He buried it deep within his one-hour-long, cholesterol-filled schmaltzfest known as the State of the Borough address, but Borough President Markowitz now says he’s running for mayor.
Of course, he didn’t say it right out. Instead, he introduced fortune cookie makers Ching Sun Wong and his son Norman and said their product would help him make his decision about running for higher office after term limits kick in in 2009.
“I don’t need a fortune cookie to tell me Brooklyn’s future looks good,” Markowitz said, holding up the sugary augury. “But with term limits looming — what about my future?”
Markowitz broke open the cookie and read the “fortune”: “If it’s good for Brooklyn, it’s good for New York City!” he said.
That may be a big “if,” but Markowitz is certainly positioning himself for a run.
As The Brooklyn Paper has reported, the Beep is sitting on a campaign war chest of more than $1 million and cannot run for his beloved borough president’s office again, thanks to term limits.
He has openly discussed the possibility of running for mayor and has rented an office near Borough Hall to do the political groundwork.
Some party insiders laughed at the notion that Brooklyn’s biggest cheerleader could be elected in a five-borough race, but others said Markowitz has a proven track record as a fundraiser — which may be the most-important political skill of higher office seekers these days.
When pressed for whether the fortune cookie told the full story, the Beep backpedaled a bit: “I’ve opened the door a crack to look at my future on the other side of term limits.”
The tantalizing notion of a Markowitz mayoral run was the biggest piece of news to come out of the annual state of the borough speech on Feb. 1 — but the overflow crowd of dignitaries, politicos, parents, pizza makers, friends, neighbors were kept entertained by plenty of Markowitz Yiddish-isms, jokes about his waistline, and praise for the flavors and ethnicities of Brooklyn.
In his full-throttle, 18-page speech (single spaced, all capitals), Markowitz hit all his hot buttons:
• He championed the borough’s recent ascension to Lonely Planet’s hot destination list — one of only three locales in America to get the honor.
• He praised Brooklynites large and small, from former Borough President Howard Golden to Jeremy Zamora and Timothy Edmund, who built a car that runs on used cooking oil at the Automotive High School in Williamsburg.
“You’re putting those trans-fats to good use,” Markowitz joked, and then blew a kiss at his wife in the front row. “And Jamie, next time you catch me eating French fries, I’ll have the perfect excuse: I’m doing it for the environment!”
• He celebrated Steiner Studio, the movie-making complex where he made the speech.
“The father and son team of David and Doug Steiner are visionaries,” Markowitz said of the founders of the largest film studio outside of Hollywood. “Not only because they had the chutzpah to make their dream a reality, but because they recognized early on that as home to the most character — and characters — anywhere, Brooklyn was the place to do it. Doug Steiner — you’re a true Brooklyn legend. And a meshuggenah.”
• He extolled the delicacies of Brooklyn, and, of course, he celebrated himself. An entire section of the speech was dedicated to his motto, “Promise made, promise kept.”
In this section, Markowitz took credit for creating a tourist office at Borough Hall (“promise made, promise kept”), attracting the cruise ship industry to Red Hook (“promise made, promise kept”), sprucing up Coney Island’s parachute jump (“promise made, promise kept”), creating Brooklyn’s restaurant week (“promise made, promise kept”), helping to reduce auto insurance rates (“promise made, promise kept”), and launching the annual Brooklyn Book Festival (“promise made, promise kept”).
“I’m not sure if any of them can really spell ‘Fuhgeddaboudit,’ ” he added.
He also promised to restore the Loew’s Kings Theater on Flatbush Avenue to its original glory. Of course he did: It’s where he had his first date when he was 16 (he also recounted how the girl in question flung away his arm when he tried to spark some romance).
“Jamie,” he told his wife. “I’m yours now, that’s what matters.”
• Markowitz also mentioned his beloved Atlantic Yards project — but did not utter the name that often draws catcalls: Bruce Ratner.
Markowitz raved about the housing, shopping, and jobs the project will allegedly generate, claiming the 16-tower arena, hotel and office space development “will help create the new center of city life that our borough of 2.6 million residents deserves.”
But he also promised to “be responsive to the concerns of those in the area surrounding Atlantic Yards, and to make this project one that all Brooklynites are proud of for generations to come.”
But he didn’t explain how he would do that, given his overwhelming support for the project and the fact that it has already been approved by the state.
Where some politicians mix the sacred and the profane, Markowitz mixed the celebrities with the man on the street.
One picture showed the Beep standing arm and arm with Rawia Bishara, the “esteemed chef and owner of Tanoreen,” a Bay Ridge restaurant famous for its moussaka. The next picture showed Markowitz dwarfed by a towering Magic Johnson, an investor in the conversion of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank into luxury condos
The crowd rose to its feet when Markowitz read the names of seven soldiers — Brooklyn nativesl — who died in Iraq last year.
Beyond talk of his nascent mayoral run, Markowitz managed to remain bipartisan. But the Democratic borough president received huge applause for noting that in “699 days, to be exact, President Bush will return to his ranch in Texas.” But his praise for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another Republican, was also well received.
— with Gersh Kuntzman