Farewell to a Public Servant

In a few weeks, he will vacate the office he’s held for 12 years. Term limits have finally caught up with him.  Although he must be giving credit for many notable accomplishments, more than a few people will be glad to see him go.

Yes, it’s time to say goodbye to Marty Markowitz.

Growing up, Brooklyn borough president Markowitz never had it easy. He dragged himself to night classes at Brooklyn College while working seven days a week to help support his mom and sister (his father died when he was 9, and he lived in public housing).

While Mayor Bloomberg (also finally succumbing to term limits) never cared much for mingling with the common folk, Markowitz couldn’t get enough of it. A block party, a wedding__he was there with his humor and his knife and fork.

Like the ceremonial egg cream the portly prince of Kings County smashed yearly on Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster to launch each new tourist season, Brooklyn runs in Markowitz’s blood. Born in Crown Heights, he now lives with this wife in Windsor Terrace, not far from the Barclays Center he worked hard to make a reality.

His fervent cheerleading for the Atlantic Yards-Barclay Center project created some bitter enemies who felt that he favored developers and wasn’t doing enough for affordable housing. Markowitz froze them out, as he often did to those who questioned him. But as always, he claimed he was looking out for Brooklyn’s best interests.

Markowitz championed everything from keeping senior centers open during the city’s budget crisis to introducing the Coney Island Seaside Summer Concert Series.

In 2002, he helped launch the now-iconic signs that greet visitors to the borough, including “Welcome to Brooklyn — How Sweet it is!” on the Brooklyn Bridge as well as “Leaving Brooklyn –Fuhgeddaboudit!” on the Belt Parkway approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

During the 2003 blackout, Markowitz stood on the Brooklyn Bridge with a megaphone,  greeting weary workers trudging home from Manhattan with a hearty “Welcome home to Brooklyn!” and did the same during the transit strike of 2005, inviting locals into Borough Hall for drinks and to warm up.

Markowitz had his ethical stumbles, and although many loved him, he was often polarizing. But he comes from the vanishing breed of working class, up-from-the-streets politicians that has enriched our city. Even if you hated him, you know you’ll miss him.

Enjoy Coney Island, Marty.

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