Adams Hosts Digital Media Briefing

I was surprised to get an email on the 19th from Stefan Ringel, Borough President Eric Adams' communications director, inviting me to a press briefing at 209 Joralemon Street today. Never got one of those before.

It was explained that, as part of an effort to be more inclusive, Adams will regularly host these briefings for Brooklyn's ethnic, minority and digital media outlets.

I arrived this afternoon just as the ethnic and minority press briefing was wrapping up, with Adams telling a disgruntled Russian reporter that, due to construction, this summer's outdoor concert series in Coney Island has been cancelled.

Then the digital crowd stepped up: a mix of small-time neighborhood-centric bloggers, not-for-profits, print+digital newspapers, and web-only news sites.

Adams, direct and pragmatic, led off by saying that if he has a "thing" as borough president -- an overarching theme -- it's probably "quality of life."

From his perspective, that means bringing the resources to the people who need them; bringing his office into the paperless 21st century; marketing Brooklyn and its products on a global scale; educating Brooklyn consumers; confronting Brooklyn's hospitals crisis; drafting local coaches to work with at-risk youth; creating STEM partnerships with CUNY and SUNY to get more Brooklyn kids into college; creating an External Affairs Unit; doing tenant outreach and advocacy; and embracing change and diversity.

He wouldn't say if he'd join the effort to save Bob Diamond's last antique trolley on the Red Hook waterfront, but Adams did say he supports maximum transit diversity in Brooklyn; wants to see more ferries and the return of trolleys; and has met with Congressional Representative Jerrold Nadler to talk about Brooklyn rail transit.

A bicyclist and bike lane supporter, Adams said he wants to see bike racks at train stations, bus stops and office buildings.

Asked about industrial development in Brooklyn, Adams noted that industrial development in neighborhoods like Brownsville and East New York depends on tech buildout, and deferred to Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna.

While Manhattan has become inaccessible to manufacturing, Reyna said, Brooklyn still offers industrial zoning, making it possible for incubated businesses to hatch. Pointing to Sunset Park's Industry City, which has successfully applied the Brooklyn Navy Yard model to a privately-owned facility, Reyna said the key to creating industrial hubs in Brooklyn is holding back encroaching residential development, keeping industrial land affordable.

Addressing business development in Brooklyn, Adams, the first Brooklyn borough president to meet with local tech innovators like Google, learned that many Fulton Mall landlords refuse to do the buildout required to lease second-level office space to tech companies. Addressing business infrastructure issues like this, he said, would help right-size business development and prevent the loss of commercial space to residential development.

Asked about the turf war between three Brooklyn Community Boards over the Barclays Center, Adams said Ray Kelly got it right when he forced the contenders in a similar dispute at the NYPD to settle their own differences. His office would be more than willing to offer the dueling CBs a meeting room at Borough Hall, he said.

Asked about "gentrification" in the context of Kickstarter's recent arrival in Williamsburg, Adams called gentrification "a mindset, not an ethnicity." Brooklyn will evolve, he said, and Kickstarter could turn out to be a good guy: Brooklyn residents need decent jobs, and Kickstarter could help meet that need. At its open house on May 3, Adams said he hoped to see some of the neighbors drop by and say hello.

Asked about the Atlantic Avenue corridor, Adams called it a "hidden gem" that he sees being transformed from end to end and up-zoned. Air rights are now being explored for possible hotel and residential development, with a street-level restaurant row, he said.

With GMDC moving to Atlantic Avenue, Reyna said, it is expected to become a lifestyle destination. A wraparound environment offering food, work and play near where you live is key to the techie lifestyle, she said.

Asked about his relationship with the mayor, Adams described it as "great." (The mayor's a Brooklyn guy, after all.) What do he and the mayor talk about over that open line of communication? Changing the way money is allocated to his budget and affordable housing, Adams said.

Asked about the impact on affordable housing of the impending loss of rent-stabilized units, Adams called rent stabilization a home rule problem, saying his office would approach the affordable housing crisis from the other end by prosecuting bad landlords.

Asked about the proposed sale of Brooklyn Public Library branches, Adams said he opposes the sale of the Pacific Avenue Branch Library and wants to see the Carnegie buildings spared. The Cadman Plaza library is a more complicated issue, he said, given the numbers, but he won't take a position until he's had a chance to look at the BPL's books.

Brooklyn's libraries, although they get the lion's share of his budget, are hurting, Adams said, because they've been starved for years. He questioned why synergies couldn't be created by joining the library and the school system, and why libraries couldn't be more accessible to other community uses. There needs to be a public dialogue, he said, about how to better sustain our libraries as essential community resources.

Seconding Adams, Reyna called libraries underutilized and suggested they be diversified as community service centers.

Asked about the election to fill his empty State Senate seat, Adams said he supports Jesse Hamilton as his successor and takes issue with Governor Andrew Cuomo's handling of the special election.

Asked whether he would run for mayor, Adams said he's game, but right now he's working on his resume.

Asked about the expansion of business improvement districts in Brooklyn, Adams said he was a fan of BIDS and would support their expansion.

Asked about the "My NYPD" Twitter fiasco, Adams called what happened predictable, given that the city is just emerging from 12 years of Bloomberg-era policing. The transparency that My NYPD represents is overall a good thing, he said. Things will be better in the future -- in part because of the kind of openness that My NYPD represents, said Adams.

Asked whether his decisions on proposed community board appointments would be affected by the mayor's Vision Zero initiative, Adams said that while he's a fan of lowering the speed limit, he wouldn't try to use the power of appointment to effect outcomes. But he would, he said, consider the balance on a given board when making appointments. There must be meaningful dialogue and the chance to hear opposing views, he said.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol on how live/work communities like the one Diana Reyna envisions on Atlantic Avenue can shape transportation policy [Brooklyn Spectator.]

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