While 12-year incumbent Marty Markowitz redefined the Brooklyn borough presidency, even Markowitz has chafed at the constraints faced by the office: a budget that’s subject to mayoral whim and voice that’s advisory rather than final.
In April 2010 testimony to the city’s Charter Revision Commission, Markowitz asked for broader powers for the BPs, including formula-based yearly budgets, more clout in the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), requiring a City Planning Commission and City Council supermajority to override a beep’s recommendation, and “advice and consent” in the appointment of agency borough commissioners.
“When it comes to things like land use, economic development, affordable housing, and ensuring equitable distribution of city resources,” Markowitz observed, “borough presidents are truly the only elected officials charged with considering the needs of each borough as a whole.”
The commission passed on such entreaties, so Markowitz’s successor—state Sen. Eric Adams appears likely—will have to make do with the limited though hardly negligible existing powers: a bully pulpit, multimillion-dollar capital budget spending, millions in discretionary funds and perhaps the ability—as Markowitz has shown over the past dozen years—to raise off-budget funds for special projects.
Formally, borough presidents are chartered to participate in ULURP, recommending approval or rejection of projects. They appoint most members of community boards, who weigh in on zoning and permits; appoint representatives to both the citywide City Planning Commission and