Through charities, Markowitz capitalizes on real estate development power

October 25, 2011 01:21PM

In establishing charities that compliment his goals as Brooklyn Borough president, Marty Markowitz has found a way to capitalize on his role as a power broker for development in the borough. According to the New York Times, real estate developers and other Brooklyn businessmen currying favor with Markowitz have donated somewhere between $20 million to $45 million to his four Brooklyn charities.

The charities all work to fund projects that improve the lives of Brooklyn residents and Markowitz claims there’s no wrong-doing involved. “I know the difference between right and wrong, and ethical and nonethical,” Markowitz said. “I am not pitching them to give me money, and me in turn give them anything.” Though he has little political say in many of the real estate projects, developers view his support as critical.

Still, the Times noted that Acadia, the developer behind the City Point project that Markowitz has called “the future of Downtown Brooklyn,” contributed more than $300,000 to Markowitz’s charity since being awarded city financing for the project. Moreover, Markowitz has softened his anti-Walmart stance considerably in recent months, shortly after company executives donated $150,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. concerts. And, of course, Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is one of the biggest contributors to Markowitz’s charities, donating about $1.7 million.

“Sometimes, the borough president in his advocacy has blurred the lines between the role of private industry and government,” said Council member Letitia James of Brooklyn, an opponent of Atlantic Yards. “He is taking advantage of a loophole in the law.” [NYT]