Saturday, July 11, 2009

Marty Markowitz approves Issue Project grant

Borough President Marty Markowitz's affinity for music is well known. Beginning in his State Senate days, Markowitz began sponsoring the free summer concert series that eventually mutated into Celebrate Brooklyn, bringing artists as disparate as Beth Orton, David Amram, MGMT, and King Sunny Ade to Prospect Park. While his trademark opening histrionics may elicit snarls from jaded transplants at these concerts as of late, there's something truly ineffable about what Markowitz does. Occassional blunders like the Atlantic Yards farrago notwithstanding, he's arguably done more than any other individual to -- if I may paraphrase another city's anti-gentrification slogan -- "keep Brooklyn weird" in spite of major obstacles.

As reported on this blog last month, Gowanus avant-garde performance space Issue Project Room faced an uphill battle in renovating their new home at the erstwhile Board of Education headquarters at 110 Livingston St. Despite successful benefits and strong word-of-mouth, the project seemed doomed to fall behind schedule until Markowitz -- as reported by the New York Times -- recently approved a $1.13 million grant to the institution, covering all but a few hundred thousand dollars estimated for the project to go forward. According to Brooklyn Vegan, the grant was allocated from a $37 million capital fund, monies from which are distributed at Markowitz's discretion. Here's a video of the ever ebullient beep talking about the venue a few months back. It may be a far cry from the days when borough presidents wielded tremendous political leverage as members of the Board of Estimate, but decisions like these demonstrate that he's far more than a glorified cheerleader.

With the cash-straddled Brooklyn Philharmonic relegated to backing indie bands these days, the Issue Project Room is one of the few venues of its kind in the city. Kudos to him for this generous gift, and let's make sure that these spaces thrive.

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