In advance of the Brooklyn Heights Blog’s presentation September 2 of one of the few public discussions on the 52nd Assembly District Race, an important political contest in New York City this year, the BHB sat down with longtime Cobble Hill resident Jo Anne Simon to discuss her candidacy for the seat that outgoing Assembly Member Joan Millman has occupied for the past 17 years.
Ms. Simon, who has an impressive resume of political accomplishments, including serving as Democratic State Committeewoman and District Leader for the past 10 years, boasts endorsements from many leading New York City Democrats, including Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Democratic County Leader Frank Seddio and Ms. Millman.
This is the second in a series of interviews with all three candidates on the ballot for the 52nd Assembly seat; on consecutive days this week BHB will provide exclusive coverage of a political contest that will have a substantial impact on the future of Long Island College Hospital (LICH), proposed affordable housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, and the planned sale of the Brooklyn Heights Library site for subsequent development as a high-rise residential tower.
I’ve been living in the district for 33 years and have been a community activist for 20. I have seen tremendous changes. I know where we’ve been and where we come from and am familiar with the pressures of where we’re going.
Michael Randazzo, Brooklyn Heights Blog: Please explain what you bring to the 52nd Assembly Race.
Jo Anne Simon: This is a critical time for the 52nd Assembly District. Brooklyn is hot, and this [district] is one of the hottest areas in Brooklyn. I’ve been living in the district for 33 years and have been a community activist for 20. I have seen tremendous changes. I know where we’ve been and where we come from and am familiar with the pressures of where we’re going.
I’m running because I’ve been active, I know all corners of the district, and I want to bring [a] community voice with me. I also have been politically active as the district leader for the past 10 years, standing up to the party bosses in the Brooklyn Democratic Party and I want to bring the voice of independence with me [to Albany].
BHB: Because you have been the district leader for the past 10 years, how might your approach to serving in the NYS Assembly both reflect and differ from Joan Millman’s tenure?
JS: There are a number of issues that I’ve worked with Joan on that I would be in accord with her. Joan and I have slightly different background. I’m a former teacher of the deaf [and now] a civil rights lawyer. Joan is a former teacher and school librarian.
I’ve had a career where I’ve made my own way. My law practice is idiosyncratic: I created an area of law and I have a broader reach and an area of expertise that is different than Joan’s. I’ve been working at the intersection of education, disability rights and standardized testing for many years. It’s a[n] unusual mix but it’s very important in the state assembly right now… [given] the difficulties we’ve had implementing the Common Core. How are we testing? Why are we testing? What are we testing—because they haven’t finished the curriculum yet. I have a lot of expertise in those areas that I want to bring to the Assembly.