Three Brooklyn Borough Presidents Talk Past, Present, Future of Brooklyn


Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams joined former Borough Presidents Marty Markowitz and Howard Golden at the Brooklyn Historical Society yesterday to announce the debut of the Societys latest exhibit – The Business of Brooklyn, about the history of businesses in the borough.

The exhibit was created and opened in collaboration with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the announcement was made on the 100th anniversary of the Chambers founding.

Andrew Hoan

“The exhibition is a fitting cornerstone for our year of Centennial programming, offered throughout 2018,said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Hoan. In a century in which so much history has been made, its fitting to look back at our roots before planning our next 100 years and the future of the borough.

The exhibit will feature myriad artifacts from the businesses that thrived in Brooklyn over the course of its 150-year history, such as Domino Sugar, Drake Bakeries, Schaefer Beer and Abraham and Straus. It will also feature historical items from the Chamber itself, such as a gavel used by the Chamber to convene meetings in the 20s, and the telephone used in its first offices on Livingston Street.

Deborah Schwartz, President of the Brooklyn Historical Society, said that the exhibit will not just educate patrons about Brooklyns past progress as a thriving business center, but also facilitate its continued progress in that regard.

“For us, history is entirely about thinking of where we are now and where were going in the future,said Schwartz. And to have this opportunity to reflect on history of business in Brooklyn, and the Chamber and its role, was really a remarkable process.

The announcement was followed by a panel discussion featuring the current and two former Brooklyn borough presidents. The three of them discussed the commendable progress Kings County has made in the 100 years since the Chambers founding, and the work that still needs to be done.

Former Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden. Photo by William Engel

Golden was the first of the three to speak, reminiscing about his term as Borough President, which began in 1977. As he remembered, the borough at the time was far cry from the diverse center of commerce it is now.

“It was not a very wonderful time in 1977,said Golden. When I got here in 77 in Brooklyn, streets were crowded, but not with as many people as we should have hadthings were very, very tight in Brooklyn.

As Borough President, Golden oversaw the growth and enrichment of Brooklyns commercial sphere, with highlights including the construction of the MetroTech Center in 1992 and the opening of the Brooklyn Marriott – the boroughs first full-service hotel- in 1998.

Former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Photo by William Engel

Markowitz said that, as Borough President, his major objective was to continue Goldens work and foster the growth of businesses in Brooklyn, in order to brandthe borough and allow it to continue to thrive.

“What we had to do is really brand Brooklyn,said Markowitz. We knew what we had. We knew that we were growing in the creative community, we knew that techies were moving to Brooklyn in major numbers, and we knew that because of the attractiveness of Brooklyn, a diverse community, we were attracting almost everyone who was an author or who wanted to be an author. So we tried to build on that.

Current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Photo by William Engel.

Finally, Eric Adams concluded the afternoon with a speech about the future of the borough. He argued that the ever-changing ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of Brooklyns neighborhoods is not only inevitable (as a consequence of Brooklyns financial growth), but also something that the borough has to embrace.

“We saw where we were. Weve looked at where we are, and now we have to think about where were going,said Adams. Brooklyn is going to evolve and change. What we must do is make sure that we do not forcefully move out people, but allow the natural transitions of the community. Theyre not going to stay the same, and gentrificationis a term that has been used to demonize the evolution of a particular borough.

“The Business of Brooklyn” exhibit opens today, Feb. 23 at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights. The exhibit will be on view until the end of 2018. The Brooklyn Historical Society Museum Hours are 12 noon – 5 p.m., Wednesday-Sunday. It is closed on major holidays.