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Deconstructing Marty Markowitz on Atlantic Yards blame (it's all the fault of lawsuits), residential permit parking, and his claim of being underpaid

In a recent interview by Roberto Perez on The Perez Notes, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave what likely will remain his standard line on Atlantic Yards: it all would've worked out if there had been no lawsuits.

Well, that ignores the fact that developers of large, multi-phase projects must plan for up-and-down development cycles, and, as already noted by DDDB and NLG, developer Bruce Ratner admitted that his announced plan was never feasible.

The question

At 10:06, host Perez opened up the mike: "Borough President, talk a little bit about Atlantic Yards. There are both sides, of course, the people who are upset about eminent domain, people who are upset that the jobs, supposedly promised by Bruce Ratner have not materialized, and the job training, and the people that are upset over gentrification. Talk about some of the positives of the project, and what do you think of the overall so far, there's a lot of development left that's part of the final project that hasn't happened just yet."

The answer

Markowitz took to it like catnip: "Well, let me just say that, if the folks that opposed this hadn't tied the project up for seven years in litigation, Atlantic Yards, a good piece of it would have been built. The affordable housing would've been on its way. The Nets would be playing in the arena and defeating the Manhattan Knicks. I'm sure, I'm confident. And people would've been working, and it would've been the jobs that were promised. Because when this project was first proposed, the economy was strong in new York and in America. Sadly, seven years of lawsuits that sucked up time, money, and everything else and then we get into the middle of a deep recession."

Wait, the developer originally promised 10,000 office jobs in four office tower. That was bogus from the start. Now there's one office tower planned.

Damning the critics

"Listen, now the critics are complaining that there's not enough jobs," Markowitz continued. "Before, they couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about the jobs. they couldn't care less about affordable housing."

Actually, critics and opponents backed alternative plans for development, which would've produced jobs and affordable housing. And some of those now protesting (and suing) the developer for false promises about jobs were long project supporters.

Eminent domain

"Let me tell you, the folks that were impacted with eminent domain,, overwhelmingly, most of them did very well in terms of accepting the package from the developer and relocating and finding good places to live," Markowitz said.

Well, homeowners did much better than renters. And the "package from the developer" was paid, in large part, by the public. Beyond that, Forest City Ratner gained the benefit of a state override of zoning--essentially a private rezoning--allowing a much larger development to be built.

"I must tell you, the developer, the owner, did not start off wanting to throw people out of their homes, that was never the case," Markowitz said. "They tried every configuration. And this was the very best configuration in this time frame."

What? It was the best configuration for Ratner's purposes. For example, the plot 100 feet east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific Streets was needed, initially, for staging and temporary parking.

Criticizing the "gentrifiers"

"So, they can complain all they want," Markowitz continued. "I'm hopeful that, once the buildout is completed over the next decade or so that the jobs promised will be delivered. And people will be working in and around the arena,. People will have affordable housing, which is promised, and by the way, the folks that are the loudest complainers, some could argue, are the gentrifiers, because the homes they bought were formerly--the folks that were in their homes were of low and moderate incomes. And they came in--and by the way, I have no problem with them coming in and helping to flourish neighborhoods, which I think is fabulous, but the truth be told, when Atlantic Yards is fully built out, the promised amount of affordable housing will preserve income and ethnic diversity, rather than gentrify it totally, that's the beauty of the project. From Day One, all of us insisted, and to the credit of Forest City Ratner, they wanted from Day One for the project to reflect the population in New York, which means people of means, affluent, as well as working class folks. And that's what Atlantic Yards will represent in the days to come."

Gentrifiers or not, the loudest complainers are the neighbors and, as noted on Atlantic Yards Watch, they have a lot to complain about.

Would Markowitz prefer a development, as with Yankee Stadium, where residents are pressured by just keeping afloat that they struggle to exercise civic obligations?

Also, Forest City now says that affordable housing as promised wasn't feasible.

The lure of the arena

"And the naysayers, they'll be among the first customers in the Barclays Center," Markowitz continued. "They may say no right now, I'm never gonna walk in, but as soon as they have children, or if they have children, and the Ice Capades are there, and the circus, and all the other great events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy, they'll have it within a few steps from where they live."

I think he's got a point--some "naysayers" will attend arena events with their kids. And for others, it will leave a bad taste in their mouths.

The parking issue

Perez asked Markowitz about permit parking, which several Atlantic Yards-area officials recommend as a solution to the inevitable scramble for parking around the arena site in Prospect Heights and adjacent neighborhoods.

"I have significant reservations about permit parking," responded Markowitz. "I don't think it can work here. If you do it for one neighborhood, no matter what justification, every other neighborhood in Brooklyn will say, We got something special too, we want resident parking. And before we know it, you've got a problem on your hand."

Well, even the city Department of Transportation thinks the issue is worth studying around huge parking magnets like the Brooklyn arena and Yankee Stadium.

"You'd be surprised how many families in Brooklyn have more than one car, have two cars," he continued. "So I don't know how you're going to regulate it, I don't know how you're going to control it. Of course it could be a great way for the city of New York to raise more money."

"Now, is there a legitimate concern about traffic patterns around Atlantic Yards? Listen, from Day One, of all the arguments concerning Atlantic Yards, I would say the most legitimate one was the issue of traffic and parking," he said. "I know they've got some of the best traffic engineers in the country. I know that the Department of Transportation works closely with the developer."

Dissing the DOT

Then he got on his soapbox: "And by the way, they are no friends of automobiles, this current Department of Transportation...  as you know, much of our parking has been taken away for bike lines. As long as the current administration is in office, they'll continue to take away parking to make more room for bike lanes."

That's a slight exaggeration.

Then Markowitz offered some veiled class antagonism: "I'm kind of surprised that this would be an issue, in the area around Atlantic Yards, that they're concerned about parking. I'm surprised to hear that."

They're concerned about parking because an arena is placed in a residential neighborhood.

Maximizing parking?

"But the truth of the matter is that, listen, anything we can do, and I fully support ensuring that we maximize the amount of parking, because people in Brooklyn still significantly need their automobiles for many different reasons, and we should not decrease the amount of parking available."

Actually, the issue with Atlantic Yards is maximizing incentives for people to take public transportation.

"I know there are committees meeting, right here at Borough Hall," he said. "Carlo Scissura, my senior advisor just had a meeting over this very issue of traffic and parking."

Yes, and neighbors and Council Member Letitia James were troubled about the lack of a promised transportation demand management plan, among other things.

"But understand that overwhelmingly the folks that have that concern opposed that project from Day One," Markowitz said. "They don't want the arena, they don't want the housing. They don't want the project, period. Now they gotta deal with reality."

Yes, the reality is that the state overrode local zoning to impose what architect Frank Gehry called a project that is "out of scale with the existing area."

"Hopefully there is reasonableness. And I think it is absolutely reasonable," Markowitz closed, "I feel the same way, I don't want to see the traffic pattern as such that it causes gridlock there, because, ultimately the success of the arena depends upon the ability to move people in and out quickly. If folks are gonna be in gridlock, and they can't move, the arena will not succeed, and we want it to succeed."

Living wage?

Those listening to the interview would hear Markowitz asked about a bill requiring a living wage for workers in city-subsidized development projects.

"I have some questions about the living wage," Markowitz responded, then donned his "man of the people" mantle. "Listen, if it was up to me, everybody should be making $100,000 a year or more. I wish I got paid more, by the way, Borough Presidents don't get paid a lot of money."

Markowitz earns $160,000.

"The truth of the matter is, however, we live in a free, capitalistic system, we have minimum wage rules, which is a necessary thing.. I think it is quite appropriate for the national government... I don't know if the state can do it independently from the feds."

Yes, states can set their own minimum wage laws.

Markowitz called it an entry-level position but produced an anecdote about how he met an entry-level worker who, four years later, had been promoted to manager of a large store retail section.

That works for some people, but not necessarily for most.


  1. 160k and he's underpaid? what a tool. that guy makes my blood boil.

    1. Anonymous5:33 PM

      Wait until Markowitz is termed limited out as Brooklyn Borough President and ends up on the payroll of Forest City Ratner or Barclays Center as vice-president or something for "community relations" at $200,000 to $300,000 per year as what Ralph Nader has termed a deferred bribe. Markowitz is one of the sorriest--and broadly speaking--corrupt elected officials (State Senator and now Borough President)in long memory.

  2. Don't worry, Marty, I don't have a car. So they can have my parking spot for the bike lanes. Mine and the majority of Brooklynites who also don't have a car.

  3. Sarah -- he also has three drivers on call for 16 hours a day; at a taxpayer cost of $177K/year.


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