Saturday, July 17, 2010

Markowitz's summer concert strategy/legacy gets gentle treatment in the Times; what about FCR sponsorships and disproportionate capital spending?

In an article yesterday headlined Bringing Fun to Brooklyn, a New York Times music reporter offered rather gentle treatment of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's signature public accomplishment:
MARTY MARKOWITZ’S duties as the Brooklyn borough president include appointing community board members and overseeing a budget for capital projects. But one morning this week his platform was all about fun, which he advocated with all the vigor of a contested campaign issue.

“People have a right to have fun in this city,” Mr. Markowitz said in an interview in his office, his voice rising to a level of bombast well known to his constituents. “What are we going to do, become puritans? As long as we’re not inconveniencing in any dramatic way, we have to stay fun here.”

For three decades, going back to his earliest days as a state senator in the late 1970s — he has been the borough president since 2002 — Mr. Markowitz has supported summer fun initiatives that have revolved around two free concert series in Brooklyn parks that, despite relatively little outside notice, are among the most popular in the city.

...Artists are paid for their appearances; each series has a budget of around $1.3 million, three-quarters of which comes from corporate sponsorships. But performing for a big, appreciative crowd deep in Brooklyn can be its own reward, said John Legend, who played the King series two years ago and will return to Seaside on Aug. 5.
That skates over that fact that corporate and foundation contributions, such as from Forest City Ratner and its foundation, mean Markowitz might be indebted to big developers like Forest City Ratner. Also, as the New York Post has pointed out, Markowitz's separate charity, Best of Brooklyn, has a record of issuing no-bid contracts.

The Asser Levy controversy

The Times reports:
But not everyone in Brooklyn is a fan of the concerts, or of Mr. Markowitz’s plan for their future. At Asser Levy Park, where the series was to open on Thursday night with a concert by Neil Sedaka and Brenda Lee, Mr. Markowitz’s proposal for a sleek $64 million amphitheater has drawn community opposition.

Two synagogues have sued the city to stop the concerts, saying that the noise disturbs religious services. They cite a city law prohibiting outdoor amplification within 500 feet of a school or house of worship.

...On Tuesday their opposition hit a roadblock when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed a bill modifying the city noise law for 90 days, allowing the concerts to go forward.

...“They legitimized an illegality,” [attorney] Mr. [Norman] Siegel said, “which is why so many people in this community are very upset. It smacks of favoritism.”

Mr. Markowitz, 65, said the amphitheater plan — designed by the international firm Grimshaw Architects — would also fix the park’s chronic drainage problems and is a necessary improvement. Most of its cost, he said, has already been allocated through the capital budget that Mr. Markowitz controls.

...“This whole opposition is bogus,” he said. “They don’t want people there. That’s what it comes down to. It’s bunk.”
The capital budget

Most of its cost has already been allocated
? As I reported in May 2009, some $24.6 million, more than a third of Markowitz's capital budget last year, was directed to the $64 million amphitheater.

In other words, despite the lead of the article, Markowitz's capital budget is about fun, and about his legacy.

By contrast, as City Hall reported, former Bronx BP Adolfo CarriĆ³n directed much of his capital money toward creating affordable housing.

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