By Helen Klein
Promising Dyker Heights residents that a rezoning plan for the community will begin public review this autumn, Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff addressed a wide range of development and other issues, in a recent talk before members of the Bay Ridge Community Council (BRCC). Speaking to the crowd gathered at St. Philip’s parish hall, 11th Avenue and 80th Street, Doctoroff – who was accompanied by representatives of a variety of city agencies — clearly tooted the city administration’s horn, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg up for re-election earlier this year. Not surprisingly, as the deputy mayor in charge of economic development, much of the emphasis of Doctoroff’s speech was on development issues. However, he contended that jump-starting large-scale development was not the Bloomberg administration’s only goal, as evidenced in neighborhoods like Bay Ridge. “That feeling of community, that I think is really unique to Bay Ridge, in many ways has guided the approach the approach the Bloomberg administration has taken to economic development here,” asserted Doctoroff. ‘We recognize that one size across this city really does not fit all. We are not all about growth. We are about recognizing the unique character of a community and building on what makes it great, and protecting what makes it great.” Thus, he said, the Bloomberg administration has been “Guided by” several precepts – “One, to preserve and enhance the neighborhood character that makes this community special. Second, to build on the small business environment that really is thriving here. Third, to make sure we pay very careful attention to the transportation infrastructure and the traffic. And, fourth, to continue to improve the overall quality-of-life with a special emphasis on public safety.” Looking back, Doctoroff said that the down-zoning of 249 blocks in Bay Ridge, which was completed in March, came about after the community turned to the city for “help protecting the community from out-of-context development. We heard you were concerned about the tear-downs of great single-family and two-family houses and replacing them with multiple dwellings that change the character of the community.” The resulting rezoning, Doctoroff said, upped the number of blocks zoned for one and two-family houses from 32 to 101. “We are now working to create a similar plan for 170 blocks here in Dyker Heights,” Doctoroff continued. With respect to the area’s small businesses, said Doctoroff, the city administration has, “Worked very closely with you to ensure that the 86th Street Business Improvement District (BID) is thriving.” In addition, he said, the administration is now working with local businesspeople on the, “Creation of a second BID on Fifth Avenue, from 65th to 86th Streets.” On a more global scale, Doctoroff contended that Bloomberg administration policies had resulted in the creation of new jobs. “Today, the city has the lowest unemployment rate that we have seen since well before 9/11,” he stressed. To build on Brooklyn’s business potential, he went on, the city has, “Just completed a rezoning” of the borough’s downtown area, “Which we have identified as one of the keys to New York City’s economic future.” The rezoning, said Doctoroff, “Will add five million square feet of office space to downtown Brooklyn. When that is built out, we will have a downtown in Brooklyn that has as much space as downtown Los Angeles.” Also in the plan, said Doctoroff, are, “1,000 new units of housing, new retail, new open space, new parking. When you add to it what we are doing at the Atlantic Yards – bringing the Nets back to Brooklyn in a spectacular new arena with 5,000 units of housing surrounding it, Brooklyn, the fourth-largest city in America, is going to be truly a major-league city.” Doctoroff did not let other city investments in Brooklyn go unmentioned. He pointed out that the city had “Invested city money to build the largest film studio on the east coast, the Steiner Studios, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” and had, “Created a comprehensive industrial policy to finally stem the tide of industrial and manufacturing jobs out of Brooklyn and New York City. In Brooklyn alone, we created four industrial sanctuaries, places where we will provide the protection and the services to enable manufacturing businesses to grow – in Williamsburg, in Sunset Park, in East New York and in the Flatlands.” Tourism efforts have also been moving forward in the borough, said Doctoroff, citing the new cruise ship piers planned for Red Hook, as “New York’s second great passenger ship terminal. “The third thing we have to do is make sure transportation works,” Doctoroff continued, pointing to ferry service from the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the “comprehensive citywide plan to make sure trucks stay out of non-commercial areas.” But, noted Michael Cairl, a transportation planner, there is still much to be done in that area. “Brooklyn,” he contended, is, “A dumping ground for traffic from elsewhere, particularly I-278. Something needs to be done about that. We have been advocating for the replacement of the Gowanus with a tunnel.” In addition, Cairl contended that the Atlantic Yards project and the expansion of downtown would be doomed for failure without simultaneous efforts to bring the borough’s transportation up to snuff. “As wonderful as the proposals are,” said Cairl, “they can’t work without improvements in the transportation infrastructure.” As a response, Doctoroff had nothing definitive. He pointed to the truck route study as a step toward dealing with the traffic coming into the borough on the I-278 corridor and noted, “Building any sort of tunnel in the city, believe me, is a hard thing to do, but we recognize that in order to see our communities thrive, the quality of life has to continue to be good, and having traffic piling up does not create that kind of environment.” As for Atlantic Yards, he remarked, “You’re absolutely right. Growth for growth’s sake is not a good thing. We have to take into account the impacts on traffic, the environment, public services, safety, schools.” As the Atlantic Yards project moves ahead, Doctoroff said, the city would be developing strategies for coping with traffic issues. “As we go through the process of gaining approval,” Doctoroff noted, “all of those things are going to be studied in great detail, and to the extent that issues are identified, we are legally required to demonstrate how we are going to deal with them.” The 62nd and 68th Precinct Community Council will host a combined monthly meeting on May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall located at 13th Avenue and 86th Street. For additional information call 718-236-2501 and speak to Community Affairs.