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December 21, 2010
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel (left) with Tony Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, 2010 AIANY President.

Rick Bell.

In a speech at Google’s space on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea on 12.16.10, Robert K. Steel, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, outlined four themes for NYC’s future, concentrating on what the Bloomberg Administration could do during its remaining 1,111 days. The broad concepts were cost savings, business assistance, physical infrastructure, and new industry.

Steel was introduced by documentary filmmaker Ric Burns, known particularly for his New York: A Documentary Film. Burns noted that these were “not the easiest of times in our city, in our country, or in our world,” but praised Mayor Bloomberg for bringing together “the greatest body of talent ever assembled to run a city — anywhere, anytime.” He stated that New York’s entrepreneurial spirit is “inscribed in, and emerges from, its very geography” and the “soaring wonder of the buildings.” Harking back to our city’s founding as a commercial outpost he spoke of NYC’s “unique culture of transformation — always open to the future”; a place that was adept at “pioneering the problems, pioneering the possibilities, pioneering the solutions — pioneering the future itself.” With a comparison to the unparalleled foresight of the 1780s economic planning — “a blueprint for America’s future” — done in NYC by Alexander Hamilton, he brought Deputy Mayor Steel to the lectern.

Of the four interconnected ideas for the future that were at the heart of Steel’s remarks, the architects in the audience, including 2010 Chapter President Tony Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, and 2011 AIANY President Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, were particularly enthusiastic about the description of the impact of public investment on the city’s infrastructure. Municipal stimulation of private investment included projects from Hunters Point South and its 5,000 housing units in Queens, to Hudson Yards in Manhattan, and Staten Island’s Stapleton. Steel noted that the New Housing Marketplace Plan’s goal of 165,000 units, announced in 2003, is two-thirds of the way to completion and vowed that the goal would be achieved.

Equally important was his mention of upcoming publicly-supported projects, including new work at the Hub in the Bronx, and the expansion of the New York Container Terminal. “From the harbor to the Hudson to the Erie Canal,” Steel noted, “the history of our city is inextricably linked to the water — with over 500 miles of shoreline, we have more waterfront than any other American city.” He said that the administration would soon announce a series of initiatives to further revitalize the waterfront, augment waterborne transportation, and reinforce waterfront parks.

Steel stated that “we are at an important juncture in the city’s history,” and he referred to Mayor Bloomberg’s recent speech in which he said that the issues impacting New York are almost always national issues. “At a time of fiscal challenges,” Steel noted, “we will not lose track of the investments that position us for the future.”

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