Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Markowitz exit interview: "Well, the arena was built first because the Nets were purchased."

So, another exit interview with 12-year Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, this one Friday night on NY1 (click at the end of the first segment for the second).

What is your secret, asked host Josh Robin.

"I knew the product, so to speak, that I was representing," Markowitz responded. "I knew Brooklyn as well as anyone could... from the time I was 16, I went a field trip to Brooklyn Borough Hall and meet Abe Stark, I knew I wanted to be Brooklyn Borough President."

That's always been his shtick, but remember how, when he was contemplating a run for mayor, he erased that pledge from his official Borough Hall biography?

"I'm proud of where Brooklyn" is, Markowitz said, acknowledging that a 1989 Supreme Court decision took many of the significant powers away from the Borough President "but I really believe that the person makes the job.:

Robin, showing an excerpt from a new Beyonce video shot at the not-so-hip Coney Island amusement area, asked if Brooklyn had become too cool.
"We're not past that, we're just beginning," responded Markowitz, who quipped that "Beyonce is Brooklyn by marriage."

Asked if he'd serve again as BP if he could, Markowitz said, "I would've in a second."

And then he segued to what seems to be his new main regret: "There is one glaring thing: I tried my best to convince a Samsung, an LG Electronics and Apple in particular to roll the dice and open a manufacturing plant in Brooklyn.. and put our people back to work... where unemployment is huge, Brownsville, Eeast New York and Cypress Hills."

Now that's a worthy sentiment, but it's an unrealistic, since that's not how these companies look for factories, unless there are insanely massive tax breaks. Carlo Scissura, head of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, more wisely suggests expanding the current base.

But note how Markowitz is not touting Atlantic Yards as a savior for Brooklyn's unemployment rate.

Robin returned to the peculiar situation of Brooklyn, where there are tasting menus  at high-end restaurants on Smith Street and people making under $10,000 in Coney Island and East New York.
"Brooklyn is a reflection of America," responded Markowitz. "The gap between the top earners and the rest of us gets wider each year, and I don't believe it's healthy."
Yes, but New York and Brooklyn are more extreme examples than most places in the United States. This might have been a time to challenge Markowitz on his support for the management at Junior's restaurant in their battle with a unionization effort. 

The arena

"Another part of your legacy certainly is the Barclays Center, which has become an incredible international attraction," Robin said, "and at the same time you're faulted, and other officials are faulted, that housing was promised to be built. What happened?"

"I must tell you. I love the fact that those that complain about the housing, these were the very folks that didn't want this project to begin at all, any aspect of it," Markowitz said, in a statement that is partly true but should be contextualized by the observation that the housing delay is part of the developer's suspect record.

Then he segued to his new arena mantra: "So the fact that they're complaining about this--I love it when I go to Barclays, when I see so many of those who opposed the arena and the whole project in there buying tickets, God bless."

"Let me say, we had a recession, a major recession, eight years of lawsuits," continued Markowitz. "All of that converged in a  perfect storm to prevent the buildings from going up."

Yes, but Forest City also kept announcing its plans and delaying them.

"But the good news is, number one, that the first sections of the first building are now being assembled, as you know it's modular housing," he continued. "And it will be accelerated.. it's no secret, it's out, that Forest City Ratner has made an agreement with a major Chinese company that will invest billions to accelerate the building of housing. From what I understand, and I'm not a developer, but the money for those that invest is in the housing, more so than the arena."
"Why was the arena built first then?"
"Well, the arena was built first because the Nets were purchased," responded Markowitz, skating over the need to move the money-losing team from their home in an antiquated arena in New Jersey to a new facility with luxury boxes and sponsorship opportunities. "I mean, that's the crown jewel, although, the way they're doing--y'know, it reminded of the Brooklyn Dodger days, we used to say wait til next year. Now we say wait 'til next game."
"But they'll turn it around, I'm convinced"--note how then then conflated a professional, mutable team with the earthy reputation of the borough--"Brooklyn, y'know, we're resilient. They may punch us down, but we get up and, eventually, we'll win, we'll do all right."

Brooklyn changes
Do you get complaints that Brooklyn has become too gentrified?
"There's no question that some of our neighborhoods have become more affable," Markowitz responded, then corrected his lapse. "There's no question about it, more affluent, have become more attractive to young professionals and creatives.... I don't see anything necessarily wrong as long as this city can produce the amount of affordable housing to keep pace with the needs, and to preserve the affordable housing that we currently have."
"And that means focusing in on NYCHA, Mitchell-Lama... and paying greater attention to rent-stabilized. Plus, every project that comes before me... that requires a land use change,, I make sure minimum 20% is affordable housing. I think all of that is contributing to help, but the need is great."
That said, the growth in population and rise in market-rate rents in Brooklyn has far outpaced the affordable housing produced.
A softball question

"Let me ask you a personal real estate question," Robin asked, leading a viewer to wonder if Markowitz actually would be asked how a slip-and-fall case helped him buy a home.

No, it was a softball question about about Markowitz's plot at Greenwood Cemetery.

Political questions

What does he make of mayor-elect Bill de Blasio leaning on allies to place Melissa Mark-Viverito as Council Speaker?

Markowitz gave a bland answer, adding that, under Brooklyn Democratic Chair Frank Seddio's leadership, "we are one party. We are cohesive."

What grade would Markowitz give Mayor Mike Bloomberg?

"I would give him, maybe an A-, B+... he was competent, he hired I think the brightest of folks... and I think he did it in a balanced way... I think he got up every day and said, How do I make this city a better place to live?" Markowitz responded.

"Having said that, I've got a lot of complaints," Markowitz continued. "I think Borough Presidents were not given the kind of budgets I think would allows to be an important part of governance of this city."

He then went on to put in plugs for de Blasio and then his successor, Eric Adams.

Shticky question

"You're such a cheerleader for Brooklyn," Robin said, "and I realize part of it is shtick--"
"It is shtick, but I believe in it too," Markowitz interjected.

"But what is your favorite part of New York City outside of Kings County?"

"I would probably say the restaurants in Queens that I enjoy going to."
"Name one."
"How do I divide my children?"

What's next for Markowitz?

He quipped about becoming a Wise Guy on NY1.

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