Stresses Affordability, Safety, Growth
By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At a breakfast on Friday sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Borough President-elect Eric Adams stressed the need to include all relevant parties in the decision-making process, as well as the need to make sure that Brooklyn is affordable to low- and middle-income residents.
In addition to people in business and finance, a good number of people in the healthcare, legal and social-service fields were in attendance.
“My love affair with Brooklyn started 27 years ago when I put on a bulletproof vest and stood on a streetcorner,” said the former police officer. “I sat in the hospital with victims of sexual assault, with mothers whose children were the victims of violence.” While still an officer, Adams bought a house on a drug-riddled block and got involved in community affairs to make a difference in the neighborhood.
He praised the renaissance of the borough. “Now, Brooklyn is cool,” said Adams, currently a state senator. “There are tourists who go to Greenpoint and Williamsburg to get their picture taken just to show people that they were there. When I was starting out, if they had gone there, they might have gotten their camera snatched.”
Still, he said, 24 percent of the people in Brooklyn are living below the poverty line, and some neighborhoods have double-digit unemployment. “When I go to senior centers, I see fear in the seniors’ eyes” that they may be priced out of their neighborhoods.
He affirmed his commitment to affordable housing. The current 80/20 market rate/affordable housing ratio, he said, is “no longer successful,” and may have to become 60/40
Along with affordability, he stressed safety and growth. “When housing is more affordable, families are less likely to go into debt, and more likely to have extra income to support local businesses. When communities are safer, new investments are made in those neighborhoods, bringing new jobs and amenities for those residents.”
He also called for a financial literacy program to be administered in conjunction with experts in banking and finance. People should know how to manage budget money, rather than being “afraid every time they go to the ATM [that there won’t be enough money].”
In general, he said, policymakers such as himself need to consult people who have been active in their fields for years before they implement programs. “We can’t have a financial literacy program without consulting financial institutions, we can’t make policy about healthcare without talking to people working in that field, we can’t make decisions about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden without consulting the people who work there.”
In general, he said, he plans to get all the various sectors talking to each other, to avoid duplication of services and other problems.
His inclusionary approach, he said, was inspired in part by former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. “Before he came, each department was its own fiefdom, and they didn’t share any information with each other,” said Adams. “Then Bratton introduced CompStat,” in which every department and precinct had to produce weekly crime reports.
As an example of how outside input is needed, he said, “I remember the bottle bill [promoting recycling of bottles and cans by supermarkets and groceries].” While the bottle bill was a good thing, he said, lawmakers should have spoken to distributors and warehouse managers, who may have needed to create extra space and hire extra people to implement the changes.
In the field of education, he called on the city to use existing school buildings “after 3 p.m.” for after-school programs. He said one of his goals was to start a tutoring program in which high school kids would help middle school kids, middle school kids would help elementary school students, and so on.
Finally, he noted that 47 percent of today’s Brooklynites speak another language in addition to English. He pledged that these citizens would be welcome at Borough Hall.
Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, introduced and praised Adams as well as the current borough president. “Marty Markowitz took office in 2002, when Brooklyn was a very different place. He took us to where it is today.” Adams, he said, will devise a plan of action to take the borough to the next level.
Adams also praised Scissura and the Chamber, pointing out that Scissura grew the Chamber’s membership from about 700 members to the current 1,452.