2011 State of the Borough Address
As prepared for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz
February 3, 2011
[Borough President rides in on bike lane]
Welcome to beautiful Sunset Park, Brooklyn, USA, and the 2011 State of the Borough address!
As you can see, I’ve taken advantage of the Department of Transportation’s newest bike lane. Of course, I can tell it’s still under construction, because the D.O.T. hasn’t yet removed all the seats in the auditorium to make room for it!
I want to thank all of tonight’s performers and speakers, and of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Comptroller John Liu. And my colleagues: from the “outer borough” of Manhattan, Borough President Scott Stringer, and from “Da Bronx,” Borough President Ruben Diaz.
I also want to wish everyone a joyous Chinese New Year—“gung hay fat choy!” —happy Year of the Rabbit!
Of course in Brooklyn, last year was the Year of the Tiger. Yes, the Jets may have lost their bid for the Super Bowl, but the Tigers of Bay Ridge’s Fort Hamilton High School won the 2010 citywide PSAL football championship! Let’s give them a round of applause. And congratulations to principal Jo Ann Chester.
Before I go any further, I want to take this opportunity to thank a few people who make being Brooklyn’s borough president not just an honor but also a privilege. First, of course, my wife, Jamie. Last year, we celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary, and our second decade together is already shaping up to be even better than our first.
I also want to thank the best deputy borough president in the history of Brooklyn and my partner on the front lines, Yvonne Graham. By the way, you should all know that Yvonne runs five miles every day. Looking at me, you may not believe it, but Yvonne is my fitness role model.
I want to give a special shout-out to all my staff, especially someone I work closely with each and every day, my intrepid chief of staff, Carlo Scissura. Carlo, it’s good to have you back from Sicily!
And I want to thank all the members of Brooklyn’s community boards, my partners in government, as well as all my other appointees here tonight, for loving Brooklyn so much that you give generously of your time to make our borough even better.
I also want to thank tonight’s hosts, Sunset Park High School, which opened last September, a true Brooklyn educational success story that took 60 years to come true, thanks to the hard work of dozens of local residents, including members of Community Board 7 and the Sunset Park High School task force. Of course, none of this hard work would have paid off without the leadership of City Councilmember Sara Gonzalez, chair of the Council’s Juvenile Justice Committee. Gracias, Sara.
The Sunset Park High building also houses the Lillian L. Rashkis High School, which serves students with special needs. How about a big round of applause for Sunset Park High principal Corinne Vinal and Lillian Rashkis principal Joan Antonelli? Corinne and Joan, please stand.
And P.S. 172, a few blocks away on 4th Avenue, is the most highly ranked elementary, middle or K-8 school in the City. Congratulations to principal Jack Spatola. Jack, don’t even think about retiring! Please stand.
Sunset Park has one of New York City’s largest and most established Latino communities as well as the fastest growing Chinatown in New York City. We have someone with us tonight who dedicates his life to helping Chinese families—particularly recent immigrants—fulfill their dreams in Brooklyn. Warren Chan, founder, president and executive director of the Asian Community United Society, an organization committed to giving a voice to Brooklyn’s Chinese communities. The group is located in Bensonhurst, another neighborhood with a fast-growing Chinese population. Warren, please stand.
One of Sunset Park’s crucial allies is Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. Believe me, nobody—and I mean nobody—brings more money back to Brooklyn than Congresswoman Velázquez. Five years ago, she became the first Latina in American history to chair a full congressional committee. Congresswoman Velázquez, believe me, in two years Americans will be begging for Democrats again, and “Chairwoman Velázquez” it will be, once again! Congresswoman, please stand. I also want to praise the efforts of Assembly Member Felix Ortiz, Brooklyn’s first and only ambassador to the world.
I have a vision for one of Sunset Park’s major thoroughfares. Fourth Avenue, which runs from Downtown Brooklyn to Bay Ridge, remains under-utilized (by the way, if you saw The New York Times a few weeks ago, you know they agree with me). I have been promoting the transformation of the street into a livable, walkable, tree-lined avenue that I have dubbed “Brooklyn Boulevard.” We’re just about to kick off the first in what will be many steps toward that goal by refurbishing the 4th Avenue-9th Street subway station and the surrounding streetscape. For their help in making this happen, I want to thank the Park Slope Civic Council and Community Board 6.
Of course, there’s another major road that runs from one side of Sunset Park to the other, Third Avenue. Unfortunately, Third Avenue runs directly underneath the Gowanus Expressway overpass, an eyesore that cuts off Sunset Park from its waterfront. The emissions it generates are one reason Sunset Park has some of the highest rates of asthma and respiratory diseases in the city. For many years, we’ve been talking about improving the Gowanus Expressway, and it’s time to act! Let’s make a decision and do it now.
Last year, at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on the Sunset Park waterfront, ground was broken for BioBAT, an enormous office park devoted to biomedical science, created in collaboration with SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Congratulations to BioBAT president Dr. Eva Cramer and Dr. John LaRosa, president of SUNY Downstate. When BioBAT is complete, it will contain half-a-million square feet of office and laboratory space and provide one thousand jobs. BioBAT is already the headquarters of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which means that Sunset Park could be the place where the end of one of our era’s greatest public health crises begins.
The Sunset Park waterfront will also soon be the site of a huge service and parts facility opened by Gary Flom, president and CEO of Bay Ridge Ford. Bay Ridge Ford, which has a new showroom on 86th Street, is the first American car dealership to open in Brooklyn in decades. The maintenance facility will repair Ford vehicles from all over the city, creating more valuable jobs right here in Sunset Park. Gary, thank you for investing in Brooklyn’s future. Please stand.
Sunset Park is a neighborhood filled with civic pride, a tight-knit community where everybody looks after one another. In fact, here in the 72nd Precinct, over the past 20 years crime has dropped by nearly 80 percent. So congratulations to Deputy Inspector Jesus Pintos. Jesus, please stand.
Of course, we’re also joined by Brooklyn’s two police chiefs: Joe Fox, commander of Brooklyn South as well as a master photographer, and Brooklyn North chief Gerald Nelson, a man who “sleeps Queens,” but “lives Brooklyn.”
I also want to congratulate two recently appointed judges from Brooklyn. Aside from our manly physique and the fact that we both look good in flip-flops, President Obama and I have one other thing in common: we have both appointed Park Sloper Raymond “Ray” Joseph Lohier. I named him to Community Board 6, where he served as vice-chair, and now Ray has been confirmed as a United States Circuit Court judge, just one step away from the U.S. Supreme Court.
I also want to congratulate a dear friend, Judge Robert Miller, a proud Ditmas Park resident who recently was appointed to the Appellate Term of the New York State Supreme Court, one step closer to the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals. Judge Lohier and Judge Miller, please stand.
We may be living in an era of recessions, but in Brooklyn we’re all about expansions, expanding our goals and our dreams. After all, as the 2010 Census makes clear, we are still the nation’s fourth largest city, ahead of Houston, Texas. In fact, we’re not far behind number three, Chicago.
For Brooklyn, not even the sky’s the limit, as astronaut Garrett Reisman—a part-time Brooklynite who sometimes calls Ditmas Park West home—proved last year. Garrett took the Brooklyn pin that I gave him—which he’s holding in this photo—onto the Space Shuttle Atlantis and captured these gorgeous images of Brooklyn from outer space.
As you can see from our Strategic Policy Statement, which we are releasing tonight, we never stop thinking big. To read it, please visit our website (www.brooklyn-usa.org). You’ll notice that much of the statement is devoted to Brooklyn’s economy. Make no mistake, like everywhere, Brooklyn is feeling the pinch of these tough economic times. But I believe with all my heart that what makes Brooklyn so special—our diversity, and our diverse economy—is the same thing that uniquely positions us for renewal.
In fact, Crain’s New York Business, noting that Brooklyn added more than 14,000 jobs last year, proclaimed Brooklyn to be “at the forefront of the city’s economic recovery.” That’s great news, but you know what? 14,000 jobs aren’t nearly enough to meet the needs of Brooklyn. We need MORE jobs, jobs, jobs right here, right now. You’ll hear me say that a lot tonight, because as far as I’m concerned, for elected officials, jobs should be “job one.”
That’s why I’m setting aside over one million dollars in capital funds and working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and its president, Seth Pinsky, to develop a “business incubator” in one of Brooklyn’s economically challenged areas. By the way, Seth, congratulations on your engagement to Angela Sung. I’d say you got the better end of the deal!
In partnership with the Small Business Administration and the Brooklyn SBA resource partners, we organized a “meet the lenders” event at Borough Hall. It gave me an opportunity to “make a shidduchs.” Roughly translated from Yiddish, that means I played matchmaker, introducing Brooklyn’s small business owners to the lenders who could help their businesses grow.
We are also planning a job fair in collaboration with the outstanding Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Workforce One, Grant Associates, Arbor Education and Training and the Department of Labor. We’ll have more details on that very soon. The Brooklyn Chamber does so much to bolster businesses, from planning Brooklyn Designs, an event that proves that Brooklyn is now the design capital of the world, to Brooklyn HealthWorks, a group insurance program for small businesses. I want to thank Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carl Hum and a dear friend, the outstanding Chairman of the Board, Mr. Peter Meyer. Carl and Peter, please stand.
I also want to congratulate our former Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president Kenneth Adams, a Cobble Hill resident who Governor Cuomo just named to the highest-ranking economic position in the state.
Now, when we say we care about jobs, jobs, jobs, we are not forgetting our teens. That’s why every year we sponsor the Summer Heat program, which last year helped 115 Brooklyn youths find summer employment. These are real jobs—jobs that teach marketable skills, jobs that require discipline and focus, jobs that set the stage for these young Brooklynites to have a strong work ethic and thrive in the job market when they become adults.
Let me just say that the only way we can stay competitive on the world stage is if we speak the language of business. And even though English remains an international language, our children need to be taught languages like Mandarin, Arabic and Korean, to name a few, to thrive in our globalized economy. We should take our cue from South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, who recently complained that Korean parents are too demanding. Why? Because they want their kids to start learning English in the first grade, rather than the second.
Of course, we also have to make sure these kids have jobs when they grow up, which means rejuvenating America’s industrial base and stemming the tide of jobs migrating overseas. I’m proud that Brooklyn is doing its part to change this situation. That’s why I have supported the efforts of the innovative light industrial companies at the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center in East Williamsburg. Kudos to Brian Coleman, CEO of GMDC.
2010 was the year that one of Brooklyn’s most cherished dreams came true.
[photo of Brooklyn Decker with BP Markowitz]
I’m talking about supermodel Brooklyn Decker, Esquire magazine’s “sexiest woman alive”—whose dream, I am sure, was to have a date with yours truly—as seen here in a photo that appeared in the New York Post Page Six Magazine. By the way, Brooklyn Decker really does live in Brooklyn, in DUMBO, which is nowhere near my neighborhood, Windsor Terrace. So you’ve got nothing to worry about, Jamie!
Now, you might think I’d be no match for Brooklyn’s husband, tennis pro Andy Roddick. But I’m telling you, once I craned my neck enough to look into her eyes, I really felt a connection, and I am the perfect size for her if she needs an arm rest! Okay, perhaps I’m the one who’s dreaming!
Seriously, though, 2010 was the year that one of the grandest visions for Brooklyn finally became a reality. After seven years of planning and legal fights, construction on the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project finally got underway, which means thousands of union jobs and an anchor for a rejuvenated Downtown. Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Barclays Center will not only be the home of the Brooklyn Nets, who will mop up the floor with the Manhattan Knicks, it will also host the kind of events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy. But it’s not just about the arena; the affordable housing built nearby will help make sure that Brooklyn remains proud home to everyone from everywhere.
In every direction in Downtown Brooklyn, you see it becoming even more of a 24/7 live-work environment for the 21st century, and a place where people from all over Brooklyn can find good jobs, jobs, jobs. Thousands of new apartment units and hotel rooms are being created. Piers 1 and 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park are now open, with much more to come later this year. Already it is the most talked-about park in the city and a “must see” tourist destination, with absolutely stunning views of the “outer borough” of Manhattan.
After decades of stops and starts, the opening of the park is more proof that if you want a job done right, you gotta have a woman do it. So thank you, Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation. Regina, please stand.
And of course, thank you to Jane Walentas, for donating the beautiful 1920’s-era carousel that will open in the park later this spring. Jane, I know finding and restoring this priceless piece of Americana has been your passion, and thank you for sharing that passion by giving this wonderful gift to Brooklyn. Of course, I know that your true passion is your family—your husband Dave and your son Jed. Jane, please stand.
As everyone knows, DUMBO is one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. And I was thrilled to join pop icon Beyoncé last fall at the opening of the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center at Phoenix House, an organization that helps women and men fighting addiction (I must tell you, Jay-Z was a little jealous of the picture on the right!). Beyoncé is providing a way for people to get back on their feet and learn a new career in the process. Now that’s what I call the “Brooklyn attitude!”
After too many years of decline, Fulton Mall is undergoing a historic transformation. This area brings back so many memories for me, and I’m sure for many of you here tonight who are of a “certain age.” I can still remember my mother dragging me to stores like Mays, Martin’s, E.J. Korvette, A&S, Chock Full o’ Nuts and Needicks. Today, we’re thrilled to welcome the likes of Aéropostale as well as, coming soon, Filene’s/Syms and H&M, and nearby, on Adams Street, Panera Bread. Macy’s, the flagship of the Fulton Mall for many years, has committed to renovating and upgrading its facade.
Elsewhere in Downtown, we now have a Barney’s Co-op and of course, the trailblazer—Morton’s the Steakhouse, whose executive chef, Bay Ridge resident Joe Rayola recently won the Food Network’s cooking show “Chopped.” Congrats, Joe. And hola, Lola! Joe, please stand.
I’ve supported a $15 million streetscape project for Fulton Mall that includes repairing sidewalks, adding new public seating and repaving roads, because I believe we can once again make it New York City’s most prized shopping district, an eclectic and dynamic commercial strip that reflects the diversity of Brooklyn. And I knew what would be the perfect gateway to the new Fulton Mall. So working closely with the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and President Joe Chan, we convinced restaurateur Danny Meyer to open a Brooklyn outpost of his famed burger joint, Shake Shack.
As borough president, I am committed to help every new business boost our local economy. Therefore, I pledge to join the long lines in front of Shake Shack anytime I can. Sorry, Jamie, I know it violates my diet, but what can I say? I’m doing it for Brooklyn!
Across from Borough Hall, we have a dream for the Municipal Building at 210 Joralemon Street. The building’s ground floor will soon be available for retail, and I know what store would truly be the “apple” of my eye. We couldn’t have made this happen without Mayor Bloomberg and deputy mayors Robert Steel and Stephen Goldsmith. Robert Steel is with us today. Thank you Deputy Mayor Steel for all you do for Brooklyn. Please stand.
For truly putting downtown “on the map,” I want to thank the MetroTech BID and executive director Mike Weiss. He took the lead in implementing the Downtown Brooklyn way finding sign system, a series of signs and kiosks that direct visitors to places of interest around Downtown. Thank you, Mike.
For years, I’ve been urging large companies to consider moving their back offices to Downtown Brooklyn, but I’ve changed my tune. Brooklyn is no longer just for back offices. Companies like El Diario, the largest Spanish language daily in the country, and UniWorld, an ad agency that wrote the book on marketing toward the African American community, have already moved their full operations from Manhattan to MetroTech. UniWorld’s president, Byron Lewis, a true visionary in the advertising industry, is with us tonight. Byron, please stand.
As we speak, dynamic companies like Panasonic are considering a move to Brooklyn. I’d like to address Panasonic now, if I may. With all due respect, how can Secaucus or Newark ever hold a candle to Brooklyn? If you moved here, Panasonic would immediately become Brooklyn’s signature company. We wouldn’t just be Kings County anymore, we’d be Panasonic County. Because just as Panasonic stands for “ideas for life,” there is no better “idea” than giving your 950 employees a new “life” on the big stage—Brooklyn, USA.”
Brooklyn remains the creative epicenter of New York City, with more artists, writers, dancers and filmmakers per square inch than anywhere in the country. And sometimes the arts are a family affair! Shaakir and Naazir Muhammad of Flatbush are 13-year-old twin brothers and classical ballet dancers who trained for five years with the Brooklyn Ballet, and then endured a grueling audition for the prestigious American Ballet Theater. They did so well they each received full scholarships. Naazir and Shaakir, please stand.
The Brooklyn Ballet is just one of the many Brooklyn arts organizations I have been proud to support, from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the Mark Morris Dance Company, Issue Project Room, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Irondale and Smack Melon. And the hits keep on comin’. We welcome, from the outer borough of Manhattan, the nationally celebrated American Documentary and Roulette.
A few blocks up, the BAM Cultural District will be home to a new performing arts center for Theatre for a New Audience, one of America’s most renowned Shakespeare companies, which has moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn (are you starting to see a pattern here?). The District will also be the site of a new facility that will house BRIC Arts and Urban Glass. And congratulations to St. Ann’s Warehouse, which we hope will find a new home at the Tobacco Warehouse.
The arts in Brooklyn enrich our lives in so many ways, including reminding us of our history and cultural heritage. No place does that better than the Weeksville Heritage Center in North Crown Heights, one of the city’s most beloved landmarks for African American history. That’s why I was so proud to support the construction of Weeksville’s Education and Cultural Arts Building, which will open this year. Kudos to executive director Pam Green.
We also value the arts because of the large number of jobs, jobs, jobs they create in Brooklyn. A perfect case in point is the Gowanus neighborhood, which has become Brooklyn’s most recent artistic hotbed. Music clubs like the Bell House, galleries like Proteus Gowanus and performance spaces like Littlefield are breathing new life into this neighborhood. Businesses are realizing that a neighborhood filled with artists, artisans and small manufacturers is a perfect place to set up shop. Sure, we’ve attracted great large businesses such as Brooklyn’s first Whole Foods market, which will break ground later this year. But Gowanus even has Brooklyn Boulders, for meshuganahs who are into rock climbing.
[photo of BP Markowitz climbing at Brooklyn Boulders]
In case you were wondering, I’m not one of them. This picture was posed. You know that song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough?” Well, this is high enough for me!
THE BROOKLYN BRAND
It has been clear for several years that Brooklyn is now a brand unto itself. But what does that brand represent? NBC news anchor Brian Williams had a humorous take on the concept during a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show with Joe Scarborough. Let’s take a look.
[Video of Brian Williams joking about New York Times discovering Brooklyn]
He’s right. If you’re looking for anything artisanal, sustainable, locally grown or made by hand, Brooklyn’s got it. And now, so does the world. The Brooklyn brand is available from the shores of Manhattan, home of the Brooklyneer bar, which carries Brooklyn-made foods, to Tokyo, where you’ll find the new Brooklyn Parlor, serving up beers from Brooklyn Brewery and a genuine Brooklyn Burger.
And they “absolutely” value the Brooklyn brand in Sweden, home of Absolut vodka. When the company decided to market a New York-themed vodka, they didn’t choose Absolut Bronx (sorry, Ruben!) or Absolut Queens. Nope, they went with Absolut Brooklyn, using a bottle designed by Brooklyn’s own Spike Lee.
It’s official: there is no more desirable place to live in New York City than Brooklyn. In New York Magazine’s recent list of the most livable neighborhoods in New York, ten of the top 20 were in Brooklyn (Park Slope topped the citywide list, which I am sure had nothing to do with me moving out of the neighborhood and into Windsor Terrace). Only five Manhattan neighborhoods made the top 20. I’d like to send my regrets to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer—sorry, Scott—but congratulations on your recent marriage!
New residents arrive in the promised land of Brooklyn every day, and we welcome them all. But with all the development going on in Brooklyn, I’ve made it a priority to make sure it includes as much affordable housing as possible, as well as amenities such as supermarkets, since so many Brooklynites do not live within walking distance of a full-service market.
For example, 2010 was the year that “Domi-no” became “Domi-yes.” The classic Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg is being converted to residential use—and how sweet it is! I called on the developers to include affordable housing in their plans, as well as a supermarket and a school. Thank you, Mike Lappin, president and CEO of CPC, for making this vision a reality. Please stand.
Also in Williamsburg, I am supporting creation of the Northside Town Hall and Community Center in a former firehouse. For their hard work in helping to make this happen, I want to congratulate Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and the People’s Firehouse.
As a proud native of Crown Heights, I was excited to broker a deal between the city and private developers to make sure Tivoli Towers was not removed from the Mitchell-Lama program. I also worked with tenants rights advocates to improve services at Tivoli because the buildings were in great need of upgrades and improved elevator service.
One of the largest capital projects in public housing history is about to happen in Brooklyn: the re-visioning of Prospect Plaza in Ocean Hill-Brownsville. I was able to take the lead in making sure that the plans centered around maintaining permanent affordability.
The capital funding I have allocated in the last year has helped preserve or create almost 2,500 units of affordable housing in Brownsville, East New York, Bed-Stuy and Spring Creek. And nearby, in East New York, Gateway Estates—the largest development in Brooklyn and already the largest shopping area in the Metro New York region—continues to take shape. Gateway 2 promises to make the retail community more vibrant, more diverse, more convenient and better able to serve the needs of Brooklyn neighborhoods.
And you know what that means—say it with me—jobs, jobs, jobs!
Brooklyn is a tourist destination in its own right, not merely a day trip for people staying in Manhattan. Just ask the 15 million tourists who visited Brooklyn last year or the residents of the 57 countries who stopped by the Brooklyn Tourism Center in Borough Hall. In fact, next Tuesday, a very special tourist of one of my favorite countries, Turkey, will be in Brooklyn, at Borough Hall, for the first time. He’s the mayor of Istanbul—one of the world’s greatest cities with a population of 12 million, a city that truly unites East and West—Dr. Kadir Topbaş. Thanks, Consul General Samsar. As we all know, Brooklyn has the largest Turkish population by county in the United States. And I am confident that in the days to come, Brooklyn will become a prime destination for Turkish tourists.
Tourism is New York City’s fifth largest industry, responsible for creating and sustaining thousands of jobs, jobs, jobs, and Brooklyn is leading the way. So it’s no surprise that last month, when Mayor Bloomberg announced that in 2010 the city experienced record numbers of tourists, he did so at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which under the leadership of president Scot Medbury, continues to be one of the City’s most popular attractions, and one of the most beautiful public gardens in the world.
Or better yet, ask the people behind all the new hotels that recently opened, such as the Condor, a “kosher hotel” in Williamsburg that serves the needs of Hasidim and Orthodox Jews but caters to everyone! We’re joined tonight by Condor co-owners Zalman Glauber and Zelig Weiss.
Or how about the Best Western Prospect Park which, despite its name, is nowhere near Prospect Park, but rather in Greenwood Heights. Or the Best Western Arena Hotel—you can tell by the name that they are positioned to capitalize on events at the Barclays Center. Or the Fairfield Inn, opening April 1st on Third Avenue. And, of course, the Sheraton Brooklyn New York on Duffield Street, which will soon anchor a Downtown “Hotel Row,” with the Aloft Hotel opening next door this summer and, later this year, a V-3 hotel across the street.
These hotels provide hundreds of well-paying jobs for Brooklyn but we also need hotels because of the increasing number of business travelers and, of course, the sheer number of events that attract visitors from all over the world. From the granddaddy of them all, the West Indian American Day Carnival on Eastern Parkway, recently named one of New York City’s top five attractions by Biz-Bash to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the official start of summer in New York City, where the best dressed are the least dressed—which means the rest of us are blessed!
And we are especially proud of our very own Brooklyn Book Festival, held every September, which has, in just five years, become the most popular one-day book fest in the country. 2010’s lineup of authors was the most diverse yet, featuring everyone from Venus Williams to Paul Krugman to Salman Rushdie. And just look at the crowd that braved the rain to see nice Jewish girl Sarah Silverman.
I have a feeling that in a few years one of the star attractions at the Brooklyn Book Festival will be a young man who hails from Bushwick. Twelve-year-old Louis Ramirez wrote a play called “The Basketball Team” for Fidelity Future Stage, a program that encourages school-aged kids to get involved in theater. Not only was his play one of five selected from 65 others, but Louis became the youngest person to have his work performed on Broadway. Louis, please stand. What a future you’ve got in store for you!
We’re already the “borough of festivals,” and now it’s time to make Brooklyn the “borough of conferences.” Hey, we’ve got the hotel space, we’ve got the restaurants, and in 2012 we’ll have a world-class arena. And just think of all that conference attendees would have at their fingertips. Places like Brooklyn Museum, the second largest art museum in the city, and its neighbors: the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Jewish Children’s Museum, as well as the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, where you can enjoy a glass of wine on the beautiful plaza or visit the new information commons that is coming soon.
And of course, the New York Aquarium, currently building a massive shark exhibit. Thank you to City Council Member Domenic Recchia. Domenic, it must be nice to work with sharks in their natural habitat, as opposed to those who roam the halls of government! The Aquarium is part of a massive revitalization project going on at Coney Island, which this summer saw more visitors than any time in decades.
In 2010, a new revamped Luna Park opened. Mille grazie to Central Amusement International and Valerio Ferrari. Last year, 400,000 people visited Luna Park, taking more than 1.5 million rides and creating more than 200 jobs, which were filled overwhelmingly by Coney Island residents. We look forward to your new park opening this season, the “Scream Zone,” featuring new rides like Turbo Force, American Eagle and the Human Slingshot. And yes, as the Mayor said in his “State of the City” address last month, I have volunteered to take a test ride on the Human Slingshot. But only on one condition: Mr. Mayor, you must provide me with a big pile of your money to break my fall!
Luna Park is not by any means the only Coney Island success story. Last summer, for the second season, Coney Island hosted the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Alongside Mayor Bloomberg, I celebrated the re-opening of the legendary Totonno’s Pizzeria, which had been closed following a fire in 2009. A new YMCA and affordable housing will be built near Sea Gate on Surf Avenue. And we’re thrilled that the Shore Theater, which we hope will open soon, has just received landmark status. The only other thing that could make Coney Island better next season is if the Brooklyn Cyclones defeat their arch-rivals, the Staten Island Yankees.
And of course, in a few short years the beautiful new amphitheatre at Asser Levy Park will ensure that there will always be music at Coney Island. Thank you, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benape and David Burney, commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction. And efcharisto, Haeda Mihaltses! As you know, I’ve hosted the free Seaside Summer Concert Series for 32 years and the Martin Luther King Series in Crown Heights for 28 years. Since 1991, Asser Levy Park has been the site of the Seaside Concerts. I’ve seen how much joy live music can provide and how much it brings people together.
I know when the renovation of the park is completed, this free live music experience will be even better for more New Yorkers for many years to come. But I’m even prouder that these improvements mean that the surrounding community will be getting one of the most stunning parks in New York City, with a unique playground, beautiful new landscaping and a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Another part of the “Old Brooklyn” we’re bringing back is the Loew’s Kings Theater. When it closed in 1977, it was the last of Brooklyn’s great movie palaces, as well as the site of hundreds of high school graduations over the years, including mine. And I’m so proud to say that after years of planning, architects and contractors are involved in the first stages of renovation.
Thanks to the cooperation and assistance of our neighbors at the Flatbush Center Mall, we have taken another giant step toward consolidating the property required to turn this theater into a state-of-the-art 21st century performance venue. I want to thank Harry and Alex Adjmi, as well as Marc Gurell. You are helping to transform the Loew’s Kings into our Apollo, our Beacon Theater, the pride of Flatbush and all of Brooklyn.
Brooklyn has been a destination for foodies for years, but last year our restaurant scene truly hit the big time. Brooklyn Table, which is part of the Brooklyn Fare supermarket, became the first eatery in the borough to receive a rarely-given “two-star” rating from the Michelin guide, which calls it one of the 300 best restaurants in the world.
Of course, our restaurants provide thousands of jobs, jobs, jobs, which is why we support the restaurant scene by organizing the Dine in Brooklyn campaign, when restaurants from across the borough showcase their best dishes for diners who come from across the entire metropolitan area. Last year, Dine in Brooklyn attracted more than 200 restaurants, and this year’s promotion, which runs from March 21st to 31st, promises to be an even bigger draw.
We have with us tonight part of a husband and wife team who have become the pied pipers of Brooklyn’s culinary scene. Brendan and Melissa Vaughan’s “New Brooklyn Cookbook” brings together recipes from such eateries as Park Slope’s Al di Là, Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens and The Good Fork in Red Hook. Please welcome Park Sloper Melissa Vaughan, co-author of “The New Brooklyn Cookbook.” Melissa, please stand.
Brooklyn has always been celebrated for its breweries, so congratulations to the Brooklyn Brewery, who this month will break ground on a major expansion of its facility in Williamsburg. And today Brooklyn is even the source of fine wines, with places like the Brooklyn Winery and Brooklyn Oenology—both in Williamsburg—producing noteworthy wines using grapes grown in New York State. At the Brooklyn Winery, you can even make your own wine!
But perhaps the biggest proof that Brooklyn knows its Prosecco from its pinot noir is that Tom Matthews, the executive editor of America’s premier wine magazine, “The Wine Spectator,” calls Windsor Terrace home. That’s right, not Italy, France or Napa Valley, but right here in Brooklyn, USA. Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Matthews, please stand.
Last year we were able to expand our Shop Brooklyn campaign to help local businesses because, after all, they are the prime generators of jobs, jobs, jobs. Now in its second year, we had over 750 stores participating, an increase of over 200 since 2009. We keep Shop Brooklyn going all year round; in addition to the Christmas season, we also have promotions linked to Valentine’s Day and the back-to-school weeks.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, BROOKLYN!
This year left no doubt that when it comes to film and television, Brooklyn is “Hollywood East.” We want to congratulate Terence Winter, creator of the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire” and a proud son of Marine Park, as well as the show’s star, Park Sloper Steve Buscemi for winning two Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guild awards. Most of “Boardwalk Empire” was shot in Greenpoint and at Steiner Studios in the Navy Yard; a few scenes were even shot in Borough Hall! (What, you thought that was Atlantic City? —it’s Brooklyn, baby!)
And to complete the Brooklyn pedigree, the show’s period costumes were made by Brooklyn’s own designer to the stars, Martin Greenfield. Let me tell you, I would love to own a Greenfield suit, but even if there were a discount for city employees, I still couldn’t afford one! Please welcome a true Brooklyn treasure, Martin Greenfield. Martin, please stand.
Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock have been filming “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” at the former Vitagraph studios in Midwood, now known as J.C. Studios, while the new TV show “Blue Bloods” is filming at Broadway Stages in Williamsburg and also in Bay Ridge and other parts of Brooklyn.
And forget Virginia, it’s Brooklyn that’s for lovers. Why else would the Playboy Channel create a new reality series about the sex lives of local couples called “Brooklyn Kinda Love”? The show prompted the Daily News to write in an editorial: “please, we’re begging, no shots of Borough President Marty Markowitz or State Senator Carl Kruger.” Well, let me just say this to the Daily News: it is a pleasure to agree with you for once!
But you know what? As glamorous as this industry is, it’s not about the stars; it’s about the economic activity it creates in Brooklyn, from the crew members working on sets to the local businesses nearby. In fact, later this year, Steiner Studios will break ground on new space that will double its size and create 1,200 jobs. Brooklyn College plans to open a film school at Steiner, making it the only graduate film program in the country to be incorporated into a working movie-studio lot. Kudos to Doug Steiner and Steiner Studios and Brooklyn College president Karen Gould, who is with us tonight. Karen, please stand.
2010 was the year we were thrilled to “welcome back” a piece of Brooklyn history. I’m talking about the “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign featured in the opening of “Welcome Back, Kotter,” currently celebrating its 35th anniversary. We unveiled this famous sign at Borough Hall, where I was joined by former Brooklyn Borough President Sebastian “Sam” Leone and Nino Russo, owner of Coney Island’s landmark Gargiulo’s Restaurant. The Russo and De Angelis families had the sign in their restaurant’s basement for many years, and thanks to them, it’s now on display at Borough Hall. Thank you, Nino. Please stand.
As I’m sure you noticed, I made my entrance tonight on what I like to my senior cycle, so I hope you understand that I am not against bicycles. I’m not even against bike lanes. I’ve supported their creation around Brooklyn, including 9th street near Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Greenway that runs from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.
But for the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport, and unfortunately that’s the direction I believe the City’s policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars!
Cycling is no substitute for mass transit, and there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives. But of course, we must have a comprehensive plan that insures the safety of drivers, walkers and cyclists. And we should all remember to show respect to one another—drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, everybody who uses our streets. I have been a vocal critic of the Prospect Park West bike lane because I think it is a perfect example of how not to install a bike lane. It has disrupted the aesthetics of one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful thoroughfares and made it more dangerous to cross the street safely, especially for seniors, young children and parents with strollers.
Brooklyn is hands down the greenest borough in New York City, showing the rest of the world what it means to live a sustainable lifestyle. The Navy Yard’s green manufacturing center is filled with companies who prove that businesses that go green will be rewarded with lots of “green,” which means more jobs! Kudos to Navy Yard President Andrew Kimball. And by the way Andrew, we all look forward to the Navy Yard’s brand new museum and visitors center, which I was pleased to support, opening later this year. Andrew, please stand. Speaking of jobs for the Navy Yard, I can’t think of a better place in the City for a university to place an applied science research facility, as the Mayor recently called for.
Rooftop farms have sprouted up in Greenpoint and Bushwick and community gardens thrive in Red Hook and Bed-Stuy. And I was so proud to support the “edible garden” at P.S. 216 in Gravesend, the first four-season project developed as part of the “edible schoolyard” program created by the famous Bay Area restaurateur Alice Waters. The garden proves that environmental consciousness begins in grade school. At the ribbon-cutting for the edible garden last fall, I couldn’t figure out why all the women in the crowd kept looking my way. Well, it turned out I was standing right in front of actor Jake Gyllenhaal—who helps raise funds for the program—and I didn’t even recognize him!
As for our parks, well, is there any question that Prospect Park is the most beautiful urban park in the country? Thousands of people have made the park what it is, but one really stands out: Tupper Thomas. I can tell you that before Tupper founded the Prospect Park Alliance, the park had fallen on hard times. Tupper and the Alliance turned that park around, so when she announced her retirement last year, it felt like the end of an era.
But Tupper is leaving a gift for all of Brooklyn: the Lakeside Project at Prospect Park. When it is finished, it will include two new skating rinks, the renovation of 26 acres of parkland and the restoration of five acres to the lake. I was proud to support it, but to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t dare say no to Tupper! Tupper, thank you for all you’ve done. You’ve made a huge difference and proved time and again that “Tupps is tops.” Please stand. We will miss Tupper, but I know that with Park Sloper Emily Lloyd taking the reins, Prospect Park will be in good hands and green thumbs. Emily, welcome aboard.
Last year, we also bade farewell to Brooklyn Parks Commissioner and proud Bay Ridge resident Julius Spiegel, who retired, even though he’s younger than me! Julie may hail from Montreal and favor smoked meat, while I’m a Brooklyn boy who prefers pastrami, but I can tell you that nobody has a better understanding of Brooklyn’s park-related needs. Who else would have had the foresight to open the City’s first dedicated cricket field, at Canarsie Park, knowing how important the sport is to many communities? And who else would have had such a grand vision for the reconstruction of the beautiful McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg and Greenpoint? Julie, thank you for your service. Please stand. Julie has passed the baton to Crown Heights resident Kevin Jeffrey who, as parks commissioner, I know will carry on the proud Brooklyn tradition of making the other boroughs “green with envy” over our parks.
Because we believe every inch of our waterway is precious, I was proud to join the chorus of voices that finally got the federal government to declare Newtown Creek a Superfund site. For their tireless efforts to make this happen, I want to thank Riverkeeper and executive director Paul Gallay. Riverkeeper’s Phillip Musegaas is with us tonight. Phillip, please stand.
I also want to thank the Brooklyn Borough Board for working with me to improve the City’s comprehensive plan for the more than 500 miles of New York City waterfront. Of course, parts of our waterfront must remain home to well-paying jobs, which is why I am thrilled that Phoenix Beverages, which distributes Heineken, Guinness, Brooklyn Brewery beers and many other brands, is expanding on piers 7 and 11 in Red Hook, and will employ over 600 people.
And speaking of saving our waterways, last year I joined the fight to save the “Double D” community pool in Boerum Hill. In fact, I said if the pool were to remain open, I would appear at a press conference shirtless. Now, I firmly believe politicians should keep their promises, but I doubt very much that anyone is complaining that I backed out of this one!
However, I am “tree-mendously” proud that in 2010 we kept our promise to find innovative ways to further Mayor Bloomberg’s Million Trees NYC program. So far, we have distributed 8,000 tree guards on over 400 residential blocks in our Brooklyn neighborhoods, with more on the way.
Our education-related initiatives this year included convening two successful “Breakfast at Borough Hall” programs that brought together parents and leaders from charter and district schools. We continued our Brooklyn Parent Academy, free events and classes that teach parents things like how to manage money wisely. We were the first in the City to appoint a charter school parent to the Community Education Council.
And just recently, we received some very exciting news about Paul Robeson High School in North Crown Heights, one of the most economically challenged communities in Brooklyn. I fought against the Department of Education’s plans to close Robeson last year, and now I’m even more glad that I did. Paul Robeson will soon be the site of a technology-themed high school underwritten by IBM. This new school will allow students from this community to go from 9th grade through two years of college, in a program designed by the New York City College of Technology.
The message this sends to students in the neighborhood is: You deserve the best! You deserve to have all the tools necessary to reach the zenith of your God-given potential. Now don’t mess up! This just goes to show what I’ve always said: “before you close schools, invest in them!” Russell Hotzler, president of City Tech, is with us tonight. Russell, thank you. And I want you to know I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. So I call on IBM and City Tech to bring me a proposal, and I’ll allocate capital funds to make this program even better!
We have another Brooklyn educational success story with us tonight. Celeste Douglas, the forward thinking principal of M.S. 57, the Ron Brown Academy in Bed-Stuy, transformed her school from one of the lowest-scoring schools in the City into one with 91 percent attendance and rising tests scores. This educator says what made the difference was bringing music, art and theater back into her classrooms. Celeste, congratulations on finding creative ways to open and enrich young minds. Please stand.
Brooklyn is currently undergoing a major demographic shift. Baby Boomers are the fastest growing segment of our population, which means we will soon have an even larger population of seniors. Take me, for instance. I am looking forward to receiving my first Social Security check next month!
We’ve been doing all we can to fight cuts in the City’s Access-A-Ride program, cuts that have left seniors and people with disabilities without access to public transportation. We’ve been working with the Brooklyn Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center to expand and enhance services to the growing number of Brooklynites who have or are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Tonight, I have a message for developers: we need to build more affordable housing and assisted living facilities for seniors. And let’s also build housing for adults who are 55 and over, so that nobody has to move to New Jersey to live an active lifestyle. Because today’s seniors, and “seniors-to-be,” are active.
We have here tonight someone who gives new meaning to the words “young at heart.” At a spry 96, Crown Heights resident Adele Trapp has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Her claim to fame? She’s the longest serving den mother, with 53 years under her cap serving Bed-Stuy’s Cub Scout Pack 263! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a real “trooper,” Adele Trapp!
I believe in celebrating true love, which is why every year we sponsor the Brooklyn Sweethearts Celebration, a tribute to couples who have been married for 50 years or more, at which my wife and I renew these couples’ vows. And remember—only one marriage counts! This year’s celebration falls appropriately on Valentine’s Day, February 14, at Mill Basin’s El Caribe Country Club and we’re thrilled that two of our Brooklyn sweethearts are here with us tonight.
It seems like everyone in Bensonhurst knows of Maddalena and Fortunato Corso, fixtures of the neighborhood for 48 years. The Corsos met when they were teenagers in the old country—San Giovanni, Italy—and tied the knot in 1941, which means they’ll be celebrating their 70th anniversary this year. Seven children, 18 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren later, the Corsos prove that marriage is a true partnership. Especially, Maddalena says, if the man does all the hard work and you never go to bed mad. Please welcome Maddalena and Fortunato Corso.
From this long-married couple we turn to one of the most inspiring Brooklyn newlywed stories of 2010. Matthew Turner and Emily Grant, who couldn’t be with us tonight, are both captains in the United States Marines in active duty. Although they grew up half-a-block away from each other in Brooklyn Heights, they didn’t meet until they were both serving America in Fallujah, Iraq. True love blossomed, and last year they were married in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is one of the most diverse places on earth, where there is no place for intolerance and no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or any other “ism.” We celebrate religious expression. So I jumped at the chance to celebrate Mother Teresa’s one hundredth birthday by lighting Borough Hall in blue and white. When the Empire State Building said no, Brooklyn said yes!
Brooklyn has one of the most vocal, active LGBT communities anywhere in the country, and we have one of the largest lesbian communities anywhere in the United States. So I’m proud to say that plans are moving along to create a home for the Brooklyn Community Pride Center. Now it’s time for Albany to pass a marriage equality law—let’s get it done now! After all, love is love!
In this economic downturn, healthcare institutions are struggling to stay afloat, so I was proud that we were able to do our part to help keep open the financially troubled Long Island College Hospital, which will merge with SUNY Downstate Medical Center. For the 9th consecutive year, I held my Take your Man to the Doctor event, as well as our Lighten Up, Brooklyn weight loss campaign which, as we all know, is a lifelong challenge. Believe me, it’s a battle I fight every day!
We are also doing our part to tackle the AIDS epidemic which, I am sad to say, is higher in Central Brooklyn than just about any other part of the country. We were a proud partner of the “Brooklyn Knows HIV initiative and participated in World Aids Day by hosting an event that offered free HIV testing at Borough Hall. The event was organized by Malaak Compton Rock—the better half of the power couple that also includes Brooklyn native Chris Rock—and featured other celebrities, including actresses Gabrielle Union and the Brooklyn-born Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe, the star of the movie “Precious.” I’d say it was not only a “model” for other public health events—it was a “supermodel!”
[photo of BP Markowitz with Christy Turlington-Burns]
Yes, that’s me posing with another famous model at our World AIDS Day event, Christy Turlington-Burns. What can I say? There are certain pleasures in my job that are not indictable. And I think when you look at the pictures of me with Brooklyn Decker, and Beyoncé and Christy Turlington, you can only reach one conclusion: tall women have a thing for short, chubby guys!
With all we have to celebrate in Brooklyn, we also pause to recall those we lost this past year, among them: Visionary educator Saul Bruckner, founding principal of Edward R. Murrow high school; extraordinary public servant and Democratic Party leader Bernard Catcher; the esteemed former consul general of Haiti and the director of the Haitian Centers Council, Dr. Henry Frank; Dr. Harvey Garner, a former New York City schools chancellor and long-time superintendent of District 18 in Canarsie; the beloved Bed-Stuy-born Grammy, Emmy and Tony-winning singer, actress and civil rights activist, Miss Lena Horne; and Dr. Irene Impellizzeri, an educator and a former dean of Brooklyn College, as well as a member of the New York City Board of Education for 22 years.
You may remember the popular group the Brooklyn Bridge, and this year we lost lead singer Johnny Maestro, who appeared at my concerts many times over the years. We also lost role model Reggie Nero, who imparted the valuable lessons of sports to kids through basketball and youth activities at Wingate Field. We lost Jerry O’Shea, who was passionately committed to tenants’ rights as the long time executive director of the Brooklyn Housing and Family Services, formerly known as the Flatbush Tenants Council, which I founded in 1971.
As well as pillars of the community like tenants rights activist Paul Podhaizer, president of the Brightwater Towers Tenants Association for more than 25 years; William “Bill” Saunders, a former state committee member and district leader of the 57th Assembly District; and we mourn the passing of former nine-term Democratic Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, who represented Brooklyn so well for 18 years, and whose specialty was foreign affairs and safeguarding the security of Israel.
Now let’s pause for a moment of silence as we remember all those we lost last year.
[scroll of late Brooklynites runs]
This is the part of the speech I really look forward to, and I bet you do, too, since it means we’re nearing the end! Seriously, though, this is where I get a chance to shine a light on some Brooklynites whose drive, savvy, intellect and most important of all, “Brooklyn attitude,” have resulted in some very notable achievements.
We begin with the Brooklyn Community Foundation “Do-Gooders”: Chinita Pointer of the Noel Pointer Foundation; Sharon Content of Children of Promise NYC; Moorad Awada of the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park; Dr. Melony Samuels of the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger; Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York; and Chip Cafiero of Shore Road Park Conservancy. Let’s have a big round of applause for Brooklyn’s Do-Gooders. Please stand.
Last fall, two FDNY EMTs, Delano Williams and Brownsville resident Rheinhold Danglade, heard a young woman yell for help after a robber stole her cell phone. Both men took off after the culprit, caught him and held him down until the cops came. Kudos to Delano and Rheinhold for being not just New York’s Bravest, but among Brooklyn’s most heroic! Please stand.
We all know that in Brooklyn, we like to do things up big. But when Kensington resident John Zambito says “big,” you may think he’s out of his gourd. The pumpkin John grew from seed weighed in at a scale-busting 502 pounds! Please welcome the man with the orange thumb, who knows how to celebrate Halloween Brooklyn-style, John Zambito! Please stand.
They say that her wedding day is the most important day in a woman’s life, and no one takes that more to heart than Bay Ridge-ite Alice Sena. For more than 25 years, Alice has made wedding days special by styling wedding gowns, mother-of-the-bride dresses and other unique garments. So when her store, Sposabella in Bay Ridge caught fire one night, Alice did what came naturally—she ran into the smoldering ruins to save the dresses! Not only did Alice save 74 gowns—dresses that she knew her customers would be heartbroken to lose—she did them one better and paid out of her own pocket to have the garments dry-cleaned. Alice Sena, please stand!
When Robin Rogers and her fiancé called the whole thing off—meaning the wedding—she could have sat down and cried. But the Queens College professor and Greenpoint resident decided to turn her breakup into a big break for the less fortunate. Instead of losing the cash the couple had already paid for a fancy reception, Robin sold off tickets to the soiree like a fund raiser and donated the proceeds—more than $13,500—to the Greenpoint Reformed Church kitchen. Robin Rogers, it was your party, you could’ve cried if you’d wanted to, but instead, you brightened the lives of others. Please stand.
New York Times bestselling authors and Clinton Hill residents, the husband-and-wife team of Andrea and Brian Pinkney, have written and illustrated about 50 children’s books between them. Their collaborations include award-winning books like “Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down” and “Duke Ellington,” a Caldecott winner and Coretta Scott King Honor book. Many of the Pinkneys’ books were among the first to present an accurate account of the cultural heritage and achievements of African Americans, particularly in children’s literature. Please welcome author Andrea Pinkney and artist and illustrator Brian Pinkney!
When it comes to texting I guess you could say our next guest is “all thumbs”! Thirteen-year-old East New Yorker Brianna Hendrickson beat eight other finalists to earn the title of “national texting champion.” Brianna’s version of “Old McDonald” clocked in at a speedy 60 seconds, and she went on to represent the U.S. in the World Cup Challenge of Texting. Brianna, when you’re old enough to drive, remember—no texting! Please stand.
Rhodes scholarships are awarded to American college students whose record of achievement and intellect allows them to receive financial support to study at Oxford University. The entire New York State region is represented by only two Rhodes Scholars, and this year, both winners have a Brooklyn pedigree. Zachary Frankel is a senior at Harvard and a lifelong resident of Brooklyn Heights who will study math and computation at Oxford. Pakistan-born Zujaja Tauqeer, a senior at Brooklyn College, will study medicine. Please welcome Rhodes Scholars Zachary and Zujaja!
Everyone knows that Brooklyn is the center of the universe, but did you know that the new Mr. Universe is a proud Guyanese Brooklyn native and pumps iron right here in Brooklyn? That’s right, Mr. Universe, aka Hugh Ross, built his brawn Brooklyn-style, in a Canarsie gym. Please welcome the winner in the Masters Over-50 Mr. Universe, Hugh Ross. Mr. Universe, show us what you got!
In the county of Kings, there’s a new reigning queen, and we are very fortunate tonight to be graced with her presence, Bensonhurst native Christina Moore, winner of the 2011 Miss Brooklyn competition! Christina is an arts administration major at Wagner College, a member of the college’s nationally ranked dance team and someone committed to making a difference in the lives of cancer victims. Now that she has been named Miss Brooklyn, she will go on to compete for the title of Miss New York. And after that win, I’m sure she’ll be on her way to being crowned Miss America. Please welcome Miss Brooklyn, Christina Moore.
Deb Malkin believes that plus-size women deserve their own source of classic clothes from all eras. Re-Dress, her Boerum Hill boutique, features vintage apparel in sizes 14 and up. When asked where she got the idea for Re-Dress, Deb said, “I created the store I’ve always wanted to shop in.” Deb, you prove that beauty comes in all sizes. Please welcome Deb Malkin.
You only have to walk around Williamsburg to know that tattoos are all the rage, but 18-year-old Steve Gordon had a great idea for a tattoo that just might save lives. It’s a temporary “tattoo i.d.,” a stamp for kids that includes their initials and contact information. Steve’s idea not only won him the 2010 Oppenheimer Fund’s youth entrepreneurship challenge but also the chance to meet President Obama. Steve Gordon, please stand. You do Brooklyn proud.
And now, the story of the year. Sabine Bellevue, who is with us tonight, is the owner of the Sabine’s Hallway hair salon in Bed-Stuy. On a recent Saturday, while the salon was filled with customers, an armed thug burst into her shop, waving his gun. “This is a robbery!” he announced. “I will kill you!” He herded everyone into the back room and began searching the beauty parlor for money. Fortunately, one of the women getting her hair done that day was an off-duty NYPD officer named Feris Jones (Jonesy to her friends), a proud resident of East New York by way of Barbados.
Jonesy thought fast. After telling the other women to lie on the floor, she stepped out of the room, aimed her gun at the perp and announced she was a cop. He turned and fired, narrowly missing her, while Jonesy squeezed off four rounds, shooting the gun out of his hand and wounding him. He turned and fled, and the cops caught up with him by following his trail of blood.
All of Brooklyn is grateful to Detective Jones—yes, Jonesy was given what’s known as a battlefield promotion and is now a detective! Jonesy, for putting your life on the line, and saving the lives of so many others, you’ve made all of Brooklyn proud. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Sabine Bellevue and a true Brooklyn hero, Detective Feris “Jonesy” Jones!
You’ve heard of hitting the gym? Well, Stephanie Mancuso from Bensonhurst thinks women should have good, healthy fun working the pole! Stephanie brings strip-tease-style exercise to Bay Ridge at her Exotic Curves pole fitness studio, where they say the poles help build strength and muscle tone and the entire workout is done fully clothed. Stephanie, take it from here, but please, don’t take it all off!
Thank you, Stephanie, for showing us how to work that pole for better health. And now, my “poll” numbers are telling me that it is long past time I got off this stage! The reception is awaiting your presence. Thanks for being here, thanks for loving Brooklyn as much as I do. And once again, “gung hay fat choy!”