This fall I anticipate the Assembly will be called back into session. Individuals and businesses that pay quarterly taxes have experienced a steady erosion of their income. This, in turn, produced a shortfall in projected state revenues. So, once again, we are faced with belt-tightening and tough choices have to be made. The state has only two choices: raise revenues by increasing taxes and/or fees, or further cut services. This is never an easy choice and my next newsletter will discuss those decisions.
Not only has this past session dealt with the bleakest of financial pictures, but the public has witnessed five weeks of unprecedented turmoil in the Senate. The Assembly adjourned on Tuesday, June 23rd after acting on all the bills presented to us. We then returned to our districts and faced legitimate questions from our constituents. “Who is in control of the Senate?” was one of the most frequently asked questions, and I didn’t have an answer. Finally in July, an agreement was reached among the dissident parties and Senator John Sampson of Brooklyn was given a leadership position. As the left side of the report card once read: works and plays well with others. This must be the new motto for the State Senate.
On the legislative front, I passed a bill to provide optional public financing of campaigns and several other bills I sponsored were signed into law by the Governor (see a partial listing inside). In the district, I was able to save the school-based health clinics run by Long Island College Hospital. Working with my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly, the State Health Department, the Borough President’s office and the Governor’s office, funding was provided to continue these vital services for our students. My trips to Fairway Market have gained in popularity (call my office for the schedule). Seniors enjoyed a morning at the Cobble Hill Cinema in August. I am also planning an event with our local precinct to have personal electronics etched with information to identify their owner. As soon as the date and place have been agreed upon, I will be sure to let you know.
On a personal note, I joined the countless thousands who mourned the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. For as long as I can remember, Kennedy has been a prominent name in government. From Jack to Robert to Ted, the Kennedys have had a lasting impact on government in the United States.
Look for me at one of the countless Halloween festivities that are held in the 52nd Assembly District!
When I reached the decision to support the addition of the Gowanus Canal to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) it was after a thorough review of the proposed clean-up plans
The EPA has assured me that the Gowanus Canal will be a top priority for the agency and they will use the full weight of their authority to remediate the site comprehensively and expediently. Under federal law, the EPA is the only entity that can compel Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to enter into legal agreements to pay their share of the environmental clean-up.
While I believe New York City’s Alternative Plan has merit, its reliance upon scarce federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) funding to pay for the majority of the site remediation is unrealistic. The potential for delay is too great, as it will require the City to lobby for sparse federal funding. I commend the City for providing the necessary funding for the work to rehabilitate the flushing tunnel and reduce the annual combined sewer overflow (CSO) into the canal. The EPA and the DEC strongly believe, as I do, that this work should proceed as planned because it will augment anticipated Superfund remedial measures. In addition, this work will improve water quality in the canal and will provide much-needed relief to the problem of sewage back-up for homeowners in the immediate area.
I urge the City to continue moving forward with the planned rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area. The EPA has made it clear that its proposed remediation for the area will be dependent upon the final use of the land. Land that is zoned for mixed or residential use will be required to achieve a higher standard of clean-up. For decades, the community has wanted the canal and surrounding land to be completely cleaned in order to provide housing, including senior and affordable housing, parkland and recreational opportunities. I also request the EPA work with the NYS DEC to ensure that all sites in the DEC Brownfields Program, particularly Public Place, are given the necessary approval and guidance to proceed with their scheduled clean-up.
A successful clean-up of the Gowanus Canal will tie together communities, provide open space for a variety of recreational uses, and create a safer environment for all residents.
On July 29th, I testified at the Empire State Development Corporation’s Public Hearing regarding the Modified General Plan for Atlantic Yards.
When I testified to ESDC in October of 2005, I recognized that the arena, the affordable housing and the union construction jobs were beneficial to Brooklyn, but the government subsidies and the size of the proposed project were too high a price to pay. Four years later, the price has gotten even higher and the benefits have all but disappeared.
Most of my frustration was, and still is, directed at ESDC which, as a state agency, is supposed to be accountable to the people of New York State and, in this case, the people of Brooklyn. ESDC has bent over backwards to accommodate the developer at the expense of the public. That has to stop now.
We were promised a world-class arena, construction jobs that pay a living wage and thousands of units of much-needed affordable housing. In the new, but unseen and revised plan, we might be getting 300 units of affordable housing and an arena that looks like an airplane hangar. Well, we think it looks like an airplane hangar but since we were not allowed to see the plans we can only base our comments on a few rough sketches.
It’s impossible to be against affordable housing and construction jobs that pay a living wage. The sad irony is that if this project had gone through ULURP and had ESDC respected the democratic process, this project would have been well on its way to completion.
Great news, neighbors! After years of inadequate B61 bus service, the MTA has enacted a comprehensive plan that will make the B61 more efficient and reliable, beginning in January 2010. This plan calls for dividing the B61 into two shorter, more local routes – a B61 and a new B62 line. I strongly support this proposal because it will address the massive delays that have plagued the B61 for far too long.
In recent years, it has become obvious that the current B61 route is overly ambitious. Many constituents have contacted my office to complain about its erratic service. Fortunately, the MTA recognized this problem and understood that the B61 cannot continue to journey almost ten miles between two bustling shopping hubs – Queens Plaza Mall and the Ikea Terminal in Red Hook – while navigating through some of the city’s most traffic-congested neighborhoods and deliver a reliable service schedule.
A recent Straphangers Campaign study found that B61 ridership has grown by over 70 percent while its service has only increased by seven percent.
The new MTA plan should resolve these problems. By shortening B61 service to travel only between Downtown Brooklyn and the Ikea Terminal in Red Hook, neighborhood commuters will be assured a more reliable bus schedule. The new B62 route will be rerouted through the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza Bus Terminal, which will provide inter-borough commuters with a direct route between Brooklyn and Long Island City with the added convenience of subway access to the rest of the city.
Crime rates have fallen throughout the 52nd Assembly District thanks to the hard work of Brooklyn’s 76th, 78th and 84th Precincts. I participated at a National Night Out Against Crime event in Grand Army Plaza with Deputy Inspector John A. Argenziano, 78th Precinct Community Council President Pauline Blake, and members of the 78th Precinct and the NYPD’s Auxiliary Police.
As the newly-appointed chair of the Assembly Election Law Committee, I have introduced a campaign finance bill, Assembly bill 8902. This bill, similar to New York City’s financing law, would level the playing field for candidates by providing optional public financing to campaigns as well as place limits on the amount of money political parties can spend or transfer to candidates. Additionally, the bill establishes detailed rules on the proper usage of public funds and ensures that candidates without an opponent do not receive these funds. In June, I debated the bill during session and I am gratified to report the bill passed with overwhelming support. I am hopeful the Senate will introduce similar legislation in the near future so we can eliminate the practice of “pay to play” which occurs far too often.
During these uncertain financial times, New York needs to utilize practical methods of stimulating business growth. One successful method is by creating mentor-protégé programs. With this model in mind, I worked with Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson to introduce Assembly bill 4091 and Senate bill 1591. This piece of legislation will allow state agencies to establish similar mentor-protégé programs geared towards developing the potential of women and minority-owned small businesses. This bill was signed into law by the Governor on August 27, 2009.
These days our small businesses—particularly small, minority and women-owned businesses- are struggling as they face a range of economic difficulties. These small business owners have expressed their need for a better of way accessing capital, insurance, and other financial services. In light of this, I collaborated with Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson to introduce Assembly bill 4097 and Senate bill 1590. This bill would ensure that state outreach programs for small, minority, and women-owned businesses include access to development assistance. The Governor signed this bill into law August 27, 2009.
In the late 19th century, New York enacted laws that authorized the Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Children (SPCC) to serve as a child protection agency. At that time, the state lacked the necessary laws and agencies to protect children from abuse and neglect. Since then, the state has passed laws that created a confusing system in which officials and agencies had overlapping jurisdiction in these matters. In 2001, a report by the New York State Commission of Investigation found that the SPCC had violated its mandate on several accounts. For these reasons, I worked with Senator Velmanette Montgomery to introduce Assembly bill 7846-B and Senate bill 4865-B to ensure that all child protective services are regulated and documented by New York State. I am proud to announce that this bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
At last, federal legislation has been enacted to stop many of the dubious practices of credit card companies. Effective February 2010, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act will reform disclosure requirements, create young consumer protections and policies related to gift cards, to name a few.
You can find out more information about the new credit card law from the New York State Consumer Protection Board at http://www.consumer.state.ny.us/. In addition, the Board has an ongoing survey to measure any policy changes by credit card companies leading up to the effective date of the CARD Act. So far, 90 percent of respondents report some change to their credit card companies’ terms of agreement. I encourage you to visit the web site and contribute to this valuable survey.
Since 1998, the Warren Street Center for Children and Families has provided comprehensive services for children in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Formerly a small daycare center, the Warren Street Center has evolved into a bright and cheerful space for children to learn and grow. The Center currently provides a dynamic educational program for 25 infants and toddlers 2 months – 2 years old and 60 preschool children 2.5 years – 5 years old. In addition, 70 school-age children aged 5 – 12 years are served during summer and after-school programs. The majority of the families served by Warren Street reside in the community’s two large public housing developments and the surrounding neighborhood.
At the Warren Street Center, children learn from active engagement in their environment and through meaningful interactions with peers and adults. The inclusive setting focuses on the whole child so that his/her social-emotional, physical, creative/aesthetic and cognitive needs are met. The curriculum aims to enrich children’s development with sensitivity to individualized abilities and learning styles. The programming celebrates the vital role that a child’s family, culture, and community play in their development. The Center’s goal is to create an environment where each child develops a greater sense of self, a respect for others, and a lifelong love of learning.
The Center is located at 343 Warren Street and their phone number is 718-237-9578
There never has been a better time to visit your neighborhood greenmarket or farmers’ market. With the opening of two new farmers’ markets in my Assembly District, and many open well into the fall season, residents have more shopping options than ever. In addition, many markets now accept Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and senior coupons for the federally-funded Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).
There are countless benefits to doing your grocery shopping at a greenmarket or farmers’ market—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 frequently donated to New York City food banks.