Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Markowitz to meet with bloggers; will he answer questions about the Brooklyn Paper's scoop about his charities?

Forest City Ratner may be the Brooklyn Paper's new landlord, and Borough President Marty Markowitz may spend big bucks with the Paper's new Courier-Life sibling--both, I've suggested, causes for concern--but the Paper has continued some tough coverage of Markowitz's not-for-profits Best of Brooklyn and two summer concert series.

The latest total: Forest City Ratner and affiliated companies have delivered $200,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert series, on top of previous gifrts ranging between $680,000 and $1.075 million to Markowitz’s charities. Barclays Bank gave $60,000, on top of as much as $100,000.

And neither FCR nor Barclays would answer questions.

(I can't link to the documents because I haven't had time to get the hard copies at the city's Conflict of Interest Board.)

A chance to question Markowitz

The Borough President defended the gifts in a statement to the Brooklyn Paper, nothing they help pay for valuable local services, such as summer jobs for kids, Camp Brooklyn, and the Dine In Brooklyn restaurant week.

Perhaps, however, Markowitz willy answer some tough questions Thursday when he meets with an invited group of Brooklyn bloggers.

(Why did he invite us? Does he really want us to "share thoughts about the vibrant blogging community"? Or is he making nice--and thickening his skin a bit--prior to his uncontested run for Bloomberg-enabled re-election?)

Tough questions

Why, for example, has Markowitz transferred $500,000 from his own city-funded budget to Best of Brooklyn?

And, even if it's legal, doesn't Markowitz recognize anything unseemly about it?

“I question why a charity needs to be established or controlled by a borough president,” Brooklynite Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, told the Brooklyn Paper. “They’re an inappropriate extension of their influence. They act as a quasi-campaign account for their self-promotion activities that skirt the city’s campaign finance laws.”

What's missing from the BP's agenda

I suggested last September that the real failure of Markowitz's office was that he hasn't empowered Brooklynites to participate in democratic self-governance, especially regarding land use issues.

Indeed, the newspaper City Hall, in an April 13 article headlined Budget Cuts and BP Pushback Could Stall Fellowship Expansion: Effort to take Stringer’s land use approach citywide lacks details, support, reports that Markowitz and other borough presidents are not embracing Manhattan BP Scott Stringer's effort to empower community boards.

Stringer has pioneered a program in which urban planning graduate students are placed with community boards, at $5000 per fellowship, and this year he announced the city would spread the program citywide.

But Mayor Mike Bloomberg is cutting the BPs' budgets. Beyond that, City Hall reports, there's a lack of enthusiasm for the program:
...Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (D), who pushed through large development projects that sometimes circumvented the public land-review process, refused to speak about the plan, only saying that he is “interested in learning more about [the land use fellowship] initiative” and is looking forward to learning more details about the proposal, as well as “participating if budgets allow.”

Perhaps on Thursday Markowitz will say more.

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