Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman Assemblywoman
Joan L.
Millman

Reports to
the People
Summer 2008

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

Dear Neighbor,

The 2008 legislative session has ended with several accomplishments including brownfield legislation reform, an end to mandated over-time for nurses, a bill to provide parents and guardians with more information on the care of their disabled children, and a bill to require mental health records of applicants seeking to purchase firearms. Several of my bills were passed by both the Assembly and the Senate and are waiting for the governors’ signature. (See detailed explanation inside.)

Some major disappointments include lack of agreement on reform of the public authorities (the MTA, the Port Authority, etc.), passage of the bigger better bottle bill, property tax reform, and a program for public campaign financing. But the closing days of session had its share of news breaking events. After 14 years as the state Senate Majority Leader, Joe Bruno announced that he will not seek re-election this fall. The Senate Majority met and selected Dean Skelos from Nassau County as their new leader. To add to the drama, the Senate Minority is only two seats away from winning control of that body.

Locally, our annual senior fair attracted close to 400 participants, our Fairway shuttle rolls every other week and after more than a decade TKTS has returned to Brooklyn. More than 3,000 copies of my Summer Reading Challenge were distributed to local elementary school students. (If your child didn’t get one, just call my office 718-246-4889 or email me at millmaj@assembly.state.ny.us)

Enjoy a safe and happy summer!

Sincerely,
signature
Joan L. Millman




LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

This session in Albany, several of the bills I introduced moved successfully through the legislative process. All of these bills passed both the Assembly and Senate and will be sent to Governor Paterson for approval. It is my hope that the Governor will sign these bills into law.

Closing the Liquor License Loophole

In response to input from the community, I authored legislation to close a loophole which allows establishments applying for New York State liquor licenses that are located less than 200 feet from a school or other place of worship to evade the 200 foot rule simply by moving the entrance to their establishment. The bill I introduced, along with its companion bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Martin Connor, amends the State Liquor Authority’s standards from currently measuring between entryways to measuring between the closest property line of the liquor establishment and the nearest entryway of the school or place of worship.

Reforming the New York State Dormitory Authority

Not many New Yorkers are aware that the state is spending $200 million annually to send special needs children to out-of-state residential schools and facilities because our own state lacks the in-state capacity to serve these children. Moreover, the 2005 Council on Children and Families’ Interagency Out-of-State Residential Placement Work Group found that for every 100 children who could be served in-state rather than being placed out-of-state, we would save $7.8 million. I introduced Assembly Bill 11001-A to develop a residential bed plan and to provide low cost financing for the development and rehabilitation of in-state schools and facilities to serve New York State’s special needs children.

One Step Closer to the Digital Television Transition

I want to make sure all New Yorkers are adequately prepared for the nationwide transition from analog television to digital television on February 17, 2009. While the federal government will provide $40 coupons to cover a portion of the cost of a digital-to-analog converter box, I discovered that New York State was planning to incorrectly charge sales tax on the entire cost of the converter box (approximately $70) instead of correctly charging for the portion of the converter box the federal coupon does not cover (approximately $30). To remedy this mistake, I introduced Assembly Bill 10324-A.

Streamlining Child Protective Services

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and I introduced companion bills in the Assembly (A.10516-A) and Senate (S.3153-A) to repeal special powers given to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) which directly conflict with the authority of state and local child protective services. Established in New York State in the 1870s, the SPCC has the authority under current law to perform child protective services that are equal to those provided by the state although it is not subject to any form of state oversight or regulation. Following a 2001 study by the New York State Commission of Investigation that revealed numerous abuses of authority committed by agents of the SPCC, it became clear that this situation needed to be corrected. The laws put in place over a hundred years ago are no longer necessary, and even worse, are dangerous to the system which was originally established to ensure the safety of children in New York State.

Celebrating America’s Great Pastime in the Empire State

Beyond being home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and home to the famed New York Yankees and New York Mets, the state is also home to thirteen minor league and independent league baseball teams—such as our own Brooklyn Cyclones. Collectively, these teams play hundreds of games annually. To bring recognition to New York State’s wealth of minor league and independent baseball teams, I introduced Assembly Bill 11288. This bill will create an Empire State Baseball Trails program to promote tourism around the theme of minor league baseball. Greater public awareness of these teams and their game schedules has the potential to add to the state’s tourism revenues, particularly to struggling upstate communities.




SOCIAL SECURITY ON THE WEB

Thanks to new online services at the Social Security Administration, you can now accomplish a variety of tasks online. Prospective beneficiaries can apply for Social Security retirement benefits or disability benefits, apply for additional Medicare prescription benefits and check the status of their application. If you aren’t sure if you qualify for benefits or would like to estimate your future benefits, you also may use the new online service. For recipients of either Social Security or Medicare, you can update your contact information, order a replacement Medicare card, request a proof of income card, obtain a Social Security Benefit Statement or get a new password using the new online service. And, finally, if you have a password to use the online services, you can check your information and benefits, change an address or phone number and start or change direct deposit service. All these services are now available at www.social.security.gov.




Problems with the Pre-Kindergarten Application Process

This spring my office received many complaints and requests for assistance regarding the Department of Education’s new centralized pre-kindergarten application process. There were families who simply never heard from the DOE about where their child might be placed next September, families whose older child was a student at a school, but a younger sibling was denied a seat in the same school, and the many complaints about just how long it took the DOE to inform parents about the status of their youngster.

I think serious consideration must be given to this process – both to pre-k placements and before kindergarten applications are centralized next year. While there may be some good arguments for centralizing applications, this year it was clear that many thousands of families found the process frustrating, alienating, and difficult to navigate. I think it is particularly disappointing that the pre-k process went so wrong when for many families, pre-kindergarten is a family’s first contact with the public school system. As a former public school teacher, I am a strong advocate for public schools and parent involvement, but how can we ask parents to be involved when they are unable to get simple answers to basic questions such as what school their child will attend in the fall?

It is a good idea to create a uniform system for pre-k applications – the mix of lotteries, first-come, first-serve registration and some favoritism in the system was clearly unfair. But it is not clear to me that processing applications at an out-of-state company unfamiliar with our families and our communities, is a good answer. Families need the human touch. These issues have long plagued the middle school and high school application process, and now they seem to affect every level of the school system.

This is one of the many issues that my colleagues and I will be examining when we vote on whether to extend mayoral control of the school system at the end of the next legislative session. I will have many questions about whether mayoral control has improved the school system and will be closely examining how the application process works, or doesn’t work, next year. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this issue. Feel free to call or email my office to share your experiences and thoughts.




GREENMARKET ANNOUNCEMENT

Summer has arrived and along with it comes the opportunity to enjoy local produce, dairy, meat and seafood at a Greenmarket near you. There are countless benefits to doing your grocery shopping at a Greenmarket—food is grown locally and does not require as many resources to reach your table, farmers are often on-hand to answer your questions, freshly-picked produce retains more nutrients than produce boxed and shipped from distant locations and unsold produce is donated to New York City food banks. I encourage everyone to visit a nearby Greenmarket this summer and fall.

Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket
Located at Court and Montague Streets in Downtown Brooklyn
Open Tuesdays and Saturdays year round from 8 AM to 6 PM
And Thursdays from April 3rd until December 18th

Carroll Park Greenmarket
Located at Carroll and Smith Streets
Open Sundays from June 8th through November 23rd from 8 AM to 4 PM

Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket
Located at Prospect Park West and Flatbush Avenue
Open Saturdays year round from 8 AM to 4 PM
* Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards can be used at this location




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ASSISTING THE PROSPECT PARK ALLIANCE

I was joined by some young patrons of the Prospect Park Parade Grounds Ballfields to celebrate a $50,000 state grant I secured for restoration of facilities at the park.




PUBLIC PLACE UPDATE

After 25 years of talking and planning, progress is being made at Public Place. Public Place, a 5.8 acre property along the Gowanus Canal in Carroll Gardens, was used as a manufactured gas plant until 1974 when the property was turned over to the city. While the ground is heavily polluted, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and National Grid are in the process of planning the remediation of the land. The Mayor’s office and the Housing Preservation and Development Agency (HPD) are closely monitoring the cleanup process.

In late spring, a development team of private and nonprofit affordable housing developers was selected by the city to create Gowanus Green. The team, consisting of the Hudson Companies, Fifth Avenue Committee, Jonathon Rose Companies and The Bluestone Organization, put forward a proposal featuring nine buildings with 774 units of housing, 65,000 square feet of community and retail space, 365 parking spaces and 3 acres of open space. 70% of the units will be permanently affordable for people with incomes between 30% and 130% of the AMI (Area Median Income) and includes over 100 units of affordable senior housing. Gowanus Green will also feature a two acre public park and incorporate advanced storm water management systems to retain 100% of the storm water on site.

The next step is the hardest part- the clean-up of the site. I share the community’s concern that not one unit of housing can be built if the site is not completely cleaned up. That responsibility belongs to Keyspan/National Grid and the NYS DEC and we will all work together to ensure the clean-up is done properly. Too much is at stake to fail.




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HOUSE OF DETENTION

I joined City Comptroller Billy Thompson, State Senators Marty Connor and Velmanette Montgomery and City Councilmember David Yassky to rally with community leaders and members of Stop BHOD and the BHOD Stakeholders Group to halt the reopening of the Brooklyn House of Detention (BHOD). The city is looking to reopen this obsolete and defunct building at a cost of $300 million and double its original capacity to house 1,600 inmates. The residents and businesses of the community have voiced their opposition and, as I’ve said since 2003, the city should “sell the cells.”




TKTS RETURNS!
photo On July 10th, I joined Borough President Marty Markowitz, MetroTech BID’s Mike Weiss, Councilmember David Yassky, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Brooklyn-native and Broadway star Kerry Butler and cast members from Forbidden Broadway to officially open TKTS Downtown Brooklyn.
I am proud to announce the return of TKTS to Brooklyn. It has taken almost ten years, but TKTS has finally returned to Brooklyn! It has been the culmination of a great deal of hard work and represents a true collaboration between the business community and government. This could not have happened without The Theatre Development Fund, The MetroTech Business Improvement District, especially Mike Weiss, Keyspan/National Grid and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

TKTS is located at 1 MetroTech Center at the corner of Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue. It will be open Monday through Friday from 11am to 6pm. TKTS offers same-day evening and next-day matinee tickets for Broadway, Off Broadway, music, dance and Brooklyn performing arts events at discounts of up to 50% off.




Spotlight on a Non-Profit:
Center for the Urban Environment

For the past 30 years, the Center for the Urban Environment (CUE) has been educating New Yorkers of all ages about the environment they live in through a variety of programming such as urban tours, the Sustainable Business Network, public events at their “living museum” and hands-on programs in local schools. CUE reaches over 100,000 individuals at 260 schools and community sites throughout the City each year. The Center is committed to fostering stewardship, leadership and scholarship through hands-on programs that explore the built and natural environments.

One unique way to learn more about Brooklyn’s urban environment are CUE’s urban tours. From guided walks through of the historical districts of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens to tours of post-industrial areas like Gowanus and DUMBO to waterway tours navigating the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, these tours are excellent opportunities to learn about the interface between our urban neighborhoods and the natural world. A schedule of upcoming urban tours can be found on CUE’s website.

On September 18th, CUE encourages the community to attend its free 4th Annual Green Brooklyn Conference which will bring together community, businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies for a day-long fair and symposium of green and sustainability issues, programs and products. In addition, a variety of workshops open to the public will focus on sustainable design, green manufacturing, transportation alternatives, energy efficiency, environmental education and sustainable food. For details about this event, please visit www.greenbrooklyn.org.

In addition to offering wonderful programs for school-age children, CUE is partnering with the 5th Avenue Committee to create a community education center to be located at the Public Place site. The public also is invited to visit the organization at its headquarters, currently Brooklyn’s only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building, for one of its scheduled tours.

CUE is located in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn at 168 7th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. For more information, you may visit the CUE website at www.bcue.org or call 718-788-8500.




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MILLMAN AND CONNOR’S ANNUAL SENIOR FAIR

On June 27th, Senator Marty Connor and I held our annual Senior Fair, which was graciously hosted by St. Francis College. The event brought together nearly 400 local senior citizens with representatives from over 40 community organizations and local, state and federal government agencies that serve the needs of seniors.


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