Dan with a Plan

Dan Doctoroff
Dan Doctoroff

It’s not just bringing the Olympics to New York in 2012 that has Dan Doctoroff thinking big these days.

With the tepid office leasing market, maybe the last thing some people are thinking about is the desirability of adding new office space. But when you’re Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding, that’s your job.

In Lower Manhattan, the far West Side, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, as well as in Harlem, Flushing and the Hub area of the Bronx, the city has major plans for economic development.

Some talk about replacing the 10 million square feet lost at the former World Trade Center site in the next few years as more than the market can handle. Doctoroff is thinking more along the lines of an enormous 110 million square feet added throughout the city over the next three decades.

He’s also taking part in other massive projects the city s plan to reclaim the waterfront, to add 65,000 units of affordable housing, and to redevelop the far West Side in connection with a 2012 Olympic bid. Doctoroff, a former investment banker, launched the Olympic plan on his own five years ago before being appointed by Mayor Bloomberg.

Because he’s drawn to the big and the intractable, he’s enjoying his first two years in city government.

“I’m usually drawn to situations with hair on them,” said Doctoroff, 44. “And everything has hair on it in city government.”

Private enterprise, at Lehman Brothers and later as the managing partner of Oak Hill Capital Management, provided some preparation. Doctoroff worked on the largest bailout of a thrift ever, for example. He took part in forming one of the largest hotel managers and REITs in Interstate Hotels. Business required him to “look five years into the future, to see what the competitive environment would look like.” In launching his Olympic plan in 1998, he would considerably up the ante.

The city’s plans for 110 million square feet of office space over the next three decades are predicated on 400,000 new employees and a conservative growth rate of 2 percent.

Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said he “thinks that number is high.” He noted that in decades like the 1960s, between 50 and 60 million square feet were built, while in the 1990s, 8 to 10 million square feet were built.

But without the added space, the city won’t maintain its market share of office space in the region, according to Doctoroff. Already, New York has been losing market share for the last 15 years. Space was in short supply as recently as the dot-com boom.

“For us to be competitive in the city, we have to offer what people need,” said Doctoroff.

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Downtown, the plan is to create 10 to 12 million square feet of space in the next 10 to 15 years, said Doctoroff. Another priority is to make sure the rebuilding effort creates an active street life on the former World Trade Center site and off the site. “Retail, more than anything else, will determine the nature of the street life,” Doctoroff said. “We need to make it something spectacular.”

In Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, officials want to create eight to 10 million square feet of space, largely for back office workers, Doctoroff said. Earlier this year, the city announced it would invest $100 million in Downtown Brooklyn in the next decade.

In Midtown, Doctoroff estimated that only around 20 million more square feet of space could be added in the next 25 years. Taken together, all existing markets would fall short of the 110 million square foot goal.

“We have a big, big gap,” Doctoroff said “The only place that can fill the gap is the far West Side.”

The city’s ambitious plan for the far West Side would involve creating 28 million square feet of commercial space and 12 million square feet of residential space over the next 40 years. In time for the 2012 Olympics, if the city lands them (the decision will come in 2005), there would be a new Jets stadium, an expanded Javits Center and a No. 7 subway line that extends to 11th Avenue.

Presentation of the financing of the plan has been delayed because some work is still being done on where to put “noxious” uses like sanitation garages and bus garages, Doctoroff said.

One of the leading contenders to finance the project – payment in lieu of taxes collected from developers planning to build in the area is “unquestionably going to be an important component,” Doctoroff said. (See “Far West Side Story”)

If the city lands the Olympics, it will be a major coup for Doctoroff, who has been nicknamed “the deputy mayor for the Olympics.” Doctoroff claims the idea for the Olympics hit him suddenly while attending a World Cup game in 1996 between Italy and Bulgaria.

Since forming NYC 2012, he has stepped fully into the limelight, and is considered a skillful seller of his vision, which sees the Olympics as a perfect expression of the international microcosm that is New York.

“I believe New York is the best example of what the world should and could be,” Doctoroff said. “Particularly as it globalizes. We ve drawn people from every corner of the globe for 400 years, and crammed them into small places and forced them to get along, and they do, more than any other place in the world.”

He didn’t always feel that way about New York. Doctoroff, the son of an appeals court judge and a psychologist, was raised in suburban Michigan and reluctantly followed his wife to New York, where she had landed a job, twenty years ago.

“I had been here three times before and I hated it every time,” Doctoroff said. As a third year transfer to New York University Law School, he had lots of time on his hands to explore the city. But he found it big and intimidating. “Until you find your place in New York at least for me – it can be very bewildering,” he said. “But that s what I ve grown to love about it – the change, dynamism and energy.”

“Daniel is a straight talker,” said Spinola, who supports the Olympic plan. “When he first presented his plan, people might have said he was crazy. Now look where we are.”