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!

Ben's made almost all of his "fresh ideas" a reality and now he has more to help us recover from the pandemic. Join our campaign of "fresh ideas" and Share Your Own Fresh Ideas.


Fresh Ideas

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 Borough President, Ben wants to go further by harvesting energy locally from solar on every building and tidal in our rivers, divesting and moving beyond fossil fuels, and protect environmental justice communities from climate change with a resilient waterfront.

Learn more about Climate Emergency!.
Council Member Ben Kallos Public Transportation

Ben doesn’t own a car and relies on public transit. That’s why he advocated to open the 2nd Avenue Subway, won two ferry stops, expanded bikeshare, Select Bus Service, and bus lanes, to make your commute faster. Safety has been a priority with new safe streets infrastructure and a bike safety program that has made it safer to be a pedestrian. As Borough President Ben will continue his work 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: Faster Commutes

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.
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. 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 finally implementing Online Voter Registration and passing a Lifetime Ban on Lobbying for Elected Officials.

Learn more about Fight Corruption.

Fresh Ideas: Fight Corruption


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. 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.
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 during a difficult high risk pregnancy. 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 to build or preserve affordable housing, against the displacement of affordable housing by overdevelopment, and for tenants:

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. We’ve also won the first-of-its-kind, community-led rezoning to stop Billionaire's Row then gone on to rezone residential neighborhoods throughout the city to stop the construction of buildings with empty voids that only serve to give billionaires better views. Ben even wrote the law to turn down the volume on after-hours construction.

Fresh Ideas: More Affordable Housing, Less Overdevelopment

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 developer 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.
Council Member Ben Kallos Passing 40 Laws

We've passed more than 40 laws from ethics and campaign finance reform, to affordable housing and tenant protection, to education, and the environment. See our laws for yourself and you'll know why I've been consistently ranked as one of the best Council Members.

Learn more about Passing 40 Laws.
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.

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

When I promised to clean up, I was focused on corruption in government, but that didn't stop us from putting a new large covered trash can on every corner or power washing our sidewalks. We've opened supportive housing to help the homeless.

Council Member Ben Kallos Investing in Resilient Waterfront Parks

Working alongside Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade, we've invested heavily in our parks, securing $275 Million for a resilient East River Esplanade, reconstructing Carl Schurz Playground, John Jay pool and courts, and even expanding Sutton Place Park. Additionally, we launched and funded conservancies to keep our parks beautiful and funded security cameras to keep parks safe.

Learn more about Resilient Parks.
Council Member Ben Kallos with Children at a School

As a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science as well as 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 public education, winning:

As the next Borough President Ben will keep fighting for his daughter and all of our kids to pass legislation he’s authored to end youth hunger as part of universal after school, to give a laptop with Internet for every child, to end overcrowding, provide universal childcare, and finally desegregate our schools online and in-person.

Learn more about Support Our Schools.

Fresh Ideas: Support Our Schools

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 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.

Join our team to win a Manhattan for all of us.