The Deputy Mayor for the Olympics

For city and glory, Dan Doctoroff seeks Olympic gold at home and abroad

Since taking office as deputy mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding in January 2002, Daniel L. Doctoroff has taken more than 30 out-of-town trips in pursuit of his overarching dream: bringing the Olympics to New York.

He has traveled to Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, London, Rome, Madrid, Athens, Dubrovnik, Seoul, and Beijing. He has sat in on meetings of the Pan American Sports Organization in Santo Domingo, viewed the world swimming championships in Barcelona, attended a sports marketing conference in Marrakech, and visited the Olympic Council of Asia at Doha, Qatar, the tiny, oil-rich monarchy on the Arabian peninsula. He has made at least four trips to Lausanne, Switzerland, home and hub of the International Olympic Committee. That's where the deputy mayor was last week before moving on to the European Figure Skating Championships in Turin, Italy.

Doctoroff, 46, a former investment adviser who is a millionaire many times over, travels on his own dime, according to a spokesperson, just as he never bills the city for his services.

Like his boss, Michael Bloomberg, he is a dollar-a-year man, and like Bloomberg he is only the latest in a long string of energetic former executives who have been plucked out of the business world and asked to use their private-sector mojo on the city's development strategies.

But no one has ever arrived in the west wing of City Hall with such a colossal agenda, and few have had as clear a notion of just what they want to achieve. Seven years from now, according to Doctoroff's plan, Olympic contestants will be riding horseback in a new equestrian center atop the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island; swimmers will be competing in a new aquatics center on north Brooklyn's industrial waterfront; an Olympic village, with 4,400 apartments, will sit on the Queens shores of Newtown Creek. And, the pièce de résistance, a parade of athletes will follow the Olympic torch around a glittering $1.4 billion stadium on the West Side rail yards.

Those projects and others have sparked applause. "He is doing things that we have wished would get done for the last 30 years," said Kathy Wylde, president of the New York Partnership, the business group that made the decision to support Doctoroff back when he was a little-known investor with a big dream.

But even those who give the deputy mayor points for those achievements, as well as assembling a smart and talented staff to carry them out, say there's no mistaking his main target. And the rap is that he views every problem and project that comes across his desk through his Olympics prism.

"It's fair to say he has spent more time in Europe than he has in Queens," said a city councilmember who asked not to be named. "His theory is that what's good for the Olympics is good for New York. I would say your job is to do economic development for all the city."

"No question, he is the deputy mayor for the Olympics," said a government official who has worked with him on major issues. "It is his primary motivation in life. Everything else is a distant second."

Doctoroff, who once posed for a Times profile in his biking Speedos, refused to talk to the Voice for this article. Instead, City Hall spokespersons weighed in on his behalf. Under Bloomberg and Doctoroff, they countered, the city has embarked on the most ambitious economic development agenda in decades, with projects throughout the five boroughs, ranging from reviving the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to establishing a new fish market in the Bronx's Hunts Point.

"Pursuing the Olympics has been the official policy of this city under two administrations," said Bill Cunningham, the mayor's communications director. "I have seen [Doctoroff] get off a jet plane and go right to work. He is here every morning at 7:15, making calls and answering e-mails. It is all about rebuilding the image of the city as a vibrant place to be. It is perfectly legitimate for the deputy mayor to participate in it."


Maybe so. But it's no secret that Doctoroff's nonstop Olympics push, especially for the stadium, has produced the sharpest criticism that Bloomberg faces as he heads into a re-election drive. The notion that the city can somehow afford the $300 million for a new West Side football-Olympics palace, but not expanded day care, or better-paid cops or teachers, or improved transit service, is something most citizens can't grasp, no matter how many times Doctoroff tries to explain his complex financing scheme. When the mayor unveiled his new budget last week, each of his potential opponents keyed off on the stadium as the soft underbelly of an otherwise relatively successful administration.

The point person in the stadium push is Doctoroff, of course, and while he clearly has the confidence and admiration of the mayor, others are wondering whether he has backed Bloomberg into a bad spot.

"Too much political capital is being expended on the stadium," said one Bloomberg ally. "So far it's produced $8 million of negative advertising. You need that like you need a hemorrhoid."

Nor is that the only problem Doctoroff has brought to City Hall. No high city official has ever tried to straddle the public and private worlds the way Doctoroff has. Although he yielded his official title as head of NYC2012, the nonprofit organization he founded to mount the city's Olympic bid, he has remained the clear leader of the group, as well as the very public face of the city's Olympics effort.

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