Friday, February 04, 2011

At State of the Borough, Markowitz makes theater out of bike lane flap, touts "jobs, jobs, jobs," gets tepid response to Atlantic Yards salute

The big news in the 2011 State of the Borough address last night, according to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's press release and the attendant news coverage (NY1, Brooklyn Paper, New York Post, Brooklyn the Borough), was Markowitz's theatrical (see video below) entrance on a tricycle, complete with helmet and Junior's cheesecake, and his attack on the Prospect Park West bike lane, during which he claimed that the city is "trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars. Cycling is no substitute for mass transit."

Those lines didn't get much reaction, actually, from the audience at Sunset Park High School, but the next line did draw applause:
And there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives."
His criticism of the Prospect Park West bike lane drew limited applause (and criticism and correction from Streetsblog), but there were lots of applause lines Markowitz's typically overstuffed 85-minute, 10,000-word address, less a policy statement than a combination massive end-of-year letter and community Valentine.

(Video from Markowitz's BrooklynMarty channel)



It was an invitation-only audience, and the response to the Atlantic Yards arena was mostly tepid (as I'll describe below), which suggests that, when Markowitz makes the area more of a focal point, either in 2012 or 2013, he'll make sure to import a pro-arena contingent.

Applause lines

The showstopper, as the sweltering evening drew to a close, was Detective Feris Jones, the hero cop who foiled an armed robbery at the hair salon where she was getting her hair done. Other people and policies drawing applause included:
  • the transformation of Fourth Avenue
  • a small food business incubator in Central Brooklyn (Markowitz will give$1 million from his capital budget, which is a lot less than what he's given to the new bandshell at Asser Levy Park, home of one of his two concert series)
  • a partnership with IBM for a public school technology program at Paul Robeson High School
  • the arrival of Shake Shack on the Fulton Mall
  • twin 13-year-old classical ballet dancers Shaakir and Naazir Muhammad
  • Absolut Brooklyn vodka
  • the restoration of the Loew's Kings theater
  • tailor-to-the-stars Martin Greenfield
  • the return of the "Welcome to Brooklyn" sign seen in Welcome Back, Kotter
  • Tupper Thomas, the retiring founder of the Prospect Park Alliance
  • more housing for seniors
  • Bensonhurt couple Maddalena and Fortunato Corso, married 70 years
  • John Zambito, grower of a 502-pound pumpkin
  • children's book authors Andrea and Brian Pinkney
  • Rhodes Scholars Zachary Frankel and Zujaja Taheer
Jobs, jobs, jobs, and AY

Markowitz said, "I also want to wish everyone a joyous Chinese New Year—'gung hay fat choy!' —happy Year of the Rabbit!" Of course, he made no mention of his shilling for Forest City Ratner's effort to recruit Chinese investors seeking green cards.

And while he kept talking about "jobs, jobs, jobs," he strained to connect that priority--“job one,” he asserted, for elected officials--to his favorite project.

His Atlantic Yards segment was brief:
Seriously, though, 2010 was the year that one of the grandest visions for Brooklyn finally became a reality. After seven years of planning and seven years of legal battles, construction on the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project finally got underway, which means, in the future, thousands of union jobs and an anchor for a rejuvenated Downtown.
That line drew no reaction, typical of past addresses. He didn't mention that jobs fall far short of expectations.

He continued:
Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Barclays Center will not only be the home of the Brooklyn Nets, who will mop up the floor with the Manhattan Knicks, it will also host the kind of events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy. But it’s not just about the arena; the affordable housing built nearby will help make sure that Brooklyn remains proud home to everyone from everywhere.
The reference to beating "the Manhattan Knicks" drew a brief burst of applause, less than for many other people and places mentioned. The other lines drew silence.

No one from Forest City Ratner or the Nets were present to take credit; others saluted, such as Michael Lappin of the New Domino and Regina Myer of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, were there.

Panasonic pleading

Markowitz stated:
For years, I’ve been urging large companies to consider moving their back offices to Downtown Brooklyn, but I’ve changed my tune. Brooklyn is no longer just for back offices. Companies like El Diario, the largest Spanish language daily in the country, and UniWorld, an ad agency that wrote the book on marketing toward the African American community, have already moved their full operations from Manhattan to MetroTech.
Those may be positive developments, but they're not large companies. Markowitz continued:
As we speak, dynamic companies like Panasonic are considering a move to Brooklyn. I’d like to address Panasonic now, if I may. With all due respect, how can Secaucus or Newark ever hold a candle to Brooklyn? If you moved here, Panasonic would immediately become Brooklyn’s signature company. We wouldn’t just be Kings County anymore, we’d be Panasonic County. Because just as Panasonic stands for “ideas for life,” there is no better “idea” than giving your 950 employees a new “life” on the big stage—Brooklyn, USA.”
Brooklyn's signature company? Its history is in Japan.

Other AY mentions

A couple of other Atlantic Yards mentions didn't draw a response:
[N]ow it’s time to make Brooklyn the “borough of conferences.” Hey, we’ve got the hotel space, we’ve got the restaurants, and in 2012 we’ll have a world-class arena. And just think of all that conference attendees would have at their fingertips. Places like Brooklyn Museum, the second largest art museum in the city, and its neighbors: the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Jewish Children’s Museum, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, where you can enjoy a glass of wine on the beautiful plaza or visit the new information commons that is coming soon.

...Or how about the Best Western Prospect Park which, despite its name, is nowhere near Prospect Park, but rather in Greenwood Heights. Or the Best Western Arena Hotel—you can tell by the name that they are positioned to capitalize on events at the Barclays Center.
Curiously, while Markowitz was willing to tweak the Prospect Park hotel for being nowhere near Prospect Park, he was not willing to point out that the Best Western Arena Hotel is nowhere near the arena site.

Marty's psychodramas

Rather than shy away from his quasi-lecherous moments, Markowitz celebrated them, showing pictures of and chortling about his photo ops with gorgeous celebrities such as models Brooklyn Decker and Christy Turlington-Burns, and singer Beyoncé:
And I think when you look at the pictures of me with Brooklyn Decker, and Beyoncé and Christy Turlington, you can only reach one conclusion: tall women have a thing for short, chubby guys!
He made several rueful references to his healthy appetite and difficulty in losing weight. And he couldn't help but push the taste envelope. Saluting New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) president, Seth Pinsky, he pointed to a picture of Pinsky, who looks like a typical Harvard Law graduate, and his attractive fiancee, and said, "By the way, Seth, congratulations on your engagement to Angela Sung. I’d say you got the better end of the deal!"

By the way, Sung works for the Real Estate Board of New York. Their interests and those of the NYC EDC often intersect.

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