New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Fresh Ideas

New York Times Endorses Ben Kallos

Endorsed by The New York Times for his “fresh ideas” and elected in 2013 to become Co-Chair of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. Ben Kallos was raised by a single mom and shared a room living with his grandparents who fled anti-Semitism in Europe. After having a rent increase force he and his wife out of their home during a high risk pregnancy, Ben, his wife, and daughter have survived the pandemic in a market rate one-bedroom, and they know first hand that even with thousands of vacant apartments, the affordable housing crisis is not over. That's why Ben has always refused big money from real estate developers, corporations, and lobbyists. Anywhere else, people struggle to get out, but here in New York City we struggle to stay, and together we can fix that!

Fresh Ideas

5 Point Plan for Pandemic Recovery

1. Real Affordable Housing for All - a lifelong tenant who had a landlord spike his rent during a high-risk pregnancy and spent the pandemic in a one-bedroom with his wife and daughter, Ben knows first hand that we have an affordable housing crisis and will rezone to stop buildings for billionaires, protect existing rent regulated housing, and mandate new housing that is affordable for each neighborhood as part of every new development.

2. Invest in Our Children and Families - Ben was on free and reduced school lunch as a public school student and didn't eat because he was too embarrassed that's why he won free school lunch for every student as a Council Member and why he wants to turn every public school into a community center that offers universal child care, after school, three square meals a day to end youth hunger, a laptop with Internet to close the homework gap, and gives parents and adults in the community the services they need to get better paying jobs.

3. Economic Recovery Starting with You - the social safety net caught Ben in hard times offering health insurance and income when he didn't have it. But millions of New Yorkers don't get the benefits they need because they don't know or because of too much red tape, that's why Ben is working on "barrier free benfits" by automatically giving residents direct payments for earning income, rent increase exemptions, health insurance, even free mobile phones and affordable Internet. Ben will go further by raising wages, creating new jobs, helping people save for retirement, and filling empty store fronts.

4. Faster Commutes - Ben doesn't own a car and will invest in public transit, protect pedestrians and cyclists, and rethink our road and waterways so we can all get where we are going faster.

5. Quality of Life - Ben's been fighting to get scaffolding down, with plans to house the homeless, and to clean up with a new solar compacting trash can on every corner in Manhattan.

Council Member Ben Kallos Fighting for Affordable Housing & Against Overdevelopment

As lifelong tenant, Ben knows what it's like to have his rent spiked to force his family out, and during a high-risk pregnancy no less. Living through this pandemic in a market-rate one-bedroom with his wife, daughter, and cat, Ben knows first hand that despite all the vacant apartments everyone is talking about New York City still has an affordable housing crisis.

Real estate developers get billions in tax breaks, corrupt politicians get thousands in contributions, and tenants pay for it all. That's why Ben has always refused big money from real estate developers, corporations, and lobbyists. This has freed Ben to fight for tenants by building and preserving affordable housing and against the displacement of affordable housing by overdevelopment.

Hundreds of thousands of affordable homes will now be available for re-rental thanks to a law Ben wrote, with 6,000 affordable homes built or preserved on city land under his oversight and 1,000 affordable apartments built or preserved in his district alone. Ben also won the first-of-its-kind, community-led rezoning to stop Billionaire's RowHe then led the rezoning of residential neighborhoods throughout the city to stop the construction of artificially all buildings with empty voids just to give billionaires better views. Ben even wrote the law to turn down the volume on after-hours construction.  And he won three rent freezes for one million rent-regulated tenants.

As Borough President, Ben will continue working for tenants, fighting to 

  • Build tall and build affordable
  • Create real investment, repairs, and rights for NYCHA tenants, and 
  • Stop Billionaire's Row

Fresh Ideas: Affordable Housing & Overdevelopment

Net Housing Change Map of Manhattan

As a person who’s lived on the Upper East Side his entire life, Ben's seen more construction in recent years more than ever before. Yet, a report in The City recently shared that despite all the new construction the Upper East Side actually hasn't made much gains in terms of net new housing units over the past decade.

As a software developer, Ben rolled up his sleeves and reviewed the data. What Ben found from this data is that for every new building that goes up, we lose multiple 4-, 5- and 6-story walkups with dozens of rent-controlled and -regulated housing that is truly affordable. In return we end up with sky high market-rate units that don't really add to many more units then were lost let alone add any affordable units over what we had. Of note, is that the buildings we are losing are low-denisty, with new buildings having 2 or 3 times the density, in a neighborhood that has the highest density in the country. If the increase in density isn't adding units, then maybe we need more comprehensive measures.

One solution that Ben has proposed before and that he would champion as Borough President would be to require developers putting up new housing to replace every single unit of affordable housing that they are destroying.

Underhoused Family in NYC

As a new dad and a lifelong tenant, Ben knows how hard it is to find an apartment you can afford that is actually big enough for a family. In fact, Ben doesn't know many, if any families that aren't under-housed, where family members have to share at least one room. Ben himself spent much of the pandemic renting a market rate one-bedroom with his wife and daughter. This is in part because there is no requirement for developers to build anything other than studio and one-bedroom apartments and in the Mayor's quest to build 300,000 units of affordable housing, our city has lost sight of the most important element of all this, the people who live there. As a result a recent report found that the city is actually losing thousands of apartment a year to conversions that are merging apartments to create 2- and 3-bedrooms. The fact is we need to build more apartments with 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms.

As Borough President, Ben will require our affordable housing plans to count the people who can live in an apartment, not just the number of units, and force every new building to include apartments big enough for families.


Learn more about Build Housing for Families.
Community Board Reform

Ben got his start on Community Board 8 Manhattan where he fought to reform his Board starting on day one. Community Board 8 didn't have a Youth or Education committee, so he helped start them and even began efforts to recruit public members. When Board Members didn't show up, he supported his chair using powers under the Charter to remove them. As a Council Member, Ben Kallos, authored a report on Community Board reform with recommendations to:

  1. Improve Outreach and Recruitment
  2. Standardize the Application Process
  3. Restore Public Trust

As Borough President, Ben will implement many of the recommendations that have worked to change the face of his community board throughout the borough of Manhattan.


Learn more about Community Board Reform.
Drone Inspections of Buildings

Scaffolding covers 386 miles of sidewalk in New York City, equal to the distance from here to Canada. While it’s hard to imagine that the City’s scaffolding problem could get any worse, 7,342 sidewalks sheds have been added since April 2018 with each remaining erect for 1,514 days on average—that’s more than 4 years. As Ben told NY1, we need building owners and landlords to take care of their buildings, rather than putting up scaffolding for a loose brick and leaving it up for years. The good news is that a bill Ben co-sponsored with Housing and Buildings Chair Robert Cornegy became law to require the Department of Buildings to study the use of drones for inspecting building façades.

As Borough President, Ben will pass a law to allow facade inspections using drones so building owners can save time and money and most importantly avoid putting up sidewalk sheds and scaffolding for no reason.

Community Board Veto

As a member of Community Board 8 Manhattan, Ben was frustrated by Council Members who ignored resolutions in opposition from the community board and the Manhattan Borough President, to get side deals that seemed to only help that politicians campaign coffers. Since Ben Kallos became a Council Member he has always supported his community board, never voted against them on a land use matter, but that's been the exception.

The Community Boards along with their Borough Board and their Council Member or Borough President must be able to initiate Uniform Land Use Review Procedures (ULURP) completely funded by the City or with a triple no have a veto. As a Council Member, Ben Kallos proposed this as a Charter Revision and as Borough President will take the proposal to the voters.

Ben Kallos Gale Brewer Bill de Blasio Board of Standards and Appeals

Ben Kallos is the only council member to support the first of its kind community-led grassroots rezoning to stop the mark of super tall towers from Billionaire's Row into residential communities. No sooner did Ben and the community win the rezoning then did the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) overturn the rezoning to let a developer build an 800 foot tower. Even when the community wins, they still lose, whether at the BSA or at the courts.

The Board of Standards and Appeals, serves one purpose, and that is to provide relief from zoning laws, which can often put it at odds with City Planning and the community. As chair of the powerful Government Operations Committee in the Council and working with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Ben previously won reforms at the BSA, which were an important first step. As an attorney who has represented the community pro-bono, Ben will introduce legislation that will force the courts to do a de novo review or start from scratch in reviewing challenges brought by the community.

House Homeless Families in Vacant Apartments Now

More than 16,000 children wake up in a city shelter every day. Just over 10,000 families account for a 30,000 person majority of those living in shelters. With over 15,000 vacant Manhattan rentals and 4,100 vacant condominiums dating back before the pandemic, we now have more vacant apartments than homeless families. Ben has a bold proposal to use vacant apartments to house the homeless now by having the city to buy these vacant condominiums and secure long-term leases on vacant rental apartments to provide transitional and permanent housing for the homeless.

Rent Roll Back for Rent Regulated Tenants with Ben Kallos

As a I lifelong tenant, Ben has been fighting over the past seven years I have rallied alongside tenants from around New York City calling on the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) to roll back rents or issue freezes for all 1 million rent-stabilized tenants. In 2014, we won the lowest rent increase in history at 1%. In 2015, we won the first-ever rent freeze from the RGB, and in 2016, we won a second consecutive rent freeze from RGB. In 2017 through 2019, we were able to win another historic low increase of only 1.25% and 1.5%. In 2020 another rent freeze was accomplished during the height of the pandemic.

These were huge victories that translate into real savings in the pockets of everyday New Yorkers. They are only a small respite for tenants who lived through far-too-high increases over the previous 20 years when rent has outstripped inflation by 14%. The increases were particularly burdensome during the Bloomberg Administration when rent increased significantly despite the economic recession. We need a rollback to correct for these increases so the more than 1 million rent-stabilized apartments continue to be affordable for the residents living in them. With the pandemic further exacerbating economic conditions for New York City renters there is no more adequate time for a rent roll back than right now.

As Borough President, Ben Kallos will keep showing up for tenants at the Rent Guidelines Board to continue winning rent freezes and to finally win a rent roll back.

We need more housing that is affordable to every New Yorker. Unfortunately, real estate developers would rather build skyscrapers and supertall towers for billionaires then the housing we need.

Development in New York City is governed by a two-dimensional measure of density, ill-equipped to regulate today's market forces, that allows real estate developers to build the same amount of housing in a building 500-feet tall, when it would just as easily fit in a building 200-feet tall. That's why Ben funded studies by Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District and CIVITAS to see how we can use restrictions on building heights to mandate the construction of new affordable housing on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Community Board 8 Manhattan has issued resolutions in support of this plan to require any building over a certain height to include affordable housing.

As the next Manhattan Borough President, Ben will win a rezoning to require any building over a certain height to include affordable housing, everywhere in Manhattan.

Billionaire's Row from Central Park

After years of out-of-control, out-of-scale over-development, I wanted to put residents over real estate, and we did. In late 2017 we accomplished what many described as impossible. We won the first of its kind grass-roots community rezoning in this City for the Sutton Area.

With the invaluable help of the committed members of the East River Fifties Alliance, we stopped the march of super-tall buildings for billionaires from 57th Street into the Sutton Area. The rezoning initially removed the grandfather clause and will protect the Sutton Area East of First Avenue from 52nd to 59th st. from future supertall towers by limiting zoning lot mergers, limiting the width of towers, and forcing most of the air rights to be used in the base of a building.

We were able to accomplish this thanks to the support of residents like you. Heroes like Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez stood up to buyouts and threats from billionaires. Leaders like Dieter Seelig, former President of the Sutton Area Community got us started and Alan Kersh, Robert Shepler, Jessica Osborn, and Lisa Mercurio put countless volunteer hours into ERFA.


Learn more about Stop Billionaire's Row.
Urban Planners for Community Boards

Community Board members consist of 50 volunteers who don't get paid with staff largely dedicated to running the meetings and ensuring adequate public notice. This leaves developers with projects in a very strong position with their teams of higher gun experts who can run circles around the community board. As a Council Member, Ben Kallos discovered the difference that having an urban planner could make for a community board. That's why Ben funded urban planners for the community boards he represents. Then Ben introduced legislation to guarantee every board an urban planner and when he couldn't get it passed took it directly to the voters who overwhelmingly supported the proposal. Since then Mayor de Blasio has failed to provide the urban planners.

As Borough President, Ben will work with the next Mayor to fulfill this promise and if they won't as an attorney he will sue to to provide urban planners for every community board.

Council Member Ben Kallos Climate Emergency

Ben believes that climate change is not only real but an emergency. That's why Ben worked with Extinction Rebellion and climate activists to author and pass a resolution making New York City the largest city on the planet to declare a climate emergency. Inspired by Captain Planet at an early age to be a Planeteer, Ben's been focused in the Council on the environment and saving our planet, earning him the endorsement of the show's co-creator.

As a Council Member, Ben 

As Borough President, Ben wants to go further by 

  • Harvesting energy locally from solar on our buildings, water in our rivers, and wind in our air.  
  • Divesting and moving beyond fossil fuels, 
  • Protecting environmental justice communities from climate change with a resilient waterfront, and 
  • Creating 100,000 jobs in the climate industry as we strive to meet the City’s 2050 climate goals.

Learn more about Climate Emergency!.

Fresh Ideas: Climate Emergency!

Renewable NYC: Generate Renewable Energy Locally

Ben believes in climate change and evidence-based governance. That's why Ben authored and passed a resolution making New York City the largest city on the planet to declare a climate emergency. As Borough President, Ben will reduce the carbon footprint of dirty buildings by enforcing requirements for solar on every rooftop, build green energy infrastructure right here like Renewable Rikers and offshore wind for a recovery that puts climate first.

Ben Kallos in Front of Small Business

Ben knows what it is like to be an employee at a small business and what it's like help run a small business, from keeping money flowing in to cover payroll to managing benefits and what seems like unending government regulation. That's why Ben is fighting for an economic recovery led by workers and small businesses. That means raising wages for workers, creating new jobs, and filling every store front.

In the Council Ben Kallos:

Ben has already been fighting for and will win as Borough President:


Learn more about Economic Recovery.

Fresh Ideas: Economic Recovery

New York Times coverage of Automatic Benefits and Ben Kallos

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, Ben 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, Ben has 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 was completed in 2018 and proved that my Automatic Benefits legislation could  save taxpayer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city and this plan. The study has spurred a systematic review of various benefits access initiatives within different City agencies or offices, thereby creating an opportunity to streamline processes. 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.

As Borough President, Ben will take on poverty by making sure every New Yorker who qualifies for benefits gets them.

Fill Empty Store Fronts

Empty storefronts were a blight on Manhattan, even before the pandemic and have only gotten worse.

As a Council Member Ben Kallos authored a letter with Manhattan Borough President calling to implement outdoor dining at the beginning of the pandemic, then co-prime sponsored the law to make it permanent.

Ben has supported legislation to help our small businesses, including sponsoring the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and Commercial Rent Control.

Ben authored legislation to fund improvements to businesses for accessibility and public health with the promise of rent reductions and the right to renew for those who participate. He's also gone further with legislation to force absentee landlords to reveal their names.

As the next Borough President, Ben will follow Gale Brewer's lead, by taking on this issue, and working block by block and storefront by storefront until they are all filled.

 


Learn more about Fill Empty Store Fronts.
Daily News coverage of legislation to raise wages from Ben Kallos

As the Daily News reported, Ben proposed legislation that would facilitate a worker-led recovery by raising wages for 200,000 human service employees who work at non-profits that are contracted to the city.

New York City provides services to millions of youths, seniors, homeless, and veterans in poverty through human service nonprofits whose government contracts ironically pay workers poverty wages. Per my legislation, the Comptroller would work with the human services sector to determine the average wage or adopt a collectively bargained wage for new contracts. Once prevailing wage rates are adopted, the city would be required to fully fund wage increases as part of new contracts, modifications, or renewals increasing overall funds to non-profits providing vital human services.

“We need to actually invest in paying our Black and Brown human service workers and women of color a prevailing wage so that they can afford to live in the city,” said Ben to the Daily News.

Currently, we are operating in a system where social workers, case managers and other human service professionals, sometimes even with advanced degrees, earn significantly less than building services workers or security guards at the same organization. Pay is so low that 60% of those working in the human services sector were utilizing or had a family member utilizing some form of public assistance benefit, such as Medicaid or food stamps. This is because some of the job titles that have benefited most from prevailing wage laws served predominantly blue-collar workers who are mostly male, exacerbating the gender pay gap.

As Borough President Ben will make sure the City finally pays these service providers and their workers the wages they deserve.


Learn more about Raise Wages.
Retirement Security for All

Every New Yorker deserves the right to retire, but two-thirds of workers aren’t participating in retirement plans, largely because their employer doesn’t offer one.

That's why Ben carried legislation authored by former-Public Advocate now-Attorney General Tish James to automatically enroll employees in a plan that puts five percent of their wages into a retirement fund and lets them adjust the amount or opt out. Over the years, since it was introduced Ben took on former President Trump, his henchman Steve Bannon, and two acts of Congress, to get the law passed.

As Borough President, Ben will make sure that it is implemented on time to help 1.5 million workers save for retirement and help small businesses compete.


Learn more about Retirement Security for All.
ADA Ramp for Storefront

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Ben introduced two bills to help small businesses stay open and keep them afloat as New York City fights through the economic fallout of Covid-19. The first bill creates a low-interest small grants and loans program that would provide restaurants with up to $250,000 in funding to make restaurants compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The funding could be used for infrastructure changes, ventilation improvements, as well as other public health upgrades to assist those who are at greater risk for developing serious complications from the coronavirus. Not to mention, making entrances and facilities accessible. In exchange for accepting these funds, landlords would have to allow renewals or lower rents. This is a win-win-win, for landlords who buildings will get free and low-cost retrofits, for the 10% of New Yorkers and tourists who are disabled and will have access to more storefronts, and finally for small businesses welcoming new customers and seeing rents lowered.

Universal Internet Guarantee

As a 14-year-old public school student at the Bronx High School of Science, Ben discovered the Internet and loved it. Ben asked teachers if he could use the Internet on computers after school if he agreed to fix them. Within 2-years, Ben began making $15 an hour in 1996 building websites in what the New York Times profiled as the new after-school job.

As a Council Member Ben Kallos has been fighting to bridge the digital divide by giving everyone free or low-cost Internet. Working with then-Public Advocate, now-Attorney General Tish James, Ben Kallos won $14.99 a month Internet for low-income families whose children were eligible for free or reduced school lunch.

As Borough President, Ben will use legislative, franchising, and land use powers to provide a Universal Internet Guarantee.

Council Member Ben Kallos with Children at a School

As a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, State University of New York at Albany, and Buffalo Law School, Ben believes in providing every child with a world-class education.  That’s why Ben has always prioritized investments in, and improvements to, our public education system.

As a Council Member, Ben won::

As the next Borough President, Ben will keep fighting for his daughter and all of our kids


Learn more about Education Investment.

Fresh Ideas: Education Investment

Desegregate Online Education Kallos Cornegy

With three-quarters of students learning remotely, the former Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus Co-Chair and I authored a letter demanding a desegregation of online learning, initially covered and then endorsed by the New York Post as an opportunity to “make remote learning into a winner for many kids.”

Imagine the public education system we can create together, with the ambitious goal of taking on systemic racism and segregation, all while providing a historic opportunity for students of every race and ethnicity. There would be no more lotteries. No more geographic preference based on racist red lining. No more false constraints created by generations of disinvestment in communities of color. Parents and students could simply apply and be guaranteed a seat in the virtual classroom of their choice. Equal educational opportunities for all.

Little Rock Nine

Every ten years the census offers the opportunity to not only redraw political boundaries but educational boundaries too. Manhattan’s School District 2 runs from the tip of Manhattan to the Upper East Side gerrymandered to exclude communities of color. We must go further than the School Diversity Advisory Group (SDAG) recommended by redrawing districts throughout Manhattan to recognize racist redlining that has led to segregated communities and prioritize socioeconomic and racial integration to expand opportunities for every child.


Learn more about Desegregate Public Schools.
UFT Brave Anti-Bullying

School can be hard enough without bullying which has now expanded from in-person and in the classroom to online. Ben was bullied as a student in elementary school and has worked with schools in the district to give teachers, staff, and students the resources they need to take on bullying. One program Ben has supported in the City Council is the Brave Mental Health initiative championed by the United Federation of Teachers to provide a free hotline and chat service for at risk students along with trainings for teachers and staff as well as direct services to students and their families. As the next Borough President Ben Kallos will bring the resources and support principal, teachers, parents, and students, need to end bullying.


Learn more about End School Bullying.
New York Times City Schools to Offer All Students Free Lunch

As a student at Bronx Science, Ben didn’t eat lunch because he did not want to get bullied for using lunch tickets. That’s why Ben fought to serve Breakfast After the Bell and won free lunch for all public school students. As Borough President Ben will fight to end youth hunger as we know it by passing his legislation to serve every public school student dinner as part of universal after school.

UFT Dial-A-Teacher

Homework can be hard, particularly when their isn't even a place to do it at home let alone family members that can help. As a student, Ben struggled through homework until a teacher who saw him struggling stepped in and suggested that in the absence of a place to do homework at home, he could do it in the school library before and after school hours where teachers were on hand to help. As a Council Member, Ben learned about Dial-A-Teacher from the United Federation of Teachers that has been around since 1980, wishes he know about it as a student, gotten the word out to his community, and has supported funding in the City Council. As Borough President, will continue to support this program and make sure every students gets the homework help they need.


Learn more about Homework Help.
New York Post New bill would give loaded laptop to every NYC student proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos

With every single one of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students learning online partially or fully, the Department of Education estimates that there are still upwards of 77,000 students who still need internet-capable devices, despite repeated assurances from Mayor Bill de Blasio that “every student who needs one gets one.” Legislation Council Member Ben Kallos authored with Council Member Farah Louis and sponsored by Education Chair Mark Treyger, Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Member Stephen Levin, would force the city to give free laptops and tablets with Internet to all public school students and to report on the quantity, costs, distribution and demographics of students receiving devices. As a Council Member Ben will fight to pass this into law, but if that doesn't happen by the time he becomes Borough President, Ben will buy every student who needs one a laptop on day one.


Learn more about Laptops for All.
Pre-Kindergarten in a Commercial Space

New York City has a crisis of empty storefronts and with the pandemic empty commercial spaces, which we need to rethink as community spaces. That’s why Ben proposed using these spaces for schools and we’ve done exactly that for pre-kindergartens all over the neighborhood. As we seek to recover with more space per student, lower student teacher ratios, and finally acknowledging the need for child care, Ben will work as the next Borough President to open more schools, libraries, and community centers in vacant store fronts and commercial spaces throughout Manhattan.

Ribbon Cutting on New School in New Development

Manhattan is a largely built environment and if we build new education infrastructure as part of new buildings that will only house more families we can finally start to alleviate school overcrowding. The City should offer a zoning bonus to include new schools, libraries, youth centers, or senior centers, as part of new development without taking away any housing. In fact, I’ve made it a standing offer for any developer in the neighborhood, though most have chosen a public-private partnership with financing from the city. We've done it before and we can do it again. Let’s build new schools as part of new developments and finally alleviate school overcrowding.

Example of a Racist Textbook

Ben graduated from a New York City Public School and can tell you himself that his text books were decades old and racist. That's why as Council Member Ben Kallos wrote an opinion editorial in the Daily News with Silicon Harlem's Clayton Banks proposing open textbooks as an immedaite way forward. New York City is spending $84 million a year on textbooks. That number is staggering, especially given that many of the textbooks are older than the teachers using them, largely Eurocentric and in some cases dictated by partisan politics.

Rooting out racial injustice must include the classroom, where textbooks too often perpetuate notions of white supremacy through a narrow focus on the achievements of white men. Expanding the narrative through open textbooks can help teach the rich diversity of shared contributions across cultures. From Arabic numerals and Katherine Johnson in math to Marie Curie and George Washington Carver in science, key figures and developments have been neglected in every subject, not only history.

We can make these learning materials more reflective of New York City’s diversity and put limited resources to better use by adopting open textbooks. As a Council Member Ben has introduced legislation to mandate open textbooks as part of giving every student who needs one a laptop. If the legislation is not passed by the time Ben becomes the next Borough President he will buy a laptop for every student who needs one on day one and make sure it comes preloaded with open textbooks that are culturally responsive.


Learn more about Replace Racist Textbooks.
UFT Teacher Center

Education is ever evolving and we need to give our teachers and administrators the professional development they need to give every student a modern education. As a candidate Ben observed training at the Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) and has supported that program as well as Teacher Center and Computer Science for All in the City Council. As the next Borough President Ben will continue to support training for our teachers and administrators throughout their careers.

Council Member Ben Kallos Leads Rally for Universal Pre-Kindergarten

After finally winning universal prekindergarten for the Upper East Side in 2018, Ben began to fight for Universal 3-K. In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the roll out of "3K for All" by the 2021 school year. As of last year, 3K for All is only planned for half of school districts, serving only two-fifths of children, leaving an estimated 39,000 children without 3K throughout our city. As a Council Member and as the next Borough President I will win 3K for All.


Learn more about Universal 3K.
Universal Child Care

As a parent with a small toddler that he has shared in caring for through the pandemic, Ben knows first hand, how important child care is. Before the pandemic, Ben saw how important child care was to our daughters development, from social learning, to the alphabet, and even behavior, she got so much out of it. However, child care costs start around $30,000 on the Upper East Side, which is more than many New Yorkers make in a year, forcing families to choose between carriers or staying home to do their best or in our case going into debt. The federal government already offers subsidies for child care, including pre-kindergarten for 3 and 4 year-olds, that could also cover children starting at birth. As a Council Member and the next Manhattan Borough President Ben will continue to fight for universal child care.


Learn more about Universal Child Care.
Universal Internet Guarantee

As a 14-year-old public school student at the Bronx High School of Science, Ben discovered the Internet and loved it. Ben asked teachers if he could use the Internet on computers after school if he agreed to fix them. Within 2-years, Ben began making $15 an hour in 1996 building websites in what the New York Times profiled as the new after-school job.

As a Council Member Ben Kallos has been fighting to bridge the digital divide by giving everyone free or low-cost Internet. Working with then-Public Advocate, now-Attorney General Tish James, Ben Kallos won $14.99 a month Internet for low-income families whose children were eligible for free or reduced school lunch.

As Borough President, Ben will use legislative, franchising, and land use powers to provide a Universal Internet Guarantee.

Universal Summer Youth Jobs

Every child should have a job without getting caught in the Cath-22 of needing experience to get experience. Last year, Mayor de Blasio gave a 48-hour notice that SYEP would shut down entirely. It was eventually partially maintained—with 35,000 available employment opportunities, down from 75,000, and with 5-week instead of 8-week jobs. This year, Ben led a rally alongside Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, as well as Borough Presidents Gale Brewer and Eric Adams, to restore this funding, and won restoration of 70,000 slots for this summer. But Ben and his allies want to push further, as the lead sponsor on legislation he co-sponsored with now-Congress Member Ritchie Torres to guarantee youth jobs. As Borough President, Ben will continue the fight for universal summer youth jobs.


Learn more about Unversal Youth Jobs.
Community Schools Diagram

It can be hard to learn at the same time as overcoming many of the challenges that come with living in poverty. Providing resources to students and families to address everything from hunger to housing instability to job training to on-site medial and mental health has been found to improve student performance. Council Member Ben Kallos initially ran on this in 2013 and since then with the support of the City Council Community Schools have been rolled out to 31 schools serving 20,000 students. This has been championed by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) who created the program in 2012 and are now advocating for United Community Schools. As Borough President Ben will work to bring wrap-around services to expand United Community Schools throughout the borough of Manhattan.


Learn more about Wrap-Around Schools.
Council Member Ben Kallos Public Transportation

Ben doesn’t own a car and relies on public transit. That’s why he advocated to make commutes faster by opening the 2nd Avenue Subway, wining two ferry stops, and expanding bikeshare, Select Bus Service, bus lanes, and bike lanes. Ben also knows that streets must be safe for pedestrian and cyclists, and he's won new safe streets infrastructure and a bike safety program.

As Borough President, Ben will continue making commutes faster and streets safer by

  • reducing the number of vehicles entering Manhattan, 
  • investing in public transit, and 
  • expanding his safe streets and bike safety program to protect pedestrians across the borough.

Learn more about Faster Commutes.

Fresh Ideas: Quality of Life & Cleaning Up, Faster Commutes

Accessible Sidewalks Rally with Council Member Ben Kallos

Growing up living with two grandparents who had Parkinson's Disease, Ben knows what it is like pushing his grandparents in wheelchairs as a child on streets where corners have no ramp down to the street. New Yorkers in wheel chairs are left with the options of possibly tipping over, using a traffic with cars to find an accessible corner, or in most cases learning the corners to avoid, and taking out of the way but accessible routes to get places. That's why as a Council Member Ben Kallos introduced legislation that would mandate property owners to install and maintain sidewalk ramps or have the city step in and do it. The legislation is specifically focused on the ramps that connect crosswalks to sidewalks, many of which have fallen into a state of disrepair. In a study, the Center for the Independence of the Disabled New York has found that 75% out of 1,000 curbs in lower Manhattan were hazardous for disabled residents.

As Borough President, Ben will work with New Yorkers with disabilities to make sure every corner in Manhattan is accessible.


Learn more about Accessible Sidewalks.
Bike Safety

Ben rides a bike because sometimes it is the fastest way to get places in Manhattan, especially when traffic or public transit delays bring cabs and public transit to a grinding halt. Ben knows that everyone is safer when they have their own dedicated space on the street and that's why he has expanded sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings for bridges, and day lighted intersections. These infrastructure investments coupled with educating riders and commercial cyclists along with enforcement have made it safer to be a pedestrian or cyclist on the Upper East Side than it was before Ben got elected. As the next Borough President Ben will bring his "Bike Safety" program borough-wide to make it safer for everyone.


Learn more about Bike Safety.
New York Times Bike Lanes on Bridges

Thousands of New Yorkers bike, walk, and run over the Queensboro Bridge each day. The bridge has nine lanes for car traffic, yet only a narrow path along the northern edge of the bridge is open for cyclists and pedestrians to share, causing conflicts, congestion, and in the age of COVID, dangerous crowding. As you may have seen in the New York Times, that's why Ben joined rallies, protests, and even marched across the Queensboro Bridge to win a dedicated bike lane connecting our two boroughs. As the next Borough President, Ben will "bridge boroughs by bike" ensuring every bridges have a dedicated space for pedestrians and a separate protected lane for bikes to cross between the boroughs.


Learn more about Bridging Boroughs by Bike.
Plow Bike Lanes

Ben doesn't own a car and like 80% of New Yorkers he relies on our streets, bike lanes, and public transit, which can be debilitated after heavy snow fall and a failure to plow bike lanes and cross walks. As Streetsblog recently reported in January of 2021, when the pandemic caused balloting for Participatory Budgeting (PB) to be cancelled Ben still listened to advocacy from residents who emailed us leading me to team up with Council Member Keith Power to fund two snow plows for bike lanes and pedestrian intersections. However, due to needless bureaucracy and red tape the City won't use Ben's money to purchase equipment. Worse even, the City has not made plans to produce funds for the plows, the absence of which left bike lanes completely unswept for days in December. As Ben told Streetsblog: “It’s a $94-billion budget and the fact that the city can’t find $30,000 to buy a plow attachment to keep cyclists safe is a joke.” This is the definition of government not working the way it’s supposed to and it has to change.

As Borough President, Ben will buy small snow plows to clear snow from every bike lane and crosswalk in Manhattan.

Council Member Ben Kallos at Rally for Congestion Pricing

New Yorkers get stuck in traffic every day. Car traffic, bus traffic, even somehow subway traffic. Ben doesn't own a car which is why he wrote in an op-ed in the New York Daily News supporting congestion pricing and daring to go further with a bigger bolder idea. Every day, 4.4 million vehicles travel through New York City, but only 717,000 vehicles travel through Manhattan’s Central Business District daily. Instead of thinking really big, we’ve spent more than a decade fighting over a small sliver of the problem. Congestion in New York City is not caused by city residents driving into Manhattan, in part because only 1.4 million New York City households own a car. The picture is clear: The vast majority of vehicles in traffic on any given day are from outside the city.

  • Toll all entry points to New York City for all vehicles
  • New development must fund public infrastructure
  • Expand and improve existing transit infrastructure
  • High-speed automated tolling
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Real accountability
  • A lock box

The time is now for New York to finally implement congestion pricing. As Borough President Ben will take an honest look at our traffic and address the whole problem by expanding the congestion zone to all of New York City.

Traffic in Manhattan

We all know that block that always has traffic day or night and we all know why, whether its double parked trucks or a heavy merge, there is a reason and we can fix it. As a free and open source software developer and the next Borough President Ben will use a data driven approach to fix the physical conditions that create traffic. Ben will partner with Waze to use traffic data in coordination with the Department of Transportation, Community Boards and block associations to change parking regulations and traffic flow so that one parking spot, double parked truck, or poorly planned merge doesn’t make thousands of people late.


Learn more about Use Data to Fix Traffic.
Council Member Ben Kallos rides the Ferry past Roosevelt Island

We’ve all had a train or bus shows up full, particularly when we were already late. As Council Member Ben won ferry service for two locations in his district. Manhattan is an island and ferry service for Roosevelt Island has been essential for adding transit options off and on the Island. However, the Westside and uptown communities of color were left out and we must expand the program. With current subsidies going to rides that are majority for tourism instead of work, as Borough President, Ben will advocate for an inverted peak fee structure, charging less during peak rush hour, and more on weekends and off hours to fund an expansion of the ferry to the Westside and northern Manhattan.


Learn more about Water Ways to Work.
Council Member Ben Kallos Cleaning Up Corruption

Real estate developers get billions in tax breaks, politicians take thousands in campaign cash, and tenants like us pay for it all. That’s why Ben has always refused money from real estate developers, corporations, and lobbyists.

As a Council Member, Ben wrote the laws to:

Ben’s not done yet and as Borough President will keep big money out of politics, restore ethic in government, root out corruption and make it easier to vote, by


Learn more about Fight Corruption.

Fresh Ideas: Fight Corruption

Petitioning

Voters should get to choose between candidate on the ballot. Instead, party bosses and corrupt politicians play a blood sport of knocking candidates off the ballot. That's why Ben has never tried to knock anyone off the ballot and never will. Legislation Ben has proposed would let any candidate that qualifies for public funds on the ballot automatically. During a pandemic people shouldn't have to risk their lives just to have a choice on the ballot. As a Council Member, Ben's already fighting to give voters a choice, and as Borough President will always put voters first.


Learn more about Ballot Access for All.
Line to Vote at Wagner Expand Early Voting

We need to make voting easier not harder and early voting was supposed to help. Instead what we got was not enough poll sites leading to voters waiting hours to vote, even in the rain. Albany failed to require enough poll sites leaving none in my Council District and too few throughout the borough of Manhattan. That's why Ben's proposed legislation to mandate more poll sites June Primary together with more hours to vote. Ben is already working with Borough President Gale Brewer to find new sites and will get it done as Borough President so you can vote early and easy.


Learn more about Expand Early Voting.
Senator Elizabeth Warren with Ben Kallos and Julian Castro

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had a “crisis of faith” and introduced legislation imposing a lifetime ban on lobbying for elected officials. Explaining her reasoning, Senator Warren said “our national crisis of faith in government boils down to this simple fact: People don’t trust their government to do the right thing because they think government works for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people. And here’s the kicker: They’re right.” 

Here in New York City, elected officials and agency heads can go through a revolving door from government to lobbying without a break, the only restriction was a one-year, now two-year, prohibition against appearing before the agency were they worked, leaving the rest of government wide open. As I proposed to the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, in order to remove real and perceived corruption, as the next Borough President I will win a lifetime ban on lobbying for elected officials.


Learn more about Lifetime Lobbying Ban.
Mayor de Blasio signs Online Voter Registration

In the 21st Century, democracy should be just one click away. Forty states offer online voter registration and I wrote the law to make New York City is one of them in 2017. A corrupt city Board of Elections and Albany legislature have refused to implement the law and even blocked it over the past four years. As the next Manhattan Borough President I will continue to fight corruption at the Board of Election and in Albany to make it easier for people to register and vote.


Learn more about Online Voter Registration.
NYC.gov Job Search

Finding a job should be about what you know, not who you know. All too often, government hires people for patronage jobs that were never posted and no one was even interviewed. That's why Ben is fighting patronage legislation to post every job. As a Council Member, candidate, and the next Borough President, Ben will post all jobs, and continuing to fight patronage to open jobs to every New Yorker.


Learn more about Post All Jobs.
Ben Kallos and Gale Brewer Rally to Protect Public Housing NYCHA

Ben believes that New York City must protect and invest in public housing and the diverse residents who mold these vital communities.  

That’s why in the City Council Ben:

  • Led the Progressive Caucus the fight for $2 billion in funding for NYCHA,
  • Invested $3.5 million in safety improvements with security cameras, layered access, and lighting for every NYCHA development in his district.
  • Invested $2.5 million for NYCHA senior and youth centers.
  • Funded every Tenant Association in his council district, and
  • Defeated Infill at NYCHA Holmes Towers with Borough President Gale Brewer.

As Borough President, Ben will put residents by continuing to advocate for real investment, repairs, and rights for NYCHA tenants, including:

  • Fully funding NYCHA from NYC’s $133 billion capital budget.
  • Stopping privatization and eviction of NYCHA tenants.
  • Creating safer complexes with lighting, layered access, and cameras for every development.
  • Supporting Tenant Association leaders and residents with dedicated staff, hosting regular meetings for leaders, and tenant-led oversight.

Learn more about Protect Public Housing.
Council Member Ben Kallos Public Health

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, the first thing Ben did was try and help our City and state secure hospital beds which were in huge demand early on. Ben succeeded and was able to open 550 new hospital beds in the district. Ben also launched a supply clearinghouse, and we continue distributing masks, sanitizer, and food

Over the years Ben's focused on public health with laws to take on Legionnaires' disease and make happy meals healthy, and even worked to connect New Yorkers with the benefits they need automatically. Ben wrote the law to create the Office of Food Policy and is fighting to adopt good food purchasing.

When it comes to crime, Ben knows that we need a more comprehensive approach that matches that right tools for the right circumstances. We've seen the greatest reduction in gun violence through modest investments in violence interrupters like cure violence which should be expanded. Similarly, free and subsidized programs for youth from after school, to summer camp, and even youth jobs, have had an incredibly impact in changing outcomes for children and improving graduation rates which is why Ben is carrying legislation to make all of these programs universal. There are still incidents involving people battling mental health issues and addiction, which must be addressed with dedicated mental health outreach teams coupled with making mental health free and affordable to anyone and everyone starting in school throughout our lives. This way police can focus their attention on responding to more serious threats to public safely.

As Manhattan Borough President, Ben will continue to fight for public health:

  • Medicare for All.
  • Vaccinate every New Yorker in homes, schools, senior centers and anywhere we can.
  • Ensure free and low-cost access to medical care through our public hospitals.
  • Comprehensive mental health and substance abuse counseling for all who need it.
  • End hunger and take on poverty by giving cash and other benefits to those who need them most.

Learn more about Public Health & Safety.
Council Member Ben Kallos Cleaning Up New Trash Cans

Cleaning up doesn’t just mean corruption in government, it also applies to the neighborhood. We wrote the law to lower the volume on after hours construction. We’re fighting hundreds of miles of scaffolding, some of it almost old enough to vote, with legislation to force repairs so it comes down quickly. We even put a new, covered trash can on every corner and are working with Wildcat to keep streets clean.

As Borough President, Ben will clean up Manhattan:

  • Take scaffolding and sidewalk sheds down around Manhattan.
  • Solar compactors on every corner that are not only rat proof but can hold 5 times more trash.
  • Enforce quality of life laws by holding absentee landlords accountable.
  • Help the homeless.

Fresh Ideas: Quality of Life & Cleaning Up

A Solar Compactor on Every Corner

Ben made a name for himself by putting a new large covered trash can on every corner to clean up the neighborhood. Now Ben wants to take on rats and clean up the entire borough by putting a solar compactor on every corner, starting with the busiest 1,000 corners then going from there. That's why Ben introduced legislation to do just that. If he can't pass the legislation as a Council Member, he'll get it done as Borough President, or even by them for the borough on day one.

Accessible Sidewalks Rally with Council Member Ben Kallos

Growing up living with two grandparents who had Parkinson's Disease, Ben knows what it is like pushing his grandparents in wheelchairs as a child on streets where corners have no ramp down to the street. New Yorkers in wheel chairs are left with the options of possibly tipping over, using a traffic with cars to find an accessible corner, or in most cases learning the corners to avoid, and taking out of the way but accessible routes to get places. That's why as a Council Member Ben Kallos introduced legislation that would mandate property owners to install and maintain sidewalk ramps or have the city step in and do it. The legislation is specifically focused on the ramps that connect crosswalks to sidewalks, many of which have fallen into a state of disrepair. In a study, the Center for the Independence of the Disabled New York has found that 75% out of 1,000 curbs in lower Manhattan were hazardous for disabled residents.

As Borough President, Ben will work with New Yorkers with disabilities to make sure every corner in Manhattan is accessible.


Learn more about Accessible Sidewalks.
Drone Inspections of Buildings

Scaffolding covers 386 miles of sidewalk in New York City, equal to the distance from here to Canada. While it’s hard to imagine that the City’s scaffolding problem could get any worse, 7,342 sidewalks sheds have been added since April 2018 with each remaining erect for 1,514 days on average—that’s more than 4 years. As Ben told NY1, we need building owners and landlords to take care of their buildings, rather than putting up scaffolding for a loose brick and leaving it up for years. The good news is that a bill Ben co-sponsored with Housing and Buildings Chair Robert Cornegy became law to require the Department of Buildings to study the use of drones for inspecting building façades.

As Borough President, Ben will pass a law to allow facade inspections using drones so building owners can save time and money and most importantly avoid putting up sidewalk sheds and scaffolding for no reason.

Fill Empty Store Fronts

Empty storefronts were a blight on Manhattan, even before the pandemic and have only gotten worse.

As a Council Member Ben Kallos authored a letter with Manhattan Borough President calling to implement outdoor dining at the beginning of the pandemic, then co-prime sponsored the law to make it permanent.

Ben has supported legislation to help our small businesses, including sponsoring the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and Commercial Rent Control.

Ben authored legislation to fund improvements to businesses for accessibility and public health with the promise of rent reductions and the right to renew for those who participate. He's also gone further with legislation to force absentee landlords to reveal their names.

As the next Borough President, Ben will follow Gale Brewer's lead, by taking on this issue, and working block by block and storefront by storefront until they are all filled.

 


Learn more about Fill Empty Store Fronts.
Ben Kallos Scaffolding Sidewalk Shed

Scaffolding and sidewalk sheds are everywhere in Manhattan and everyone hates them. They go up and never come down, with some of them almost old enough to vote. Ben Kallos has been leading the charge to get these scaffolds down in the Council, with legislation to require work to start immediately, get done, or have the city step in to do it and make bad landlords pay. Since the legislation was introduced the Department of Buildings has begun to implement it in part, but Ben is committed to passing the law so they have to do it. As Borough President, Ben will finally get all the scaffolding down.

House Homeless Families in Vacant Apartments Now

More than 16,000 children wake up in a city shelter every day. Just over 10,000 families account for a 30,000 person majority of those living in shelters. With over 15,000 vacant Manhattan rentals and 4,100 vacant condominiums dating back before the pandemic, we now have more vacant apartments than homeless families. Ben has a bold proposal to use vacant apartments to house the homeless now by having the city to buy these vacant condominiums and secure long-term leases on vacant rental apartments to provide transitional and permanent housing for the homeless.

ADA Ramp for Storefront

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Ben introduced two bills to help small businesses stay open and keep them afloat as New York City fights through the economic fallout of Covid-19. The first bill creates a low-interest small grants and loans program that would provide restaurants with up to $250,000 in funding to make restaurants compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The funding could be used for infrastructure changes, ventilation improvements, as well as other public health upgrades to assist those who are at greater risk for developing serious complications from the coronavirus. Not to mention, making entrances and facilities accessible. In exchange for accepting these funds, landlords would have to allow renewals or lower rents. This is a win-win-win, for landlords who buildings will get free and low-cost retrofits, for the 10% of New Yorkers and tourists who are disabled and will have access to more storefronts, and finally for small businesses welcoming new customers and seeing rents lowered.

Daily News Ben Kallos Smart City Headline

Smart City technology can prevent gas explosions, improve lighting, and even make it easier to find parking. As a software developer and as the next Borough President, Ben wants to work smarter using smart city technology and the Internet of Things to fix problems that bother every New Yorker and even save lives.


Learn more about Smart City.
Council Member Ben Kallos Investing in Resilient Waterfront Parks

Parks are more important than ever as we seek refuge from tiny apartments that weren’t built for a pandemic. Working alongside Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade we have now secured $874 Million for a resilient waterfront. This is on top of a $3.3 million renovation of Carl Schurz Playground, $1 million for a new pool and basketball courts at John Jay Park, a $2.9 million expansion of Sutton Place Park, $1.4 million in security cameras for hard to patrol parks, and having a new conservancy for almost every park. We even opened indoor tennis for free or low-cost year-round. Ben worked with students to even make parks pesticide free.

As Borough President, Ben Kallos will:

  • Reclaim our waterfront to build a green resilient ring around Manhattan.
  • Invest in parks in every neighborhood.
  • Foster conservancies and residents to care for every park.
  • Enforce the ban on toxic pesticides that Ben wrote to keep our parks and playgrounds safe.
  • Activate every park with activities for youth and seniors.

Learn more about Resilient Parks.

Fresh Ideas: Resilient Parks

Ban Toxic Pesticides from Parks

Parks are for play not pesticides.

As you may have read in The New York Times, Ben started working with Kindergarten students on their proposal to ban toxic pesticides from parks over seven years to make the law. In the time between, glyphosate, the key ingredient in RoundUp was found to be a likely carcinogen, and The Black Institute found that this poison was disproportionately sprayed in parks in low-income communities of color.

As Borough President, Ben Kallos will work to ensure this law is properly implemented and that our parks are safe for dogs, families, and children.

Ben Kallos at Rally for Seniors

Ben Kallos, grew up living with and taking care of his grandparents who had Parkinson's Disease. Ben knows how important services for seniors on a fixed income can be from meals that are home delivered or shared at table to social work to free trips to Broadway shows or even Costco. That's why Ben has always fought to fund programs for seniors and invested millions in senior centers.

As our next Borough President, Ben will:

  • Invest in fully funding senior centers.
  • Create new senior centers for under served naturally occurring retirement communities (NORC).
  • Make Manhattan accessible from fixing every sidewalk ramp to making storefronts accessible.
  • Offer every senior who needs it a device with free or low-cost Internet to keep them connected.

Learn more about Support Our Seniors.

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