Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman
Assemblywoman
Joan L. Millman
Reports to the People
Winter 2010

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,

Primary and Election Day 2010 have come and gone and most of us are still standing. Locally, all of our elected officials easily won re-election. I look forward to working with our state-wide elected officials, Governor-elect Cuomo, Comptroller Di Napoli and Attorney General-elect Schneiderman. Former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis will be missed. He was an outstanding public servant who was dismissed by the current administration for accurately stating that his agency couldn’t function properly with the loss of an additional 150 positions.

As the new Governor gets sworn in, he will be facing a $9 billion deficit. He has stated he wants no new taxes, so creative solutions must be found to raise additional revenue. We must cut wasteful spending and streamline government. We can and should consolidate local agencies by eliminating duplicative services. We have talked about these issues before and our new Governor seems intent on finding ways to find savings and cost-efficient methods.

No matter what party controls the New York State Senate, we must address ethics reform. Last January, both houses passed ethics reform legislation only to have Governor Paterson veto the bill. Another bill of particular interest to me would require a non-partisan redistricting commission to draw the new Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts for 2012. Two years after every census, new districts are created based on population gains and losses. We know the 52nd Assembly District has gained population—just walk on Fourth Avenue and see all the new housing. As Chair of the Election Law Committee these issues may come before my Committee and I support both concepts.

Once again our annual food drive held in conjunction with District Attorney Hynes’ Family Justice Center was hugely successful. I thank each and everyone of you who contributed items to help women and their families who are victims of domestic violence. When residents of the 52nd Assembly District are asked to lend a helping hand, you always rise to the occasion and I am extremely proud to represent all of you.

I wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday and peace in the New Year.

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Joan L. Millman
BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK UPDATE

Many of you have already been down to Piers 1 and 6 and have enjoyed the wonderful park that Regina Myer and her team at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation have created with the invaluable input of community residents. There is more to come!

In late October, the Community Advisory Committee, after many years of delays and setbacks, finally convened with 25 members representing all of the communities that surround the park. I was pleased to see such great participation. I hope the energy, passion and expertise the members bring to the CAC will be fully utilized by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.

One of the entry points to the park will finally start taking shape in the near future. Construction will start next year on the much-needed pedestrian bridge connecting the park at Pier 1 and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade through Squibb Park. The bridge will make it easier to access Brooklyn Bridge Park, especially from the Clark Street and High Street subway stations.

Lastly, St. Ann’s Warehouse was recently selected as the winner of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to rehabilitate and adaptively re-use the Tobacco Warehouse as a cultural and educational center. The Tobacco Warehouse is an historic structure located in the Empire Fulton Ferry section of the park built in the Civil War period. It is currently a 25,000 sq. ft. open air structure. While I expressed my disappointment with the lack of meaningful public input during the RFP process, I am a supporter of the outstanding work St. Ann’s Warehouse does and look forward to working with them to ensure we utilize the Tobacco Warehouse to its fullest potential. You can visit the Brooklyn Bridge Park website– www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org– to see the proposal.

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In response to numerous complaints, I spearheaded the effort to reassign additional school crossing guards to the dangerous intersections of 3rd Street at both 3rd and 4th Avenues. One of the consequences of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) elimination of the B71 bus is that students attending schools along its former route no longer have a viable transportation option between school and home. I joined crossing guard Mahamuda Akthor and students from M.S. 51.


MORE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE LICH-SUNY DOWNSTATE MERGER

In October, the merger between Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Facility moved one big step closer to reality. I was joined by officials from SUNY Downstate and LICH, the Governor and several of my colleagues in local government to announce a state grant of $40 million to aid the process. This is the second HEAL grant awarded to keep the hospital viable since it announced possible closure of its maternity ward in 2008. Once the merger is complete, the grant will be used to tackle LICH’s debt and integrate the clinical and financial operations of the hospital with SUNY Downstate.

Reaching this milestone has required tremendous coordination between state and federal government agencies, community members and local elected officials. On November 18th, I traveled up to Albany to attend the final meeting of the Department of Health’s (DOH) State Hospital Review and Planning Council. Our delegation included SUNY Downstate President Dr. John LaRosa, LICH Board of Regents and Ad Hoc Committee for LICH Member Joseph Broadwin, and Ad Hoc Committee for LICH and Former LICH Board of Regents Member Murray Adams. The Council, comprised of professionals in the field of medicine, voted to approve the LICH-SUNY merger. This approval was a key action in allowing the merger to proceed.

I want to thank all the parties involved for working to ensure that residents still have a community hospital to depend on, doctors and nurses still have a place to practice their profession and students still have an excellent teaching institution at which to learn.

Together, SUNY Downstate and LICH will be run as one hospital with two campuses—LICH and the University Hospital of Brooklyn. I am hopeful that they will be stronger and more sustainable together than they ever were independently and I look forward to a final agreement between the two institutions.


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HALLOWEEN IN THE DISTRICT
Residents of the 52nd Assembly District go all-out on Halloween. This year, I attended parades, carnivals and gatherings in Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, the Columbia Street Waterfront District, Cobble Hill and Park Slope. I distributed over 500 individual bags of candy—kids in the 52nd District sure have a sweet tooth!


EXPANSION OF THE PARK SLOPE HISTORIC DISTRICT

On October 26th, I submitted testimony to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in support of expanding the Park Slope Historic District. The original historic district was created in 1973 and includes most of the brownstone blocks on Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West from Sterling Place to 15th Street and Seventh Avenue from Sterling Place to 4th Street as well as some additional blocks in the northern part of Park Slope. The proposal would expand the district to include eight square blocks between Seventh and 14th Streets and between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. It also would include buildings on both sides of Seventh Avenue between Seventh and 14th Streets.

Park Slope is one of Brooklyn’s most prized and best preserved neighborhoods. It has achieved that status because of the community’s active involvement in protecting its unique 19th century charm. Historic designation has been an important factor in the preservation of Park Slope’s character since the early 1970s, but the initial designation covered only a quarter of what the American Planning Association has declared to be one of America’s ten greatest neighborhoods.

In recent years, many Park Slope buildings with similar quality have been demolished or inappropriately altered. Designation of a larger historic district will ensure that Park Slope retains the historical and architectural character that makes it one of the finest 19th century neighborhoods in the nation.

Back in June, some 200 South Slope building owners attended a meeting sponsored by the LPC. LPC staff answered questions on the permitting process, the type of exterior changes that can be made without a permit, and the steps involved with the landmarking process. Currently, LPC staff is researching the condition of 600 buildings within the expansion area. They will then create a designation report which will take six to eight months to complete. Action by the LPC is expected before the end of 2011.


VISIT TKTS IN DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN

The booth is near the Jay Street-Borough Hall station of the A, C and F trains; near the Court Street-Borough Hall station of the M, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains; and the Lawrence Street station of the M, and R trains. Purchases can be made using credit cards, cash or TKTS Gift Certificates. TKTS Downtown Brooklyn is administered by the Theatre Development Fund with support from the MetroTech Business Improvement District. I hope to see you at a show!
I was glad to help bring the TKTS Discount Ticket Booth to 1 MetroTech Center (corner of Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue Promenade) in 2008 and it has been a huge success. Tickets can be purchased not only for Broadway and Off – Broadway musicals and plays but to Brooklyn performing arts events, such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at up to 50% off.

The booth is the only location in Brooklyn. Tickets can be purchased for evening performances on the day of and matinee tickets can be purchased the day before. The ability to purchase tickets the day before a show is one of the many advantages of the Brooklyn booth.

TKTS is open Tuesday through SATURDAY from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (four hours earlier than Times Square). Thus far ticket sales are up 50% over last year thanks to the influx of new residents and visitors to Downtown Brooklyn.


THE NEW VOTING MACHINES AND A BUSY YEAR
FOR THE ELECTION LAW COMMITTEE

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I testified at the City Council hearing in September to discuss the many problems voters encountered. I was joined by Jo Anne Simon.
New York City residents had their first opportunity to vote using the new optical scan machines in this fall’s primary and general elections. The switch to new electronic machines was mandated by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), passed in the wake of the election crisis in Florida in 2000. Under HAVA, states were given the task of selecting and implementing electronic voting machines along with local boards of election.

As Chair of the New York State Standing Committee on Election Law, I held a hearing in May in the City to provide the New York City Board of Elections with an opportunity to testify about its needs in implementing new voting machines in the fall. The Board of Elections requested additional funding to provide the expanded training they knew inspectors would require and explained an outreach program they had developed, both of which required additional funds. Funds were obtained, inspectors were given additional hours of training and their compensation was increased as well. Leading up to the primary election, I arranged demonstrations of the optical scan machines at libraries, senior centers and large co-ops throughout the 52nd Assembly District.

Unfortunately, as many of you are aware, there were many problems on primary day. I received complaints ranging from violated privacy to late delivery of voting machines to polling sites. Fortunately, many of the problems experienced on primary day were human errors and are simple to correct. A major issue in the City, especially in the 52nd Assembly District, is the shortage of well-trained poll inspectors. State laws that I sponsored to allow poll inspectors to work a half-day instead of the full 16 –hour day and to allow 17 year olds to be poll workers were not implemented by the New York City Board of Elections. Neither of these laws, which were signed into law by the Governor this summer, were followed by the New York City Board of Elections.

At two recent hearings—one held by the New York State Senate Committee on Elections and one held by the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations—I offered recommendations to the Board of Elections to address problems on primary day. Among my suggestions, I advised the Board to conduct more training in the areas or sites where problems existed, such as voter privacy and use of the ballot marking devices. Certainly equipment needs to be delivered to polling sites on time so that the polls can open promptly at 6:00 a.m. Each polling site should have at least two optical scan machines, in case one breaks down during the day. The process of closing the polls and posting results for poll watchers needs to be streamlined as well.

I am planning an Assembly Election Law Committee hearing in the City to evaluate the implementation of the optical scan machines during the general election and address any new challenges we face. The voters of New York State waited a long time for the new machines. I want to ensure they do not have to wait an equally long time for all the components—machine and human—to function equally well.


APPLY FOR HELP WITH WINTER HEATING BILLS

Beginning December 13th, my office will be assisting constituents with applications for the Neighborhood Heating Fund, a program sponsored by National Grid and administered by Heartshare Human Services. Under this program qualified applicants may receive a one-time grant for up to $200 towards their National Grid gas bill. (Households are eligible for one grant per season). The program is first come, first served and will end when the funds run out.

Applicants will need to show identification and income information for everyone in their household AND a current National Grid bill. Heartshare will verify all of the information. Call my office at 718-246-4889 to set up an appointment.

HEAP – the Home Energy Assistance Program is a federally funded financial assistance program designed to help eligible low-income households pay energy bills. HEAP is open now and there is money available. There are two kinds of HEAP grants: regular and emergency grants. Depending on your financial situation you may qualify for both grants.

Income guidelines for 2010-2011

I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this program. For more information about HEAP, including what kinds of information you need to apply, call 1-800-342-3009. Please also call my office if you would like more information or help applying for HEAP.

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Thanksgiving is a holiday that always reminds us to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Again this year, Fairway Market and I partnered to deliver 50 turkeys to several organizations located in the 52nd Assembly District that provide hot meals for their clients. CHIPS Soup Kitchen, the Eileen Dugan Senior Center, the HOPE Program, the Prospect Park YMCA, the Raices Times Plaza and Gowanus Senior Centers and the YWCA of Brooklyn all received turkeys this year. I am pictured in this photo with LaDanza Worthey, Coordinator of the Raices Gowanus Senior Center.



SPOTLIGHT ON A COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION:
THE BROOKLYN YOUTH CHORUS

A local organization that has brought its music to the world, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy (BYCA) has been one of the country’s leading children’s choruses for nearly 20 years. Along the way Brooklyn Youth Chorus has won a Grammy, performed at the White House, accompanied the New York Philharmonic and has been a source of fun and music education for thousands of young people. Under the direction of Founder and Artistic Director Dianne Berkun, BYCA has an international reputation for programmatic and artistic excellence.

Located in my district in Cobble Hill, BYCA offers children study and performance opportunities in a wide range of classical and non-classical music and has performed with renowned artists such as Elton John, Lou Reed and John Legend, and under the batons of Marin Alsop, Robert Spano, Leon Botstein, and many others. The introduction of a new Senior Chorus in 2010 allows the young men and women who participate to receive instruction at a professional level and perform all over the world. From their seasonal concerts, which draw sell out crowds, to local performances with groups like Mark Morris, where the Brooklyn Youth Chorus is performing in The Hard Nut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this year, Brooklynites have many opportunities to experience the wonderful performances of the BYCA.

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Each year BYCA attracts over 300 talented children from all over New York City who reflect the City’s diversity and is committed to expanding the range of their programs through providing financial aid and scholarships. To find out more about the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy and their performance schedule see their website at www.brooklynyouthchorus.org.

I recently joined residents of Concord Village, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Council Member Stephen Levin to call on the MTA to fix the broken escalators at the High Street Station. The unreliable state of these escalators only reinforces the need for the Station Customer Assistance Agents to be returned to us. For people with disabilities, senior citizens and parents with small children, these escalators are not a luxury. The MTA needs an "on-the-ground" set of eyes to ensure that when the escalators do break, a service call is placed immediately.




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