Miller Talks Taxes, Landmarks & More
State and city politics dominated the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) meeting last Thursday, Mar. 6, as attendees peppered a local lawmaker with questions on issues from property taxes to out-of-state license plate abuse.
Assemblyman Mike Miller was the lone elected official to participate in the civic group’s legislative forum. Other legislators had been invited to attend, RPOCA President Charles Ober stated, but they could not make the meeting due to prior commitments.
Miller, whose 38th Assembly District covers a southern part of Ridgewood, was left to field residents’ concerns on topics such as the tax increase on wealthy New Yorkers that Mayor Bill de Blasio requested for his plan to expand universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) programs.
As per state law, any proposed city tax increase must be approved by the state legislature. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced funding was available to expand UPK across the Empire State, including in New York City, without raising taxes.
Miller observed the proposed tax increase probably would not happen before this year’s election, but may be considered thereafter. In the meantime, he hoped the state would boost funding for UPK to move forward at the beginning of the next school year in September.
Budget negotiations are currently underway in Albany, and Miller stated “the goal is not to raise taxes” while protecting and providing as many public services as possible. Though the governor and the state legislature have had different ideas, he noted, each has worked to reconcile their differences and fund essential programs even if they are left out of the original budget.
As one example, Miller noted Cuomo cut $90 million last year from the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, a move which he and other lawmakers opposed. Though a majority of the funding was left out of the budget passed last March, he stated, the governor later approved with an Assembly bill restoring funding.
Ober asked Miller if he would seek funding from the State Environmental Fund for new street trees across Ridgewood, fulfilling one of the RPOCA’s long-term goals of planting as many trees as possible across the neighborhood. In recent years, the city has increased planting efforts around the community, but according to Ober, as many as 30 percent of tree pits are empty.
Miller stated he would look into securing funding for new street trees.
Ober and former RPOCA President Paul Kerzner also asked Miller to request $30,000 in funds each year over the next two years for a study to potentially add hundreds of Ridgewood buildings to the State Register of Historic Places. There are currently 2,982 homes and businesses on the state list, hundreds of which are now a part of city landmark districts.
The funds, Kerzner explained, would be used to pay for an architecture student from a local university to survey “everything eligible” in the community left off the original list in 1983. The RPOCA sent letters requesting funds to the Office of Parks and Historic Preservation, but according to Kerzner, “they ignored” the letters.
Miller stated he would consult with Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan to see if a joint request could be made.
The assemblyman also informed the civic group of his bill restricting owners of vehicles registered out-ofstate from parking on city streets during early morning hours. Miller said the legislation aims to stop car owners from registering their vehicles outside of New York State in order to reduce their auto insurance premiums.
Under the legislation, Miller stated, drivers with vehicles registered out-of-state would be able to get permits to park on city streets for an extended period of time.
While some RPOCA members stated the bill was “a good first step” toward cracking down on auto insurance fraud, they observed other steps would be required to eliminate such abuses.
The next Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday night, Apr. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center, located at 59-14 70th Ave.