Dan Doctoroff insisted at today's quickie press conference that "everything will keep going" on the city's construction front despite his departure. But is the position he's leaving one that requires his specific personality? As the mayor noted, Doctoroff broke the patronage-or-paralysis mold that used to define big city projects. "By integrating economic development with city planning, affordable housing, and parks for the first time, Dan created a new model," said Bloomberg. "His best was as good as it gets." (The famously droll mayor seemed genuinely cranky at chatter when the meeting started and misty when he summed up his adieu.) And Doctoroff may still retain the power to help patch up the city's cracked infrastructure.
If you were a blue-blooded Upper East Side A-lister, glamorous Babe Paley's daughter and on-the-scene Charlie Rose's intermittent inamorata, wouldn't a week in Montserrat seem the proper vacation? For Amanda Burden — who's all that and also Bloomberg's planning commissioner — it's a different story. Turns out Burden was spending her downtime last week in Copenhagen, not so much seeing the sights as trailing new transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and two of her lieutenants as they studied public squares and waterfronts and bike parking, according to spokespeople at the Planning and Transportation Departments. Grants are paying for the trip for Sadik-Khan and her deputies; Burden, a source tells us, is traveling on her own time and nickel. There was no word on whether Charlie had joined her. —Alec Appelbaum
Mayor Bloomberg wants his congestion-pricing plan, and he wants it now. That's what he told a largely sympathetic, lunch-sated audience at the Regional Plan Association's annual meeting today, when he said he'll insist Albany approves funding for PlaNYC's congestion-pricing and transit measures in the next six weeks. The necessary legislation will "have to be in this legislative session," he said in one of several deviations from his prepared text — and the legislative session ends in the middle of next month. "The reason the legislature doesn't do what we want is we haven't gone to them and said, give us what we need, or else," the mayor said in another improvised bit. Later in the speech, he turned more conciliatory, reiterating a promise to implement short-term transit improvements like extra traffic cops in 22 driver-heavy neighborhoods. "The leaders in Albany really want to get together and get this going," he added. "It will be a phenomenal legacy for them." Let's see if they agree. —Alec Appelbaum
Jane Jacobs, the Death and Life of Great American Cities author who revolutionized city planning when she told the world why the best village was the West Village, died a year ago yesterday at 89. Last night, about two dozen hard-core Jane-ophiles (Jacobeans?) gathered to toast her at the Village’s White Horse Tavern, a favorite Jane haunt — she lived just down the block — before she moved to Toronto in 1968 to help her sons avoid the draft. The star of the evening was architect Alexandros Washburn, city planning chief Amanda Burden’s newish design czar, whose lack of press since starting his job in January is notable given that (a) he’s overseeing the Jacobs-y design aspect of most major building projects in the city and (b) he has urbane Greek good looks that had most of the female Janeheads at the pub cruising him in that discreet New Urbanist way.
Ladies and gentlemen, Staten Island is burning. Well, not quite yet; but a new report from the Center for Urban Future extrapolates the mysterious borough's stats into 2020, and comes up with a less-than-pretty picture. According to the prognosis, "without a change in direction," Staten Island is in for "an economic decline and a significant deterioration in its quality of life." The doomsday scenario is this: The population will grow, but the young people will keep skipping the island for trendier addresses. As a result, the borough's makeup will soon begin to resemble a kind of lower-middle-class retirement community. This, in turn, will attract a certain kinds of businesses: day care, social services, ESL courses, and downscale retail -- "low-skilled" and "low-paying" jobs all (the report's words, not ours). What's the Center's solution? Artists! Hip, happening, broke-ass artists!
Mayor Bloomberg might be getting the credit — or the blame, depending on where you sit — for his pushing the idea of battling Manhattan traffic by instituting a fee to drive in prime neighborhoods at peak hours, but the truth is it's not his call. It's the state's. To start, no municipality can limit access to public roads without the state's okay. And even with that okay, to pay for the necessary infrastructure — how the city will track cars and bill their drivers — Bloomberg wants to apply for funding from a $1.2 billion federal fund, and federal rules say the state would have to join that application. Finally, to make clear that the city isn't merely seeking to burden outer-borough and suburban drivers, Bloomberg is promising major transit improvements to allow people to get into the city center without driving — and he plans to pay for those improvements with funds raised by the congestion fees, a city contribution, and an equal state contribution. Bloomberg has promised $200 million from this year's city budget; the state so far has promised nothing. To help convince legislators, the city is proposing 22 projects to help neighborhoods with high numbers of car commuters get better mass-transit access to midtown. So the question becomes: Will an imminent project to let buses escape some traffic lights on Staten Island's Victory Boulevard — one of those 22 plans — be enough to convince Albany to support the plan? We'll see. —Alec Appelbaum
Mayor Bloomberg's released PlaNYC 2030, his environmental agenda for the next quarter-century, yesterday (on Earth Day! get it?) at the Museum of Natural History (nature! get it?). It's almost too sprawling to recap, not to mention hell to pronounce ("plan-why-see twenty-thirty"?), but we know we'd be thrown out of the Bloggers' Association if we didn't do our best to take the most multifaceted matter and reduce it to five talking points. Herewith, our attempt to suss out the essence of the 127 proposed projects.
PlaNYC — the catchall term Mayor Bloomberg has given both the planning document being drafted to guide New York's development over the next 23 years and the months-long process of public meetings to gather input for it — is, it turns out, almost ready to be unveiled. The formal announcement will come next Sunday, April 22 — you know, Earth Day — at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, a City Hall source confirmed to us today. The city has been explicit that PlaNYC is needed to help it deal successfully with an anticipated population explosion while our infrastructure ages and the environment deteriorates. So, while we're excited to see the plan, we confess the museum's symbolism is making us nervous: dinosaurs … carcasses … oy. —Alec Appelbaum
A city planning guru dropped hints Monday that Team Bloomberg might be considering "congestion pricing" to charge drivers for the privilege of adding to gridlock, and today Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff the chief planning guru did nothing to discourage the speculation. Speaking at the annual meeting of the New York Metropolitcan Transportation Council, a regional body that coordinates federal transportation funds, Doctoroff talked of needing "a shift in the way we use automobiles" and called "congestion road, transit and pedestrian" the city's main barrier to growth. He also noted that taxes and user fees funded the 1811 street grid, the dedication of Central Park, and the city's water network. "Those who benefit should pay," he said. Was he hinting at a new fee on driving or cars? Providing political cover for an MTA fare increase? Telling the suburban county chiefs in attendance to look out for a commuter tax? It remains to be seen. But he did promise to issue the mayor's sustainability plan in early April, just before tax time. —Alec AppelbaumEarlier:Bloomberg's Planners Hear Public on Traffic Woes, Would Rather Talk About Something Else
Back in December, when civic groups proposed the idea of "congestion pricing" — charging cars to enter midtown during prime hours, as a way to control Manhattan's ever-more-horrible traffic — Mayor Bloomberg quickly danced away from it. "The politics of a commuter tax in Albany are probably such that we would never get it passed," he told the Times then. "And what I want to do is focus on those things that we can get passed to help our city." He's since launched PlaNYC, a canvass for opinions about how to help the city survive a million new residents and sharply higher sea levels by 2030, and it seems congestion pricing has wedged its way back into consideration.