Skip to main content

On Brian Lehrer Live, Markowitz asks, "Is it a matter of public policy to make New York City like Beijing of 1940?"

Last week, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz appeared on CUNY-TV's Brian Lehrer Live, and while he didn't quite discuss one of the questions posed by Lehrer in the segment intro--how can to strike a better balance between big development and the human scale--his performance was telling, both in his over-the-top rhetoric and his Atlantic Yards blind spot.

Neighborhood change

Lehrer began by tracing the change in Brooklyn suggested by the recent census, an increase of 100,000 people in the last decade, with ethnic groups ebbing and flowing. Notably, as gentrification has continued in western Brooklyn, the African-American population has declined in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights.

(See the excerpt at left from a New York Times map of residential tenure. As far as I can tell, the census tracked in darker brown north of Prospect Park begins just east of Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights--the area just east of the Atlantic Yards site.)

After Markowitz presented Lehrer with an official Brooklyn cap, he described the Chinese population as "bursting at the seams... I predict that the Chinese population will be a major, major part of the future of Brooklyn and New York City."

He wasn't talking about his effort to entice Chinese investors into Atlantic Yards, however.

"By the way, I don't have an accent," Markowitz replied, adding, in a familiar trope, "I speak the King's [County] English... Having said that, there is no Brooklyn accent, it's the accent of America and it's the accent of the world."

Dysfunction or crumb bums?

A Lehrer question about new Governor Andrew Cuomo led Markowitz to lament that, during his 23 years in the state Senate, he was never part of a Democratic majority.

Lehrer asked Markowitz if the legislature, due to spending or poor ethics, is the problem.

Markowitz, ignoring studies that have pegged the state legislature as notably dysfunctional, insisted, "Overwhelmingly, the men and women are good, honest hard-working people... You're always going to get a few crumb bums."

He blamed the press for focusing on the latter to the detriment of miscreants out of public life.

Slamming DOT

Markowitz, who said a possible mayoral run "I think [is] most unlikely," said it was unfair for snow removal to take precedence in Manhattan over Brooklyn. But what really exercised him--no surprise--is bike lines.

He said the Department of Transportation is pursuing "the social re-engineering of our streets, it's not about safety... what can we do to force people out of automobiles."

Given the city's expected growth, Lehrer asked mildly, is that not a good thing to try?

"Is it a matter of public policy to make New York City like Beijing of 1940?" Markowitz asked, in the tiniest stretch.

"It's a legitimate question that I think should not be left to a commissioner--the whims of a commissioner and one department," he continued. "It's a legitimate public policy issue should be decided, I believe, by a wider democracy, which means the city government, the City Council should weigh in on this and make those kind of decisions."

I'm not the first to point out Markowitz's Atlantic Yards blind spot: he readily agreed with the city's decision to let an unelected, shadowy state agency shepherd and oversee the biggest project in his borough.

"I'm not opposed to bike lanes where it works," he said. "I would never have opposed a traditional bike lane on Prospect Park West. They've taken a beautiful thoroughfare... [and it] puts people at greater risk, in my humble opinion."

A BP's role

What can a borough president actually do, Lehrer asked.

"The bully pulpit, advocating, promoting," Markowitz said, noting that he regularly pitches corporations. "Why isn't Apple in Brooklyn?"

(He also controls a not inconsiderable capital budget and community board appointments, as well as make land use recommendations.)

His greatest fear, Markowitz said in closing, is that "America is no longer making anything... So therefore we don't have those entry level jobs... One way or another, America has to get back to manufacturing."

That concern's certainly shared by many fair-minded people. But Markowitz and others have encouraged the rezoning of manufacturing areas to accommodate housing--not always the wisest course in a city where niche manufacturing can still thrive.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …