Bk. Board 4 Hears The Governor’s Agenda
State Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera, tasked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with spreading his State of the State message across New York, came to Brooklyn Community Board 4′s Wednesday, Jan. 16 meeting at the Hope Gardens Senior Center to give the advisory body a “firsthand understanding of what is the governor’s agenda.”
The core elements of Cuomo’s agenda, according to Rivera, are economics, education, fiscal integrity and progressive social services.
Beginning with economics, Rivera noted that the state spends more research dollars than all but one state, but lags in attracting venture capital and is 22nd in the state in promoting industry-sponsored research.
The governor hopes to create taxfree “innovation hotspots” to attract high-tech businesses in an attempt to reverse that trend.
In addition, the state will look to improve the quality of the labor force, by partnering with community colleges.
Also on Cuomo’s agenda, Rivera noted, is an increase in workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance rates, which have remained stagnant for over a decade, as well as an increase in the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour.
“New York State lags the states around us in unemployment insurance,” he noted; the state owes $9 billion to the federal government.
Turning to education, Rivera noted that the nation now trails in many education categories in which it used to be a world leader.
The state wants to increase the amount of schools offering prekindergarten classes (currently 67 percent of state schools offer the program), and to increase the amount of hours in a pre-kindergarten day.
In addition, Cuomo has been pushing for a “bar exam” for teachers.
“We have an exam for doctors, we have an exam for lawyers,” Rivera noted.
Later on, Board 4’s Martha Brown asked Rivera to push for measures to keep high school students from dropping out.
Cuomo is also pushing for a decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana possession. Rivera noted that 15 percent of all arrests annually- about 50,000 arrests a year-is for possession of marijuana; the governor seeks to turn this crime into a fineable violation.
He added that “80 percent of the people who happen to be arrested are African-American or Hispanic.”
Turning to affordable housing, Rivera noted that the state will push for the creation of 14,000 units across New York at a cost of $1 billion.
“The governor is interested in women’s equality,” Rivera noted; Cuomo’s agenda includes pushing for equal pay and “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment.
The big elephants in the room, however, were gun control and Hurricane Sandy.
Rivera noted that the day of the meeting, Cuomo had signed what would be the among the toughest gun laws in the country.
As for the October hurricane that ravaged the city and Long Island, Rivera noted that the state is looking to learn lessons from Sandy that they could use to better prepare for future disasters. For instance, he noted that a disruption of two days in fuel delivery led to weeks of traffic jams and fuel rationing.
Charter school comes to Bushwick
Arthur Samuels of the MESA Charter School introduced himself to Board 4 and offered information on the school set to open inside I.S. 291 at 291 Palmetto St.
According Samuels, over 1,000 District 32 middle school students leave the district to go to high schools in Queens and Manhattan, and MESA (which stands for Math, Engineering and Science Academy) Charter School hopes to offer an alternative.
The school will have a focus on math and science, with “hands-on” classes helping pupils apply what they learn to real-world problems such as bridge building and forensic science.
“We want to get kids really excited in math and science,” Samuels explained.
In addition, the school will offer a “college-bound” class from freshman year on out to prepare students for the university of their choice.
The school will accept 125 eighth-graders in the next school year and 125 each year thereafter until the school has 500 students, with preference being given to children who live in the district. The school is working with I.S. 291 to determine the best use of space for all schools.
The school is also required to accept students who are English Language Learners and who have Individualized Education Plans.
In her chairperson’s report, Julie Dent noted that applications for community board membership are now being accepted. Forms are available at the Community Board offices and must be notarized and set to 209 Joralemon St. in Brooklyn.
Board 4 tabled a vote on a proposal for an unenclosed sidewalk café at 50 Wyckoff Ave. in Bushwick, as the proprietor was not present.
Brooklyn Community Board 4 usually meets on the third Wednesday of every month at the Hope Gardens Senior Center, located at 195 Linden St. in Bushwick.