BHB Exclusive: Jo Anne Simon Talks About Her Campaign for the 52nd AD Seat

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.

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  • miriamcb

    Thanks for the coverage, Michael. It certainly helps!

    Ms. Simon – I haven’t had the chance to speak directly with you, so hopefully you’ll check back for comments. I can appreciate your background and roots/community activism in the neighborhood.

    As a parent in the neighborhood with schools that are overflowing and other infrastructure that is disappearing with density only increasing, what are the legislative steps you would take to ensure children in the neighborhood can go to their zoned schools? It seems to me there are now wait lists at the public schools for zoned kids and as you mentioned dwindling resources for Pre-K.

  • davoyager

    I don’t understand why people in power like Ms Simon and our new mayor have been so quick to give up on LICH. It may be that the current Governor is exercising to much control over this local issue but as Ms. Simon so correctly pointed out with regard to Atlantic Yards, Governors come and go but the community will still be here. I believe $multimillion lawsuits need to be pursued against The Continuum and SUNY Downstate for the direct actions they undertook to destroy LICH the proceeds of which could be used to rebuild the hospital. And when people say it’s a state issue I would say this is an issue where the city needs to step in and get done what the state is unwilling or unable to do specifically saving this hospital,
    Similarly with regard to pier 6 and the library Ms Simon seems content to allow the current ongoing rush to development to proceed while offering a token objection. There is no reason beyond greed to sell away the Brooklyn heights branch of the Brooklyn Public library. If it’s to be torn down it should be to replace it with a 21st century example of what a library will be in the digital age.
    And as for Pier 6 I offer Ms Simon, who will almost certainly be elected, this idea I have of an Brooklyn Bridge Park subway station at the foot of Atlantic Avenue (easy enough to do with subways running under the river thru there anyway), coupled with her ferry terminal connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn and Governors Island. We don’t nee the additional luxury high rises as there are already bunches being built and the additional revenues from the MTA and other supporting entities will be more than sufficient to pay the maintenance the piers.

  • Doug Biviano

    Davoyager points out how quick Jo Anne Simon gives up on LICH and offers token objection to condos on Pier 6. At the CDL meeting Sunday she offered to turn our Library into a museum for revenue instead of proper budgeting. This is consistent with her being all over the place on many issues and working along side of developers, in a sense aiding the developers in getting almost everything they want while muting any real community opposition. She’s great at using our most important issues as campaign props. In both, LICH and Pier 6, we have been exposing that Frank Carone, long time law partner of Democratic Party Boss Frank Seddio and county party attorney, represented SUNY and Carl McCall in their closing of LICH and Lori Schomp’s group in the TRO. What comes of the TRO after election?

    Seddio has a track record of shaking down devlepment projects for personal gain having made money in a BJs deal mentioned in the Carl Kruger indictment. Why does Simon openly praise Seddio instead of issuing a warning to her voters to be wary of him? Perhaps it’s because Simon took $3,500 for her campaign from Henry Gutman and Martin Connor — both board members of the Park who just smacked down the motion to change the General Park Plan to reconsider the environmental impacts which have already proved far worse than ever imagined.

    Whether it’s Sikora being backed by Berlin Rosen who is working with deBlasio to get Affordable Housing at Pier 6 or Simon standing by as the new County Machine at get their hands on LICH and Pier 6, neither of expose or condemn the foul play because they are part of the system and that is why the community is allowed to be harmed. This is the deception of the new lobbyist Berlin Rosen machine the old Democratic Party machine that controls our elections and thereby controls the most important governing decisions in our community over our most vital institutions.

    Last night at the Prospect Heights debate, given the chance on the specific question of Cuomo or Teachout, Simon indicating more likely Cuomo certainly did not speak out against or condemn Cuomo for his role in taking down LICH. So she says one thing in this interview and ready to support him after the election. That’s her MO.

    Simon sells out women too in this regard. Last night at the debate, when I asked Simon and Sikora if they would condemn Shelly Silver and not vote for him as Speaker for having covered up Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment of young lady interns with a hush fund, neither would answer. They gave gobbledygook. Those are the answers they like to give voters when it matters. To take this blatant support and loyalty of this corrupt machines one step further, it should be pointed out that Simon also endorsed Joe Hynes (another Party Machine figure) last year with Seddio in his re-election for DA knowing he was being investigated for covering up domestic violence of women and child abuse. Yet, she claims in her most recent mailer that she will fight for women’s rights and domestic violence protection. Credibility crisis with Simon? You bet.

  • Doug Biviano

    We demand another candidate debate with Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens Association next week so we can contest Simon and Sikora’s deceptive mailers.

  • Doug Biviano

    Credibility of Simon & Sikora again laid bare on LICH Cuomo question.

  • bethman14


    Replacing the aging Brooklyn Heights library with a spectacular, new, 21st century library at exactly the same location is PRECISELY what the project is!!! BPL has NEVER proposed selling the building and not building a new library there. Never. Please read up on the project…..its unfortunate that people like Mike DD White and Doug Biviano are spreading lies in our community about the library.

  • Doug Biviano

    proposed is 1/4 size in basement, far less books.

  • miriamcb

    I realize candidates can’t answer every question posed, but I was hoping to hear some kind of response, especially given the high readership this blog enjoys!

  • bethman14

    No Doug, they will have the same number of books and 1/4 of the library will be below grade. Nobody but DD White has said they are eliminating books and he has NEVER EVER presented any sort of actual evidence for this. Please stop trying to scare people with misinformation. It insults the intelligence of our community.

  • ujh

    Mr. Biviano, the voters have heard and read nothing from you except attacks on your opponents. Do you have a plan? You won’t even answer a question put to you.

  • miriamcb

    FYI – I’m still trying to decide, but when I asked a direct question on his BHB interview, he did answer. You might look over there in that feed?

  • davoyager

    You miss my point. I believe the Brooklyn Heights branch of the BPL should be a flagship branch of a revitalized library system not the same or a lessor version of what we have now only tucked away in the basement of some luxury high rise. If we need to share the space than how about that much needed new school everyone keeps pretending to talk about. What a great location for a brand new 21th century state of the art school. No more luxury housing! Need school, need library need inspiring public buildings