Volume 18 • Issue 19 | Sep. 30 - Oct 06, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Ramin Talaie

The new president of the Downtown Alliance, Eric Deutsch, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which overlooks Lower Manhattan.

Brooklyn development leader to lead the Alliance

By Josh Rogers

Almost five months after Carl Weisbrod announced he was leaving the Downtown Alliance as its first and only president, the Wall St. business improvement district hired the leader of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., Eric Deutsch, to replace him.

Deutsch, 38, will begin at the city’s largest BID Nov. 1 after finishing up his work at the Navy yard, a 300-acre, 3.5 million square foot industrial park. Deutsch managed the plan to create the yard into a development zone that will feature Steiner Studios.

As he turns his attention to Lower Manhattan, Deutsch said “the obvious thing to build on is the great history of Downtown as a commercial center, a business center – a place where the city began to grow centuries ago.”

Weisbrod left to head Trinity Church’s real estate division and has joined the Alliance’s board of directors. “He hasn’t gone far,” Deutsch said of his predecessor. “I’m sure he’ll be a great resource.”

Robert Douglass, chairperson of the Alliance, said “Eric is a very able young guy and he has a lot of the same skills that Carl brought to the job.”

He said Deutsch’s salary would be about $250,000, about the same as Weisbrod’s, and Deutsch is likely to replace Weisbrod as president of the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association. The D-L.M.A., a private organization founded by David Rockefeller, applied to the city to form the Alliance.

Weisbrod, 60, announced in May that he would be leaving the BID in July after 10 years. Douglass said there were a lot of good candidates and it was difficult to coordinate times when the selection committee could meet the finalists with so many committee members going on vacation in August. Other finalists reportedly included Iris Weinshall, the city’s Transportation commissioner, Rob Walsh, the city’s Small Business Services Commissioner, and Kenneth Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Rumors that Weinshall was going to get the job heated up right before Deutsch was hired.

Deutsch did not go into specifics about his plans at the Alliance, but Douglass said the key focus would be to make businesses aware of the state’s new incentive law encouraging firms to move to and invest in Lower Manhattan. The so-called “Marshall Plan” for Downtown was first proposed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who quickly got the governor, mayor, and State Senate leader to endorse most of the plan.

The city oversees all business improvement districts and is ultimately responsible to cover any budget shortfalls. BIDs assess taxes on property owners and use the money for additional security and sanitation services and to market the area. The Alliance, which covers the area south of City Hall except for Battery Park City and the Seaport, also runs a free bus shuttle service and organizes the River to River concert series.

Since taking over the Navy Yard in 2002, Deutsch has received high marks from business and community leaders and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who praised the Alliance’s selection in a prepared statement.

Robert Perris, district manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 2, said he is disappointed to see Deutsch go because he has been very open to residents, presenting Navy Yard plans. He said the development corporation hires many local residents and Deutsch has taken an active role and is close to fulfilling a neighborhood desire for a supermarket there. Perris said a small number of people on the community board, which includes Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, always feel the Navy Yard does not do enough for the community, but he said the feeling is not justified and has little to do with Deutsch.

“He’s very congenial, Perris added. “When I see him at functions it’s always a pleasure to have a chat.”

Deutsche worked in Lower Manhattan at the city’s Economic Development Corporation from 1994 - 1998 and 1999- 2002 (He worked at KPMG for a year in between). During his second stint, he was promoted to be senior vice president and worked on implementing the deal to build a new New York Stock Exchange trading floor office tower across the street.

The deal was nixed soon after the Sept. 11, 2001. “Any time you work on a large project and it doesn’t proceed its definitely disappointing,” Deutsch said in a telephone interview. The stock exchange incentive and building acquisition package, which was estimated by some to cost $1 billion, was criticized by many as a corporate giveaway. Deutsch said the framework of the deal had already been set by others when he came back to E.D.C. and he did not want to comment on the criticisms, which he said he understood.

Deutsch got to know the Alliance’s 120 Broadway offices well in 2000 and early in 2001 when he was working on what was called the Group of 35 report. Deutsch was the leader of the blue-ribbon group Sen. Chuck Schumer formed to meet the city’s growing demand for office space.

The report, released in June 2001 called for ways to increase office space of the Far West Side and in the other boroughs. “Lower Manhattan was very much thriving at that point,” Deutsch said this week.

A few weeks after 9/11, Deutsch was quoted in Crain’s New York saying improving transportation and amenities was the key to developing the Far West Side. Some Downtown business advocates in recent years have feared plans for offices on the West Side threatened Lower Manhattan’s redevelopment.

Deutsch said he has not given recent thought about what the city’s transportation priorities should be. The Alliance has been a strong advocate for the two train centers being built at the World Trade Center site and near Fulton St. and for getting the money to build a rail link from Lower Manhattan to J.F.K. Airport and the Long Island Rail Road.

Like tens of thousands of other Downtown workers on 9/11, Deutsch fled over the Brooklyn Bridge. He said he lost some friends in the attack and it was clear to him the world was changing.

He lives in Park Slope with his wife Terri Rosen-Deutsch, director of external affairs at Hunter College who was chief of staff at the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, and their son and daughter who both attend P.S. 321 in Brooklyn.



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