Not-for-profits controlled and created by Borough President Markowitz continue to rake in donations from companies that have benefitted from his support of controversial projects like Atlantic Yards and the cruise ship terminal in Red Hook.
The Beep also continues to transfer hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from his budget to Best of Brooklyn, a charity that Markowitz runs out of Borough Hall with staff members who are partially on the city payroll.
The appearance of ongoing cozy relationships between Markowitz and organizations with business before his office, which was exposed by The Brooklyn Paper last fall, rankled government watchdogs.
“I question why a charity needs to be established or controlled by a borough president,” said Dick Dadey, executive director Citizens Union. “They’re an inappropriate extension of their influence. They act as a quasi-campaign account for their self-promotion activities that skirt the city’s campaign finance laws.”
Dadey griped that Markowitz siphoned up to $500,000 from his own borough president’s budget to Best of Brooklyn between March and September last year, according to city records. And the charity also accepted as much as $20,000 from Princess Cruise Lines, which began docking in Red Hook after the city built a $60-million terminal after strong support from Markowitz.
At the time, the borough president said the terminal would create 370 jobs, though it only ended up creating 14 full-time positions in its first full year in 2007.
Carnival Cruise Lines, which also docks at the Red Hook Cruise Terminal, gave up to $20,000 to Markowitz’s free Seaside Summer Concert Series during the same period. The seafaring company told The Brooklyn Paper that it usually supports arts organizations where its vessels travel, but admitted that it received some perks for its contribution.
“Carnival also has a long history of supporting organizations devoted to arts and music,” the company’s spokeswoman Laura Mahle said in an e-mail. “In this particular case, not only were we provided with banner advertising, but our business development managers were also able to invite our travel agent partners as our guests to the concert.”
Forest City Ratner, the lead developer of the stalled Atlantic Yards mega-project, and its affiliated companies, funneled up to $200,000 to another Markowitz-founded charity, the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert series in East Flatbush. Those donations came on top of earlier contributions totaling between $680,000 and $1.075 million to Markowitz’s trifecta of charities.
Barclays Bank, which paid $400 million for naming rights to the proposed arena at Atlantic Yards, chipped in up to $60,000 for the concerts and has given as much as $100,000 in the last two years.
Best of Brooklyn was founded by Markowitz and runs or promotes several programs and events, including a sleep-away camp, the Dine In Brooklyn restaurant week, the popular Brooklyn Book Festival and other tourism-generating efforts.
Markowitz founded the Seaside Summer and Martin Luther King Jr. concert series in the 1980s and continues to host the performances.
Markowitz, who is running for re-election this fall, stood by the work of the charities and the businesses that support them, stating that the organization is in compliance with all regulations.
“Other public officials also have such non-profits, which are set up to encourage public-private partnership for the public good,” he said in a statement.
“The programs run by Best of Brooklyn are ambitious ones that help better the lives of residents in Brooklyn — like Summer Heat, which provides summer jobs for teens, and Camp Brooklyn, which sends low-income children to summer camp,” he continued.
He added that donations are essential to the two concert programs.
“I have been proud to support the concert series as they have grown over the past three decades into beloved Brooklyn institutions, bringing top-tier artists to play shows that many in the audience would not be able to experience if they weren’t free to the public.”
Forest City Ratner, Barclays and Princess Cruise Lines did not respond to inquiries for comment.
©2009 Community News Group
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