By Stephen Witt
It was part substance, part entertainment and all shtick. Yet, few would disagree that Borough President Marty Markowitz’s second inauguration, held at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, showcased both the borough’s ongoing resurgence and homegrown talent. Mayor Michael Bloomberg swore in Markowitz, who is beginning his last term as the borough president. Also attending the event and offering up words of high praise for Markowitz were New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. “We used to say Brooklyn’s best days were around the corner, on the horizon, in the days to come. Well, guess what? In spite of the many challenges we face – for many, our best days are today, right here, right now,” said Markowitz. “No doubt about it—we went through some tough times, but… now we’re back as the city where the American dream comes true – in all its diversity, creativity, ambition and unity. Brooklyn is where it’s at, baby,” he added. Markowitz noted that the borough’s re-emergence has brought national corporations and retail stores to the borough or on the way to the borough. These include Ikea, Fairway, Target, Chuck E Cheese, Lowe’s Home Depot and Whole Foods. “While Brooklynites across the borough are fixing up their homes and beautifying their neighborhoods, the beauty of it is that Brooklynites of every race, every nationality and every faith share the aisles at Home Depot, or Lowe’s on the Gowanus, or Atlantic Terminal, or Kings Plaza, or 86th Street, or Pitkin Avenue, or the Gateway Center, or Flatbush Avenue, to name a few,” he said. Markowitz also touted the growing tourism industry in Brooklyn, the proposed Atlantic Yards project to bring the borough more affordable housing and an arena to house the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, and the cruise industry’s planned arrival at the Red Hook Piers this spring. Markowitz also praised the growth of the film industry in the borough through Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The recent announcement that the Brooklyn Academy of Music, together with Robert Redford, are bringing a 10-day Sundance Film Festival to the borough in May also showcases Brooklyn’s emergence in the film industry, he said. “Down at America’s favorite playground, the plan for a 21st century Coney Island is taking shape. As Coney Island emerges as an exciting year-round, indoor-outdoor, residential community, we will preserve the unique Coney culture we all know and love,” said Markowitz. “And of more immediate concern, I will fight to make sure that every inch of beachfront at Coney Island and Brighton Beach is staffed by lifeguards and open to visitors every day of the summer season,” he added. So far as initiatives, Markowitz said he plans to revive the now vacant Loews Kings Theatre on Flatbush Avenue near Beverley Road so that it once again becomes a “thriving hub of cultural life for central Brooklyn.” “I also look forward to the creation of a new Caribbean-American museum located in the heart of the Caribbean capital of America,” he said. Markowitz additionally noted that some issues remain in the borough, including the allegation that auto insurance companies are red-lining parts of Brooklyn for higher insurance rates. Recently, Markowitz successfully took the issue to court, forcing the State Insurance Department to release information regarding possible red-lining of insurance rates. “I have also demanded that car rental companies stop discriminating against Brooklynites by charging us higher rates. The companies who do this—Hertz and Dollar—are not worthy of our business,” said Markowitz. Markowitz also noted that there are still pockets of poverty in the borough and “the number of Brooklynites without health insurance is nothing short of a crisis.” “It’s even harder to live in poverty now, and there is still so much work to do to overcome those struggles—which is why I have always hesitated to use the phrase, ‘Brooklyn Renaissance,’” Markowitz said. Following Markowitz’s speech, he took off his blue suit jacket and donned a white jacket to become MC of an entertainment program with Trinidadian calypso singer The Mighty Sparrow and Brooklyn’s own Stephanie Mills headlining the show. The entertainment also featured dancers and singers from throughout the very diverse borough representing the Hispanic, Chinese, Turkish, Polish, Russian, Hebrew and Yemeni neighborhoods. Among the standouts were the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus and a Pakistani duo featuring a percussionist and charismatic dancer. Another highlight of the evening was the Brooklyn Ballet, which combined elements of classical ballet, modern dance and street dance, in a compelling and technically flawless performance.