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January 28, 2005

Marty Markowitz's State of the Borough Address

BP Marty Markowitz delivered his State of the Borough Address Thursday evening. He outlined his reasons for supporting the Atlantic Yards project (there was no mention of Ratner) & affordable housing throughout the borough.

Markowitz also spoke eloquently about "fighting for our character, our neighborhoods, and our way of life" in the face of "unplanned development." He went on to call for "smart development," specifically for "Brooklyn's most suburban neighborhoods."

NoLandGrab: How come Brooklyn's "suburban neighborhood" deserve "smart development," but our brownstone neighborhoods get RATNER?

Excerpt below on topics mentioned above:

I expect Atlantic Yards to result in two things that are vital to Brooklynites — more jobs and more affordable housing. I want to say right now, that I fully understand — and I share the concerns — of local area residents who have spoken out in opposition to this development.

People of good will can differ. And constructive opposition is something I value and cherish — because I honestly believe that, in the end, it makes for a better plan.

The Nets arena — and the Atlantic Yards project — will go forward, but it must work for both Brooklyn and for the community surrounding the arena.

Because people do not move out of Brooklyn today seeking a better life. They move out because they can’t afford the good life we have here.

It is estimated that Atlantic Yards will create about 10,000 permanent new jobs. That is above and beyond the 15,000 construction-related jobs that it will create over the next decade. And we can all be proud that 100 percent of those workers will be union employees.

Under a proposed groundbreaking Community Benefits Agreement, as many as possible of those new jobs will be filled by Brooklyn residents, and I promise you, those jobs will go to those who need them most — particularly low income residents living in public housing nearby.

I believe this project will help give individuals and Brooklyn families the chance they need — and deserve — to break the cycle of poverty, with opportunities to work at jobs that will grow into careers.

I want every Brooklynite to be given the same chance I had.

As someone who grew up in poverty — and who grew up in public housing — I know what an opportunity can mean. And with this project designed by a world class architect, Brooklyn-born Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards will be an unmistakable statement that the new center of this universe we call New York City has shifted to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic!

Downtown isn’t the only place where we need more affordable housing.

Brooklyn is proud to be home to residents of every income level. If we lose that economic diversity, we will lose the very character that makes Brooklyn great. While there is no question that Brooklyn is undergoing a real estate boom — everywhere you look there’s construction. The benefits of that boom are not shared by all Brooklyn residents.

The fact is that most Brooklyn residents — more than 70 percent — rent their homes.

I know exactly what that means. I’ve been a rental tenant every day of my life. And almost 50 percent of my take home pay goes for rent — despite the fact that I make a decent living.

The reality is that fewer than 10 percent of those living in Brooklyn can afford to rent or buy the housing that is being built today in any Brooklyn neighborhood. Housing that is built in Brooklyn must, first and foremost, be good for Brooklyn — and that means all of Brooklyn.

So, whenever I have a role in the process, affordable housing will continue to be my number one priority. For any new construction where public review is required, I will continue to demand the inclusion of guaranteed affordable housing.

That means when a sale of City property is involved — or when zoning changes or special permits are required for development.

In fact, this just came up in my review of the proposed Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning. Two weeks ago I recommended that the City Planning Commission and the City Council reject the city’s Greenpoint-Williamsburg Plan, not because I’m against rezoning the area — I’m in favor of it, because it reconnects our communities with our magnificent waterfront — but because this plan is flawed.

I have asked the City to guarantee a minimum of 30 percent affordable housing in a revised plan. And I urge the City Council to adhere to my recommendations — do not accept anything less.

There was a time when our federal and state governments understood that housing is a right — and not a privilege. In the not too distant past, government took seriously its role in subsidizing this basic need, as it did with the Mitchell-Lama program. But with Republican administrations in Washington and Albany — the burden is now on us, on the local level, to fight for affordable housing in our neighborhoods.

Because whether you were born on the other side of the world or right here in Brooklyn — we’re all Brooklynites. And an essential part of anyone’s dream is to live in a home they can afford — and still have money left over to live a decent life.

Speaking of fighting for our character, our neighborhoods, and our way of life, we are also seeing how rapid, largely unplanned development throughout the borough is changing the character and scale of some of our communities.

Too often, we see the demolition of single family homes that fit in with the character of a community — only to be replaced by buildings of questionable appropriateness. This infringes on residents’ quality of life and — ironically — threatens to erode property values, rather than enhance them.

One of my goals for 2005 is to convene a community forum on this issue of neighborhood preservation in the face of unbounded, unplanned development. Make no mistake — I’m for development — smart development. But smart development is not destroying the lovely character of Brooklyn’s most suburban neighborhoods.

Southern Brooklyn has many neighborhoods that are primarily residential and dominated by single family detached homes.

I am committed to the down-zoning of these neighborhoods, because we must preserve the community pride that makes Brooklyn great.

Posted by lumi at January 28, 2005 7:37 PM