Assemblywoman Millman
Assemblywoman
Joan L.
Millman
reports to
the people
December 2004



Dear Neighbor:

I am writing this letter from my Albany office having just returned from an Assembly Steering Committee meeting where we discussed several proposals dealing with governance of our State Legislature. Of major concern to all of us in New York State is the Legislature’s failure to deliver a sound on-time budget. It is worth noting that several other large states, including Pennsylvania and California, also began fiscal year 2004 without a final budget. But this is no excuse for the failure of our state to pass an on-time budget and this consistent failure contributes to lower bond ratings and increases interest rates when we must borrow money. However, in April of this year, in an historic bipartisan effort, the Assembly and Senate agreed on and passed a budget reform package to deliver sound, on-time budgets in New York.

Many good government groups including Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the League of Women Voters stated that this legislation was a clear improvement over the current process. This bipartisan budget reform package was sent to the Governor in early November only to be vetoed by him on November 15, 2004. In an attempt to justify his veto he labeled the entire budget reform package a flawed process. In reality, this legislation would create a much more transparent and timely budget process, including creating an Independent Budget Office charged with providing independent data for the Legislature. It is my hope that when we return to Albany sometime in the beginning of December both houses will vote to override the Governor’s veto of the budget reform package. At the same time I hope the Senate joins the Assembly in overriding the Governor’s veto of the Minimum Wage bill.

photo An annual sponsor of the Summer Reading Challenge, which encourages children to read during the summer, Assemblywoman Millman presents a State Assembly Certificate to participant Kristin Leigh Schurott of P.S. 29.

If we can convince our other colleagues in both houses to join us in the spirit of bi-partisanship, we will be prepared to meet the many challenges facing not only our state but our country as well. Certainly we can all share in wishing one another a healthy and happy holiday season. May this New Year bring you and your family peace and prosperity.

Warmest Wishes,
signature
Joan L. Millman



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Ready New York!

Assemblywoman Millman recently hosted Commissioner Joseph Bruno and the New York City Office of Emergency Management at Concord Village to present Ready New York!, an emergency preparedness presentation. This informative talk gave practical tips about how to best prepare for any number of emergencies New Yorkers can face. If you are interested in attending a presentation please contact Assemblywoman Millman’s office, call 311 or visit the OEM website at www.nyc.gov/oem to find out about scheduled presentations throughout the city.


Reforming our Legislature

In this year of disappointment and dysfunction in our State Legislature, I have joined my colleagues in advocating for resolutions designed to strengthen the independence and credibility of the New York State Legislature. I am a co-sponsor of two resolutions promoting reform, which were initially advocated for by the Brennan Center for Justice, who last year deemed New York’s legislature the most dysfunctional in the entire country. My colleagues and I have joined together to try to bring about meaningful, systemic change so that we can better and more effectively serve New York State. I believe that these resolutions call for the right changes at the right time.

Important components of these proposals include reforming the way votes are cast to ensure that a member is physically present in order to cast a vote. I have always advocated for this idea and refused to "swipe in" and leave, without being physically present to vote. Also included are proposals to curtail use of the message of necessity votes, by which the governor can push bills through before members can read them, and reforms to give each individual member the power to hire his or her own committee staff.

I am also a co-sponsor of legislation to create a non-partisan commission to draw district lines. I believe the only way to eliminate unfair gerrymandering is by charging an independent body with this important task. With a new legislative session set to begin in January, I am confident that a lengthy debate will ensue about the best way to "fix Albany." I can assure you that I will be a vocal proponent of measures to bring about change, in an effort to prevent this disastrous year from repeating itself.




Assemblywoman Millman Advocates for Contextual Development Downtown Brooklyn:

I recently submitted testimony to the New York City Council and the City Planning Commission regarding two proposed developments in DUMBO Brooklyn, which would drastically alter the character and landscape of this historic area. These two projects have a great significance in Brownstone Brooklyn, as they clearly reinforce the need for comprehensive contextual zoning.

After I joined the Brooklyn Heights Association, the DUMBO Neighborhood Association and other elected officials in voicing our opposition to the development proposal at 38 Water Street, Two Trees Development Corporation announced that it is withdrawing its application. My testimony in opposition to this development stated that this proposed building would rise 17 stories high and tower over the neighboring buildings, directly adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge. While I am supportive of DUMBO’s recent development, I opposed this particular project because the proposed structure was contextually inappropriate. This building would obstruct Brooklyn’s views of one of New York’s greatest architectural treasures, the Brooklyn Bridge. Rising higher than the roadbed of the bridge, this structure would have dwarfed the surrounding 3-4 story buildings and disturbed the lower density scale of the historic neighborhoods of DUMBO, Fulton Ferry and Vinegar Hill.

Situating a 17-story building surrounded by 3-4 story buildings and the Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park would set a dangerous precedent in a historic neighborhood.

photo Assemblywoman Millman joins President Tom Miskel, and fellow elected officials in the dedication of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Memorial Plaque for victims of 9/11 at the Park Slope Public Library. Photo courtesy of Jennifer MacFarlane Photography.

I also recently submitted testimony to the City Council and the City Planning Commission about the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s proposed development at 85 Jay Street, to express my strong opposition to this plan. As the City Planning Commission embarks on a comprehensive rezoning of DUMBO, we can hardly afford to allow a project of this magnitude to proceed. I strongly believe in the principals of urban planning and contextual zoning, and therefore believe that appropriate development at this site, located in the heart of the neighborhood, would both respect the size of surrounding structures and contribute to the neighborhood’s vitality by contributing to commercial activity. Because any development on a lot of this size will have a significant impact on the neighborhood’s landscape, we must take special precautions to ensure that the development selected for this site compliments and enhances this rapidly growing neighborhood. I strongly encourage the Watchtower to drastically downsize this development and include community amenities, while expanding its other underutilized properties to accommodate its needs.




Don’t Ask Riders to Pay More for Less
Millman Testifies at MTA Hearing, Voices Outrage with Latest Proposal

On November 10th, 2004, I presented testimony to the MTA Board on the proposed budget cuts for next year. After hearing from scores of outraged neighbors, I relayed these very real concerns to the MTA in an effort to prevent an unprecedented second fare hike and major service cuts. This issue affects all of us in the 52nd Assembly District and is of the utmost importance to all New Yorkers. Because so many people were unable to attend this public hearing that was held at a highly inconvenient location, I have included excerpts from the testimony I presented:

While I appreciate that the MTA ’found’ extra revenue to prevent the disastrous cuts once proposed, the MTA’s latest proposal still leaves New Yorkers, and especially Brooklynites paying more for less - less service and less security. It is not just that raising the fares will hurt ridership; it is not just that closing token booths will affect safety; it is not just that eliminating 33 essential bus routes will tremendously inconvenience New York City residents; it is that the MTA has no plan to prevent this from happening again soon. We must not and cannot afford stopgap measures, nor can we afford to let our transit system fall into disrepair because our economy depends on it.

photo Assemblywoman Millman, Concord Village residents and Councilman David Yassky at a press conference decrying the closing of the token booth at the High Street - Brooklyn Bridge station.

In my district closing token booths would seriously compromise riders’ safety at several subway stations. Removing a token booth clerk from the High Street-Brooklyn Bridge Station would mean that there would be no presence at the heavily trafficked entrance at Adams Street, which is at least a ten minute walk above ground from the alternate entrance at Cadman Plaza West. The subway passage underground, used to connect the entrances, has also become a popular way for people to cross Adams Street. Without a subway clerk, the passage will become a perfect magnet for crime. The proposed cuts in the bus routes would also be devastating to Brooklyn residents who rely on these routes particularly for inter-borough travel. The MTA has proposed to cut 33 bus routes, including the B71 and B75. While our subway system is almost exclusively Manhattan-oriented, these bus routes provide a critical function in our borough and must be preserved.

I stood here and offered testimony to the MTA board nearly two years ago when the last fare increase and token booth closings were proposed. I said the same thing I am saying today: reducing our services and safety and increasing our fares means sacrificing our world-class mass transit system. We cannot allow the MTA to continue to make riders pay more for less.




New Information About Identity Theft:

Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in this country. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Starting this December, 2004, you can contact the three main credit bureaus, which track all your financial data to request that your credit report no longer include the first five digits of your Social Security number.

The three main credit bureaus are:
discover card

Equifax - 1-800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com

Experian - 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com

TransUnion - 1-800-888-4213 www.transunion.com

visa card

You can also try contacting all the organizations that use your Social Security number as your account number (such as health insurers) and ask for a new account number to protect yourself against identity theft.




Millman Advocates For Improved Delivery Of City Services

I recently wrote to Councilmember Gail Brewer regarding the 311 Citizen Service Center. As many of you know, my district office handles a tremendous number of calls from constituents seeking assistance with a variety of problems. Since the installation of the 311 system, my office has made it a habit to both call in reports of problems to 311 as well as contact the agency directly to follow-up. What I have noticed is that there is no method of accountability from the City for the complaints registered with 311. People receive multiple complaint numbers and often there is little follow-up, leading people to believe that somehow the information is not getting where it is supposed to go. In response to this issue, I wrote in support of Gail Brewer's legislation to create a method of accountability for 311.

October 15, 2004
Councilmember Gale Brewer
Chair, Committee on Technology in Government
250 Broadway, Ste. 1744
New York, NY 10007

Dear Councilmember Brewer:

I am writing to express my support for City Council Intro 174-A, which would require the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) to submit monthly reports of data collected from the 311 Citizen Service Center.

The idea behind the creation of 311 was to make city government services that solve everyday problems more accessible to New Yorkers. Since its implementation, my office has advised constituents reporting missed sanitation pick-ups, broken streetlights, rodent problems, or even potholes to call 311 to register these complaints. At the same time, my staff calls the individual agencies to ensure that the problem is addressed, because we have found that often complaints are registered in the system, but never actually solved. While I support the idea of a centralized complaint service, the 311 system does not function as well as it could because it lacks a means of accountability.

This piece of legislation, Intro 174-A, is critical because it will close some of the loopholes in the current call system and help provide New Yorkers with better, faster city services. If we are able to track the number of calls made and pinpoint problems within specific city agencies, we will be able to strengthen our response and create a more accessible mechanism for solving problems.

Thank you for sponsoring this important legislation, and I would urge all members of the City Council to support City Council Intro 174-A.

Sincerely,
signature
Joan L. Millman
Member of Assembly
NYS Seal



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