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At the MetroTech tree lighting, CBA signatories and South Brooklyn politicos

The annual tree-lighting ceremony at Forest City Ratner's MetroTech complex has been going on for nearly two decades now, but last night was the first time I managed to attend.

While the remarks from Borough President Marty Markowitz, other politicos, and FCR President Bruce Ratner were mostly predictable (jobs, peace, Democratic rule), I was surprised to see that, on a dais that featured fewer than 20 people (at any one time), signatories of Forest City Ratner's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) occupied five of the seats and there were few elected officials from the immediate area.

The CBA signatories were James Caldwell and Marie Louis of BUILD; the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance; Charlene Nimmons of Public Housing Communities; and Joseph Coello of Brooklyn Voices for Children (formerly the Downtown Brooklyn Educational Consortium).

Nimmons and Coello were unknown enough to Michael Weiss, the executive director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District and the evening's MC, that he whiffed when trying to introduce them, even though they were in the front row.

From left: Ratner; Assemblyman Alan Maisel, Markowitz, City Council Member Kendall Stewart; National Grid (ex-Keyspan) exec Bob Catell; a rep from the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Nimmons; Louis; and Coello. (Photos by Jonathan Barkey; click to enlarge.)

Elected officials

It was also interesting to notice which elected officials showed up on the dais--and who didn't. There could be many reasons why some didn't attend, including logistics, but I'll also speculate that it had to do with a willingness to be associated with Forest City Ratner.

Assemblywoman Joan Millman, whose district incorporates part of Downtown Brooklyn, did attend, but her colleague Hakeem Jeffries, whose district includes another part of Downtown Brooklyn, did not. (Jeffries and Millman have both been mend-it-don't-end-it critics of Atlantic Yards.)

Assemblyman Alan Maisel, who represents a district in deep southeast Brooklyn, did attend. Why? Likely because he once headed the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, which has close ties to FCR executive Bruce Bender.

Neither local State Senator Martin Connor nor his successor, Daniel Squadron, was on the dais, nor was State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who represents part of Downtown Brooklyn and is a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards. But State Senator Martin Golden, another South Brooklyn politico and AY enthusiast, did attend.

None of the three most local City Council Members--David Yassky, Letitia James, and Bill de Blasio--attended. (James is the most prominent opponent of AY, while Yassky and de Blasio have become more critical.)

Attending were Council reps of neighborhoods in Central Brooklyn, including Al Vann (who was brief in his remarks), Kendall Stewart (who told a joke), and Darlene Mealy (cheerfully boisterous, a contrast to her performance under Bloombergian pressure).

More photos


BUILD's Caldwell sits behind Nimmons, Louis, and Coello.


Ratner and Daughtry share a discussion.


Mealy joins Coello, Ratner, and Nimmons.


Ratner poses with Louis and Caldwell (who in 2005 called him "like an angel sent by God").

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