INTRO: Dan Doctoroff is not a household name in New York City. But he has been the deputy mayor and President of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s financial news empire. Last week he came to Detroit to celebrate Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 small businesses program.
Doctoroff went to Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School. He grew up in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus went to city hall in New York where Doctoroff explained how September 11th gave him experience in rebuilding shattered cities. The conversation was recorded in 2007. But comparisons to New York and Detroit remain true.
“After 9-11 when we were facing a $5 billion deficit in this city we raised property taxes and we did that in order to ensure that the quality of life, which is really the foundation of an economy, would not suffer and in fact we could invest. The way in which you advance most effectively is by articulating a vision and having people rally around a vision otherwise they just get stuck in the day to day arguments over higher taxers or lower taxes, this issue or that issue.”
Dan Doctoroff you’re here as deputy mayor of New York City, outlying neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant, parts of Queens and the Bronx were ghettos 20-25 years ago. If you could use the same methods to revitalize to Detroit, Flint or Grand Rapids would that work?”
“No question. The city made a commitment to the people. No neighborhood is beyond salvation. And we invested very heavily, initially subsidizing housing in those communities. What we’ve seen is the market has taken over. The subsidies are much lower or non-existent. Bedford-Stuyvesant was one of the worst areas of New York City if not in the entire country you know have brownstones selling for $2 million. What you have to recognize is that if you have a plan, if you have a vision and you’re prepared to invest in it what you’ll see if you’re smart about it is that you get an extraordinary return.”
“But Dan Doctoroff you’re talking about New York City. How can that be done in your native Michigan.”
“It’s very surprising to me. There’s really a lack of big thinking in Michigan.”
“What do you call big thinking? Tall buildings?”
“No I don’t think it’s buildings. It’s lots of different things. The need to think about Detroit in more comprehensive fashion. Here you have a city whose population has been cut in half from 1.8 million in 1950 to 900,000 today. We could think of all that vacant land as one of Detroit’s biggest assets. Maybe what we ought to do is have an urban homesteading program to draw people in to the opportunity to have cheap land. Now. It’s not enough to do that. You have to build communities. You have to create the demand for people. So how do you do that? It may be politically unpopular but we have seen here in New York that immigrants drive our economy. They always have. People tend to think that immigrants take jobs away from people who live there. In reality what we have seen here is that they create jobs. They don’t use lots of government resources. And they populate communities with a drive and entrepreneurial spirit that Michigan needs.”
“So you’re saying that Michigan has an anti-immigrant element to it.”
“Well I don’t know if it’s an anti-immigrant element. What I do know is that only 5-6% of Michiganders are born outside of America. But I could tell you in New York with this incredibly vibrant economy, and I think these things are linked, 40% of New Yorkers were born outside of America and somehow we manage to assimilate them and somehow we manage to get along. What they really do is make our economy bigger.”
Doctoroff spoke 7 years ago. His promotion of immigration, neighborhood revitalization and government spending have born fruit. New York is booming today and it’s filled with Michiganders who have moved there and are not likely to come back.