This is a repost of my City Council government office's June newsletter. The original can be found here.
After months of meetings where community input was provided, the New York Blood Center’s expansion plan still fails to reflect community feedback, so I was proud to join a rally where hundreds of community members showed up to make their voices heard.
As our city recovers from the pandemic, illegal short-term rentals in New York City are a significant contributor to the lack of affordable housing available for residents, and they hurt the tourism industry too. That's why I introduced legislation to require hosts to register their homes prior to renting them and to ensure platforms like Airbnb and VRBO follow the law.
New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world, is no place for hate, and I continue to condemn the pattern of hate crimes and attacks against members of the AAPI and Jewish communities that have been reported around the city.
Retirement Security for All, which I worked to pass with now-Attorney General Tish James, was officially signed into law, guaranteeing every New Yorker can retire even if they do not have access to savings through their employers.
This month, please join us for our annual town hall where tenants can learn about exemptions to rent increases for seniors and the disabled, and ask questions to the attorneys on-hand. You have an opportunity to own your own affordable studio co-op in the neighborhood, and this month is your last chance to attend our information session.
I hope you caught some sun in between the rain this Memorial Day weekend. I express my deepest gratitude for the men and women who gave their lives to serve and protect the American people, and my heart goes out to all who may have lost a friend or family member in service.
Yours in service,
Tenants’ Rights Town Hall
Movie Night: Raya and the Last Dragon
Affordable Home Ownership Opportunity
Free Legal Clinics
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Stop Illegal Short Term Rentals and Open Up More Apartments For New Yorkers
- Blood Center Rally + Update on CB8 Meeting
- Standing Up to Hate: Jewish and AAPI Community
- Retirement Security Bill Signing
- Millions for Ruppert Park, Scoping Session Results
- ICYMI: Overdevelopment, Preservation & Affordable Housing Town Hall
- Tenants’ Rights Town Hall
- Shred-A-Thon is Back!
- Movie Night: Raya and the Last Dragon
- Last Chance: Affordable Homeownership Opportunity at 1402 York Ave
- First Friday Online
- Free Mask Distribution
COVID-19 + Recovery
- Vaccine Eligibility Open to Ages 12-15
- New Mask Guidance for Fully Vaxxed
- New York City Reopen at Full Capacity (Mostly)
We have a housing crisis, and renting affordable apartments as illegal hotels is making it worse. As you may have read in the Wall Street Journal, my new legislation seeks to regulate short-term rentals by requiring hosts to register their homes prior to renting them and to ensure platforms followed the law. Illegal short-term rentals in New York City add to the variety of long-standing affordability issues the City faces due to the loss of rent-stabilized or otherwise affordable apartments being turned into illegal hotels and listed on websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, Booking.com and others. The legislation would still allow for legal uses of these sites, like renting out a spare room or sleeping space while you are home in certain situations, but would help the City stop bad actors. As I told the Wall Street Journal:
“This legislation will mean that registrants, through the registration process, will learn whether or not they can even be hosts,”
The legislation, supported by Tenants PAC, seeks to help New York City recover from the pandemic by putting a dent in the long-standing affordable housing crisis that continues in part because of thousands of illegal short-term rentals instead of housing real New Yorkers. For more information, see coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Commercial Observer, New York Daily News and the Real Deal or read the release at BenKallos.com/press-release
As Tapinto recently reported, last month I joined Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright and hundreds of residents on the steps of the Julia Richman Education Center as we rallied to stop the 334-foot tower that the Blood Center has proposed for right in front of a local school and that would cast a shadow over the only park in the East 60s. At the most recent Community Board 8 meeting, I spoke out about the fact that there have been no changes to the Center’s plan even after multiple meetings with the community where consistent feedback was given.
As the Real Deal recently reported, we continue working to ensure that construction of the Blood Center’s new building does not proceed without the consent of the community. In our March newsletter, we updated you that the Blood Center’s proposal would include biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratories, which are considered high-containment research laboratories intended for the study of highly infectious pathogens. As a frame of reference, Covid-19 is considered BSL2 and in 2016, the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) noted significant risks associated with these kinds of labs, including the potential for an accidental outbreak, which could severely harm residents in the surrounding area. This information, revealed after the public scoping session in January, raised new concerns about safety and the potential impact of this proposal on quality of life. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and my office reached out and are working to ensure that there is accuracy and transparency with the community in this planning process.
The Blood Center’s proposal initially came under fire from the community after an environmental impact assessment determined that the tower would directly impact sunlight in St. Catherine's Park. In December, Community Board 8 voted 16–1 to oppose the project and, as TAPinto reported, nearly a dozen residents joined me at my monthly First Friday meeting to express their concerns for the project. All of them supported the Blood Center increasing its height and density threefold within its existing footprint but had concerns about the impact that increasing the size of the project tenfold would have on the Park across the street.
I want to hear from you on whether you support, oppose, or have a suggestion to improve the proposal. Please share your position at BenKallos.com/petition/BloodCenter
This month, I joined Mayor de Blasio to officially sign my bill into law, guaranteeing every New Yorker has access to a retirement savings plan including small business workers who often can’t access one through their employer. About 1.5 million private sector workers in New York City don’t have access to retirement plans through their employers, and nearly half of New Yorkers who are retirement age have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. That’s why, as CBS recently reported, I sponsored legislation 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.
Employers with five or more employees that do not currently offer a retirement plan would be required to automatically enroll employees through payroll deduction. Enrollment would come at no cost to employers and gig workers would be able to voluntarily join the program.
In 2016, we introduced this bill with New York State Attorney General Letitia James (then–Public Advocate), who first authored the legislation, and Council Member Miller, but our efforts faced uncertainty when former President Trump signed resolutions in April 13, 2017 that rolled back federal regulations permitting states and municipalities to offer retirement savings plans. With the election of President Biden, our City was finally able to get this passed into law so every private-sector worker in New York City can save pre-tax for retirement, even if their employer does not offer a 401(k).
For more, read the release.
Thank you to everyone in the community who joined me and the City Parks Department at the Ruppert Park scoping session last month where we discussed details relating to the redesign of the park!
As a lifelong Upper East Sider, Ruppert Park has long-served an important role in our neighborhood due to the lack of abundant park space. That’s why I am proud to have allocated $2.4 million along with $500,000 from Participatory Budgeting to the redesign the park and to improve the space so coming generations of children and families can enjoy it even more. Finishing the project will cost more than what is currently allocated, but I believe that this is a good starting point.
Last month, my office and the offices of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer hosted our Overdevelopment, Preservation and Affordable Housing Town Hall on Zoom.
The featured expert speakers for this important discussion spoke on how the community can get involved in closing loopholes and stopping overdevelopment. The organizations that participated in the event include:
- Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts
- Manhattan Community Board 8
- Department of Housing Preservation and Development
- RxHome NYC
If you missed this event or were unable to attend, you can rewatch it at BenKallos.com/videos
Two weeks prior to the May 28 deadline for parents to apply for 3-K, I wrote to Mayor de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Porter and School Construction Authority President Kubota regarding the lack of 3-K options for School District 2, which covers much of Manhattan. In order to take on this immediate crisis, I advised directing public schools to make space available, leasing and building out new pre-kindergarten centers to accommodate 3- and 4-year-olds, and opening contracts for expansions by existing providers as well as applications from new providers.
Back in April, I was proud to share that after a seven-year fight, 3-K for All would be expanded to include our district along with the rest of the city for the 2021-22 school year, extending the program to up to 16,500 three-year-olds across New York City. Shortly after, Mayor de Blasio also announced a commitment of $377 million to guarantee that 3K is available for every family by September 2023. Yet, there are only 36 providers in School District 2, which runs from the southern tip of Manhattan to East 100th Street, no providers below 23rd street or on Roosevelt Island, and only one on the Upper East Side.
The City says it will support approximately 40,000 3-K seats across all 32 community school districts by the fall and I intend to do everything in my power to hold them to their word and ensure that this promise comes to fruition in time for the fall semester. Just as we secured 900 new pre-kindergarten seats for Universal Pre-K, I will work with parents, providers, and real estate developers to build the seats we need for 3-K for All over the next six months.
But, we need your help:
- Co-op, condo, and building owners: Do you have a space with at least 1,000 square feet and on the first, second or basement level? If so, you may qualify to host a 3-K site and we can help match you with a provider.
- Child Care Providers: Are you a private or non-profit provider that is able to operate a new 3-K site? If so, we can work with you to become a 3-K site.
If you are interested in helping to open new 3-K sites in the district, email Education@benkallos.com.
If you have any questions about 3-K in the district, email Education@BenKallos.com or visit schools.nyc.gov/enrollment/enroll-grade-by-grade/3k
As the New York Post reported, I introduced legislation to waive college application fees to City University of New York (CUNY) schools for New York City public school students. These fees, which are usually about $65.00 per school, add up and often cost struggling families hundreds of dollars just to apply to go to college.
It is unacceptable that right now, a 17-year-old can be told by a high school guidance counselor that their rent-burdened single mother isn’t poor enough to get a break on hundreds of dollars of fees to apply to colleges and compete for scholarships. Our City can do better by our teens who want to get an education. By waiving these application fees we are creating equity and taking money out of the equation as an obstacle for applying to higher education. I am the product of New York City public schools and colleges; I was raised by a single mom and know what fees like this can do to a family just getting by. It's time we fix that and help kids get an education. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/releases
Tenants’ Rights Town Hall
Thursday, June 3, 6pm
On Thursday, June 3rd, 6pm – 8pm, my office will host a virtual Know Your Rights Town Hall specifically geared for tenants. At this event, you will learn about exemptions to rent increases for seniors and the disabled and we will have attorneys on hand to answer questions. You can watch the event live by visiting Facebook.com/BenKallos/Live.
To participate, you must RSVP at BenKallos.com/Events.
Sunday, June 20th, 10am
All those yellowing, moldy docs of yours? Tax forms? Checks? Get ‘em industrial-grade shredded for free at the Shred-A-Thon on Sunday, June 20th, 10am - 2pm at the corner of 92nd Street and 1st Avenue, opposite the 92nd Street Greenmarket. For more information, visit BenKallos.com/events
Movie Night: Raya and the Last Dragon
Friday, June 25, 8pm
Asphalt Green’s Litwin Field (90th St. btwn York & East End Aves)
Join us on Friday, June 25th at 8pm for a free Family Movie Night at Asphalt Green’s Litwin Field, sponsored by my office. Bring your family (and a blanket) to our screening of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon!
For this screening, complimentary popcorn will be provided. Viewers can bring water, but no other food or beverages are permitted on the field. No registration is required and admission is first come, first served. Doors open at 7:45pm and the movie will begin at 8:15pm.
All parties must successfully complete a “Covid Symptom Survey” on the day of the event to gain access. Masks are required on line and when moving about the facility, but can be removed when seated at your spot on the field. For all questions or concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
RSVP at BenKallos.com/Events
Affordable Homeownership Opportunity at 1402 York Ave
Wednesday, June 16, 6pm
As you may have read in Patch, 10 newly constructed cooperative apartment units at 1402 York Avenue will be offered to eligible buyers that qualify as low-income households at 63% AMI, with estimated sales prices ranging from $43,488 to $60,165. Amenities in the building for residents’ use include a gym, bike storage lockers and a rooftop terrace. Each apartment has a washer-dryer hookup and large, street-facing windows. Applications for affordable housing are available at HousingConnect.nyc.gov.
Last month, I joined the Housing Partnership for an information session to educate the public on how to apply in time for the deadline on June 29th, 2021. On Wednesday, June 16th at 6pm, I am co-sponsoring another information session with the Housing Partnership, so if you missed the last one, this is another chance to participate and ask any questions you may have about the listing.
To join the session, click here and enter meeting code 129 075 9699, password 3RGeuPabp23. To join by phone, dial 646-992-2010 and enter code 1290759699##.
First Friday Online
Friday, June 4th, 8am–10am
First Friday remains one of my favorite parts of my job representing you as your Council Member. While my East 93rd Street office remains physically closed for everyone’s safety, we are still working remotely and remain here to help. Thank you to all the residents who participated in last month’s virtual First Friday.
You must RSVP by Thursday, June 3rd to participate.
Video Conference: RSVP for your URL (create a free account at Zoom.us)
Teleconference: RSVP to receive the number and access code
Facebook Live: Skip the RSVP and watch the stream at Facebook.com/BenKallos/live
Questions must be submitted with RSVP or by email to Questions@benkallos.com
RSVP now at BenKallos.com/events
Free Mask Distribution with NYC’s Committee for Ranked Choice Voting
Thursday, June 10, 11:15am
Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center
415 East 93rd Street in the Courtyard
We continue to distribute disposable masks and hand sanitizer to ensure the safety and health of residents. On Thursday, June 10th from 11:15am – 12:15pm in the courtyard of the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, we will be distributing masks, sanitizer, reusable bags and materials on ranked choice voting, courtesy of my office and the NYC Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.
You may also write to the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association at the following address and they will drop off the masks to your lobby: P.O. Box 20052, Cherokee Station New York, NY, 10021-10060
Please consider volunteering with us as a building captain so that friends and neighbors can pick up masks and hand sanitizer from outside your door, or hand them off to your door person to distribute, and let us know when you need more to be dropped off. For more information, visit BenKallos.com/Events
COVID-19 + Recovery
New Yorkers aged 12 and up can now receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at New York City and State mass vaccination sites. All state-run sites and many of the city-run sites are open to walk-ins. Minors must be accompanied by their parent or guardian.
To book a vaccine appointment:
- Visit the NY State vaccine appointment website or call 833-NYS-4-VAX
- Visit the NYC vaccine appointment website or call 877-VAX-4-NYC
Anyone wanting to get vaccinated must complete a NYS-Covid-19 Vaccine Form. For more information, visit governor.ny.gov/news.
Following a recent announcement by the Governor, starting May 19th fully vaccinated New Yorkers are no longer required to wear a mask or physically distance in businesses and most public spaces, per the CDC’s new guidance for fully vaccinated people. Vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and social distance in schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities. For more information visit governor.ny.gov
As of May 19th, capacity limitations will be lifted for most businesses, including retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barbershops, and houses of worship. The indoor social gathering limit has also increased from 100 to 250 people. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons to maintain the required social distance of six feet.
Given that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to maintain social distance in New York, businesses may eliminate the 6 feet of required social distancing and increase capacity if all patrons in the establishment have presented proof of full vaccination status through paper form, digital application, or the State’s Excelsior Pass.
For areas where vaccination status of individuals is unknown, the required social distance of six feet still applies until a higher percentage of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. For more information, visit governor.ny.gov
As the New York Daily News reported, I have proposed legislation to transform New York City into a real smart city of the future. This plan would modernize how parking is found as well as prevent deadly gas explosions and monitor air and water quality in real-time. The technology now exists for our City to put sensors in places that will lead to a quality of life improvement to residents of New York City.
- Smart Water Meters - Would be used to track water usage and quality in real-time. It would save the City water by alerting City officials of potential leaks and when water is contaminated by lead or any other pollutant.
- Waste Water Sensors - Would be used to test water samples in dwellings and Commercial buildings for Covid-19 spikes.
- Smart Gas Meters - Would be used to regulate and track gas usage to prevent dangerous leaks and potential deadly explosions in commercial districts as well as residential neighborhoods.
- Smart Power Meters - Would be connected to the City’s electrical grid and would allow for solar power to be harnessed through panels to be monitored and throttled to keep up with the municipal needs on days of heavy consumption.
- Smart Trash and Recycling Sensors - Would help prevent overflowing trash cans and would transmit alerts to the Sanitation Department when recycling receptacles are full and need to be collected.
An up-front investment in these advances would save millions over time and create jobs in a much smarter City. For more reporting, read coverage from the New York Daily News.
Voting in New York City looks different this year. Last month, I joined the New York City Campaign Finance Board for a virtual 30-minute training session to explain Ranked Choice Voting, how to use it and why the city adopted it. After the presentation, attendees asked the presenters questions on the topic.
The June 22nd Democratic Primary will be the first time New York City voters will use the new Ranked Choice Voting system citywide. The system allows voters to rank up to five candidates on the ballot in their order of preference instead of choosing only one, so even if your first choice doesn’t win, you still have a say in who does.
If you were unable to attend the event, you can view the presentation at docs.google.com/presentation
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s (OTDA) Emergency Rental Assistance Program is accepting applications as of June 1st.
New York residents are eligible for ERAP if they meet all of the following criteria:
- Household gross income is at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). These income limits differ by county and household size. A household may qualify based on current income or calendar year 2020 income that is at or below 80 percent AMI.
- On or after March 13, 2020, a member of the household received unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs or experienced financial hardship, directly or indirectly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The applicant is obligated to pay rent at their primary residence and has rental arrears (rent overdue) at their current residence for rent owed on or after March 13, 2020.
- The household must be at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which can be demonstrated by having rental arrears owed on or after March 13, 2020.
There are no immigration status requirements to qualify for the program. Households eligible for rental arrears may also be eligible for help paying utility arrears at the same rental unit. For more information, visit otda.ny.gov
On June 8th at 2:00pm, Search and Care is pleased to welcome the World's Personal Finance Expert, Suze Orman for a special virtual event on maintaining financial security for older adults! Suze is a well-known financial advisor, who hosted The Suze Orman Show on CNBC and has written multiple New York Times bestsellers about personal finance.
All older adults, 60+ are welcome to join. Registration is required. Find out more about Suze on suzeorman.com, or sign up at zoom.us.
The “Ben in Your Building” program is a chance to discuss issues of importance to you and your neighbors in person, in your home. Over the past years, I have visited dozens of buildings to discuss matters of importance in the neighborhood, including street furniture, road conditions, homeless outreach, sanitation issues and you name it. Normally, I would encourage inviting me to your cooperative or condominium annual meeting or tenants association meeting and I would be happy to join you. However, amidst COVID-19 concerns, all meetings will have to be conducted online through video or tele-conferencing. You can still schedule a “Ben in Your Building” today by calling 212-860-1950 or email Scheduler@BenKallos.com.
Need a lawyer? Every month I sponsor legal clinics where you can get free legal advice. These clinics usually take place at my District Office but, due to Covid-19, all clinics will be done by phone (no video) until further notice. Appointments take place 2pm–6pm:
- General Civil Law, 2nd and 4th Friday with Patricia Murrell, Esq.
- Life Planning Clinic, 3rd Wednesday with Tina Janssen-Spinosa, Esq.
- Family Law and Domestic Violence, 1st Tuesday with Afua Fullwood, Esq.
- Housing Clinics:
- 1st & 3rd Monday with Paul Kushner, Esq.
- 1st Wednesday with Daniel Espo, Esq.
- 2nd & 4th Wednesday with Kyle Carraro, Esq.
Please call my office at 212-860-1950 or email ConstituentService@BenKallos.com with the subject “Requesting Legal Clinic” to make appointments to meet by phone.
We are here to help. My social work team can help you find out what services you are eligible for and assist you in your application. Some examples include:
- Seniors: Medicare savings, Meals-on-Wheels, Access-A-Ride
- Housing: searching for affordable units, free legal housing clinic at my office
- Job Resources: training resources and assistance, unemployment benefits
- Families: Universal Pre-K, Head Start, After-School programs
- Finances: cash assistance, tax credits, home energy assistance
- Nutrition: WIC, free meals for all ages
Please also call us at 212-860-1950 or email us at BKallos@BenKallos.com with any unresolved 311 complaints.
In March, I joined Communities United for Police Reform in an open letter to the Mayor calling on the City to take care of New York City’s homeless population during the Covid-19 outbreak. Read the full letter at Changethenypd.org.
Back in 2016, I launched the Eastside Task Force for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS) with Borough President Brewer, Senator Krueger, Council Member Garodnick, Department of Social Services (DSS), community and faith leaders and service organizations. We’ve already been able to help a chronically homeless individual in the community who we believe had long been suffering from mental illness, after a resident was willing to come forward working with me, the 19th Precinct, the District Attorney and DSS to get them the help they needed. We hope to get every unsheltered person living on the street the help they need. If you see one of our City’s most vulnerable on the street, please call 311 or use the NYC 311 App (Android/iPhone) to ask them to dispatch a “homeless outreach team.” They will ask where you saw the person, what they looked like, and offer a report on whether the person accepts our city’s offer of shelter, three meals a day, health care, rehabilitation, and job training. By connecting our dedicated nonprofits and religious institutions with city services, ETHOS is really making a difference. For more information, visit BenKallos.com/Homelessness.