Skip to main content

Times takes belated but critical look at Markowitz's charity strategy; Forest City largest donor; BP claims criticism irrelevant, but what about his shilling for Atlantic Yards?

The New York Times today offers a tough--but not tough enough--front-page (in the New York edition) story about Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's remarkable method of fundraising outside the campaign system.

It's headlined From Brooklyn Office, Mixing Clout and Charity. And yes, the largest amount--$2.4 million--comes from developer Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards-related firms.

An excerpt:
Yet in recent years, Mr. Markowitz has found another way to tap into those donors. He has established a network of four charities that has reaped at least $20 million since 2003, and probably more, according to interviews and an analysis of city records.

That amount — remarkable for any local politician, let alone one who does not hold citywide office — is a testament to Mr. Markowitz’s stature as a Brooklyn power broker and to his intense focus on building these nonprofit groups. They have in turn played an important role in burnishing his public profile.

When the charities hold public events, Mr. Markowitz, who has been borough president since 2002, is typically in the spotlight. His free summer concerts, during which he is master of ceremonies, offer a chance to “Party With Marty,” as the slogan goes.

The donors to the nonprofit groups range from huge corporations like Wal-Mart and TD Bank to local entrepreneurs, but they usually have one thing in common: They have a stake in city legislation, real estate projects, zoning disputes and other Brooklyn issues.

Mr. Markowitz has often personally cajoled wealthy executives to give tens of thousands of dollars at a time to his nonprofit groups. Some recalled that he was relentless, seemingly unable to take no for an answer.

...As borough president, Mr. Markowitz has limited power. Many decisions on local issues are made by the mayor and the City Council. But Mr. Markowitz can make recommendations on zoning and on capital spending, and he appoints members to community boards.

More important, Mr. Markowitz has made himself a key player in Brooklyn by forming alliances and excelling at public relations. Businesses, if not seeking official approval from him, rely on him to cut through the city bureaucracy to help make projects happen or make problems disappear. With his outsize presence in the news media, real estate developers prefer to have him on their side.
Why it matters

The Times mentions that Markowitz is considering running for Mayor in 2013, but that seems unlikely--and thus the focus seems a little late. Also, the Times mentions Markowitz's ethics troubles--fines for using his chief of staff as lawyer and his wife's foreign trips--before concluding:
But Mr. Markowitz’s role in fund-raising for his nonprofit groups has gone virtually unquestioned.
No, it hasn't. It has gone virtually unquestioned by the Times. The New York Daily News (9/15/08), the Brooklyn Paper (9/18/08), and the New York Post (10/10/08) were all on this topic three years ago,  before Markowitz's re-election to a third term, albeit not in such a thorough manner.

A lame take on the Ratner connection

The anecdotes in the article all concern companies other than Forest City Ratner, so Markowitz's favorite project--and biggest source of donations--gets mentioned only at the end:
Forest City Ratner Companies, which is building the Atlantic Yards complex, has long relied on Mr. Markowitz’s backing for the huge project in the face of neighborhood opposition. Forest City is one of the biggest contributors to Mr. Markowitz’s charities, having given approximately $1.7 million.

“Sometimes, the borough president in his advocacy has blurred the lines between the role of private industry and government,” Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn, an opponent of the project, said. “He is taking advantage of a loophole in the law.”

Mr. Markowitz, who has not yet decided whether to retire from politics or to run for mayor in 2013, called such criticism absurd.

[The original final paragraph]: “I have everything that I could have,” he said during an interview. “I don’t need anything. I don’t need any of you! I have done this. I loved it. You could raise all the issues you want — the people in Brooklyn know me, they love me.”

[The updated final paragraph] “I have everything that I could have,” he said during an interview. “I don’t need anything. I don’t need any of you! I have done this. I loved it. You could raise all the issues you want — the people in Brooklyn know me. You don’t understand that. They know me.”
That's a nonsensical, evasive response, ultimately, and the Times shouldn't have let him get away with it.

Markowitz does suggest, not inaccurately, that many who know him superficially love his showmanship.

Those who know him better--say, they've seen him shill for Forest City Ratner on video, claiming "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"--may think differently.


In fact, blame the Times and other media outlets for not helping Brooklynites know Markowitz better by reporting on that video.

Comments

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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

The previous graphic, from August 2017 (without the ghost B1)

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 Matzav.com 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 …