Who Made the New Brooklyn (and Who Controls the Old)

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03/16/2011 5:00 AM |

Brooklyn is the fourth-largest city in the country—as such, it is a complex place. For some, it is a throwback to the greatness of immigrant America, for others, it is the frontline of international hipster monoculture… Whatever the case, the idea of “Brooklyness” has never been more out in the world, even if it’s impossible to pin down. What follows is a look at the people who’ve created that idea, and in whose hands its future rests.


The Three Kings of Kings County

Vito Lopez

Lopez has represented Williamsburg and Bushwick in the state assembly for close to 30 years, but his real power derives from his chairmanship of the Kings County Democratic Party, which he has held for five. He might be under investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors, battling once-in-remission cancer, and under attack by a reformist wing of his party, which accuses him relentlessly of corruption (his girlfriend, for example, pulls a salary of over $300,000 from the social services agency he founded and funds in part with public money). But, hey, he’s still chair of the county party in an effectively one-party county.

Marty Markowitz

Though powerless to undo new bicycle infrastructure (phew!), Marty remains a mighty political force, by far the likeliest borough president to make a bid for city hall if/when Bloomberg’s reign ends. Brooklyn has changed dramatically since the third-term prez took office in 2001. He’s notched noble efforts in education and affordable housing, but there’s the far more substantial list of less laudatory causes Marty has championed: tearing down Admiral’s Row; turning Brooklyn from a place where people live into a brand that people buy; and a little real estate project called Atlantic Yards—he harnessed the power of denial for a recent video message courting potential Chinese investors, proclaiming: “Brooklyn is one thousand percent behind Atlantic Yards!”

Chuck Schumer

Duh! As the senior senator from New York, Schumer is perhaps the state’s most powerful politician, as well as one of the country’s. But he flexes his muscle to effect hyperlocal issues in Brooklyn, which is where he was born and where he raises his own family. His intervention in the Jelly summer concert series in Williamsburg last year was bizarre, and his wife Iris Weinshall’s participation in the oligarchic crusade against the Prospect Park West bike lane—despite her husband’s proclivity for bicycling—is downright infuriating. Keep out of it, Chuck & Co.!

The Reformer:Lincoln Restler

We’ve given plenty of ink to young Lincoln (just 27 years old at press time) because we like a good underdog story. Last year, Restler scored a surprising victory against a disciple of Big Boss Man Vito Lopez in the race for District Leader of the gentrification zone (Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Fort Greene). What kind of power does a District Leader really have? Well, it’s a bit fuzzy, but as the face of young Democratic reform in Brooklyn, Restler has a bright political career ahead of him.

Losing Power:Duh, Vito Lopez

See above, specifically: Lopez is “under investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors” and “under attack by a reformist wing of his party.” Sometimes when you squeeze too tightly, it all just slips through 
your fingers.

One Comment

  • As much as anyone I hate Lopez, Markowitz and Schumer. But Restler is not the solution. He’s not much more than a carpetbagger hipster. What’s worse, he’s part of the neo-liberal Pratt Institute that despite its rhetoric, promotes corporate welfare and huge giveaways to rich developers (via 421(a) tax abatements and so-called “inclusionary” zoning) …. which, guess what, is exactly what Vito Lopez is pushing. Whether it’s Lopez or Restler, they are pushing displacement and gentrification.