, Interviewed by Vadim Yarmolinets, translated by Mike Pokrovsky
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Photo Getty Images
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Runyweb.com interviews Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markovitz:
How could this have happened: a multi-billion contract for building the new NYC taxis was awarded not to the company that had offered to base the production in Brooklyn, but to the company that would produce the cars in Mexico?
As you know, there were three finalists in the tender. Nissan and Ford don't need an introduction, but the third was the little known Turkish company Karsan. 65% of those who took part in picking the best model liked Karsan's submission. It fulfilled all the tender conditions, the people from the City Hall liked it, the people from the Taxi & Limousine Commission liked it. But the contract was awarded to Nissan. I myself drive a Nissan and am very satisfied with it, but Karsan made an offer that is more important than my comfort, the offer to build their assembly and adaptation facilities in Brooklyn. As far as I understand, some parts were to be imported here from Turkey, some were to be ordered from Chrysler, but the final assembly was to be carried out in Brooklyn. The Turks promised to immediately create 300 to 800 unionized jobs. The minimal pay was to be from $25 per hour and upwards. Now, imagine how many more jobs would have been created around these facilities, from suppliers to pizza deliveries!
To be frank, though, Karsan's offer wasn't made right away. Looks like an additional point should have been added to the tender conditions, stipulating that preference will be given to local production.
When Karsan offered to base its production in Brooklyn, it wasn't too late to give preference to that company.
That may be true, but mayor Bloomberg decided to award the one billion dollar contract to Nissan, which will build NYC taxis in Mexico. And yet, if the plans for production of the cars here succeeded, maybe other production companies would start to flock to the region. Including automotive companies. We won't be able to live by services only, we need production. That was our chance to get into production. But our mayor said that, because the company is small and lacks experience in our market, they may fail to establish production facilities within two years. Why does the company have to establish them up within two years? In December 2013 Michael Bloomberg's term ends. And the mayor wants the new taxis to appear in the streets before he's gone from his office. My term also ends in December 2013, and if someone were to ask me, would I prefer to see the new taxis in the City's streets before I leave my office, or to wait another year, but create 300 or even 800 new jobs in Brooklyn, I would answer that I'd rather wait. But our mayor wants to solve all of this City's problems before December 2013, so that the new administration has absolutely no work to do!
Is the decision to award the contract to Nissan final?
After the contract is signed, it will be submitted for review to the City Comptroller John Liu. It is known that in picking the winner, mayor Bloomberg was advised by the Ricardo Inc. consulting company, which had been dealing with Nissan and Ford. We, of course, believe this company to be an exceptionally ethical one in its own right, and that its decision favoring its past client was made based on honest reasoning. Nevertheless, it would be well for City Comptroller John Liu to check all the circumstances.
What's happening to the Atlantic Yards sports and residential development project? The financial estimates for the project were made when the property market was red-hot. Has its cooling had any negative effect of the development of the project?
The arena is being built. Every time I pass by, I see it rising. Indeed, the market situation has impacted the plans, and they've been corrected. Originally, the apartments were to be sold, but later it was decided that leasing them would be more expedient. The demand for rental properties in Brooklyn is colossal. What's important is that in the very first of the towers 50% of the apartments will be granted on preferential terms to working low-income Brooklynites.
What about the promised second Las Vegas on Coney Island?
To make it Las Vegas, Coney Island must have a gambling business. But in our state gambling is only allowed in two places: in the Catskill mountains and in Buffalo. Nevertheless, Coney Island has its advantages. It's the same coast as the best places of Long Island, but, unlike Long Island's, Coney Island's places are accessible. They are easily available by public transit, and you don't have to spend as much as some New Yorkers spend in East Hampton.
Coney Island has another prospect for development. I'm sure many would want to have summer homes there. Not houses, like in East Hampton, but apartments in large co-ops, where people can spend summer months. Great beaches, the ocean, restaurants, concert floors - there's everything for summer holidays. Coney Island is being renewed, the process can be seen with a naked eye, but it needs time.
You probably are familiar with the conflict going on in Sheepshead Bay, concerning the local Muslim community's plan to build their mosque. What's your position in this?
People can dislike the project for two reasons. First, they are wary of noise and problems with parking space. Second, they are simply racists. If they are racists, I've got nothing to say to them. As for the noise and parking spaces, people need to sit down with the mosque's developers and discuss the problems. I don't see a problem with the project, it's being carried out in compliance with our City's requirements and regulations. We are all children of one God. I'm reaffirmed in this belief every time I visit Brooklyn churches, synagogs and mosques. In Brooklyn there is place for everybody, and we need to learn how to live in peace and show the tolerance, which has always distinguished us from other nations.