New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

City Greenlights Sutton Place Megatower

Added by paul on June 28, 2018.
Saved under City HallPoliticsReal Estate
Tags: Bill de BlasioKramer Levin Naftalis & FrankelBen KallosNYC Department of TransportationNYC Department of BuildingsNYC Board of Standards and AppealsMichael Hiller3 Sutton PlaceGamma Real EstateMargery PerlmutterEast River 50s AllianceJonathan KalikowErrol Louis


An East River 50s Alliance rendering of the impact of the 3 Sutton Place megatower on the neighborhood skyscape. | Via

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | A city agency has given the go-ahead to developers building a 64-story tower on the Upper East Side. The Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decision arrives after years of advocacy against the tower — including a community-based rezoning effort led by the East River 50s Alliance (ERFA) in an attempt to halt the project.

The board’s June 26 decision in favor of the developer effectively exempts the tower at 3 Sutton Place — also known as 430 East 58th St. — from a 10-block stretch of rezoning in the East 50s.

“They [the developers] trumped the democratic process,” Michael Hiller, ERFA’s lawyer, said after a public hearing last Tuesday, June 19, anticipating that the BSA decision would favor the  developer. “I just think that’s outrageous.”

ERFA plans to take the decision to court. The organization said in a statement that the BSA decision was no surprise.

“The East River 50s Alliance will now take the community’s fight against this monstrous, out-of-place megatower to the courts and away from a city agency,” the group said in a statement. “Unfortunately for the community and the City at large, the [BSA] abrogated its responsibilities under the Zoning Resolution, including especially its obligation to independently assess the invalidity of ill-gotten, after-hours work variances and alleged street closure permits that allowed the tower’s developer to engage in a race to complete the foundation. The Board committed multiple errors of law based upon a misapprehension of what the Zoning Resolution provides.”

The developer, Jonathan Kalikow of Gamma Real Estate, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

City Councilmember Ben Kallos at a 2016 rally held by the East River 50s Alliance in support of the neighborhood’s rezoning initiative. | Photo by Jackson Chen

The decision hinged on whether substantial foundation work on the site at 3 Sutton Place had been completed by Nov. 30, 2017 — when the Sutton Place rezoning was approved by the City Council. Opponents of the Gamma Real Estate tower, including East Side Councilmember Ben Kallos, said the permits to close the streets and work after hours from the Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation were fraudulent. To obtain these permits, there had to have been a public safety threat to leaving the construction incomplete, but Kallos and ERFA activists insist there was no public safety threat justifying the permits.

“I think after-hours variances are a bane in the existence of every New Yorker who wants to get a good night’s sleep or enjoy their weekend,” Kallos said. “It’s bad enough that the Department of Buildings is granting them for the wrong reasons.”

If the DOB gives out such variances “like candy,” the councilmember argued, the BSA vote could have at least sent the message that such variances cannot be used to fast-track foundation work.

“I’m disappointed by the fact that they said this was for public safety but by closing the street it actually endangered people’s safety,” Kallos added.


The 800-foot tower proposed for East 58th Street was first begun by Connecticut developer Joseph Beninanti, who took a huge financing gamble and ultimately lost the property to one of his lenders, Gamma Real Estate. During the foreclosure process, a coalition made up of nearby residents opposed to the soaring scale of the building and City Councilman Ben Kallos began advancing a rezoning proposal to cap heights in the area. The goal was to push through changes before Gamma completed the foundation work, which would have ensured that the project would be subject to existing zoning rules.


“The fight to preserve our residential communities against super-tall buildings will likely have to continue in court before a judiciary less likely to be tainted by the political process after today’s irresponsible decision by the Board of Standards and Appeals,” Kallos said in a statement. “The Board ruled in favor of a bad acting developer against a lawful rezoning that was the result of a grassroots effort by the local community and elected officials.”

Gamma Real Estate bought the site out of foreclosure after the Bauhouse Group defaulted on loans for the assemblage it created along three contiguous lots form 428-432 East 58th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place


“The city has been complicit in ignoring the law in order to help a developer beat the community,” Council member Ben Kallos, who helped lead the charge for the rezoning, said in a statement. “If [Jonathan] Kalikow’s behavior is any indication of what the city is prepared to let developers get away with, then no law on the books will prevent developers from abusing the system and winning, until the courts step in.”



Outrage turned to action as New Yorkers worked to support migrant children brought to the city


An outpouring of donations for the separated migrant children at the office of Council Member Mark Levine (right). Photo courtesy of the Office of Mark Levine


    Lawyer Moms for America participated in a protest in downtown Manhattan last week. Photo courtesy of Lawyer Moms of America


“It was a very intense and an emotional experience, and I experienced the heartbreak of meeting the children, some as young as one-year-old.”

Council Member Mark Levine, after touring the Cayuga Center in East Harlem


At first, not even New York City’s elected officials knew that the perilous journeys for 239 migrant children separated from their parents had come to an end, for now, in Manhattan.

But as the story unfolded last week of how the Trump administration’s family separation policy — widely denounced as a moral and human rights catastrophe by politicians, religious leaders and former first ladies from across the political spectrum — had resulted in an estimated 2,300 children shipped to far-flung cities around the country, New Yorkers took notice. And when news broke that approximately 700 of those children were believed to be in New York State, with over a quarter of them in New York City alone, many City leaders and everyday citizens first expressed outrage — and then quickly took action. “I have to say how incredibly proud I am of the way New Yorkers have supported these kids,” says City Council Member Mark Levine, who represents Northern Manhattan.

Under pressure, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20 ending his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents who were detained at the southern border. But New York City officials continue to push back against the lack of Federal transparency about the reunification process and demand the exact whereabouts of the children already separated from their parents. And that begins with the young people shipped hundreds of miles now sharing the same shores as Lady Liberty.

On June 22, Levine, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and other elected officials, toured the Cayuga Center in East Harlem, where some of the migrant children are being held, as first reported by NY1.

“It was a very intense and an emotional experience, and I experienced the heartbreak of meeting the children, some as young as one-year-old,” says Levine. “It was also a tremendous relief to see the quality of care [Cayuga Center] is providing [them]. That’s not to minimize the trauma these kids have gone through.”

After Levine’s office put out a call for donations last week, they were flooded with baby formula, diapers, clothing and books, sometimes brought in by young children themselves to help those in need. Over 1,200 volunteers signed up with the office online, including attorneys offering pro bono services and doctors and dentists offering their expertise to provide check-ups for the migrant children.

“It is better that the children are here in a state that is willing and able to help them rather than elsewhere,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side. “I hope to be able to work with the City and the State to improve the lives of these children and reunite them with their families, and if even possible help put them on a path toward legal status here in the U.S.”


The Charter Revision Commission empaneled by Mayor Bill de Blasio met on Thursday at NYU for the second of four expert advisory issue forums, discussing what could be the marquee issue for this year’s commission: changing the city’s campaign finance system. The first meeting, held Tuesday, focused on voting and election reform.

Like the first hearing, Thursday’s saw the commission hear from invited experts on the topic at hand, and was broken into two sections. For campaign finance, the first panel discussed context and perspective of the city’s system from politicians and experts, and the second provided recommendations.


A law firm that Mayor de Blasio owes $300,000 in unpaid legal fees to last fall won a zoning loophole for one of its developer clients after lobbying two of the mayor’s top aides, a Daily News investigation has found.

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel pressed Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Marisa Lago, the mayor’s appointee as City Planning Commission chairwoman, to halt rezoning that would have killed a residential tower being built on the East Side by the law firm’s client, developer Jonathan Kalikow.


By then, Councilman Ben Kallos argues, the damage was done. He says the delay allowed Kalikow to build enough of the tower’s foundation to claim the building as substantially completed – the trigger for approval of the entire building by the Board of Standards and Appeals.

“Without this bogus clause, this rezoning could have been done weeks earlier and the community wouldn’t be facing an appeal to a rightfully won rezoning,” said Kallos (D-Manhattan), who opposes Kalikow’s tower.


On June 8, 2018, City Council Member Ben Kallos, together with the New York City Housing Authority, announced the start of renovations and upgrades for the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center.

Council Member Kallos allocated $680,000 in Fiscal Year 2015 and $350,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 for upgrades to the senior center and youth center. NYCHA and the City Council, including former Council Members who represented the neighborhood, provided the remaining funding.

Council Member Kallos said, “The Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center is truly one of our community’s cornerstones. I could not think of a better way to put this money to good use in a way that will benefit the everyday lives of my constituents. I am looking forward to the work being completed and happy for those who will reap the benefits.”



One bill currently at the City Council, proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos, would increase the cap on public campaign matching funds from the current 55 percent of the spending limit for a particular seat to 85 percent. The CFB is now proposing a more moderate increase to 65 percent of the spending limit, reasoning that it nonetheless boosts small donations while giving candidates the flexibility to raise and spend funds from private sources since public funds payments are usually doled out in the closing stretches of each election cycle.



City Councilman Ben Kallos and the New York City Housing Authority teamed up to fund the project.

"The Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center is truly one of our community's cornerstones," said Council
Member Ben Kallos. I could not think of a better way to put this money to good use in a way that will
benefit the everyday lives of my constituents. I am looking forward to the work being completed and happy for those who will reap the benefits," Kallos said in a statement.


City Councilman Ben Kallos was a co-sponsor of the law. He says if the data is correct and there really is widespread noncompliance with the state and city rules, the city should do something about it.

“We need to know if the legislation we passed is actually working,” Kallos said.

Meanwhile, some advocates say the law isn’t working. Brad Considine is the director of strategic planning at the APLD. He believes that New York City residents are not getting their money's worth for the law, which costs cooling tower owners approximately 130 million dollars a year.

“The whole thing is misguided, but they did it over a weekend,” Considine said, referring to the city’s legislation. “They felt political pressure and their political interests and business interests [are] driving this discussion, and meanwhile people are getting sick and dying.”

This story was co-reported by WNYC and Gothamist.


“There are so many vacant spaces,” Councilman Ben Kallos said at the unveiling. “Hopefully we can turn those spaces into art spaces, as well. This is just the beginning.”

The island already has its share of public art with six sculptures and a few galleries, including the stunning white marble columns at the FDR Four Freedoms Park, the climbable “Blue Dragon,” Cornell Tech’s WPA murals on its campus, Gallery RIVAA, Motorgate Gallery murals inside the parking garage, among others — all of which will be included on the art trail, officials say.


City Councilman Ben Kallos said years of advocacy from neighborhood parents and elected officials for more pre-k seats in the neighborhood is beginning to pay off.

"Seat by seat, class by class, and now building by building we are making sure the City opens up more pre-kindergarten seats so every four-year-old in my district can participate without commuting for an hour each way," Kallos said in a statement. "Thank you the School Construction Authority for starting the work on this much needed new facility."


While city law dictates when scaffolding must be erected, there are currently no regulations requiring sheds to be dismantled if no work is being done on the building. Legislation sponsored by Upper East Side Council Member Ben Kallos would change that.

The bill, first introduced by Kallos in 2016, would require all sheds erected due to dangerous building conditions to come down within six months — or sooner, if work is interrupted for more than seven consecutive days. If a building owner fails to complete the necessary repairs and remove scaffolding within that time frame, the legislation calls for the city to step in to complete the work, take down the scaffolding, and bill the landlord for all costs.

“Scaffolding goes up but doesn’t go down — for months, years, even decades — while no work is happening,” Kallos said in January when he reintroduced the bill for the current session. Real estate groups oppose the proposed reform on the grounds that it would unfairly burden building owners.


Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, an alum of Bronx Science, is against the changes.

“The fact that fewer black and Hispanic kids is getting into these schools is not the failure of the schools. It’s the failure of the public education system that has been failing them since day one,” Kallos said.

The mayor admits getting Albany to eliminate the tests may be difficult and that he may have to wait until next year.

A statement from the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation and the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association pointed out that the mayor’s admissions formula is “exceedingly complicated.” It also says the plan does not address “educational disparities across New York City middle schools.”


“This is by far the most subsidy I’ve seen on any project,” council member Ben Kallos told the Post; Kallos chairs the city’s subcommittee on planning, dispositions and concessions.

The income range for the qualifying families goes up to $122,070 for a family of three. If the families sell their property in less than 20 years, they will have to reimburse the various government entities for the subsidies.


“This is by far the most subsidy I’ve seen on any project,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), chair of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions.

Incomes for the families already in contract on three of the homes are up to $84,510 for a family of three, and up to $122,070 for a family of three on the remaining seven.

Brooklyn real-estate broker Sara Golan said the prices are a steal.

“That is an amazing deal,” Golan, of Nest Seekers International, said of a Grant Avenue home in the program. “I would take that deal any day.”

She said she recently sold a similarly sized house on Throop Street for $1.83 million.


“Education and the well-being of our neighborhood children have always been a top priority for me,” Kallos said in a statement. “I am proud and happy that the residents who voted and participated in the process share that feeling and made it known with their vote.”


The joke in New York City is that there are two seasons: winter and construction.

Residents in other cities quip the same, but the idiom rings truest here, where New Yorkers filed more than 446,000 noise-related complaints in 2017, the most common reports coming via 311. Those complaints flag loud construction sites, car and truck horns but even more typically “loud parties” or music.

For New Yorkers woken up to the sounds of jackhammers in the morning, the city’s Noise Codeprotects its residents from such sonic assaults. And, earlier this year, the City Council passed a bill sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos that aims to limit construction noise—particularly during overnights and weekends


One lawmaker said it's just proof that tougher regulations need to be put in place.

Web Extra: Scaffolding In New York | Active Sidewalk Sheds

Bricks from a 20 story building on the Upper East Side crashed through scaffolding Friday, injuring a 72-year-old man.

"Scaffolding is supposed to be there to protect us from falling debris, now it's actually not stopping items from hitting people," Councilman Ben Kallos said.

Kallos started battling for tougher scaffolding rules after November's accident in SoHo, when a so-called sidewalk shed colapsed, hurting nearly half-a-dozen people.

Kallos said his bill is running into some walls of its own.