Standing on the upper deck of a yacht called the Romantica, with an iron demarcation line — a.k.a. the Verrazano Narrows Bridge — at their backs, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro shook hands on a bet between the boroughs.
With Markowitz refusing to set foot on Staten Island, the two boarded a ship that stopped somewhere near the middle of the Narrows — roughly 40 degrees 36 minutes north latitude and 74 degrees 3 minutes west longitude — to shake on a wager over the 12 regular season meetings between the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones.
The victorious borough president will have the opportunity to display the newly created “Borough Cup,” furnished by the teams themselves, inside the victor’s Borough Hall, and the loser will pay for dinner in a restaurant of the rival’s choice on the opposing side of the bridge.
“The Yanks are definitely going to win,” Molinaro said. “There’s no question. The question is, ‘Where’s he going to eat?’ What does he want? Chinese? Italian?”
Vowing to derail the results of Markowitz’s “Lighten Up Brooklyn” campaign, Molinaro said, “I’m going to make Marty gain weight, take him to a good restaurant.”
Markowitz, the more svelte of the two, thanks in part to his “Lighten Up” campaign, boarded the ship from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park shortly before 1 pm.
Calling Staten Island “the bedroom community of Brooklyn” — for all its residents who enjoy Brooklyn’s many activities only to retire to their homes across the Narrows — and “the southwestern suburb of Brooklyn,” Markowitz thanked Molinaro, who, he said, “knows he has no chance of winning, for being a good sport.”
Earlier in the day, Markowitz held a ceremonial raising of the Cyclones team flag over Borough Hall, where the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers banner once flew.
The Dodgers flag, which flew for almost half a decade under the previous administration, was eventually presented to outgoing Borough President Howard Golden, who was term-limited out of office this year. Golden had pledged to keep the banner aloft until the Dodgers were brought back to the Borough of Kings, a dream that Markowitz has put to rest to rally Brooklyn behind its existing professional baseball team.
The challenge was first made to Molinaro earlier this year, but was held in limbo over a lack of neutral venue to execute the wager.
“We had played with some ideas,” Molinaro told The Brooklyn Papers. “At one point the lower deck of the Verrazano was closed for repairs. Now it’s open but we didn’t want to stop traffic.”
The apparent reticence of accepting the bet could have been a survival mechanism in the face of what last year proved to be a daunting foe.
The Cyclones and the Yankees met eight times last year, with the ’Clones racking up six wins against two defeats. The rivals met again in the first round of the playoffs, battling to advance in the New York-Penn League’s McNamara Division.
Again, the Yankees succumbed, two games to one.
On Sept. 10, the Cyclones came one game closer to walking away with the Division Championship, winning on the road in the first of three games against the Williamsport Crosscutters. But the games were halted following the tragedy of the next day and the championship contest was cancelled with both teams named “co-champions” of the New York-Penn League 2001 season.
The Cyclones finished last season with a 52-24 record and set the all-time short-season class-A record for attendance in a single year. They have already virtually sold out for this coming year.
The management of the team, set aside 200 bleacher seats for each game, which will be sold on game days beginning at 10 am.
The Yankees filled their Richmond County Bank Ballpark to about 75 percent capacity and “this year we expect to be around 90 percent,” said Josh Getzler, the chief operating officer of the Staten Island Yankees.
Fuel into an already burning rivalry will doubtless kindle even greater interest in the two minor league squads.
Citing the antagonism between the Dodgers and the Giants, Yankees’ CEO Stan Getzler, said, “The great rivalry that existed then has been recreated, like it’s in the bloodstream. It just happened, we didn’t make it happen.”
As the 117-foot Romantica launched towards the Verrazano, the “great rivalry” toned down a bit. Cyclones mascot Sandy the Seagull, joined its Staten Island counterpart, Scooter the Holy Cow, at the bar for a glass of water and Markowitz made small talk with Molinaro and his staffers.
As the boat, donated for the day by VIP Yacht through New York Waterways, came to a halt below the bridge, Markowitz, dressed in a Cyclones Jersey and team baseball cap, pitched a few friendly barbs at Molinaro, as he had all morning. Molinaro, who was similarly outfitted in a nylon S.I. Yankees jacket, offered a few swings back — and the games of summer began.
June 17, 2002 issue