Member Leticia James, a Democrat whose district includes part of downtown Brooklyn, said she is concerned that the proposed reorganization would benefit developers over community interests.
Ms. James supported the rezoning of downtown Brooklyn, but she said plans could displace existing residents and small businesses and fall short of fulfilling the need for affordable housing.
“It could be driven from City Hall and not driven from the input of the community,” Ms. James said.
Brian Ketcham, the executive director of Community Consulting Services, a group that has protested the size and scope of planned growth in downtown Brooklyn, said that adding the city’s planned umbrella organization would just be “another level of bureaucracy separating them from the community.”
Mr. Ketcham said plans call for the rezoning to double the amount of cars in downtown Brooklyn and double the load on mass transit. He said the downtown Brooklyn estimates do not include developer Bruce Ratner’s plan to build a basketball arena and 16 mostly residential towers nearby in Prospect Heights.
“What about the people who live and work here?” Mr. Ketcham said. “It is good they are giving it some attention, but is this a masquerade or is this serious stuff?”