Borough President Marty Markowitz rode a bicycle into a packed auditorium at Sunset Park High School to open his annual State of the Borough address, in a less-than-serious nod to his vocal opposition to the Prospect Park West bike lane.
“I've taken advantage of the Department of Transportation's newest bike lane,” Markowitz joked to a cheering crowd of elected officials and several hundred guests, after doffing a bright green bike helmet.
“Of course,” he added, “I can tell it's still under construction, because the DOT hasn't yet removed all the seats in the auditorium to make room for it!”
The barb set the tone for a light-hearted speech that steered clear from controversial subjects. Instead, Markowitz spent 90 minutes touting Brooklyn's ever-growing brand of cool, and the many economic projects that resulted in the creation of 14,000 new jobs across the borough last year.
The total was good news, but not “nearly enough to meet the needs of Brooklyn,” Markowitz said. “For elected officials, as far as I'm concerned, jobs should be 'job one.'”
He unrolled a plan to spend $1 million in capital funds on a “business incubator” for food-related companies in either East New York, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights or at the Moore Street Market in East Williamsburg. The city is a partner on the project.
Markowitz made a public plea for Panasonic Corporation to move its headquarters from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Reportedly the electronics giant is considering a relocation to the Atlantic Yards site. The move could bring almost 1,000 jobs to the borough.
“Panasonic would immediately become Brooklyn's signature company,” he said.
Markowitz also courted Apple for a new retail space opening up at the Municipal Building on Joralemon Street. The site is part of a wider transformation of Downtown Brooklyn, several years in the making, that took off in earnest in 2010.
The year saw the opening of a Barney's Co-op on Atlantic Avenue and several higher-end retail stores along Fulton Mall, which also landed a Shake Shack restaurant. A Sheraton also opened on nearby Duffield Street, where two more hotels will go into business this year.
“These hotels provide hundreds of well-paying jobs,” Markowitz said.
Between pushing these projects, the borough president also acknowledged a long cast of “Brooklyn characters.” They included 13-year-old texting champion Brianna Hendrickson, Rhodes Scholar Zachary Frankel, and NYPD hero Feris Jones, who stopped a Bed-Stuy robbery.
Borough President Marty Markowitz waits to deliver his State of the Borough address.
Markowitz opened his speech by riding in on a bicycle.