By Cynthia Magnus
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN COLLEGE — More than 1,000 guests packed the Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn College on Feb. 1 for Borough President Marty Markowitz’s 2012 State of the Borough address, which had the theme of “One Brooklyn.”
Markowitz celebrated Brooklyn’s culture, saying, “Our diversity — our status as proud home to everyone from everywhere — is, and always will be our strength.” The address also focused on capital projects, the need to support job creation, infrastructure and education.
One of the initiatives announced at the speech was a $1 million allocation for transforming the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights into a community center. Markowitz also pledged $1 million in capital funds to transform Erasmus Hall Academy into a trade and cultural center for the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce.
He also announced the start of renovations at the old Loew’s Kings Theater on Flatbush Avenue, to be completed in 2014, “It will be Brooklyn’s Beacon Theater and Apollo, all rolled into one,” he said.
Speakers included Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who thanked Markowitz for opening Borough Hall on July 24, soon after gay marriage was legalized, to help accommodate all the couples seeking to marry.
Among the guests were Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro. International guests included Renate Brauner, the vice mayor of Vienna, as well as representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and Italy.
Attendees were treated to performances by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, who sang the National Anthem, and by young Greek folk dancers from the Hellenic Classical Charter School, as well as a poem by Ishmael Islam, the 2012 NYC youth poet laureate.
Musical guests included 15-year-old Brownsville rapper Brian “Astro” Bradley, the group DEEP and others.
Markowitz stated his continued interest in the transformation of Fourth Avenue into a tree-lined “Brooklyn Boulevard” with retail stores and restaurants. He supports continued development in Coney Island and called for extended ferry service to Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, the Canarsie Pier and the 69th Street Pier.
Focusing on economic growth, the borough president challenged Apple CEO Tim Cook to bring a manufacturing plant to East New York or Brownsville. Markowitz said, “In some Brooklyn neighborhoods, one out of five adults is unemployed — and for African-American males, the rate is over 20 percent.” He offered to pledge $1 million as an incentive to attract manufacturing to Brooklyn.
City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights/DU-MBO/Greenpoint) said afterward about the need for jobs, “I think he called the administration out on the carpet a little bit for what they haven’t been doing. It’s a question of the city creating the economic climate to bring people in. If it is profitable for a business to do it, they’re going to come in.”
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-East Flatbush, Flatlands, Canarsie), who also attended the event, said, “Jobs are what uplift communities and transform lives, and they will also go a long way toward stemming hunger and youth violence. This would be a game changer for Brownsville and East New York, and the impact would be felt in my district as well.”
Markowitz said at the post-address reception, “If we can get a high-tech manufacturing zone it would be a capstone.”
Among the “Brooklyn characters” Markowitz honored on Wednesday night are Madeleine Brennan, the longest running principal in the United States, for continuing to serve for 48 years as principal of Dyker Heights Intermediate School 201, as well as 84-year old George Weiss of Old Mill Basin who created the word game “Dabble,” and 13-year-old James Black, Jr. of Bedford-Stuyvesant, who recently earned the title of Chess Master.