Friday, June 10, 2005

Changed Times

Were you as bemused as we were by the back-to-back development pieces that the New York Times ran this week? On Wednesday, Jennifer Steinhauer, eulogizing the death of the West Side stadium, raised the question of whether it was still possible to do large scale projects in NYC given the anti-development obstacles that are supposedly endemic to this city. On Thursday, however, in what amounted to the Times’s version of point-counterpoint, the paper printed the Rutenberg-Brick story on the seemingly contrasting success of the Forest City Ratner project in Brooklyn.

You know if you hadn’t glanced at the byline of the Thursday story you might have assumed it has been written by the paper’s Public Editor as a corrective. In fact, it probably should be been because the theme of Steinhauer piece – that the Luddites had taken over and progress was no longer possible – was pure spin and was basically the rationale of Team Doctoroff for its own failures.

The key point here, of course, is you can’t make generic observations about development qua development. The first point of analysis needs to be about the quality of the development itself, its public purpose, and the rationale or nature used to define the public purpose. A flawed proposal, no matter how skillfully navigated, is still vulnerable because of the legitimate opposition it is likely to generate. It is also true that a magnificent development plan can be mishandled in the review process and go down to defeat.

Our view here is that, as far as the above analysis goes, Team Doctoroff hit the daily double with its Jets stadium proposal. A flawed plan was mishandled and ignominious defeat followed. We should add here that the defects in the plan and the plan’s implementation were exacerbated by the arrogance and abrasiveness of Deputy Dan himself. Remember that the Giuliani megastore proposal was also defeated, in part, by the volatile personality mix that the former mayor’s team brought into its negotiation with the City Council (just ask Walter McCaffrey).