Many elected and appointed officials deserve credit for the wonderful new map, lighting and signage that will help countless tourists find their way from our end of the Brooklyn Bridge footpath to the cultural and historical wealth that Brooklyn has to offer.
The installation, called “This Way,” is outstanding and worthy of the praise it is receiving.
That said, forgive us for not genuflecting before the burghers of power in this borough, but the $1.5-million lighting and signage project was so long overdue that it boggles the mind that officials like Borough President Markowitz would actually stand at a podium, as he did at the Wednesday unveiling, and celebrate the achievement.
Given how little it actually cost to get the artwork, signs and lighting commissioned, fabricated and installed, why did tourists — and the natives who are constantly called upon to direct them around Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO — have to wait more than a decade for something as simple as a few signs and a map?
A decade ago, a Brooklyn Heights woman named Roslyn Beck, on her own initiative, started hanging up handmade directional signs in Cadman Plaza Park and around the bridge. For a while, city workers actually tore down the quaint, small-town-ish wayfinders until they realized that Beck maintained her signs a lot better than an official map nearby that stood for years — for years! — covered in so much graffiti and stickers that it was entirely useless.
Even media coverage of this gross affront to our international guests failed to shame the bureaucracy into even just cleaning up the sign!
On Wednesday, we asked Markowitz why a simple map and guide at the foot of the borough’s premier tourist attraction took so long — and his answer amounted to a stunning admission of ineffectiveness.
He graciously credited the DUMBO Improvement District, which has done a good job enhancing city services in a neighborhood with barely enough residents to show up on the radar of the various public agencies.
“We need a partner like the DUMBO Improvement District to make things like this happen,” Markowitz said. “My office can’t just do it ourselves. We can’t come up with a design, build it and install it ourselves, you know.”
No, we didn’t know. Call us naive, but we shudder at the thought that our elected officials are impotent to accomplish even the simplest civic improvements, no matter how clearly they are needed.
Coming from Markowitz, who has made tourism a centerpiece of his entire public persona, it’s especially galling. Indeed, he told the New York Times that tourists had been facing “a comedy of errors” as they “searched for the entrance to the most-famous bridge on the planet.”
Forgive us if we don’t laugh at Markowitz’s “comedy.” His failure on this, his singular issue, is just more evidence that he is indeed Brooklyn’s main cheerleader — in other words, someone who remains on the sidelines while other people are actually competing in the game.