It remains most prominent on everyone’s mind. When will the economy improve? If you don’t have a job, on a daily basis you face stress and worry over how to survive financially. If you have a job, you worry about whether your industry will fall victim to cutbacks, layoffs or worse. We all seek better times, but progress has been slow and frustrating. Deciding what incentives or legislative changes are needed has been controversial at all levels of government. In this newsletter, I discuss the economic conditions of New York State, New York City and some of my initiatives to help us emerge from the slump.

Many of the examples for recovery can be found in the heart of North Brooklyn. It is in our neighborhoods that small, innovative companies are developing, growing and thriving. The entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of our residents include visual arts representing all media, architects, and engineers, crafts persons with small manufacturing lofts as well as film, music and art studios. Our neighbors have grown and prospered during some of New York’s toughest economic times. I have been studying the success of my constituents, meeting many of them and working to fine-tune New York State law and state benefit programs to enhance opportunities. In some cases, residents and business persons have joined me to meet with top state governmental leaders to share what helps businesses succeed here. We know that with nurture many of our success stories can be replicated throughout the state. Following are a few commentaries of our work to help grow New York’s economic power.
Joseph R. Lentol

BioFuel Credit

As the first sponsor of New York’s film tax credit, I know that targeted tax credits work if they are industry specific. That is why I have introduced legislation that extends the BioFuel tax credit. Clean fuel improves our air quality by significantly reducing carbon dioxide, sulfur, and particulate matter, which in turn, makes homes, buildings and trucks run cleaner and more efficiently. Biodiesel is a 100% renewable fuel that contains zero sulfur and greatly reduces air emissions when blended with traditional heating fuel or diesel fuel. Biodiesel is derived from sources that include domestically grown soy, canola, recycled restaurant grease, used vegetable oil and algae. Our community has benefited from this tax credit at a family owned biofuel manufacturing facility owned by Paul and Gene Pullo of Metro Fuel in Greenpoint. Metro is building one of the largest state-of-the-art advanced biodiesel production facilities in North America, with a capacity of 110 million gallons per year. When working on the legislation with the Pullos, we talked about how this facility will not only create clean fuel, but also use New York products shipped to the facility via New York’s waterways. Local innovation and vision have always impressed me. My legislation will create new jobs and will reflect the potential of New York’s new economic power.

North Brooklyn’s Small Business Forum

On May 26th 2011, I hosted a forum at the Brooklyn Brewery for a diverse group of business minded designers, artists, writers and other creative entrepreneurs to introduce them to government and agency leaders whose job it is to help them. We discussed recommendations for broad policy changes that would help develop and grow businesses. Shortly afterwards, I introduced new Assembly legislation designed to protect and enhance North Brooklyn’s creative success. It establishes the North Brooklyn Creative Economic Zone. The legislation seeks to foster new artistic design and media businesses in mixed-use buildings. Construction of these small business collectives would be encouraged through several credit programs and a mentor-protégé program would be developed. In the course of crafting this legislation, a new study was released by the World Economic Forum that reinforced and expanded our thinking even more. Local North Brooklyn designer William Harvey dedicated a great deal of his time and knowledge to the development of these ideas and joined me at a meeting with the Empire State Economic Development Commissioner Ken Adams to outline them in greater detail.

Small Business Round Table
Pictured above Assemblyman Lentol hosts a discussion where experts from City agencies can hear what hinders development and growth for local entrepreneurs.

That is where we learned that the new most effective method of helping businesses beyond the more traditional geographical zone programs is by an industry specific approach. That means it is our task to identify the needs of specific industries and address them individually by legislative and/or programmatic changes or additions. For instance, the film industry tax credit is one of the most successful examples. That credit has generated $6.98 billion in economic activity since 2004. It has helped New York reclaim the film industry and the economic benefits that go along with it.

I am working to share the knowledge learned in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Greene with New York’s policy makers so they can craft industry specific programs to help foster growth. It’s hard work and government is not always the best at business solutions, but if we follow the success stories of recent years and adapt government aid accordingly, we can help the state move forward.

Legalize Poker Parlors in New York

Another good idea was brought to me by a local resident and is now getting tremendous attention. Governor Cuomo has expressed support for changing New York law to allow for certain types of gaming. Legalizing poker parlors is a good way to start and my legislation does that. It is currently under review at the Governor’s office.

Poker tournaments have become popular throughout the country, with major television networks giving prime time coverage to the most prestigious ones. The players’ unique personalities not only work well at the table, but broadcast successfully too. I have no doubt that tourists from all over the world will come to New York to play its poker parlors and participate in tournaments. Tourism campaigns across the country promote their poker parlors in terms such as “exciting” and “world class” luxury. just picture what could be taking place here. To increase tourism this legislation will create specifically designated areas in New York – for example, Manhattan – to capture some of the worldwide demand for this entertainment. Upstate, where famous resorts have shut down or where prisons will soon close, this legislation offers a chance to redevelop and renew. I know if given the opportunity New Yorkers will stay in New York rather than traveling to New Jersey or Connecticut to have some gaming fun.


Brooklyn’s Fashion History

Pictured to the left: Fashion designer Sandra Lesibu was presented with an outstanding achievement medal by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol. The medal, which was in recognition of preserving her family’s oral history, was presented during a lively Fashion Week event at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, where Ms. Lesibu paid homage to her mother. In an exhibit titled, “Reflections of a Southern Journey: The Legacy of Mrs. Ellen Durant Allen, 1922-2004,” designer Sandra Lesibu paid tribute to Mrs. Ellen Allen, her mother, who was one of a small cadre of talented African-American designers and fine dressmakers who once catered primarily to wealthy, high society ladies of New York.

Assemblyman Lentol Tours Greenpoint Time Warner Facility
Pictured are Assemblyman Lentol and Time Warner Director of Government Relations Marion Boykin. Assemblyman Lentol toured the Time Warner facility, including Technical Operation Center and parking facility that has replaced the old Diamond Asphalt property. Time Warner recently renovated a large area to provide parking for its employees. Over 250 individuals are employed out of this site. Constructing the parking lot has reduced competition for parking spots for residents.
Out to a Movie while Enjoying Dinner and a Drink

If you’ve gone to a concert or play, dance or opera, you probably never thought twice about seeing alcohol served. New York law allows you to enjoy a drink at these types of venues and many of us do so without much thought. However, all categories of movie theaters have been excluded from this opportunity. The major reason cited is that more underage patrons go to the movies. A need for flexibility in the law seemed necessary. At a meeting with representatives of independent movie houses, I was convinced that current law needed to be amended to address a new and growing niche in the movie theater industry. Legislation I sponsored, and Governor Cuomo signed into law, now allows alcohol at movie theaters that are also licensed restaurants. That means there must be a chef in the kitchen and menus on hand. Adults seeking a night out can enjoy a full meal with drinks while watching a movie. Many patrons don’t want to go to movie theaters where teenagers gather waiting to see a blockbuster film. Having a meal, while watching an independent or foreign film is a choice that adults are making -- creating a growing industry niche.

Constituent Corner

As most of my comments here indicate, I believe the way we emerge from an economic slump is to create new jobs through small business growth. We must encourage and incentivise forward thinking, optimistic business owners who need small government adjustments to help them grow. Yet, it’s not always government that is in the way. Helena Jankowski owns the Northside Pharmacy on North 7th Street in Williamsburg. Helena plans for the expansion of her pharmacy, but was thwarted because the bank was taking painfully long to approve her loan, despite the proven success of her business. Through my constituent services staff, I was able to contact Helena’s bank and advocate on her behalf – expediting paperwork and processing, so final approval was secured. What does expansion mean for our neighborhood? It means jobs – retail, carpentry, design and more. Every modest gain in jobs adds to a stronger economy, and that is where I am putting my efforts.

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