Our recently departed governor set a new low for ethics violations involving train travel, but a decision by the city’s Conflicts of Interest board that allows Dan Doctoroff to negotiate the city’s stake in Moynihan Station might strike some as slightly shady. The ruling upholds requests by the Bloomberg administration to waive city law and let Doctoroff, the former development czar who now runs the mayor’s private company, continue guiding projects that started on his watch. In many instances, Doctoroff’s unpaid-adviser status is almost reassuring. At Moynihan Station, the proposed grand new train hall and office-entertainment district to replace Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, it adds to the collision of interests dragging the project down.
Doctoroff brings with him a raft of distractions with regard to negotiating a new station. He’s pals with the CEO of Related, one of the two developers bidding to finance the public works with private development. And Bloomberg LP is a tenant of Vornado Realty Trust, the other partner. The ruling bars Doctoroff from negotiations with Vornado, his current employer’s landlord, about the company’s lease during Moynihan talks and for a year thereafter. And it gives him only until June 30 to wrangle a Moynihan deal — noting the mayor’s claim that Doctoroff had “been essential in leading financing discussions and setting forth a financing framework.”
So Doctoroff and Vornado CEO Steven Roth will be rolling up their sleeves, talking numbers, trading horses. Even if they watch their mouths, Doctoroff will know Vornado’s financial position and Roth will know Doctoroff’s pressure points. Expect calculations about the present value of future Bloomberg LP business to at least cross Roth’s mind. We’ve grown to understand the need for public-private partnerships in times of sparse public funds. But Doctoroff guiding the city through Moynihan seems like a private-private partnership. And it makes us wonder if his touch is really so magic as to justify the hazard. —Alec Appelbaum