New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Public Health

Council Member Ben Kallos Public Health

We've focused on public health with laws to take on Legionnaires' disease and fast food contributing to childhood obesity, and we've worked to connect New Yorkers with the benefits they need automatically. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, we opened 550 new hospital beds in district, launched a supply clearing house, supported testing, and we continue distributing masks, sanitizer, and food.
 

  1. Coronavirus: Opening New Beds, Expanding Testing, Securing and Distributing Masks, Serving Meals
  2. Healthy Happy Meals Law Takes Effect 
  3. Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention Law Implemented
  4. Automatic Benefits Law, API and Study


Coronavirus: Opening New Beds, Expanding Testing, Securing and Distributing Masks, Serving Meals

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 22,000 New Yorkers. At the height of the pandemic, our City was in desperate need of personal protective equipment and space to treat infected patients. My office was one of the first in the City Council to transition to working remotely on March 13th, 2020, and we quickly pivoted our priority to opening beds in the district including 350 beds at Coler Hospital on Roosevelt Island and 200 beds at the Hospital for Special Surgery on the Upper East Side. Ultimately, we were able to secure 550 beds, which is half as many beds as we received from the federal government when the U.S.N.S. Comfort docked in New York City harbor for a month.

From the beginning, my office pushed for increasing testing capacity. As reported by Our Town, we even teamed up with Dr. Christopher Mason at Weill Cornell to help cut red tape and develop new Covid-19 testing. We even launched mobile free testing for Roosevelt Island.

We initially established an email clearing house to secure personal protective equipment such as face masks, face shields and gloves to help health care professionals at local hospitals. James Patchett, President and CEO of New York City’s Economic Development Cooperation, the agency that the Mayor tasked with securing the City's PPE even recognized our efforts.

Once we secured sufficient masks, we began working with neighborhood and tenant associations as well as institutions of faith to distribute masks and sanitizer. I will continue to work with community partners to distribute even more over the next few months. Please contact my office if you would like to help distribute masks at BKallos@BenKallos.com.

 
Healthy Happy Meals Law Takes Effect 

As featured on NBC 4, a law I authored to make kids’ meals in New York City healthier went into effect in April of 2020. From the iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal to a kids’ meal at your local diner, all 24,000 restaurants in New York City with kids’ meals on their menu will now be required to make water, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice the default beverage. Although parents can still order whatever they want for the kids, testimony from McDonald’s demonstrated that implementing this change resulted in half of kids' meals including a healthy beverage.
 
Obesity is an epidemic in New York City and according to NYC Health, with 1 in 5 kindergarten students entering school already obese. The American Heart Association recommends that children limit consumption to one or fewer 8-oz sugar-sweetened beverages per week. Moreover, according to the New York Academy of Medicine’s testimony, their scientific research shows that a “12-oz serving of regular soda [in a kids meal can contain] more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. An average 8-year old would need to walk 70 minutes, or the distance between City Hall and Time Square, to walk the calories off.
 
Under this law, parents can still choose soda or any other beverage, but healthier options will be “the new normal” and what is displayed in menus and advertisements. Changing the default meal option would have a positive impact on reducing caloric intake and obesity in children. For more information on the law going into effect check out coverage in the New York Post or read the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
 

Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention Law Implemented

In 2017 an elderly woman died and six others were sickened as a result of a Legionnaires Disease cluster in my district. Thanks to a law I co-sponsored in 2015 we knew where the cooling towers were in order to test over 100 and clean them to prevent anyone else from getting sick.
 
In 2018, WNYC found that 20% of the cooling towers—over 1,000—in the city were not being inspected every 90-days as required. To correct the problem which I later found to be even more widespread at 44% of the cooling towers, I authored and passed Local Law 76 of 2019 which will require buildings to notify the city after every 90-day inspection and if they fail to do so, the Department of Health can immediately issue a violation and send out an inspector to keep us safe and prevent the spread of this deadly disease. For more information, read the release or press coverage from WNYC.
 

Automatic Benefits Law, API and Study

No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in New York City, one of the wealthiest cities in the world. We are a City with hundreds of programs designed to help those in need.

As you may have read in the New York Times, over the past four years, I worked with experts in the Federal government, academia, non-profits, and the private sector to advance legislation and research the regulatory framework to legally provide benefits automatically, so New Yorkers get the benefits they qualify for. In our work, we have secured millions in funding to research Automatic Benefits policies and even helped make the software necessary freely available to the public. In December of 2017, the City Council passed a measure to study the feasibility and possible effectiveness of implementing my Automatic Benefits legislation. The city’s study is now well underway and it will save taxpayer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city and this plan. In 2019, the City’s first-ever Benefits Screening API was released, allowing for better access to the 30+ social service benefits that are available to residents. Later this year, we’ll have the information we need to eliminate the bureaucracy, and unnecessary hurdles that prevent our poorest from accessing and keeping the assistance they need to be lifted from poverty. For more information read the BenKallos.com/press-releases