By Emily Keller
Manhattan has had one for five years; New Orleans for one and a half. Even Honolulu and Philadelphia have them.It’s about time Brooklyn got its own discount tourism pass, or Brooklyn Pass, especially because the company that makes them, Leisure Pass North America, LLC, is based in Manhattan.Starting March 1, there will be 3,000 Brooklyn Passes available as part of a pilot program, for a cost of $25 per adult and $15 per child, that will enable buyers to get free or discounted admission to a variety of cultural attractions and a few businesses, for 48 hours from the first swipe of their cards.An eight-year-old partnership of cultural institutions known as Heart of Brooklyn announced the beginning of the trial program on Tuesday at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, in the Rotunda over the Brooklyn Tourism & Visitors Center created by Borough President Marty Markowitz and Best of Brooklyn, Inc.The passes will be available online and at the tourism office and other places tourists go, and will be sold with guide books containing information in three languages.To use the passes, visitors will dip them into terminals supplied by Leisure Pass, which will capture their information. The company that also makes Smart Cards has the expertise, software and technology to make the Brooklyn Pass work, said its president, John Cronin. “City passes are our business.”Destinations chosen because they represent the uniqueness of the borough include the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, at 145 Brooklyn Avenue in Crown Heights, the Prospect Park Zoo at 450 Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Deno’s Wonder Wheel on Denos Vourderis Place on the Coney Island boardwalk, as well as the historic Weeksville Society at 1698-1708 Bergen Street in Bedford Stuyvesant, “and of course, my beloved Juniors,” said Markowitz, referring to the restaurant at 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension in Downtown Brooklyn where the Brooklyn Pass gets carriers a free slice of cheesecake.Eating a slice of Juniors’ cheesecake is how Markowitz began his birthday the day of the February 14th announcement. “I couldn’t think of a better [present] for the 24th anniversary of my 37th birthday today,” Markowitz said about the Brooklyn Pass announcement.In addition to the free slice at Juniors, pass-holders get discounts at the Brooklyn Brewery at 79 North 11th Street in Williamsburg, of which Cronin is a particular fan.Although the discounted destinations are mainly cultural rather than business-oriented, businesses will ultimately benefit by having more hungry tourists wandering the streets, inevitably ending up at restaurants and in shops, making unplanned purchases, Markowitz said.The strength of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce at 25 Elm Place in Downtown Brooklyn and the presence of a tourism center in Borough Hall contribute to the environment that makes next month’s release of the first Brooklyn Passes possible, said Ellen Salpeter, director of Heart of Brooklyn, who called Markowitz an “amazing partner” and a champion in making Brooklyn a must-see tourist destination.The release of the Brooklyn Pass is well timed, as tourism in New York City was up in 2005, Markowitz said, and “A major factor is a big boost in visitors coming to Brooklyn…I have no doubt that ’06 will be bigger and better than ever.”The pass will make Brooklyn the “magnet for national and international tourism that we deserve to be,” Markowitz said, stressing that the attractions included come from “every corner” of the borough.The Brooklyn Pass may even pull tourists away from Manhattan, as it will be about a quarter of the daily price of the New York Pass, which offers free and discounted admission to more than 40 destinations, including several in Brooklyn, for a cost of $49 per day.For more information or to purchase a Brooklyn Pass, visit www.brooklynpass.com.