New York Times
Charles V. Bagli
Mr. Lieber, 55, who has been in the job since January 2008, has focused on projects including the redevelopment of Coney Island, the city’s takeover of Governors Island and the rezoning of Willets Point in Queens. He also has pushed the city’s economic development strategy beyond big real estate deals to include smaller entrepreneurial initiatives and a number of growing industries.
“He recognized that economic development is much more than real estate development,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City. “He understood the importance of establishing working relationships with industry leaders and aligning city policies and programs with their needs.”
One significant result of meetings with media and technology companies was the creation of an incubator for small information technology companies in the Hudson Square area of Manhattan.
Mr. Lieber said he had not intended to leave City Hall, but an old friend and former client, Andrew L. Farkas, had offered him a spot at the Island Capital Group, a merchant real estate bank that recently acquired a company that, he said, would be at the center of sorting out troubled real estate loans.
“I told the mayor this is the toughest decision I ever had to make,” Mr. Lieber said. “I love the job. I’m most proud of having taken a lot of these projects that had been put in the oven but not baked and gotten them done, whether it’s Coney Island, Willets Point or the World Trade Center.”
To his regret, Mr. Lieber was unable to overcome opposition in the City Council to turning the city-owned Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a shopping mall. Some Council members, unions and community groups had sought to require prospective employers there to pay workers at least $10 an hour, a sum that both the developer and Mr. Lieber said would have put the mall at a competitive disadvantage.
Mr. Lieber was well known in business circles when he took the job, but he did not have the same high profile as his predecessor, Daniel L. Doctoroff, who was Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s first deputy mayor for economic development. Armed with a broad vision of the city’s future, Mr. Doctoroff was often the public face of the administration as he spearheaded the city’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, worked on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and rezoned the Far West Side of Manhattan and the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn for high-rises.
In January 2007, Mr. Doctoroff recruited Mr. Lieber, then the managing director for the private equity division of Lehman Brothers, to become the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. When Mr. Doctoroff resigned a year later, Mr. Lieber moved to City Hall.
Mr. Lieber is the third deputy mayor to announce his departure at a time when city government is cutting budgets and is less able to embark on grand plans. In March, Edward Skyler announced that he was leaving for Citigroup, and Kevin Sheekey said he was headed to Bloomberg L.P.
Mr. Bloomberg has not been shy about going outside of government ranks for their replacements. He appointed Stephen Goldsmith, a former mayor of Indianapolis and a management expert, to Mr. Skyler’s job as deputy mayor for operations, despite his unfamiliarity with New York.
But replacing Mr. Lieber may be another matter. The city lost roughly 150,000 jobs during the recession, and the unemployment rate is 10 percent. Modest job growth has been reported recently, but much of it has been at the lower end of the pay scale.
“They need a replacement who is able to hit the ground running in order to implement much-needed economic development initiatives,” said Ross F. Moskowitz, a former city economic development official who is now a partner at the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. “Resources are scarce, and there’s an immediate need for action.”
City officials say they are looking at candidates inside and outside the administration. Prospects include the current president of the Economic Development Corporation, Seth W. Pinsky, and two former leaders of the agency, Josh Sirefman and Carl B. Weisbrod.
Mr. Lieber was criticized at times by real estate executives for what they called a lack of vision and for failing to push hard enough for their proposals or to overcome objections from rival departments at City Hall.
Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for small businesses who opposed the city’s plan to redevelop Willets Point and to use eminent domain to gain control of the land, said that Mr. Lieber’s approach failed to account for the collateral damage to the neighborhood.
“The deputy mayor and his agency have proceeded in a recession to promote a project that is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and displace scores of small businesses and thousands of workers without any conceivable plan or a developer to implement it,” Mr. Lipsky said.
In April, John C. Liu, the city comptroller, released an audit showing that the Economic Development Corporation, which Mr. Lieber oversees, had kept more than $125 million in payments, taxes and fees rather than turning them over to the city’s general fund.
Mr. Bloomberg praised Mr. Lieber on Wednesday. “Bob came to our administration with a reputation for getting things done, and he certainly has,” he said in a statement. “Bob helped set the path for growth that will benefit New Yorkers for generations.”