Friday, December 07, 2007

Dander-Up and Out

Deputy Dan the Related man is leaving City Hall, Bloomberg LLP apparently has outbid the Related Companies for the Music Man's services. As the NY Times reports this morning, the departure has generated mixed feelings: "But just as Mr. Moses’ legacy is still intensely debated, interviews with more than a dozen experts and analysts suggest that Mr. Doctoroff’s effect on the city has been decidedly mixed. Some credited him with setting in motion comprehensive plans to guide growth in the city’s neighborhoods for decades to come, while others said he had often failed to see his plans through."

Then there's the way in which Deputy Dan operated-always with disdain for the small and minority businesses that do so much to sustain this city, but who fly far below the Doctoroff radar. On first entering government in 2003, DD immediately pushed the Fernandez Brothers out of the Bradhurst development project; and what was to become a trend, leveraged city funds to bring in his friend Steve Ross' Related Companies.

It became such a pronounced mode of operation that we gave it its own bane-"patricianage;" the process by which Related and to a lesser extent Vronado were given "special nation status" by the ever-accommodating deputy toady. The process reached its apotheosis with the debacle at the Bronx Terminal Market. Here Dan pushed out the mostly minority distributors, ran roughshod over city procurement policies, and no-bidded Related into a sweetheart deal that future analysts will label for what it is: a more sophisticated version of what the famed sage of Tammany Hall called, "honest graft."

The mayor's encomiums to his liege were touching, but, as Azi cites, disingenuous: "A notably unhappy Michael Bloomberg just announced that Dan Doctoroff is leaving City Hall, saying, "Dan brought muscle to economic development. Bloomberg also said that "unlike Robert Moses, Dan did it by working with the communities, not bulldozing them." Nothing like a parting jest to liven up a sad leave-taking.

The reality is that Dan's idea of community partnership is epitomized by the charade up in West Harlem over the Columbia expansion. Here Dan himself injected Jesse Masyr into the creation of a local development corporation charged with the negotiation of a community benefits agreement with Columbia. That's kind of like a valedictory to the Doctoroff approach to community input-the Machiavellian appearing to be good, rather than actually being good.

There's an old Wallace Stevens poem about Vladimir Lenin that has a line that goes something like this: "Lenin sat on a bench by a lake full of swans, the swans flew away; he was not a man for swans." Dan was not a man for collaboration with local communities, nor was he any kind of suitor for the little retailers and wholesalers who would never be seen chatting in the clubs that the Deputy frequented. He may have spearheaded some good-and not so good-large-scale developments but let's not reincarnate him as Jane Jacobs.

As the Times points out in regard to Doctoroff's failed Olympic and West Side Stadium projects: "But that approach {his impatience with politicians and bureaucracy} could also be his undoing, as was the case with the West Side stadium at the heart of the failed 2012 Olympic bid. Mr. Doctoroff gathered support from corporate executives, but underestimated the need to woo politicians and community groups." As Marc Shaw says: “The mayor didn’t hire Dan to do politics, nor would Dan have been good at politics.”

So Dan departs and as the pundits say, his legacy remains to be determined by more dispassionate future observers. From our lowly perch, however, nothing so becomes Dan as his leaving.