Five Brooklyn stories to watch in 2014
Last Dec. 30, who would have predicted that Bill de Blasio would win a landslide victory in the mayor’s race, that a federal judge would slap down the city’s stop-and-frisk ruling and then be kicked off the case or that New York-area sports teams would post a combined .458 winning percentage in their 2013-2014 seasons?
Yet, that’s exactly where we are as we count the waning hours of the current calendar. Keeping in mind that predicting the future is always folly, here are our best guesses of which stories will prove most interesting over the next 12 months:
The New District Attorney
Few jobs have as much power, or turnover as rarely, as the city’s five district attorney posts. Ken Thompson didn’t just defeat a legend in Charles “Joe” Hynes this fall — he defeated a legend twice, first in the Democratic primary and then in the general election. Now he’s the top law enforcement official in the county and possibly the most powerful black official in the state. We’ll read about him when high-profile cases make the news, but he’ll have a larger, subtler, daily impact on how crimes are prosecuted and punished in Kings County, from the bail decision at arraignment to the choice between hard time and alternative sentences when it comes to mete out justice to the guilty.
Borough President Eric Adams
Amid tightly contested primary races for citywide offices, City Council seats and even the borough presidencies of Manhattan and Queens, former NYPD captain and State Senator Eric Adams’ utterly uncontested ascension to borough president was barely noted (although, of course, we spent several thousand words noting it). Adams is an interesting figure, going from stoking controversy as a founder and leader of 100 Black Men in Law Enforcement Who Care, which antagonized the police brass, to a brief and cautious career in the state house, Adams will now try to accommodate his sizable political talent within the modest power and profile of the borough presidency. He’ll likely try something different from predecessor Marty Markowitz’s indefatigable boosterism, but exactly what that will be — and whether he’ll succeed — remains to be seen.
Sandy, Year 3
One thing that was certain at Brooklyn events noting the one-year anniversary of the superstorm passing through was that, in many ways and for several neighborhoods, it’s still here. Lingering issues with home repairs—especially the mitigation of mold—along with foreclosure fears, the disappearance of small businesses, the impact of new flood insurance rules and questions about what fortifications the city must erect to protect neighborhoods for the next storm (and how we’ll afford them) will continue to play out in Red Hook, Canarsie, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Sheepshead Bay and elsewhere.
De Blasio and Development
With his Brooklyn roots, the mayor-elect’s ascension seems a fitting end to an era when Brooklyn became the city’s signature borough—the embodiment of all that was shiny and scary about the Age of Bloomberg. And Bill de Blasio was no accidental companion to the rise of that New Brooklyn: In key episodes from Gowanus to Atlantic Yards, he embraced development. The mayor-elect now says he wants to be more cautious about subsidies to developers, but his affordable housing plan—with the significant contribution it expects from mandatory inclusionary zoning—depends on continued, robust real-estate development citywide. With much of the Atlantic Yards project still rolling out (here’s coverage of the first tower), and with Gowanus reshuffling following the EPA’s superfund designation, de Blasio may as mayor have a chance to shape and re-shape some of the controversial projects he supported as a councilman.
No city in America has more public housing than New York, and no borough has more NYCHA units than Brooklyn, with much of it concentrated in a few neighborhoods, like Brownsville, Coney Island, East New York. Through the work of East Brooklyn Congregations, Community Voices Heard and other groups, Brooklyn also has the most organized NYCHA tenant population. And it is the site of the only major HOPE VI site in New York City, at Prospect Plaza, a set of high-rises that was evacuated years ago in anticipation of a renovation that, after extensive delays, shifted to a demolition instead. The housing authority has been squeezed over the past decade by funding shortfalls (or outright cuts) at all levels of government as well as the aging of its housing stock. How NYCHA fares under a new mayor and a post-sequester federal government will say a lot about the future of several neighborhoods—and of tens of thousands of Brooklynites.
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