Either Carl Weisbrod was the best and only man for the job, or he was the last man for the job.
Whatever the case, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio effusively praised Weisbrod while introducing him as the next chair of City Planning Commission at a press conference on Friday.
In fact, the mayor went to great lengths to make it clear that Weisbrod, the co-chair of his transition committee, was indisputably the right choice for a permanent job, drawing on his managerial experience and his history as a former executive director of the Department of City Planning.
“Mr. Weisbrod had absolutely, positively no role in submitting his own name,” de Blasio said. “He was slightly aghast when I submitted his own name. It’s going to be a very different approach to city planning: someone who is able both to bring forth a philosophy that we had effectively, but also understood the agency as it had been, given the fact that [Weisbrod] had the top staff role in this agency once upon a time, and has worked incessantly over the years. There just was no one comparable in all of New York, bluntly, I would say, in all of the United States for this role. ”
Without getting into specifics of his vision for the agency, de Blasio instead fell back on a recurring theme in introducing his administration appointees–their dedication to combatting the “crisis of inequality and affordability.”
“We need someone who not only understands the neighborhoods and communities we’re fighting for, but knows every tool that we have to get the job done. Because of his experience, Carl knows where those tools are,” de Blasio said.
Weisbrod said he looked forward to working with Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, to create “high quality jobs in the city.” De Blasio indicated that Weisbrod would work with Glen to fulfill one of the his campaign promises: creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. The mayor said that the city’s housing and economic development apparatus would take an “entirely different approach” than the Bloomberg administration in achieving his goals, alluding to the notion that former mayor Michael Bloomberg gave his commissioners a long leash in running their agencies.
“We see the City Planning Commission as a central piece of a strategy to change this city’s reality,” de Blasio said. “This is about getting all of the different agencies that have to interconnect in this process to work towards a common goal. That has not been the government that we’ve had here for a number of years.”
A city housing source familiar with Bloomberg’s governing strategy concurred with de Blasio’s assessment that the housing agencies in particular were not always in sync in accomplishing the administration’s goals.
“The housing authority [NYCHA] was fairly independent from what HPD and HDC was trying to accomplish; it had its own goals, and was moving in its own direction,” the source said. “It would be great if the new administration could bring them closer into the fold.”
Weisbrod worked under both former mayor David Dinkins and Bloomberg, and later served as the head of the real estate division of Trinity Church. However, there are some who feel that de Blasio made an uninspired pick by not bringing in new blood. Harvey Robins, Dinkins’ former director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, called the selection “very disappointing.” Robins said that Weisbrod’s real estate past and Glen’s previous stint at finance giant Goldman Sachs contrasted with the mayor’s efforts to strike a progressive tone in developing the city’s
“I felt that it was reinforcing what I call ‘Bloomberg 2.0′ in that he has very strong ties to the realtor and developing community, who I’m sure are elated over his appointment,” Robins said. “To me this is an example of the rhetoric of moving away from subsidies for private amenities and a real commitment to neighborhood services, and both Carl’s appointment and [Glen] if you put those together, it appears to be more of a continuation of Bloomberg.”