We think the borough president doth protest too much.
Last week, Borough President Markowitz used the otherwise pleasant occasion of his annual Brooklyn Book Festival to lambaste the media — particularly the New York Post and Daily News — for a spate of recent stories that revealed a) that a slush fund of public money that he controls intentionally skirts city scrutiny; b) that his years of shilling for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from Ratner to that slush fund; and c) his “busy” schedule is filled largely with ceremonial events.
At the Sept. 14 book event, Markowitz was on stage with legendary Brooklyn-raised author Pete Hamill, who asked, “What’s the most surprising thing you learned … about the nature of the job, the nature of Brooklyn?”
The answer to the innocuous question — a full transcript of which is on the excellent Web site, the Atlantic Yards Report — is pure Markowitz in its anger and vindictiveness towards the media.
“Today, when press calls … 99 percent of the time, 99 percent!, they only call for one reason: because they think evil exists and they automatically assume that every elected official is a bum. Period. A bum,” Markowitz said. “Every elected official is corrupt.”
No, not every elected official is corrupt. But Markowitz would serve his constituents far better if he would answer legitimate media inquiries rather than hurling McCarthyite smears against the working press.
For example, Markowitz needs to explain:
• Who are the recipients of contracts from his “Best of Brooklyn” charity and why four recent contracts conveniently amount to $24,999 each — one dollar short of the level requiring oversight by the city comptroller.
• How he can serve his function under the city charter as a counterweight to New York’s strong mayor’s office when Mayor Bloomberg gave Markowitz $900,000 last year for two concert series he oversees.
• The inner workings of the deal he has with the Courier-Life newspaper chain to publish his “Brooklyn!!” promotional publication. A Brooklyn Paper review discovered that publicity and printing are a huge part of Borough Hall’s discretionary budget — costs that could be a payback to the Courier-Life chain for its consistently positive coverage of Markowitz.
• Whether he supports Atlantic Yards because he honestly thinks the proposed 16-skyscraper, public-subsidy-devouring, ill-conceived monstrosity will improve the lives of his constituents or because his friend Bruce Ratner keeps pouring cash into Markowitz’s personal slush fund.
Markowitz can decry the press all he wants, but until he offers explanations, people will see him for what he really is: A man who hopes that the booming voice he uses to champion Brooklyn will drown out questions about what he’s actually doing and whom he actually serves.