Volume 18 • Issue 27 | November 18 - 24, 2005

Pataki, Bloomberg turn to top aides to fill L.M.D.C. posts

Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki made a total of eight new appointments to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation Board Wednesday, tapping appointees with strong political ties and prominence in the Downtown community.

The L.M.D.C. is the city-state agency overseeing the redevelopment of the World Trade Center. The 16 board members are evenly split between the mayor and the governor, although as Bloomberg’s appointments have left the board over the past three years, he has seldom appointed replacements.

Four of Bloomberg’s six appointees are members of his current administration, including Dan Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding; Marc Shaw, deputy mayor for operations; Martha Stark, finance commissioner; and Amanda Burden, city planning director.

Doctoroff has in effect been an unofficial board member since 2002, when Bloomberg took office. He sits with board members during meetings and participates in closed door sessions with the board.

The mayor’s other two appointees are William Rudin, chairperson of the Association for a Better New York; and Lawrence Babbio, Jr., vice chairperson and president of Verizon Communications, which owns a building that was badly damaged on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Every initiative that I outlined in our vision for revitalizing Lower Manhattan is being implemented,” Mayor Bloomberg said in Wednesday’s press release.

Pataki’s two appointees are also close allies. He tapped Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, a Pataki-appointed position; and James Kallstrom, the governor’s senior advisor for counter-terrorism and the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York division. Kallstrom currently spearheads a security plan for the World Trade Center site.

The L.M.D.C. is a federally funded subsidiary of Gargano’s agency.

The mayor indicated last week that he would make his appointments this week before the E.S.D.C. board met. During his campaign, he expressed a desire to be more heavily involved in the reconstruction effort and his decision to fill the longstanding vacancies indicates a step toward keeping his promise.

Bettina Damiani, project director of Good Jobs New York, a non-profit government watchdog organization that, since 9/11, has monitored the L.M.D.C., said she is pleasantly surprised that Bloomberg has made the appointments so soon.

“I certainly thought it would take longer,” Damiani said. “It’s exciting to see the mayor keep up his campaign talk about the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan.”

The redevelopment of the W.T.C. site has been plagued by delays and setbacks in recent months, prompting Bloomberg’s call to reevaluate the plans.

“We put out a report in August,” she said. “Which showed that the bulk of the money that the L.M.D.C has allocated has gone to wealthier communities. Fountains are going up around the New York Stock Exchange, while some of the basic needs of Chinatown and the Lower East Side are ignored.”

Nevertheless, Damiani believes the Mayor’s six appointments are an important step toward the broader redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. She would have liked to see more local residents on the board, she said, but she understands why the Mayor chose those whom he did.

Community Board 1, for example, lost its representation when its chairperson, Madelyn Wils, an L.M.D.C. board member, left the community board.

The L.M.D.C. has taken a heavy beating in recent weeks since the governor summarily removed the International Freedom Center, a museum planned for the site, from the memorial quadrant. Pataki made his decision—heeding the calls of some victims’ family members—without input from the L.M.D.C. Roland Betts, a highly influential board member, left in protest a few weeks later.

Shortly before he left, Betts said at an L.M.D.C. board meeting, “There’s no question that L.M.D.C. has been deeply wounded here,” according to the New York Times.

With the city planning director, the deputy mayor of economic development and rebuilding and the chairman of the E.S.D.C. now on the board, the L.M.D.C. will have the ear of key figures.

“If [Bloomberg] wants to get more involved in the rebuilding, having people that he perceives as heavy hitters who have a good understanding of the city’s economy makes sense,” she said.

— Daniel Wallace, Ronda Kaysen and Josh Rogers


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