By Harold Egeln
CARROLL GARDENS — When Jane’s Carousel at Brooklyn Bridge Park opened with a grand celebration, Assemblywoman Joan Millman rode on it. The much longer ride to get the park completed and paid for, she said, required ensuring a self-sustaining operations revenue stream.
Recently her colleague, state Senator Daniel Squadron, talked about one factor that could help to fund the park and, more importantly, decrease the need for housing on the park’s perimeter.
In a mailing to his constituents, he said that if enough of the Watchtower Society’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses) Brooklyn Heights properties are sold by Jan. 1, 2014 — the cut-off date for a potential park housing plan — these properties could hopefully be added to the city’s tax rolls, as was recently reported in this publication.
“The Witnesses talked to us, state Senator Daniel Squadron and myself. We got the mayor involved in the process,” said Millman in a wide-ranging interview on Friday in her Smith Street district office. “It’s revenue for the city. The mayor wants to get this done.”
Squadron, who is on the park corporation’s board with Millman, has defended the Memorandum of Understanding that gave control of the park to the city, which he and Millman forged with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The current park plan, he said, reduces the proposed new luxury housing in the park by 80 percent and brings the height of the planned John Street building into context with adjacent structures. It may, Millman said, also eliminate two Atlantic Avenue high-rises, depending on property sales by the Watchtower Society.
Eight of the 34 Watchtower properties in the area are up for sale. The Witnesses are reserving the right to sell these properties, which are near the Pier 1 and Pier 2 sections of the park, to whomever they want. They prefer academic institutions or senior housing, according to a recent article in Crain’s New York Business.
In their deal with the mayor, Millman and Squadron also got an ice and roller rink and a swimming pool added to the park plan.
State of Brownstone Brooklyn Today
Millman also talked about the changes taking place in Brownstone Brooklyn today. “People are looking for bigger units, looking for three bedrooms for their growing families. Older residents are seeking to move into affordable senior housing units, so there is an increased need for that housing.
“We’re creating affordable rental residences in the old Board of Education building at 110 Livingston St., with a performing arts space on the first floor,” said Millman.
Millman was appointed chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Aging in June and held an elder abuse roundtable at Borough Hall in October. One serious topic that was discussed at the roundtable was that of people — including relatives — who befriend the elderly and take their money.
The problem of Title 20 funds, which fund the city’s Department of Aging, is also a recurring one, she said. The city occasionally moves to withhold the funds and threatens to close senior centers, only to restore the funds and find other funding streams at the last minute, she said.
Looking ahead to the next legislative session in early 2012, Millman predicted more budget belt tightening with “big battles on human services. We need the human safety net.”
She sees the financial crunch at her district office. “Families who make $55,000 and people in their 40s and 50s are looking to get food stamps,” she commented.
She praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo on being “very good by saving money by consolidating government agencies, eliminating waste and duplication. That helps.”
Turning to the environmental area, Millman, who routinely gets high marks from environmental organizations, expressed deep concerns about the process of hydro-fracturing, or “fracking,” which is used in drilling for natural gas upstate.
And in the educational area, Millman, a former teacher, also wants more action to stem cyber-bullying.
With redistricting due to change legislative boundaries next year, the impact on Millman’s 52nd Assembly District should be minimal, she said. “We’ll probably shed between 700 to 900 people. The greatest impact will be in north Brooklyn in [Vito] Lopez’s and [Joseph] Lentol’s Assembly districts.”
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