State Sen. Eric Adams (D–Flatbush) won the election to replace beloved Borough President Markowitz with more than 90 percent of the vote. When he assumes office in January, Adams will become only the third borough president in nearly four decades, taking over for a defining figure who came to personify the job as “Mr. Brooklyn.” We sat with the president-elect to talk about Marty’s broad-if-not-long shadow, and find out some of his plans for the office in the first of a monthly check-in with Adams: “The President on line one.”
Bill Egbert: You certainly have some Brooklyn-Bridge-sized shoes to fill. Is is a bit intimidating to follow Markowitz as Borough President?
Eric Adams: No, it’s exciting to follow him. I’m following his footsteps from the Senate to Borough Hall, but I’ve learned it’s important not to try to fill somebody else’s shoes. It’s best to bring your own.
BE: This election was historic for Brooklyn. You’ll be Brooklyn’s first black borough president, joined by Ken Thompson as our first black District Attorney. What do you think that says about the borough’s evolution, either politically or demographically?
EA: This election wasn’t just about the two of us. In 1898, when New York brought Brooklyn into the family, people saw us as the younger brother. What we’re seeing now is the little brother becoming an adult. With Bill DeBlasio and Tish James getting elected to our highest offices, it shows Brooklyn is adult enough to lead the city. With me and Ken, it shows our borough coming into its own. We’re not the little brother of Manhattan anymore.
BE: What are your top priorities when you take over at Borough Hall in January?
EA: My focus is going to be improving the quality of life of Brooklynites. I want Brooklynites to be healthy — but not just physically healthy, I’m talking about the broadest meaning of the term — mentally healthy, financially healthy, living in healthy neighborhoods. People are doing a lot of great things in this borough, but some Brooklynites don’t have access to those great things. I want to make Borough Hall into a place where people can come to find those resources. I want Brooklynites to feel genuine improvements in their lives.
BE: One of Marty’s hardest-fought legacies was getting the Barclays Center built and bringing the Nets to Brooklyn. Is there a grand aspiration you hope to achieve during your tenure — even if it takes two terms?
EA: I’d to see Brooklyn making better use of our rooftops. We don’t have much free land area, but we have lots of roof-space. I want to see every building with a garden or a solar panel on top. I’m not just taking growing a tomato on your rooftop — I want to see farms providing healthy food for neighborhoods, people selling their fresh produce to local shops and restaurants.
I hope to develop the Brooklyn Terminal Market into a major center for fresh fruits and vegetables, with vertical farms and high-end restaurants to bring in people from across the city.
I want Brooklyn to become the premier eco-friendly borough in the city, and a model for the nation.
BE: Some of Marty’s moves were extremely controversial. Are there any issues or projects you think are so important to the future of Brooklyn that you’d be prepared to push against popular opinion?
EA: I want my son to be able to afford to live in Brooklyn, and that means more development and more high-rises, which may not always be popular. We just don’t have enough land, so we have to build upwards.
Some people say that’s just developers being greedy, but it’s not. If we can designate areas and bring in development with tax breaks — high-rises, new businesses, new middle-class families to live and work there — we can transform neighborhoods and lives.
But we do have to reexamine what we mean by affordability. I agree with Bill DeBlasio that the 80-20 model for affordable housing is no longer acceptable, and we need to move to a 60-40 formula.
BE: Will you have Marty on speed-dial?
EA: We had lunch a few days a go and asked if I could reach out to him to help navigate the challenges of Borough Hall, and I’m grateful he’s okay with that. I don’t want to try and reinvent the wheel — I want to speak to the inventor.