This past legislative session posed some of the most trying budget decisions yet, but as your Assemblywoman, I made sure your voices were heard as these fundamental choices were made. It is my responsibility to review the messages in your emails, letters and phone calls and take them with me to Albany, where I use them to fight on your behalf to continue to improve Brooklyn’s quality of life and strengthen our ongoing economic recovery. This newsletter highlights the Assembly’s achievements resulting from our recent extraordinary session, including several significant economic reforms. In particular, we passed legislation that will provide tax cuts for the middle class and generate jobs through public works projects and tax incentives for employers. My colleagues and I worked hard this past year to help New Yorkers weather the current economic storm, but as always, there is more work to be done, and I rely on your input and feedback to continue to improve our community. I invite you to get involved in the legislative process: voice your concerns to my office, attend neighborhood events, and help me help our community. Together, we will continue to make a difference.
Rhoda Jacobs and Brooklyn College have once again teamed up to end hunger during the holidays, in their 3rd Annual Season for Giving Holiday Food Drive that culminated on Wednesday, December 14th at the Brooklyn College Student Center. Nearly 1,000 pounds of food were collected and distributed to twelve local food pantries serving the hungry in the 42nd Assembly District.
Now more than ever, with the current economic crisis plaguing so many Brooklyn families, it is essential to keep our food pantries stocked. It is truly inspiring to see how many people continue to donate to our efforts, even as they themselves may face difficult economic times.
Although the holiday food drive has ended, Assemblywoman Jacobs’ Community Service Offices accept year-round donations of non-perishable goods, which are distributed to the faith-based institutions of The Flatbush Community Food Partnership on an ongoing basis.
Brooklyn College President Dr. Karen Gould joined Assemblywoman Jacobs, students, Bishop Leger of Fardeau Des Ames Church, Pastor Lors from Holiness Church of God and Robert Scott, Director of the Honors Academy at Brooklyn College. at the bi-annual food drive at Brooklyn College.
Meet Sue Rock
Seven years ago, scraps of fabric took on a new life in the hands of our neighbor Sue Rock, a constituent of Assemblywoman Jacobs who happened upon free boxes of textiles and turned them into a successful nonprofit for survivors of domestic violence.
Rock’s brainchild, Sue Rock Originals, is a fashion design studio on Bergen Street that engages survivors of domestic violence in the process of designing and creating clothes for a cause. The goal of this is to teach them new skills as they try to make it on their own after choosing to leave an abusive relationship. Proceeds from the clothes support the studio’s work and upkeep. Survivors of domestic violence can also utilize the Sue Rock Originals design studio and free sewing and knitting lessons to create their own wardrobe free of charge. The organization, Rock says, is a “venture in the ‘yes we can’ idea.”
Sue Rock Originals is among one of the first sustainable design studios. According to Rock and her husband, tailor Jerome Babafemi Rock, everything in the studio has been donated, including fabric that would have otherwise been thrown out by major design companies with an excess of material. Rock has big plans for her organization, noting that its model can be duplicated. Neighbors can lend a helping hand by donating fabric, volunteering their time or signing up for an internship. Community service credit is available for students and fabric pick-ups can be arranged.
Assemblywoman Jacobs at Sue Rock Originals Studio with Sue Rock and her husband Jerome Babafemi Rock.
Meet Chaim Deutsch
In the early 1990s, Brooklyn was a very different place; crime was rampant, the police force was overwhelmed, and many criminals made their getaway well before the police reached the scene. Enter concerned citizen Chaim Deutsch, who founded the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol in 1991 to help Brooklyn police combat crime.
The Flatbush Shomrim, which is made up entirely of unpaid volunteers, started with three or four civilians and a handful of radios. The patrol team, which has since grown tenfold and assists police efforts by tracking and monitoring criminal activity from unmarked vehicles until the police arrive. “We’re all working people. We’re not police,” Deutsch emphasized, “[but] we’re all on the same team.”
When the operation first began, the small but determined team patrolled a 10-block area of Flatbush. Now, twenty years later, the Flatbush Shomrim has expanded to the surrounding neighborhoods of Midwood, Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay. In addition, it is currently partnering with Community Board 17, ministers and its civilian patrol group in East Flatbush, both building bridges and working toward an even safer Brooklyn. To date, it has assisted in “hundreds if not thousands of arrests,” according to Deutsch, and is comprised of approximately 40 volunteers who have received training from the police department, mental health professionals and other experts to prepare themselves for issues such as domestic violence and children at risk. The Flatbush Shomrim’s efforts have also been enhanced by support from Assemblywoman Jacobs, who has encouraged dialogue and partnership between the patrol members and the community.
The Flatbush Shomrim is a certified Community Emergency Response Team and can be reached during emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (718) 338-9797.
Assemblywoman Jacobs and the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol recently came together to welcome Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez to his new post as Commanding Officer of the 70th Precinct. The meet and greet, which was hosted by Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag and Rabbi Eliezer Sandler at the Young Israel of Avenue K, enabled members of the community to acquaint themselves with the new commander and to raise their concerns about safety and quality of life in the area. Evening discussions centered around the importance of community involvement with the local police force and the Flatbush Shomrim, a team of 40 civilian patrollers who aid in the pursuit and detainment of suspects until the police arrive. “It’s always good for us to develop and maintain a working relationship with our police,” Assemblywoman Jacobs emphasized.
Ms. Jacobs and others offered the following tips to help protect Flatbush and Midwood residents during the holiday season:
If you go away for the weekend, make your home and/or apartment look occupied.
Don’t make your car into a holiday gift for burglars.
Keep your household valuables secure.
Be wary of scam artists impersonating professionals.
The Assemblywoman emphasized that she and her staff, as well as the members of the Shomrim and the 70th Precinct, will remain committed to the community’s safety and well-being. Ms. Jacobs assured community residents that all involved will continue to be available to work on their behalf. The Assemblywoman was pleased to be the conduit in affording the community the opportunity to meet Deputy Inspector Rodriguez.
New York Works Infrastructure Fund: Creating Jobs by Rebuilding New York
The Governor and Legislature passed a plan creating New York’s first infrastructure fund to inject over $1 billion in job creating investment. The accelerated state funding will leverage $10 billion in direct capital investment to create thousands of direct jobs by rebuilding roads and bridges; parks, dams, and flood control projects; upgrading water systems and educational facilities; investing in energy efficient improvements to commercial and residential buildings; and accelerating major SUNY and CUNY projects. The plan will focus on projects that support regional Economic Development Plans in the transportation, energy, environment, and public facilities sectors. The accelerated infrastructure fund investment is within the state’s debt ceiling. An additional $300 million from the Port Authority would be directed towards funding for infrastructure projects in New York City.
Inner City Youth Employment Program and Tax Credit
The plan also creates an inner-city youth employment program and a $25 million tax credit for employers who hire unemployed youth between 16 and 24 years of age over the first six months of 2012. The program and credit will be available to employers in businesses such as clean energy, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and conservation. Eligible employers will receive up to $3,000 for a six month training period and an additional $1,000 if they retained their workers for an additional six months.
Nearly $37 million in funding will be provided to critical jobs programs for inner city youth. This includes $12 million in support grants to youth providers for work readiness training, occupational training, placement or job matching, workplace mentoring and follow up services to increase retention. Participating youths will be provided with up to three monthly stipends of $300 each to cover costs associated with transitioning into the workplace. An additional $25 million will be appropriated for workforce skills training and support programs including digital literacy, basic education and occupational training, summer youth employment, job search and placement, and facilitated child care enrollment.
Fair Tax Code Reform
Also included in the broad plan are tax code reforms to create jobs and restore fairness to the tax system. Under the new rate structure, a total of 4.4 million New Yorkers will receive a tax cut, including a $690 million reduction for middle class taxpayers, and all taxpayers will see a tax reduction or no change compared to their previous tax bill. Brackets will increase with the rate of inflation. The newly implemented top bracket expires on December 31, 2014.
Thanks to these changes and the closing of upper tax bracket loopholes, the new tax structure should generate $1.9 billion in additional revenue for the State. Any additional unspent funds from this revenue will be held in a new priority reserve fund to be dedicated towards future needs regarding job creation, local mandate relief, education, health care and mortgage foreclosure protection.
The new tax bracket structure is reorganized as follows:
Reducing the MTA Payroll Tax
Lastly, as a result of the legislation passed, the MTA payroll tax is reduced on small businesses while maintaining the necessary funding for the MTA from other sources. The payroll tax has been eliminated or reduced for 294,900 taxpayers overall. The tax is also eliminated from an additional 415,000 taxpayers by raising the self-employment income exemption. In addition, public schools, private elementary and secondary schools, as well as parochial schools, are exempt from the tax. The State will compensate the MTA for the $250 million in lost revenue.
“It was an opportunity to acknowledge Father Perry’s 40 years of service in the priesthood. He is a community institution and asset. In particular, Our Lady of Refuge’s Food Pantry helps those in need as it continues to grow,” said Ms. Jacobs.
As per American tradition, the theme of the day was giving thanks and building bridges. The event also gave the community a chance to both recognize and contribute to the efforts of its local religious leaders, including the Our Lady of Refuge Food Pantry, spearheaded by Father Perry; food was collected during the service. This year, Assemblywoman Jacobs honored Father Perry for his community work.
“In the great spirit of coming together, this interfaith celebration affords us all an opportunity to stop and think of what we should be thankful for,” Ms. Jacobs emphasized.