=Tis the Season August

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 The streets are closed off for block parties, the parks are alive with cookouts and concerts, and the beaches are jammed with swimmers. Down on Court Street, politicians= attorneys are busy filing lawsuits to keep their opponents off the ballot, while investigators dig for mud to leak to the press and mail to the voters.
Ah, summer in Brooklyn
The political season is in full swing, and economic issues will be front and center in the fall elections. It=s too early to be certain, but Assemblyman Roger Green appears to have secured a big package of state funds for improving selected commercial corridors in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights. Watch for a series of ribbon-cuttings and announcements between now and September 12: showing voters you can bring home the bacon is a classic reelection strategy, and Green seems to be following it. At the federal level, things are a bit more controversial. Congressman Ed Towns is being challenged for the second time by Barry Ford, a young attorney from Clinton Hill. Among other things, Ford is taking the Congressman to task for not getting a federal Empowerment Zone established in Brooklyn after several years of trying. The Zone would have brought a huge package of tax incentives and new investment to Central Brooklyn, so Ford has a point.
On the other hand, Towns has raised more than $800,000 in campaign fundsCfour times more than his challengerCwhich can pay for lots of brochures, posters, letters and ads to blunt Ford=s attack. Ford says he will counter with a lean, low-budget street operation that includes veteran organizers from ACORN, Citizen Action, the Working Families Party, and community activists still angry at Towns for endorsing Giuliani for mayor in 1997. This race will be close, and is definitely one to watch.
Prescription for Disaster
Much to the shame of the nation, senior citizens are constantly being gouged on the price of prescription medication. The prices of these drugs have increased at twice the rate of inflation every year for the last six yearsCan explosion in costs that goes straight to the bottom line of corporate drug manufacturers, which have become the most profitable businesses in America.
There are 2.4 million seniors in New York State, and most who need drugs cannot get them covered under MedicareCso many end up paying thousands of dollars out of pocket. Confronted with high and rising costs, many do without the treatment their doctors have prescribed, or end up choosing between medicine and food. Others resort to taking lower dosages of medicine to make it last longer. Most insulting of all, the drug companies sell many of the same medicines that seniors need at lower cost to veterinarians. So some seniors end up going to animal doctors to save as much as 60% on the cost of drugs.
Others, desperate for medicine, end up traveling over the border to Canada, where American made drugs cost less than if purchased here. Incredibly, it=s illegal for American citizens to bring American-made medicine back into the country!
At every turn, our elders are being cornered and overcharged for lifesaving medicine. If there ever was an industry that needed tougher regulations and a stronger code of ethics, it=s the drug manufacturers. Which brings us back to politics. Anyone concerned about protecting seniors should keep an eye on this election year issue and demand answers from candidates for office at every level.

Real Estate Watch
Few things are as satisfying as seeing an abandoned property converted into a useful place. In recent months, a series of community eyesores have been transformed into apartments that aren=t outrageously expensive. After 14 years of sitting vacant, the newly renovated Clermont Armory (built in 1873) is starting a new life as an apartment complex with 110 units. The address is 171 Clermont, between Willoughby and Myrtle. Studios are going for $850 to $925 a month, one-bedroom units are renting for $1200 and three-bedrooms are $1750. The combined income of tenants in an apartment has to be less than $140,000 per year. To look at photos, floor plans, and get a rental application, check out www.clermontarmory.com. You can also call 718-852-8553 for more information.
Over in Prospect Heights, the formerly abandoned Knox hat factory at 597 Grand Ave. (corner of St. Marks) has been restored as a 52-unit apartment building. The old factory building was redeveloped under the same government financing program as the armory, so the rents and income guidelines are similar.
Next on deck is the former Daily News building in Prospect Heights.  It is slated to become an apartment complex called News Walk. People are already drooling over the place, and it=s not even finished yet.