Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman

Assemblywoman
Joan L.
Millman
Reports to
the People
Winter 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,

As you read this issue of my “Report to the People,” the year is drawing to a close. It will certainly be remembered as a historic one. Next year, there will be a new administration in Washington, one filled with hope and promise but facing the most difficult of challenges. In addition, leadership changes in Albany will provide an opportunity to pursue new priorities.

Despite this year’s historic election, the overriding issue for all of us is the dramatic downturn in our economy. Many economists believe the current economic picture is likely to develop into the worst recession since the early 1980s. The questions facing Washington and state legislatures across the country are whether to cut programs, increase taxes, or attempt to grow our way out of these troubled economic times. In New York State, the two biggest areas of spending are education and health care. I believe major cuts in those two areas may help us in the short term but will have disastrous long-term effects. For too long the state has depended on New York City’s financial, insurance and real estate sections (often referred to as FIRE) to help fund our economy. Now that these areas have been the hardest hit, our state is in enormous financial difficulty. The state, and certainly the city, should focus on developing new areas of growth. At a recent ceremony celebrating the merger of New York University and Polytech, Governor Paterson spoke about the importance of investing in higher education so we can develop ideas and technologies to foster the growth of new industries in our state.

In the difficult months ahead we will all face tough choices. The dollars are simply not there to continue the level of spending and support we have come to expect from government. But I have great faith that we will find the solutions to our problems. With new leadership, the greatest nation in the world can find these solutions. I am committed to working with my colleagues at all levels of government to do just that.

So, as we gather with family and friends during this holiday season and welcome in the New Year, let us not lose sight of our national can-do attitude. As someone recently said, “Yes, We Can.” I wish you and your family happiness, health and hope in the New Year.

All the best,
signature
Joan L. Millman




LONG ISLAND COLLEGE HOSPITAL UPDATE

I am very proud to report that the New York State Department of Health has listened to the community and informed LICH that closing the obstetrics, neonatal and pediatric services “is not acceptable at this time.” This is great news for Brooklyn. For 150 years, the communities of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn have depended on LICH as their primary medical facility. To lose obstetrics, neonatal and pediatrics services would have meant that scores of women and children would be without a neighborhood medical facility and would be forced to travel to over-burdened hospitals elsewhere in Brooklyn, or to hospitals or clinics in Manhattan. In addition, the Department of Health has declined LICH’s application to close its school-based health clinics. To its credit, LICH has maintained that it will not close these much-needed clinics until a suitable sponsor has been found. Recognition must be given to Governor David Paterson for his leadership role in helping to save LICH.

While this is an important first step, the bottom line is that LICH is in a very serious financial crisis. There is much more work that needs to be done to nurse LICH back to sound fiscal health. Everyone involved remains committed to do so. We need a healthy, full-service hospital and nothing less will suffice.




UPDATE ON THE
KINDERGARTEN APPLICATION PROCESS

In a rare about-face, the New York City Department of Education has decided to abandon its plans to centralize the way families apply for spots in kindergarten, at least for the upcoming school year. Perhaps because of widespread dissatisfaction with the pre-kindergarten application process, which was centralized for the first time in 2008, the DOE has decided that kindergarten applications will be handled by local schools. One positive step the DOE has taken this year is the adoption of a uniform set of rules that will determine how spots are given to incoming kindergartners, which I hope will help make the process fair. As for pre-K, the DOE still seems determined to continue the centralized application process despite last year’s issues—but they appear also to be trying to improve the process to smooth out the numerous glitches that surfaced last year. Stay tuned!




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Jay Street Subway Station
I joined Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Council Member David Yassky to demand that the MTA take immediate and substantial action to improve the sorry state of the station, which has been ranked as the fourth worst in the entire system. We also called on the MTA to develop a plan to productively use the vacant office space at its 370 Jay Street location. I was recently invited by MTA officials to tour the Jay Street Station and was impressed with the scope of the planned reconstruction. While it will not be completed until 2011, plans include a free transfer connection to the Lawrence Street Station and both stations will be fully accessible.



ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOAN MILLMAN AND
STATE SENATOR VELMANETTE MONTGOMERY

INVITE YOU TO A

COMMUNITY WORKSHOP ON
ENERGY CONSERVATION &
GREEN BUILDING STRATEGIES

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2008
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
BELARUSIAN CHURCH
401 Atlantic Avenue (at Bond Street)

Learn about programs to help reduce your energy costs and promote green businesses




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P.S. 58 Library Ribbon Cutting
I joined Council Member Bill de Blasio, P.S. 58 Principle Giselle McGee and Assistant Principle Jayme Perlman and staff, students and parents to officially open the newly renovated P.S. 58 library. The renovation was funded in part through a New York Assembly capital grant that I secured. A beautiful soundtrack was provided by P.S. 58’s own orchestra.



ENHANCED NEW YORK STATE DRIVERS LICENSE

As a result of new federal guidelines, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has recently introduced the Enhanced Drivers License (EDL) and non-driver photo identification card that can be used for land and sea travel between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. (Remember, though, that a valid passport is still needed for all international air travel between the U.S. and any other countries.) This new license is a federally approved identification document that will be scanned by border agents to streamline crossings at certain locations.

The EDL is valid for up to eight years. The license will display a U.S. flag and the word “Enhanced” on the front of the card. New York State residents who are U.S. Citizens can apply for the EDL at their local DMV office. Proof of identity is required. For a complete list of accepted documents, please visit http://nysdmv.com/forms.htm.




OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE—HEALTH ROUNDTABLE

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On November 6th, my Assembly colleague Richard N. Gottfried and I hosted a roundtable discussion to assess measures taken to solve the plagued New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) prior approval process for reimbursing Medicaid beneficiaries for durable medical equipment. This equipment includes such items as power wheelchairs with customized lap trays, foot pedals and head rests. Also participating in the forum were Assemblymember Micah Kellner, advocates for the disabled community, representatives of durable medical equipment companies and representatives from the DOH. The forum was also an invaluable opportunity for the DOH to hear feedback from clinicians and vendors.

Under the prior approval process, many Medicaid beneficiaries have suffered, sometimes waiting for up to two years for DOH approval of certain medical devices. The prior approval process requires a beneficiary to visit with a physician to get a letter of medical justification for a device, then a therapist or vendor to get fitted for the device. The vendor then submits the request to DOH, waits for DOH approval for funding and, finally, delivers the device to the beneficiary upon approval. The DOH currently estimates this process takes seven months on average, which shows progress has been made from earlier reports. However, each additional day spent waiting for a customized device greatly limits the ability of an applicant to effectively function in his or her everyday life.

The goal of this forum was to take stock of reforms to this system and identify any further problems. As Chair of the Assembly’s Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee, I requested the Department of Health to report back to the committee within sixty days with revised procedures. While this represents a small amount of money in comparison to the state’s entire Medicaid budget, I am concerned that New Yorkers with disabilities often face lengthy delays getting the tools they need to live as independently as possible.




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Fall Clean-up
I pitched in alongside volunteers from the Park Slope Civic Council (PSCC) in its Fall Clean Sweep. The PSCC coordinates this effort each fall and spring to paint over graffiti, mulch tree pits, plant bulbs and clean fliers from lampposts. I helped bag and distribute free daffodil bulbs to neighborhood residents who were encouraged to plant them in a public area.



TKTS IS OPEN ON SATURDAYS!

While it took 10 years to get TKTS to return to Brooklyn, it only took me a few weeks to get the TKTS Discount Ticket Booth in Downtown Brooklyn to open on Saturdays! With these new hours, we will be able to purchase discount Broadway, Off-Broadway, music, dance and Brooklyn performing arts tickets for Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performances.

The new hours of TKTS Downtown Brooklyn, located at One MetroTech Center, will be Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The TKTS program is run by the Theatre Development Fund, a non-profit organization dedicating to ensuring that millions of New Yorkers and tourists who may not otherwise be able to afford tickets to a live performance can do so. For more information about TKTS Brooklyn and the Theatre Development Fund, please visit www.tdf.org.




NYSERDA EVENT AT THE EILEEN C. DUGAN CENTER

As winter approaches, we all worry about the cost of heating our homes in addition to our usual monthly utility bills. This fall, I invited Heartshare Human Services and their EmPower New York Workshop to the Eileen C. Dugan Senior Center. The audience of over 100 senior citizens learned ways to lower their energy costs. For example, your refrigerator often uses more energy than any other electric appliance in your kitchen. Replacing an old refrigerator can save you money on your electric bill since an old refrigerator can use over three times as much energy as today’s models. Also, use an accurate thermometer inside your refrigerator to ensure you aren’t wasting energy by keeping your refrigerator and freezer too cold. The temperature in your refrigerator should be between 36 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer should be between 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The EmPower New York Workshop is funded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) thanks to legislation supported by the New York State Assembly and Senate. For tips on how you can save money on your electricity bill and information about assistance available to low income households, please visit www.nyserda.org.




Department of Consumer Affairs’
6th Annual Business Education Day

This year, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Sixth Annual Business Education Day provided business owners with useful information about New York City Consumer Protection Laws, such as licensing requirements and the mediation process for resolving consumer complaints. I accompanied DCA Assistant Commissioner for Litigation and Mediation Susan Kassapian on door-to-door visits to Park Slope businesses to share this important information. For more information about New York City’s Consumer Protection Laws, consumers and business owners can visit www.nyc.gov/consumers.


Spotlight on a Community Organization:
Christian Help in Park Slope

Since its inception in 1971 as a small shelter for homeless people, Christian Help in Park Slope (CHIPS) has expanded its scope of services by adding many programs. For example, the Frances Residency Program serves young, homeless, single mothers and their children by providing hot nutritious meals and shelter in a safe and secure location. The Frances Residency is looking for volunteers for Fridays between 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and for weekend evening and night shifts. Both volunteer positions could be weekly or monthly.

CHIPS also accepts and distributes seasonal clothing and emergency food items. Additionally, CHIPS facilitates individual and group meetings for mothers and their children to provide information about health and nutrition concerns, as well as housing opportunities. In order to provide all these wonderful services, CHIPS depends on donations as well as volunteer help. Volunteers are especially needed to help serve, prepare and cook meals for poor and hungry individuals that rely on CHIPS.

CHIPS is located at 200 4th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. For more information, you may call 718-237-2962 between 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. for an appointment or interview or 718-855-8861 for information and volunteer opportunities.




EARLY VOTING LEGISLATION
 

This year’s general election saw record numbers of voters and extraordinary lines in many polling sites throughout the district and the country. While I was pleased to see so many citizens exercising their right to vote, I believe many more would have been able to vote in New York State if early voting was available. Early voting affords more people an opportunity to participate in elections by providing alternative days, times, places and manners in which to vote before Election Day. It also reduces confusion and congestion at the polls and less disenfranchisement on Election Day. Currently, thirty-two states allow no-excuse pre-Election Day voting, either in-person, via voting machine or by mail. It is estimated that this year alone over one-third of the voters in the country took advantage of early voting.

Unfortunately, it is not an easy process to implement early voting in New York State. While the U.S. Constitution established the day for holding federal elections, it deferred the “time, place and manner of those elections” to the states. Article 2 of the New York State Constitution authorized the codification of those procedures. Section 2 of this Article authorizes only qualified voters who will be absent from their county or city of residence or who will be unable to personally appear on Election Day because of an illness or physical disability to utilize absentee voting. It will require an amendment to the state constitution and passage of an early voting bill in two consecutive sessions of the New York State Legislature. With that in mind, I have introduced legislation to amend the New York State Constitution to permit early voting. If all goes well, we could have early voting implemented in time for 2012 Presidential Election.


Contact
Assemblywoman Millman

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

E-mail: millmaj@assembly.state.ny.us


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