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Jimmy Askew

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The Marty Markowitz Memorial Parking Lot

Posted: 12/03/10 04:15 PM ET

The Atlantic Yards: it's got to be Marty Markowitz's worst nightmare at this point. Originally designed to be a towering testament to Brooklyn with fancy buildings designed by architect du jour Frank Gehry, it was then scaled down to a few towers and an arena that looked suspiciously like the field house for an under-endowed college in a small town. Markowitz, blithely ignoring the Cyclones, claimed it was the best chance to bring professional sports back to Brooklyn and has staked his legacy as borough president on the project.

The latest blow to Atlantic Yards is renewed legal challenges over the Empire State Development Corporation's plan for an "interim" parking lot for 1,100 cars that would be in place for up to 25 years. Community groups, emboldened by an earlier ruling acknowledging that ESDC basically lied about the ten-year timetable for its project, have gone on the attack to challenge the environmental impact of the project and the duplicity of the ESDC and Forest City Ratner. Because it's "temporary," and will one day be used to build housing, no environmental study is needed to determine the effects of dropping it into the neighborhood.

But let's not kid ourselves. The fix is in and Prospect Heights is stuck with this vibrant use of public space: a parking lot. Markowitz has been a big booster of this white elephant of a project for years now. He's attacked opponents in the press, argued that this kind of out of scale development is what Brooklyn needs, and generally been obstinate. So I suggest we make sure his legacy is remembered, and name this the Marty Markowitz Memorial Parking Lot. That way, when future generations wonder why there's a city block used as a parking lot instead of for a park or for housing, and why the traffic along Atlantic Avenue and in Prospect Heights is so miserable, they can remember: this was the man that helped make it happen. When, in 50 years, our children wonder why we tore down a neighborhood just as it was revitalizing itself and built it over with a vacant lot, they'll know that the foresight was vested in wise men like Marty. When the New York (not Brooklyn) Nets eventually abandon the Barclay Center for another location that offers them even more taxpayer money (long after FCR and ESDC abandon their plans to build the rest of the project, no doubt), at least Marty's name will live on in a useless lot that exemplifies the kind of urban blight that this project was supposed to alleviate.