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At the MetroTech tree lighting ceremony, Markowitz talks up the Nets, Levin salutes Ratner, Daughtry lays it on thick

The annual MetroTech tree lighting ceremony November 29 drew, by the standards of some previous lighting ceremonies (2010, 2008), a paltry official turnout, with only one elected official beyond Borough President Marty Markowitz.

And without two representatives of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, the Reverend Herbert Daughtry (who served as MC), and James Caldwell (who brought two staffers), the podium would have had no people of color or "community" members.

(At right, Daughtry, left, joins developer Bruce Ratner and Markowitz. Photos and video by Jonathan Barkey,)

Leading off

Still, Daughtry, who once saluted developer Bruce Ratner as having a “customary, humble, winsome manner," introduced him with a flourish.

"Now, it is my great pleasure to welcome to the podium, as you look around as you see the magnificent buildings, some of us remember how it looked before. Down Atlantic Avenue, the great building, the great arena. There is a verse from the ancient scripture which says, where there is no vision, the people perish,' I bring you the man who has the vision, Mr. Bruce Ratner.

(Video by Jonathan Barkey)

Ratner's words

"So it was 21 years ago that we lit our first tree," Ratner recalled. "This street over here, I will tell you, when i first saw it, it was a place where there was drugs and homeless, and all kinds of issues were in this neighborhood.

"With all of you and all your help, we made Downtown Brooklyn come back like a phoenix rising," he said.

The audience, perhaps 150 people, consisted mainly of MetroTech office workers, and family members of children who performed in a choir. It wasn't their help Ratner needed but significant city subsidies to establish a new office district to compete with Jersey City for firms that were leaving Manhattan.

(Photo of Ratner and Markowitz taken after the ceremony.)

Markowitz on the Nets

Daughtry introduced Markowitz as "the greatest borough president Brooklyn ever had."

From all of us, our great wish is happiness and good health," Markowitz orated.

"For me, I want to see the Brooklyn Nets, we need two more good players, two more good players"--Markowitz turned to Ratner--"so we can destroy the Manhattan Knicks, that's the first thing, starting next November, we're going to have a world champion NBA team."

The audience seemed nonplused.

Markowitz drew more applause when he called for "a world free of guns" and "a world of full employment."

Levin on Ratner

Daughtry introduced Council Member Steve Levin, who represents most of Downtown Brooklyn, as "Steve Levine."

Levin saluted his elders. "Not only is Marty Markowitz the best Borough President that Brooklyn's ever had, but the best Borough President that anybody's ever had in New York City," Levin said.

"I want to thank Bruce Ratner, Forest City Ratner Companies, and everyone that works in this wonderful complex," Levin said. "This season is about generosity of spirit... This is the greatest community we could have in the entire world, right here in Downtown Brooklyn.

"I want to just acknowledge Bruce Ratner's vision in making MetroTech a reality. He brought this area back to life, and with many, many jobs for many, many Brooklynites, it is a great thing.

Actually, as Matthew Schuerman wrote in the 12/15/05 City Limits:
Seventeen years later, while the buildings are still enjoying a property-tax holiday, no one knows how many low-income residents of adjoining neighborhoods are working at the complex. But business leaders and community activists agree that the number is very low.
The rest of the video

Daughtry introduced a representative of the New York Police Department, BUILD's Caldwell, and " other guests."

Then the singing began.

(At right, Ratner and Levin look on.)