After years of working to see that the MTA building at 370 Jay Street is put to good use, it is finally official: New York University announced they will be creating an applied science research institute called the Center for Urban Science and Progress at the site. This was a particularly satisfying announcement that was a long time coming as the building has sat vacant for far too long. Presently, it is an eyesore and an under-utilized piece of prime real estate. For many years Borough President Marty Markowitz and I have advocated along with the residents of downtown Brooklyn to have 370 Jay Street redeveloped to be in line with the renaissance of the area. NYU will be responsible for the $60 million cost associated with the relocation of the MTA and NYPD equipment currently in the building and then will also take on the costs associated with completely renovating the building.
The Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) will be at the epicenter of Brooklyn's new and thriving Tech Triangle which includes DUMBO and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The partnership of institutions lead by NYU-Poly will grant academic degrees in engineering and sciences. I am delighted that CUSP will accept its first class in September of 2013 with full occupancy at 370 Jay Street coming in an estimated three years. I believe that this world-class applied sciences institute will cement the future of Brooklyn's Tech Triangle and increase the amount of tech companies that call Brooklyn home. The MTA Board met on April 25 and approved this proposal.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of community members and groups like the Park Slope Civic Council (I am pictured at right with members of the PSCC at their annual Civic Sweep in April), the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted recently to approve a significant expansion of the Park Slope Historic District. The LPC vote made this historic district the largest in New York City and added nearly 600 new buildings under the protective designation. Many residents of the community support this expansion particularly because it stringently restricts development, and prevents what community members consider out of context development that would change the character of Park Slope's small scale neighborhood.
I recently attended a Legislative Budget hearing focusing on health services. I am very concerned about the health of Brooklyn residents and the proposed closing of hospitals and mental health facilities. Alongside my Assembly colleagues Michael Cusick and Lou Tobacco (pictured at left), I posed several questions about the future of SUNY Downstate and the Berger Commission's recommendation to eliminate all of the hospital's beds.
Saturday, May 19 from 10 AM - 4PM is the 2nd Annual Love Your Library Day Book Sale and Community Celebration at the Carroll Gardens Library. Friends of the Carroll Gardens Library is hosting the event with a huge book sale with thousands of books at great prices, plus entertainment and fun for the whole family including author readings and music. All proceeds go to support the library's activities. 396 Clinton Street at the corner of Union. For more information see friendsofcglibrary.blogspot.com
The Senior Citizen Rental Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE), makes it possible for low-income seniors to stay in their apartments by exempting them from rent increases and allows landlords to deduct the exempted increase from property taxes. Over the past five years in particular, there has been a marked deterioration in the operation of this program. Seniors are coming into my office with more difficulties applying, there are much longer turn around times with applicants waiting months to hear whether they qualify, seniors complain that they receive the same requests for paperwork many times, and applicants can no longer call knowledgeable staff but must rely on 311 for assistance applying or resolving problems with the program. It is not certain that this change has occurred because of the shift in the administration of the program from the Department for the Aging to the New York City Department of Finance, but there does seem to be a decrease in sensitivity toward the needs of seniors and much less access to this program.
In my role as Chair of the Assembly's Committee on Aging, I co-hosted a hearing last fall on problems with SCRIE and how to improve the administration of this very important program. I am glad to report that several bills aimed at improving SCRIE have passed from the Aging Committee to Ways and Means. Taken collectively, these bills: encourage the decentralization of the application process for SCRIE so that more seniors hear about the program and receive assistance with applications; would require the City to conduct outreach and education efforts including making application forms available in multiple languages; and would set time limits regarding application turn around and applicant notifications. One of the bills would also allow people who receive DRIE (a rental exemption for people with disabilities) to transfer seamlessly to SCRIE once they have turned 62 years old, and another bill would eliminate the current requirement that those who receive SCRIE reapply for the program each year. I am determined to see that these bills are passed in the Assembly and the Senate as I firmly believe that SCRIE makes a tremendous difference in the lives of area seniors. If you are interested in applying for SCRIE and would like assistance please call my office or stop by with any questions.