Welcome To Brooklyn, Ya Limey Fruits
You poor, poor, sods. I have been rather remiss in posting about this, but I've been trying to get my head round the news for a little while now. Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, Gumby Fresh hate object, fool, and probably the most ludicrous product of the New York City democratic machine ever, has been in London wasting either the taxpayers' or Marriott corporation's money on a specious tourism initiative.
The long-time reader might ask why I find the concept so ludicrous, since I have stressed on more than one occasion that Markowitz is more like an overpaid and rather inadequate chief tourism officer that should be at best granted a grotty corner of Mayor Mike's bullpen. And I do, since in any less dysfunctional city Markowitz would not have risen above the rank of town crier, a position that might have been invented for humanity's rotund loudmouths.
Markowitz set himself the task of taking in a show and trying to push package holidays with Brooklyn-themed content to my countrymen. I was trying to get a feeling what kind of angle our dearly-beloved arch-Clown was pushing on the Anglos. The above-linked Daily News article is a tad vague, but summons an unholy combination of "Spike Lee movies, Jay-Z videos and Coney Island" to the fore.
I suspect that that trifecta is likely to be much more coherent than anything that Markowitz put forward that trip. Because if there's anything likely to bring out the inconsistencies and barrenness of the Markowitz aesthetic, it's trying to explain the Borough's charms to a heterogeneous crew like the traveling Brit. The Beep's imaginary childhood Brooklyn, all egg creams, Dodgers and Junior's cheesecake, is likely to be met with little more than a forest of raised eyebrows in Blighty.
The better track is, yes, to highlight the crucial role of Brooklyn in the development of African-American culture. But it's unlikely that he'll be able to communicate this aspect to foreigners any better than Made did. More likely he'll fall back on some unholy Outer Borough persona not far removed from the recent Domino's Brooklyn Pizza adverts (don't even get me started on this nonsense).
Because Markowitz is a clown, let me try and suggest some ways in which he could market this fair Borough in a worthwhile way.
1) It is a perfectly serviceable dormitory option. Most every limey I've had over has liked the idea of a quiet, leafy, and accessible base from which to explore the city. Not great for Central Park, etc, I'll grant you, but now the subway's sound as a pound, this presents little worry.
2) The rock scene. New York's place in US music crazes is like the US' place in the Olympics. It hosts every other one, with the rest of the map struggling for the remaining 50%. Williamsburg and points south is capturing more and more of this.
3) Shopping. You'll probably find with a very small amount of effort that you could promote the boutiques of Williamsburg and Fifth Avenue as some kind of spiritual counterpart to Portobello road. Some of the houses are almost as pretty.
4) Making a concerted effort to pretty up the area around the Red Hook cruise terminal, if necessary through a small but twee retail development. I doubt that "Last Exit..." nostalgia is going to cut it.
5) Nineteenth century grandeur. Brooklyn has preserved this much better than Manhattan, as you can see from Grand Army, Clinton Hill, Cypress Ave and so forth.
It's not an exhaustive list, and it will always be difficult to drag the Brits away from Times Square, skyscrapers and Lower Broadway.
Moreover, Markowitz, in an unholy alliance with a real estate lobby, has done almost everything possible to wee in his own bed. He persists, like his counterparts in Manhattan, in favouring condo over hotel development in the Borough, in downplaying the extent to which Brooklyn is connected to the other Island, and in ignoring or belittling the creative professionals (rappers, magazine editors and hipsters, the lot) that are the only reason the Borough retains its cultural prominence.
I should probably bring up the Atlantic Yards project at this point, because it's going to cut off downtown from the Park area in much the same way as the Barbican cut off the City of London from points west. It's going to be hugely ugly, yes, and also make it even more difficult to get around and into the Borough. But that's alright, because proud Marty thinks Brooklyn can stand in glorious isolation.
Fraid not. Marty should take another walk over the Manhattan Bridge, and see what greets the traveler arriving in Brooklyn from the city. We have, in order, a fatuous sign with his name on it, a traffic jam, and the Metrotech Center/Downtown, site of Brooklyn's last failed bid at dirigiste, developer-dictated, development. Could we please, pretty please, learn something this time?
K, rant over, but I did like this line from the news article:
the last time a borough president left the country on business was in 1999, when Howard Golden went to Kingston-upon-Hull, 200 miles north of London.
Hull is, I fear much closer to what Marty, and Elliot Spitzer, and all their real estate friends have in store for us. Take it from this nasty Brit.