Volume 19 Issue 51 | May 4 -10, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff welcomed the first ferry from Yonkers to Lower Manhattan Monday. New York Water Taxi service will be free through May.

Doctoroff: Gehry design scared us

By Josh Rogers

Architect Frank Gehry’s irregularly shaped designs have earned him international accolades, but his plan for theaters at the World Trade Center site frightened the city into asking him to go back to the drawing board.

“I saw the old version and that in part is what scared us and forced us to revisit the whole issue,” Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff told the Downtown Express Monday. “It was so, so intricate and complicated.”

Doctoroff, who oversees Mayor Bloomberg’s Lower Manhattan plans, was a guest on the Express’s Internet radio show Monday. He said the decision to move the Signature Theater out of Gehry’s Performing Arts Center to a new Fiterman Hall across the street, and leave the Joyce dance theater in the PAC, was made to cut the $685 million cost almost in half.

He said fitting buildings, underground cooling and other equipment, security and truck entrances at the W.T.C. site was equivalent to solving “a ten-sided Rubik’s cube.”

Two museums previously planned for the site were forced to leave over art content objections by some 9/11 families, but Doctoroff said that played no role in the decision to let the dance theater stay and ask the acting troupe to go.

The PAC will be more expensive than a theater in Fiterman and the Joyce has better fundraising capabilities, Doctoroff said. The city will likely pick up over half the cost for Signature, he added.

Doctoroff sounded more open to letting the theaters begin raising money now than he did a few weeks ago. Mayor Bloomberg is chairperson of the W.T.C. Memorial Foundation, which has put off raising money for the W.T.C. cultural buildings until it completes it’s goal of $350 million for the W.T.C. memorial.

“There are various potential donors who are only interested in giving to culture and we’ll probably find a way to harmonize the fundraising effort so that they don’t conflict [with the memorial],” Doctoroff said.

Julie Menin, a member of the foundation’s board, said on the same radio program that the foundation remains the best entity to raise money for the cultural buildings.

Even though Gehry is scaling back the design, Doctoroff said “it still can be a magnificent building and Frank, I know, is very excited about doing this project…. He absolutely wants to leave his stamp on this site.”

The city has worked with Gehry on the residential tower and school being built on Beekman St. in Lower Manhattan and the Nets’ arena in Brooklyn.

Doctoroff also discussed the city’s plan for a three-year experiment charging drivers $8 to enter Manhattan south of 86th St. during rush hours. He acknowledged it will be a difficult fight in Albany to get it passed, but said the city has already won the quiet support of legislators from Brooklyn and Queens, where opposition is strongest. He said the congestion pricing plan has a chance to pass this year in Albany, which means it could be implemented by the end of next year.

As city officials explain the program’s details, they are winning more support, he said. “The more people know, the more amenable they seem to be,” he said.

Menin, also the chairperson of Community Board 1, said she was happy that several of the board’s 10 new members are parents of school-aged children, an important group given the need for more schools and parks Downtown. Many Downtown politicos expect her to run for City Council in 2009 when Alan Gerson leaves for term limits, but Menin said she hasn’t given it any thought and won’t consider it at all until next year.

Downtown Express’s “Community Report,” hosted by this reporter and Skye H. McFarlane, is available at and, the show’s producer.

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