Uses of the ubiquitous Brooklyn phrase, “Fuhgettaboudit!”: Two. Utterances of non-English idioms to illustrate Brooklyn’s worldly nature and atmosphere: Four. Mentions of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s eight-year-old “son,” or more accurately, pet parrot, Beep: One. References to Junior’s Cheesecake: Several. Rousing rounds of applause: dozens. Amount of Brooklyn pride radiating through the Kingsborough College auditorium last Thursday evening at the much anticipated 2009 State of the Borough Address: Immeasurable.
If there’s one thing our borough’s Beep knows how to do it’s advertise and advocate for anything Brooklyn. From affordable housing to farmer’s markets to reality television, Markowitz covered it all in depth, along with everything in between. The address and accompanying festivities, which lasted roughly two hours, included performances from the ISO Symphonic Band, the McKinley Park Elementary School Chorus, The Central Brooklyn Jazz All Stars, La Salsa de Hoy Dance Studio and the Coney Island Burlesque Bombshells.
“That unique characteristic of Brooklynites—we can charm you, or be in your face,” Borough President Marty Markowitz said with a broad smile stretched across his face as he stood before an auditorium crowded with attentive Brooklyn-based elected officials, community activists, public figures and neighborhood residents. “Either way, they’ll love it! And tell Jersey City and Hartford—Fuhgettaboudit!”
Throughout the duration of his speech, Markowitz touched on such topics as tourism, education, health care, housing and, inevitably, the economic crisis and its devastating effect on the borough.
“No part of New York City is exempt from this economic crisis,” Markowitz said with an air of unexpected seriousness. “Property sales and permits are down. Jobs are being lost. And the neighborhoods with the most foreclosures are, I’m sad to say, in Brooklyn and Queens.”
But, despite the weight and somber nature of this particular topic, Markowitz made a special point to maintain a positive and optimistic attitude, adding, “But—as those of us who have been around for a little while know—These are the times when the “Brooklyn Attitude” really comes out. Brooklynites are as resilient as it gets. We might call that special creativity and tenacity “Brooklyn-nomics!”
As anyone even figuratively in charge of a major city knows, all urban environments (especially those of gargantuan proportions, like Brooklyn) rely on infrastructure and the development of public space to flourish. Markowitz touched on the importance of open space, briefly throwing the spotlight onto Williamsburg/Greenpoint.
“The world’s great cities are defined by the beauty, grandeur and humanity of their public spaces,” Markowitz said. “This year the reconstruction of the iconic McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg/Greenpoint begins….Bravo to Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel. I also want to applaud the establishment of the Open Space Alliance—which will do for North Brooklyn parks what the Prospect Park alliance has done for Prospect Park.”
From his concise mention of public space Markowitz moved onto issues surrounding those of private space: the need and demand for livable and affordable housing in all sections of Brooklyn, for shop owners, residence and artists seeking studio space.
“We must maintain our ethnic and economic diversity,” Markowitz said. “Therefore we must insure that those of every income level are able to live here affordable. In Williamsburg, when artists at 475 Kent Avenue were forced to leave their live-work studios due to landlord code violations, we helped them get back inside—and get back to making the art that makes Brooklyn the “creative capital of New York City!”
Markowitz also took care to spotlight the range of artistic, literary and cultural communities, institutions, events and festivals Brooklyn has to offer, including the Brooklyn Book Festival (boasting 150 Bk-based booksellers), the smART Gallery Hop and a vast and diverse range of restaurants of every ethnic persuasion.
While Brooklyn was, as per usual, the center of attention, Markowitz used each of the borough’s successes to honor and celebrate those who work behind the scenes: None other than flesh-and-blood Brooklynites. Throughout the evening, the Beep honored more than 30 hard-working and dedicated Brooklynites, including “Rusty” Kanokogi, a Brooklyn-bred 7th degree blackbelt in Judo who was recently awarded the Emperor’s Award of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government; Tara Donovan, an artist who was awarded the MacArthur Genius Fellowship; Luc Dubbisson, a transit worker from Old Mill Basin who, along with a colleague, jumped onto the subway tracks to retrieve a baby stroller with an infant inside; Consul General of Turkey Mahmet Samsar and Jermaine Richards, an honor-roll student from the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media, among many, many others.
After all, Brooklyn is great because of those who build it, preserve it, develop it and look after it and, as Markowitz said just before he exited the stage, “Brooklyn is still the land where legends are made, and dreams become real.”