In a lengthy speech that was studded with praise for famous and everyday Brooklynites who contributed in various ways to the borough over the past year, Markowitz outlined his achievements in the past twelve months and listed the progress he hopes to make in the coming year.
Markowitz's plan for Brooklyn combines investment in the arts and public space with continued residential and commercial development in an ambitious move to stabilize and expand Brooklyn's economy.
"No part of New York City is exempt form this economic crisis," said Markowitz, according to a prepared version of his speech. The borough president noted that Brooklyn is losing jobs, property sales and permits are down, and the city neighborhoods with the highest foreclosure rates are in Brooklyn and Queens. "But, as those of us who have been around for a little while know," Markowitz continued, "These are the times when that ‘Brooklyn Attitude’ really comes out."
When times get tough, Markowitz said, Brooklyn gets tougher. "Brooklynites are as resilient as it gets," Markowitz said. "We might call that special creativity and tenacity ‘Brooklyn-nomics.’"
Markowitz said his office plans to double its efforts to attract businesses to Brooklyn who might otherwise settle elsewhere in the greater New York metropolitan area by highlighting the borough as a place where small business and big corporations alike can feel at home.
"We'll make them aware of the housing, cultural, transportation, and amenities that wait them here in Brooklyn," Markowitz said. "We want them to move here - and tell Jersey City and Hartford: Fuhgeddaboudit."
Markowitz signaled out the IKEA in Red Hook, Trader Joe's in Cobble Hill, and Target and Applebee's in Flatbush, all opened within the last few years, as examples of major retail stores that opened franchise outlets in Brooklyn, and have built successful followings.
To encourage Brooklynites and New Yorkers alike to shop in the county of Kings at both national retailers and local mom-and-pop small businesses, Markowitz said he plans to create a new "Downtown Brooklyn Cultural Corridor" from Court Street to the Brooklyn Academy of Music that would do much to bring shoppers to the area.
The corridor would be anchored by the Hotel Indigo, two new theaters, and the City Point mixed-use skyscraper, said Markowitz, all large-scale developments that would create local jobs and continue the arts renaissance in downtown Brooklyn begun by Fort Greene's BAM Cultural District.
Markowitz said the plan would also help establish Court Street as a bonafide commercial corridor worthy of stores such as Nordstrom Rack, Crate and Barrel, or Saks-Off-Fifth-Avenue. "It’s all possible," Markowitz said.
And in a pledge sure to draw criticism from opponents, Markowitz vowed to push through the beleaguered Atlantic Yards project.
The project - potentially the biggest in the borough - calls for a new sports arena for the New Jersey Nets, apartment buildings, and open space on a vast tract of railyard land that has been unused for years. Plans for the site have been downsized significantly in the past few years in response to organized opposition from some elected officials, residents, and some community groups who have sued the developer, Forest City Ratner, in an effort to block the development.
Yet for all the opposition to Atlantic Yards, in his address Markowitz promised to continue fighting for it, admitting that because he was the project's earliest supporter he has a personal stake in seeing it through.
"When it comes to ambitious, shovel-ready projects we say 'Build Baby Build!’" Markowitz said. "Atlantic Yards - yes we can and yes we will."
In his address, the borough president went on to list initiatives to improve public school education, health care, and boost the tourism industry in the borough. Yet it was his bold economic plans for Downtown Brooklyn, and continued support for Atlantic Yards, that stood out to lawmakers who listened to the speech.
"Markowitz was very entertaining and he covered every point in my district," said Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes parts of Downtown Brooklyn. "But unfortunately Atlantic Yards is not shovel-ready and it never will be."
Others, like Councilman Bill de Blasio, praised Markowitz for delivering a speech that encouraged and lauded borough residents for fighting through difficult economic times. "It’s such a fun experience to hear Markowitz talk about the people of Brooklyn," de Blasio said. "Markowitz has so much energy. He really personifies the Brooklyn ideal."