As Michael Bloomberg's reign comes to a close, our mayor/billionaire underwriter is talking up his next move, which involves teaching other cities to be more like New York. But behind the scenes, he's also scrambling to push through dozens of building projects that will define his legacy.
A few days ago, the mayor announced his plans to form a consulting group that will teach other cities to be more like New York, an "urban SWAT team" in the words of The New York Times, helping other municipalities achieve the same economic, health, and cultural growth that New York has seen under El Bloombito.
But behind the scenes, the outgoing administration is quietly hustling to gain approvals on a whopping $12 billion worth of building projects. It seems that Bloomberg would rather be remembered for the economic miracle he nurtured into being -- and the building boom it spurred -- than for nannying his constituents. After all, the NYT reminds us that 40 per cent of New York City has been rezoned under Bloomberg -- and this new crop of approvals and tax breaks will cement that physical legacy.
Let's get to know some of the biggest, shall we?
Domino Sugar: 1.5 Billion
The tortured project to rebuild Williamsburg's post-industrial waterfront as a gigantic luxury housing development is finally underway -- the SHoP-designed towers span 11 acres of waterfront, and though they've been redesigned to be more "porous." Many still oppose the development, but on December 11, Community Board 1 approved the project with only minor quibbles.
Hallets Point: $US1 billion
"Halletts Point is one of the few remaining New York neighborhoods that feels like a timeless, undisturbed backwater, forgotten by the city and left to urban entropy," writes Nathan Kensinger in this photo essay on the neighbourhood. Well, not for long: This billion-dollar project -- approved this fall by City Council -- is going to turn a grassy park that points from Queens towards Manhattan into a complex of 2,100 luxury apartments, restaurants, shops, and a waterfront promenade.
St. George outlet mall and observation wheel: $US580 million
Even New York isn't safe from the race to build a bigger Ferris wheel. This plan will combine America's two favourite things: Amusement parks and outlet malls. Nestled along the Staten Island waterfront, it calls for the construction of 125 outlet shops and the largest Ferris Wheel in the Western Hemisphere. The project was approved by City Council in November, though funding remains uncertain -- construction is slated to begin in 2016.
Hudson Yards: $US1.2 Billion
Destined to add an insane 13 million square feet of residential and commercial property to Manhattan's market over the next 10 to fifteen years, this 16-tower development is the largest the city has seen in years. Here's a great example of a project that incoming mayor Bill de Blasio might not look so kindly upon: Last week, the city approved $US120 million in tax breaks for the developers of Hudson Yards, a practice De Blasio has said he will cut back on.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Hunter College: $US1.7 billion
A joint project between Sloan-Kettering and Hunter, this complex will build a 1.15-million square foot tower along FDR Drive by 2018. The plan was approved in November -- and according to The New York Times, it will be too late to reverse it by the time De Blasio takes office in January,
Greenpoint Landing: $US2 Billion
Here's the big one. Perhaps the most controversial plan on the docket, this mega-development received the go-ahead from City Council last week. The development will transform the sleepy Greenpoint waterfront with 10 glassy residential towers, adding 5,500 units to the neighbourhood.
Willets Point: $US3 Billion
Another example of a project that would come under fire from De Blasio. Though locals argue their neighbourhood isn't as blighted as the city claims it is, this 62-acre development -- including 2,490 units of housing, a shopping center and an entrainment complex -- was approved by City Council October. Last week, the city approved a $US43 million tax break for its developers.
Bloomberg might be sneaking these projects into the world like a teenager tiptoeing through the backdoor after curfew, but that's not to say that De Blasio is anti-development. As Gothamist points out, he received thousands of dollars of campaign donations from the very developers mentioned in this article. He's more likely to be a "development pragmatist," in the words of Capital NY, driving harder bargains but not giving developers the complete (and very tall) cold shoulder.
Whether he'll continue or simply amend Bloomberg's party line? We'll have to wait for 2014 to see.