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

BHB: Is your focus on successfully implementing the Common Core in NYS at all personal?

JS: I have step sons who are older. I have grandchildren: a six year old and an 11 year old. One is going into to public middle school and my granddaughter is in a small charter school in Long Island City.

With or without them this would be an area of concern for me. I’ve been an education advocate for years. I’m a member of the ARISE Coalition—providers, attorneys, parents—who are concerned about educational outcomes for kids with special needs. We have been actively engaged…. [w]e’ve issued reports on the persistent failure rates of our kids with special needs. We were involved with engaging the Department of Education to bring these issues to light. Under Mayor Bloomberg [there was] special education reform which we were involved with monitoring and responding to as it was piloted and then later rolled out.

There’s a lot of changes now with the new administration. We have been very active in monitoring that. Recently test results came out and the results for kids with disabilities are abysmal. That’s a consistent issue that we are working to address in a productive way.

In terms of local issues, there are many that Joan’s been active in that I will be active in as well. I’ve always been more active in transportation issues, for example. I’ve been active in education issues in a different way. Development pressure is enormous in this area. There’s so much housing going [up]. P.S. 8 for example—well over capacity. They’ve cut their pre-K program; in a year when we’re talking about adding pre-K all over they’ve had to cut their pre-K classes. P.S. 29—bursting at the gills. As we’re talking about adding housing in the LICH site, where are these kids going to school? We consistently don’t deal with physical infrastructure as well as social infrastructure. I’ve been very involved in that planning issue for many years.

One of the things I’ve talked about is master planning—[by which] I mean the community has to be at the table. The master plan by the masters who have no connection with the community is not my idea of a master plan.

BHB: As an assembly member how do you envision working out these infrastructure issues that you identify, given the amount of time it takes to effect institutional change?

JS: You need a five-year plan. The Soviets weren’t entirely wrong that you have to plan for a certain number of years….. We’ve also undergone such rapid growth, there has to be a mechanism to revisit some of these issues. One of the things I’ve talked about is master planning—[by which] I mean the community has to be at the table. The master plan by the masters who have no connection with the community is not my idea of a master plan. I’ve been a community activist for too long dealing with plans that developers… or some entity have decided, without input from the community. They usually get it wrong unless they actively engage with the community. That can work, and we’ve demonstrated that it can work.

Five years ago nobody would have thought that we would be facing the specter of residential development on the LICH site. This is gonna happen one way or the other, even if you have a small, full-service hospital, which is what people want and what I believe we very much need. You would still end up with housing on the campus because there’s lots of different buildings. There has to be some mechanism to look at these things and adjust. Some aspect of working with developers when they come in to make sure that the proposals accurately reflect what the needs are [while] looking at the trends.

I was one of the people who early on were involved with the “Save the G Train” [movement]. They [the MTA] were going to cut the G train. But we could tell that the G train was going where the neighborhoods were growing. It’s the only one from Brooklyn to Queens and that was where the growth was. It was the step-child train line, but it’s enormously important. The MTA does everything 15 years behind the curve. Everybody else could see the growth but they were planning to cut a train line that’s vital. We’re still trying to get them to [expand the G train] to six cars.

An issue that I have with the School Construction Authority [SCA], and we’re dealing with it in regards to several of our schools, is accessibility for people with disabilities. We have taken several schools in this district offline as poll sites. We can’t use them because they’re not accessible. The school system is supposed to make their schools accessible [according to] regulations passed in 1978—Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. They have consistently not done [this]. The [SCA’s] first plan was they’d do a middle school, one elementary school, and those would be the accessible schools. They did that in every district. Then they stopped! So there are many fewer schools that are accessible and we are literally interfering with peoples’ fundamental right to vote by not having poll sites that are accessible. There’s been this huge class action [lawsuit], and the court has ruled that they have to use only accessible sites.

But there’s lots of ways the city has failed [and] the SCA has not kept up—those are some issues that I will fight for as well. I’ve always [fought] for that these kind of issues and that’s also something that Joan was sensitive to.

So I don’t see that there will be some enormous difference [between us]…. This is a liberal, progressive area, I’ve been ahead of the curve on a lot of these issues for many, many years and I’m going to be there as well.

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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