Departing Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff took a parting shot at the Atlantic Yards mega-development this week, offering the stunning admission that if the city had to do it all over again, it would have demanded a proper public review of the $4-billion project.
In an interview with the New York Observer, Doctoroff suggested that he was wrong to sign off on the state’s oversight of Bruce Ratner’s project — an agreement that allowed the state to supercede city zoning and get approval for the project without having to undergo the city’s far-more-rigorous Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure.
“I’m a huge believer in the ULURP process,” he told the Observer. “If it happened again, and the state were to ask if I would encourage them to take Atlantic Yards through the ULURP process, I would say yes.”
The comment sent shockwaves through the opposition to Atlantic Yards — especially since it was Doctoroff who signed the 2005 agreement between the city, state and Forest City Ratner that allowed the 16-skyscraper, basketball arena, housing, office space and hotel complex to skirt local oversight.
That deal ushered in a truncated review of the project that was orchestrated by state officials rather than analyzed by them, critics say.
By comparison, the city’s eight-month ULURP process requires public hearings and votes by the affected community boards, the borough president, the city Planning Commission, various City Council committees and the full Council.
Through ULURP, projects get enhanced review that often results in significant concessions from the developer.
“Of course Mr. Doctoroff is right [that] Atlantic Yards should have gone through the democratic process known as ULURP,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. “Nearly all of the project’s myriad problems stem from the bypass of ULURP.”
Councilmember Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) said Doctoroff’s “too little, too late” comments at least acknowledged that the city “made a mistake and that the project should have been more transparent and democratic and that the public should have had a bigger role.”
But she seized on Doctoroff’s suggestion of what he would do “if it happened again.”
“What does he mean, ‘If it happened again?’” James asked.
“It’s still happening. This is not a done deal. Dan Doctoroff is still in office and he should pick up the phone, call the governor and get this project reviewed again, this time through ULURP.”
A spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency that sought the override of city zoning that Doctoroff now suggests should not have been done, said the agency would not have a comment on the deputy mayor’s change of heart.
A spokesman for Forest City Ratner also did not care to comment.