Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman Assemblywoman
Joan L.
Millman

Reports to
the People
Spring 2008

Serving the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill,
Columbia Waterfront, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry Landing, Gowanus, Park Slope and Vinegar Hill

Dear Neighbor,

Even though this legislative session began with a series of startling events, we were able to pass an almost-on-time budget, only 9 days late. We were able to increase education funding, reject increases in tuition at CUNY and SUNY, thus keeping the cost of a higher education affordable and accessible for all, and we gave final approval to what many are calling the best health budget New York has had in many years. So, despite tough economic times I believe we reached consensus, balancing a poor economic picture with a strong set of priorities for working families.

We are fortunate the former governor made such a wise choice when he selected David Paterson as his lieutenant governor. Paterson, a Manhattan State Senator for 20 years, has a reputation for being a consensus builder, a quality not found in the former governor. Governor Paterson has made some outstanding choices in terms of his appointments and demonstrated strong leadership qualities. I look forward to working with this new administration. As one of my colleagues said, “Here’s to Day 1, Act 2!”

As reported in the April 9 issue of the Daily News, I was one of only 13 Assembly Majority members who would have voted for the Mayor’s congestion pricing plan. The rest of the Majority Conference, all 89 of them, would have voted no. Click here to view my statement. I would like to emphasize that, “All of us want, need and demand a superior mass transportation system, cleaner air, and a pedestrian friendlier city.” I have pledged to work with my like-minded colleagues and environmental groups to continue this necessary conversation. In addition I will continue to advocate for residential permit parking for those interested communities.

Once again, my Assembly colleague Jim Brennan and I are hosting a Volunteer Fair to be held in May. At the last fair over 500 individuals met with more than 60 groups to learn more about volunteer possibilities. (See the last page for more information.) Senator Martin Connor and I are hosting a Senior Fair to be held on Friday, June 27 at St. Francis College. Last year’s fair was a huge success and everyone had a terrific time. Flyers announcing this important event will be posted at Senior Centers and other sites shortly.

As always, my office staff is here to help you and is always available to answer questions, and address your concerns or problems. Enjoy a safe and happy summer!

Sincerely,
signature
Joan L. Millman




LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Recycling Plastic Bags
According to the Sierra Club, each ton of plastic bags recycled saves the equivalent of 11 barrels of oil and it is estimated that Americans use about 90 billion plastic bags per year. I introduced Assembly Bill 10460 that would require communities with curbside recycling collection to add plastic bags to the list of products collected for recycling. It would be the consumer’s responsibility to put all the plastic bags into one bag and penalties would be imposed for noncompliance.

Recognizing Rare Diseases
Health insurance companies currently are not required to cover promising treatments and clinical trials for many rare diseases. However, these disabling and life-threatening diseases often do not have other forms of effective treatment. For this reason, I introduced Assembly Bill 8882 to amend the public health and insurance laws to include these groundbreaking forms of treatment. According to the National Association for Rare Disorders, if enacted, my bill would “improve the lives of an estimated 1.9 million New Yorkers affected by one of the 6,000 to 7,000 known rare diseases.”

Preparing for the Digital TV Transition
As many of you are aware, federal law requires television stations nationwide to cease broadcasting in an analog/antenna system and broadcast in all-digital transmissions by February 17, 2009. From January 1, 2008 through March 31, 2009, individuals can apply for a limited number of $40 coupons from the federal government to cover a portion of the cost for a digital-to-analog converter box. I recently discovered, however, that New York State is charging sales tax on the entire cost of the converter box (approximately $70) instead of just charging for the portion of the converter box the federal coupon does not cover (approximately $30). I have introduced Assembly Bill 10324 to ensure hardworking New Yorkers aren’t taxed unfairly should they receive the $40 coupon from the federal government.

Eliminating Waste on SUNY and CUNY Campuses
There is a wonderful opportunity on SUNY and CUNY campuses to develop and implement programs to distribute consumer goods left behind by students to local not-for-profits. The SUNY/CUNY Cares Act, A.9284-a, would encourage SUNY/CUNY administrations to develop programs to reuse these gently-used consumer goods. Currently, the institutions’ staff are responsible for disposing the items left behind, many of which ultimately end up at the local landfill. If enacted, my bill would benefit community not-for-profits and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

Strengthening the Environmental Impact Statement
Recently, I introduced Assembly Bill 10461 to strengthen the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process that is necessary for planning and zoning decisions. While in New York State all planning and zoning decisions are determined by the local government, the state is responsible for establishing the foundation necessary to make these decisions. In its current form, the environmental conservation law is deficient and disorganized and allows unscrupulous developers to submit a questionable EIS. Assembly Bill 10461 would include infrastructure in the list of considerations in the EIS. Schools, hospitals, police and fire departments, public transportation, public parking, roads and roadway networks and neighborhood amenities are adversely impacted by ill-conceived and excessive development. The legislation I have introduced would lift the burden from taxpayers and require these considerations be examined before any development occurs.



PUBLIC PLACE UPDATE

After years of inaction, there is progress to report regarding the Public Place site, a 5.8 acre property along the Gowanus Canal in Carroll Gardens. Public Place was used as a manufactured gas plant until 1974 when the property was turned over to the City. Past analyses of the soil and groundwater have revealed elevated levels of benzene, lead, mercury, chromium and zinc. Groundwater from the site continues to leak into the Gowanus Canal, polluting the waterway.

For over 10 years, the City and Keyspan, now known as National Grid, have been negotiating a cleanup plan for the site. In 1998, State Senator Martin Connor and I became involved in these negotiations by urging Keyspan to readdress the remediation of Public Place. After much discussion and negotiation, a remediation plan was reached in 2000. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and National Grid have made specific plans to start the remediation of the land. The Mayor’s office and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) are monitoring the cleanup process.

Last summer, HPD issued a request for proposal (RFP) to develop the land with guidelines to maximize affordable and senior housing opportunities. The proposals were required to include open space, community facilities and green architecture. After an extensive review process, a finalist has been selected. The winning proposal contains open space, over 100 units reserved for seniors and at least 60% of the remaining units will be permanently affordable. Now that a developer has been chosen, the property will have to be rezoned. This requires a Uniform Land Use Review Process and an Environmental Impact Statement to ensure the land is safe for housing to be built. Once that is completed, the actual clean-up will commence and, finally, building can begin. So, it will be several years before anyone can move in. Nonetheless, after 25 years of talking and planning, the process is finally moving forward.

In March, funding was finalized for a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) grant of $275,137 to be distributed to Friends of Brooklyn Community Board 6, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus and the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation. The Assembly Speaker, Senate Majority Leader and Governor signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which releases the funding to the community groups. The grant is designated to complete a nomination study for five brownfield sites along the Gowanus Canal and the canal itself.

We are making giant strides in the clean-up of the Gowanus and surrounding brownfields. I thank my colleagues State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz for working with me to secure funding for this much-needed study. In addition, I applaud these organizations for their commitment to improving the health and safety of the Gowanus community.




photo Assemblywoman Joan Millman reads from a book written by Brooklynite William Steig at the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. The event celebrated the centennial of Mr. Steig, who authored numerous children’s books.
Limiting the Cost of Textbooks
The cost of college textbooks is rising at a faster rate than inflation or the cost of tuition and is an unnecessary barrier to success for many low-income college students. In order to reduce these exorbitant costs, I introduced Assembly Bill 10268 which would provide guidelines for professors and college and university bookstores to slow the costs of textbooks. As a former educator, I recognize the importance of giving students the tools they need to succeed.



Outstanding Community Organization — Spring 2008
THE OLD STONE HOUSE

The Old Stone House, located in J.J. Byrne Park in the Park Slope neighborhood, is a modern reconstruction of a Dutch stone farmhouse built in 1699. Central to the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776, the Old Stone House now serves as a dynamic community resource through its educational programs and events. In addition to historical exhibits open to the public, the House is available by appointment for tours, classes and rentals.

With the arrival of warm weather, Brooklynites can once again enjoy a broad array of free outdoor events in parks throughout the borough. For the third season in a row, the Old Stone House will present dance, music, film and theater free to the public in J.J. Byrne Park. The season will open on July 1st with a performance by Opera on Tap, an energetic company committed to presenting opera as a viable, living and progressive art form. Brooklyn Film Works will open on July 2 with the musical “1776” in honor of both the Old Stone House’s revolutionary history and the 4th of July holiday. Silver Brown Dance Company will bring their incredible energy to the Old Stone House stage on July 22. And Old Stone House looks forward to once again welcoming John McEneny’s Piper Theatre Company, with an enthusiastic mix of theater education, and a fantastical equity showcase production of a Coney Island-themed Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Old Stone House is located on Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets and is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm. For more information, please visit www.theoldstonehouse.org or call (718)768-3195.




RESTRUCTURING AT THE
DEPARTMENT FOR THE AGING

photo
Talking to seniors at the Eileen C. Dugan Senior Center.

My colleagues in the Brooklyn Assembly Delegation and I recently sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg to express our serious concerns about proposed changes at the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) that could affect our neighborhood senior centers and the Meals on Wheels (MOW) delivery system. We requested that DFTA suspend this plan until a more comprehensive approach to restructuring is created.

The 52nd Assembly District is home to a network of senior centers that provide a diverse range of services to our aging population, ranging from English as a Second Language classes to computer classes and from a mobile post office unit to health and wellness programs. DFTA’s plan to regionalize senior centers is particularly alarming because it would force senior centers in a Community District to compete for funding, which could lead to a decrease in services at many centers. If senior centers are forced to cut back the range of services they offer, it is likely that fewer seniors would be able to access these diverse services. Furthermore, DFTA stated that some senior centers may even be closed under this regionalization plan. You can rest assured I will continue to oppose regionalizing our senior centers.

I also have serious reservations about the proposed timeline for an upcoming Request for Proposals (RFP) process for senior centers. Requiring all senior centers to submit RFPs simultaneously is an overwhelming task for both the senior center staff and DFTA. Flexibility of the timeline and design of services is needed to allow senior centers to continue effectively serving the needs of Brooklyn seniors. Allowing ample time for this process will prevent any seniors from falling through the cracks.

It is also crucial that DFTA consider the needs of many homebound seniors who rely on the MOW program. DFTA has suggested in its restructuring plan that the number of contracts for the MOW program be reduced from 97 to 10-20. I have many concerns about the implications of this change. First, DFTA must assure us that no senior will be required to wait on a MOW waiting list as a result of these changes. In addition, DFTA’s mandate that a certain proportion of meals be delivered frozen, once a week, instead of delivering a hot meal everyday is troubling. While many recipients of the MOW program are technically capable of heating up a frozen meal, there are countless benefits to daily delivery of a hot meal to a homebound senior. Finally, DFTA has proposed that only one caterer per borough prepare meals for the MOW program which would not allow for food to fit a variety of religious, dietary and ethnic backgrounds.

During visits to senior centers in my district, I have observed the value each unique center has to its constituency. For many aging adults, regular visits to the neighborhood senior center keep them healthy and allow them to live independently. While the Mayor has recognized the need to accommodate the rapidly growing senior population, DFTA’s restructuring proposal appears to do the opposite. I will continue to advocate for the protection of Brooklyn’s senior centers and the myriad of vital services they provide.




Community Volunteer Fair Flyer

The Free Shuttle to Fairway Market
is Up and Running Again!

Groceries

After a short hiatus during the cold winter months, I am glad to announce that once again I am organizing a free, bi-weekly shuttle to Fairway Market. Please call my Brooklyn Office at 718-246-4889 to reserve a spot! Planned shuttles begin Thursday, April 24th and will continue every other Thursday with a 10:00 AM pick-up in front of my office, located at 341 Smith Street, and a 10:30 AM pick-up at the St. Charles Jubilee Senior Center, located at 55 Pierrepont Street. Shoppers will be brought back to both locations at approximately 12:30 PM and 1:00 PM respectively.


Contact Assemblywoman Millman
DISTRICT OFFICE: 341 Smith Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231 • (718) 246-4889 • fax: (718) 246-4895
E-Mail:

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