General Brooklyn: Baghdad Big Tucker Reed Tackles Downtown, Giving Businesses Their Marching Orders

When Tucker Reed finally stepped up to the lectern inside the new BAM Fisher Building on a Thursday morning at

The sun rises over Downtown Brooklyn. (DBP)
At the ready. (Andrew Hill/OSC)

When Tucker Reed finally stepped up to the lectern inside the new BAM Fisher Building on a Thursday morning at the end of July, the crowd could barely handle any more news about just how stupendous Downtown Brooklyn was, is and will be.

Karen Brooks Hopkins, entering her fourth decade at BAM, welcomed the crowd into the brightly lit practice space on the third floor of the two-month-old red brick theater, tucked in behind BAM’s original performance hall. This would be the linchpin of the latest, greatest cultural district in the city. Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president and cheerleader-in-chief for 11 years now, warmed up the crowd with his typical act. “Everywhere you look, things are looking up in Downtown Brooklyn,” he barked. This was, is, will be the center of the universe.

Next came State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, whose grandmother grew up on Albany Street in Crown Heights. He had made sure to wear his Brooklyn lapel pin, a gift Mr. Markowitz bestows on everyone he meets. Though he was a Long Island guy, Mr. DiNapoli was an adopted son of this former outer borough, at least for the day, for the good news he was bringing: economic growth in Downtown Brooklyn had outpaced the rest of the city over the past decade, according to a new report prepared by the comptroller’s office. This was, is, will be an economic powerhouse.

On the same streets where Jay-Z had once slung crack (and would soon be headlining the Barclays Center he ostensibly helped build), legitimate businesses had replaced illicit ones, and they were thriving. Thousands of new residents had moved in, filling the striking and unspectacular condo-turned-rental-in-the-downturn towers along Flatbush Avenue. National brands including H&M, Sephora, Target and Shake Shack were replacing the pawn shops and cellphone outlets on the Fulton Mall.

It’s not your bubbe’s Brooklyn anymore. It’s Tucker Reed’s.

Having just turned 32, Mr. Reed has been making a name for himself since the middle of the last decade, when he launched the DUMBO Business Improvement District (BID). The event at BAM was his big coming out. Since January, Mr. Reed has run the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a BID of BIDs, overseeing the MetroTech office park, Fulton Mall and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn corridor, an L-shaped spine of older office buildings, mostly filled with government agencies and legal firms. It is the city’s third-largest business district, after Midtown and Lower Manhattan, but it is still trying to define its identity after decades of fitful, relentless redefinition and rebirth.

On this day, Mr. Reed was the man with the plan. After a little over six months on the job, he had developed a strategic framework for Downtown Brooklyn, the first major vision statement since the Bloomberg administration’s rezoning of 22 blocks along Flatbush Avenue in 2004. The partnership, with its $6 million annual budget, was created in part to oversee the development on the horizon

“Just look out this window and you can see the changes to the built environment,” he said, gesturing through the floor-to-ceiling glass. “If the first phase of the partnership was focused on facilitating the execution of public-private projects, the next phase will be on synthesizing these disparate investments into a Downtown Brooklyn mosaic.” (He has a soft spot for management speak.)

Mr. Reed smiled his broad, boyish grin, his handsome blue eyes glinting. He wore a navy suit that barely contained his impressive bulk, still in good shape a decade after his time as a defensive end ended with two torn ACLs. Under this was a white shirt, pink houndstooth tie and a crimson pocket square with blue trim. Put together, dressed to impress.

It is hard to believe that three years earlier, Mr. Reed, with his quick smile and charming character, was instead donning a flak jacket and fatigues every day to go to work. It was not the streets of Brooklyn but Baghdad he was rebuilding as an adviser for the State Department. He had traded in a war zone for lofts and brownstones. Still, the job was basically the same, except for the IEDs.

General Brooklyn: Baghdad Big Tucker Reed Tackles Downtown, Giving Businesses Their Marching Orders