Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman Assemblywoman
Joan L.

Reports to
the People

Summer 2007

Dear Neighbor,

This past session in Albany reminds me of a roller coaster ride, with many ups and downs. The downs have all been reported in the press, so I want to report on some of the “ups.” I can point to many positive accomplishments — another on-time budget, the strengthening of the ethics rules, the passage of important pieces of legislation including an increase in the minimum wage as well as changes in workers compensation rates and benefits — and, in a special July session, we passed a bill enabling the city to qualify for U.S. Transportation funds. (Click here to see my letter concerning traffic mitigation plans, including congestion pricing.)

Locally, Senator Connor and I sponsored a very successful senior fair which was held at St. Francis College. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge Floating Pool was another highlight which drew lots of attention, but it was the tens of thousands of people enjoying both the pool and sandy beaches which made it such a hit. Now we are at a pivotal point in the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park. I will be attending a meeting with the new leadership at the Empire State Development Corporation and will press them for a timetable on the development of the park. I also want a procedure which will include more opportunities for the public to contribute to the planning process.

Summer is over, the hot, humid days are behind us, schools are open and we’re getting ready for Halloween. So enjoy the fall!

Joan L. Millman

Many of you contacted me regarding the Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030 plan to clean up our environment and implement congestion pricing. While I have had many questions about the plan, I firmly believe we came up with appropriate legislation in Albany that will allow us to move ahead in a thoughtful manner. Below please read a letter I sent out that explains both the process moving forward as well as my many concerns with congestion pricing.

Dear Neighbor,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding PlaNYC. I am pleased to report that during the special legislative session held on July 26th we passed legislation to create a New York City Traffic Mitigation Plan. I am confident that the plan is a good first step in achieving the City’s long term sustainability goals. I firmly believe that this is the most thoughtful way to move forward on a policy that will affect so many New Yorkers. The commission is empowered to answer the many questions that I and many others have regarding the Mayor’s plan, and it is my hope that we will be able to institute congestion pricing in a fair and equitable manner.

Specifically, the plan will create a commission composed of 17 members appointed by the Assembly, Senate, Governor, Mayor, and the City Council, to evaluate the Mayor’s congestion pricing plan and issue recommendations regarding the feasibility and implementation of that plan. In addition, the commission will review, study and hold public hearings on all plans submitted to it regarding traffic congestion. It is also important to note that any plan approved by the commission must provide for at least the same level of traffic mitigation as proposed in the Mayor’s plan.

I will work hard to see that the report generated by the commission addresses many of the concerns of my constituents. One of my major concerns with the plan is that our mass transit system is severely inadequate to accommodate many New York City residents who currently commute to Manhattan by car. In fact, the MTA’s policy of removing token booth collectors and the excessive lag times for repairs to broken elevators and escalators in subway stations, are just two of the recent examples of the transit system’s failure to meet the needs of the elderly and the disabled. Furthermore, even Howard Roberts Jr., President of NYC Transit has stated that subway lines are often overcrowded and are inadequate for the City’s growth. And while the Mayor frequently mentions the construction of the Second Avenue subway, I would like to see additions and improvements to the subway system, including station upgrades, and bus routes, in our own borough. Hopefully, the grant obtained from the Federal government and revenue generated from congestion pricing will go to transit improvements in all of the outer boroughs.

Another one of my concerns, which I spoke about on the floor of the Assembly, is the issue of permit parking. I do not want to see Downtown Brooklyn turned into a parking lot for drivers wishing to park their cars and ride public transportation into Manhattan. A system of residential permit parking, similar to the one instituted by the city of Boston could work in our brownstone communities. I will work hard to have this issue addressed by the commission.

Beyond congestion pricing, I also believe that it is the government’s role to create incentives to improve alternative and more energy efficient modes of transportation. Some of these measures include improving cyclist and pedestrian roadways, promoting the use of hybrid vehicles, and expanding the use of water taxis. These measures will help us make great strides in improving the quality of the air we breathe.

Please be assured that I will work hard to advance these goals. I thank you for contacting me to express your views.

Joan L. Millman

Mayor’s Office Listens To Community Outcry
To Lease, Not Sell, Firehouse Building

I submitted testimony on May 15, 2007 at a New York City Council Land Use Subcommittee on Planning and Dispositions hearing in support of the ULURP application to lease the firehouse building at 299 DeGraw Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. I testified after the Mayor’s Office announced that that firehouse building will be leased rather than sold, a temporary solution that I have been fighting for since the firehouse closed.

In my testimony, I highlighted that the recent increase in residential and commercial development in the area has increased the need for safety services. I argued that the firehouse building must remain under City ownership until the effects of the firehouse closure on the neighborhood and the future demand for FDNY services can be determined.

Leasing the building until the future needs for the firehouse are studied in greater detail allows the City to reopen the facility if it is deemed necessary, whereas the sale of the building would all but eliminate that possibility. In my testimony, I called for the building to be used by a non-profit organization or a government agency for the duration of the lease to provide services to the ever-growing neighborhood, another opportunity that would likely be lost if the property were permanently sold.

The sale of Engine 204 would demonstrate a permanent lack of commitment to protecting the safety of residents in Cobble Hill. At a time when Downtown Brooklyn’s population is booming and local businesses are thriving, we continue to need the protection of New York’s bravest. I applaud the Mayor’s Office for taking my concerns into consideration and agreeing to lease rather than sell the firehouse building until a long term solution can be reached.

Easy Way To Fairway

Assemblywoman Millman will resume her free shuttle to Fairway this Fall. Shoppers will be able to get a free ride leaving from Assemblywoman Millman’s office on 341 Smith Street to the Fairway Supermarket in Red Hook. The shuttle will operate every other Wednesday. To reserve your seat on the bus please call 718-246-4889.

Legislative Round-Up

Now that the legislative session has come to a close, here are a few of the bills I have been working on and how they fared during the 2007 session. While many of these legislative initiatives were successful, some were held up in Assembly committees or by the Senate. You can rest assured that when I return to Albany for the 2008 session, I will continue to fight for the passage of these important bills, and many others.

photo Assemblywoman Joan Millman with the District Council of Carpenters calling on the developers of the new Sheraton in Downtown Brooklyn to use union labor.

Representation for Transit Riders on the MTA Board

I introduced Assembly Bill 8786 which was recently signed into law by the Governor. The bill will add two members to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. One member will be designated as a representative for New York City riders while the other board member will be a representative for the organized labor community. I can only hope this measure will improve the MTA’s operations, making them more responsive to the needs of riders as well as improving negotiations with the hard working people running our trains and busses.

Strengthening Our Community Boards

I am pleased to announce that a bill I co-authored with Senator Velmanette Montgomery was also signed into law. The new law will allow community boards to apply for state planning grants. It is important that we provide resources for our community boards and promote initiatives that allow citizens to lend their expertise to the planning process. I am confident that this legislation is a good step towards that goal and I look forward to continuing my work encouraging community based planning.

No More Menus or Fliers!

I can also report that residents in New York City will no longer have to tolerate those annoying and intrusive fliers that crowd our doorways and litter our streets. This past session I sponsored legislation that allows residents to post a sign stating that the placement of circulars on their property is prohibited and that penalties can be imposed for violating the ban. This is great news for residents of New York City who have been seeking relief from what has been a nuisance for far too long. I applaud the Governor for signing this legislation into law.

Affordable Live-Work Space for Artists

I authored Assembly Bill 5202 to develop a grant program to help secure affordable live-work space for artists in New York. The bill establishes a pilot program to assist artists in obtaining shared-use facilities, which serve as both a residence and a studio, performance or gallery space in which to practice or display art.

Soaring real estate values in the region are threatening the economic viability of the arts community in New York, forcing artists to move to other parts of the country where the cost of living is lower. This trend is having a detrimental effect on New York’s unique stature as a world leader in arts and entertainment, and the economic benefit in commerce and tourism generated by this valuable resource.

Our district includes DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, prime examples of how the arts community has transformed these areas into thriving residential and commercial centers. Unfortunately, although artists were the driving force behind the revitalization of these neighborhoods, they are being driven out by the corresponding rise in property values.

As New Yorkers, we pride ourselves on the breadth and diversity of the arts community that has shaped the unique character of this City and State. But we are on the verge of losing this priceless asset unless we truly commit ourselves to helping artists secure affordable live-work space. I applaud Governor Spitzer for signing this legislation, and reaffirming our support for the creative community in New York State.

photo Assemblywoman Joan Millman pictured with State Senator Martin Connor at their recent Senior Fair held at St. Francis College. Over 300 local seniors attended to receive information on helpful services.

Setting Limits on Campaign ‘Robocalls’

I introduced Assembly Bill 8550, legislation that will place restrictions on prerecorded political campaign phone call practices. This bill would stop the glut of so-called “robocalls,” the seemingly endless stream of automated calls that can often occur late at night. Unfortunately, this bill did not come up for a vote in the Assembly this session, but I will be back in Albany during 2008 to push for its passage.

“Robocalls” are a common and effective method to promote a candidate during the election season as well as raise voter awareness. Candidates and their supporting campaign committees and organizations have an equal right to free speech. This bill acknowledges the rights of the First Amendment while targeting those who abuse the system by placing too many calls at inappropriate hours. It’s time to stop the constant intrusion. Political candidates and interest groups should not think they have unfettered access to our homes.

Placing simple restrictions on when and how often a prerecorded call may take place will standardize campaigning via the telephone and reduce frustration among potential voters.

Outstanding Community Organization – Fall 2007
The Waterfront Museum

photo Assemblywoman Joan Millman at the opening of the “Floating Pool Lady” located at the site of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Bridge Park. Over 60,000 people visited the pool this summer.
The Waterfront Museum is a not-for-profit organization established in 1986 to provide waterfront access, affordable programs in education and the arts aboard an historic vessel, and to promote historic preservation of the waterfront. Since moving to Brooklyn in 1994, the Museum is docked in Red Hook across from the Fairway Market and is housed aboard the only wooden barge of the “Lighterage era” (1860-1960) that is still floating in America.

The Museum received the Municipal Arts Society 2003 Certificate of Merit Award for making an exceptional contribution to the life of NYC and for an extraordinary job of bring the waterfront closer to all New Yorkers. The barge was also designated by the United Nations as the “Regional Craft of the International Year of the Oceans” in 1998 for The Waterfront Museum’s work in opening up waterfronts for the use and enjoyment of the general public.

The Waterfront Museum has public open hours on Thursdays from 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM, and school and group tours are available at other times by appointment. Be sure to check out the current exhibition, “Showboat – ‘Round the Bend!”, which features the Waterfront Museum’s historic Lehigh Valley Railroad barge’s deckhouse. The glorious history and development of the showboat as an indigenous and popular form of American entertainment - both along our nation’s waterways and within our own New York Harbor - are depicted. A grand Showboat Weekend, October 20th and 21st, will provide accompaniment to the exhibit of history and artifacts. A panel of experts, both scholars and former showboat operators and family members, as well as vintage showboat entertainment, from vaudeville to calliope performances, all under the artistic direction of Travis Stewart, will bring history to life over the two-day festival.

For more than a dozen years, the Waterfront Museum has protected the interests of preserving the historic Brooklyn waterfront and worked diligently to increase accessibility of this under utilized resource for all New Yorkers.

The Waterfront Museum is located at Pier 44, 290 Conover Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231, and can be reached by phone at (718) 624-4719.

Speaking Out Against Expansion
of the Brooklyn House of Detention

On Thursday, June 22, I spoke at a public forum to express my concerns regarding the Brooklyn House of Detention located at 275 Atlantic Avenue. When the House of Detention was closed in 2003, I joined area elected officials in calling for the sale of the building. I was quoted as saying “sell the cells” because I believed then, as I do now, that our community would be better served by additional residential and economic development. Housing, off-street parking and the new home of the YMCA located just a block away are good examples of such projects.

Now the Department of Corrections has no choice but to reopen the House of Detention and they want to expand the facility. Adding to the capacity will only exacerbate its impact on the quality of life in the surrounding community.

At the public forum, I explained that I am fully in support of the proposal to include ground floor retail in the development which will serve to integrate the site into the Atlantic Avenue shopping district. I believe that establishing retail venues at the site will mitigate the impact of the reopened House of Detention by continuing the uninterrupted row of storefronts that line the blocks between Hicks Street to Fourth Avenue along Atlantic Avenue.

If the Brooklyn House of Detention is to be expanded, the overwhelming opposition of the community notwithstanding, then the incorporation of residential and/or commercial development at the site should be carefully considered. While such development may help to shield the neighborhood from the negative impacts of an expanded detention facility, it is essential that such a project be carried out responsibly and that it keep the distinct needs of this community as a top priority.

Additionally, any residential or commercial development must be planned to compliment the character of the neighborhood, by taking into account issues of parking, pedestrian access, streetscape improvements, architectural design, and environmentally friendly technology.

To be clear, residential and/or commercial development other than ground floor retail should only be considered at this site if the proposal to expand the Brooklyn House of Detention is approved. At the public forum, I assured the community that I will continue working to prevent the expansion of a jail facility in this neighborhood.

Contact Assemblywoman Millman

District Office:
341 Smith Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231
(718) 246-4889 • fax:(718) 246-4895