New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents Sutton Place and the Upper East Side, testified Tuesday that residents had been fighting to rezone Sutton Place before Gamma even bought its development site.

"If the BSA is going to live up to its purpose which is to grant relief to developers when there is undue hardship, it cannot grant this exemption because these developers knew exactly what they were doing at all times and decided to assume risk despite the clear and present intentions and efforts of the community," Kallos said at a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing.

 

The Department of Buildings decided to release the data to give residents a better idea of when permits are issued and when they expire, and allow watchful neighbors to track sheds they suspect of overstaying their welcome.

"Real-time mapping not only increases our ability to monitor structures such as sidewalk sheds, but also shows how we are harnessing technology to hold building owners accountable," Rick Chandler, commissioner of the department, said in a statement.

Many attempts to reduce the proliferation of unwarranted scaffolding have been made over the years. After New York City Housing Authority residents complained that scaffolding at their developments was left in place long after work finished, the state passed a bill requiring them to be removed. And in 2016, City Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill that would penalize owners who leave scaffolding up when work is not being done, though the legislation has yet to gain traction.

 

The New York City Council is moving ahead with a bill to create a Charter Revision Commission to review the city charter, the city’s seminal governing document, with a committee vote on the bill set for Tuesday, and the full Council likely to vote it through on Wednesday. The Council’s commission is a separate effort from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own commission, called by the mayor a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday, the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations will hold a hearing on the latest version of its bill, whose prime sponsors are Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Ben Kallos (at the request of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.) James and Brewer initially put forth the idea last year, and Johnson got behind the effort after being elected speaker in January, when a new Council class was seated.

 

“All too often, there has been a strong correlation between people who give political contributions and groups that receive, or lose, millions in taxpayer funds,” said East Side Council Member Ben Kallos.

Historically, he noted, it wasn’t uncommon for some elected officials to use public money to “reward friends and punish enemies.” Now, PB walls off $1 million per district from being any part of that vicious cycle: “It puts those dollars back into the hands of the voters,” he said.

There are other benefits of the citizen-driven, decision-making process, said Kallos, who has utilized it since taking office in 2014. Considering that elected officials don’t always keep their word to voters, he added, “This is better than most campaign promises!”

Indeed, PB provides “almost instant gratification in which people can vote on a project, see the money allocated and then see it built,” he said.

And Kallos summed up the bottom line, saying, “Now, the people get to decide how to spend $1 million — irrespective of elected officials and the political process.”

 

Councilmembers Mark Treyger Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) and Helen Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side) are pushing legislation to make it easier for New Yorkers to register to vote and to cut the red tape prospective candidates face getting on the ballot.

One bill would seek to strengthen the Young Adult Voter Registration Act, a 2004 law requiring voter registration forms to be sent to graduating high school seniors with their diplomas. The bill would require the forms to be distributed to students in class instead of mailing them with diplomas.

"Ensuring that our schools are connecting students with language-appropriate voter registration materials will help us empower our young adults to stand up, take action for what they believe in, and become part of the social fabric of our city, our state and our country," said Treyger, chairman of the Council’s Committee on Education.

A second bill would require landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration forms with the apartment lease.

The third bill would overhaul the process by which candidates get on the ballot. Under the bill, candidates could qualify to get on the ballot by meeting a minimum threshold to receive public funds through the city’s campaign finance system.

It would do away with the current system which requires candidates to secure a certain number of signatures on nominating petitions from registered voters in their districts.

Kallos charged that the current system has given rise to “ballot bumping,” an effort by well-financed candidates and political clubs to hire lawyers to take opponents to court and knock them off the ballot for minor technical infractions.

 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The Queensboro Oval will remain home to a sports facility — not a park — for at least another 10 years, according to the city Parks Department.

The Parks Department released a request for proposals in February seeking a partner to develop, operate and maintain a sports facility at the space located underneath the Queensboro Bridge on East 59th Street between First and York avenues. Community boards and elected officials representing the Upper East Side and East Midtown had advocated converting the space into a public park.

"For many months last year, NYC Parks engaged in an extensive dialogue with elected officials, community board members, local residents and those who have enjoyed tennis at the Queensboro Oval for the past 40 years, and determined that open to the public sports recreational use of this kind of space is the best, safest, and most accessible," Parks Department Spokeswoman Crystal Howard said in a statement. "We look forward to continued engagement with the public as we move forward."

The Queensboro Oval site is owned by the city Department of Transportation, which will not allow the construction of any permanent structures on the property, according to a Parks Department spokesperson. The inability to create permanent structures such as tree and shrub plantings or play equipment makes the site unfit for a traditional park space, the spokesperson said.

 

Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, who is also a computer programmer, said the new initiative is “incredibly welcome” in his books. He maintained the necessity of protecting residents, businesses and government’s privacy as well as ensuring their safety.

 

“This city has a commitment to Vision Zero, and having crossing guards at dangerous intersections could be helpful to more than just our public school students.”

City Council Member Ben Kallos

Despite increased funding as part of a citywide push to hire enough crossing guards to cover every school crossing post in New York City, as many as half of budgeted crossing guard positions in some Manhattan neighborhoods have gone unfilled.

Five out of nine budgeted crossing guard positions were unfilled in the Upper West Side’s 20th Precinct as of January 2017, the most recent period for which data is available. (Rosenthal said it is her understanding that the number of positions filled has not since changed. The NYPD is required to report updated data on crossing guard vacancies to the City Council by Sept. 30, 2018.)

 

The City Council last year passed a law mandating that the BOE implement online voter registration and, in mid-2016, mandated that the BOE create an online voter information portal where New Yorkers can track their absentee ballots, check their registration status and voting history, as well as access other voting and election resources. Both bills were sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee last Council session.

The BOE has often been reluctant to abide by local laws, since it is governed by the state, and has either implemented common-sense measures that do not necessarily require legislation or has been pushed to do so by litigation. Ryan reiterated that fact Monday, setting aside the “mandate-no mandate argument” and laying out the BOE’s plans for this year. He also explained why the BOE had been slow to implement those measures, when Council Member Kallos sought answers about the delay.

“Simply put, 2016 happened,” Ryan said, referring to the 2016 presidential election, during which the BOE faced widespread criticism for mishandling of election operations and settled a federal lawsuit arising from a voter purge in Brooklyn. “We had the issues, painful as it is for me to resurrect, we had the voter registration issues in Brooklyn, followed shortly after that by the cybersecurity issues that arose just prior to the presidential election.”

 

"I am pleased to report that thanks to your work and more importantly the great recyclers in your community, the amount of refuse processed at the MTS will be lower than anticipated during the planning process," Garcia said in a letter.

City Councilman Ben Kallos said the reduction of truck traffic on the Upper East Side is a positive sign that the city may scrap the plan entirely.

"We've spent four years fighting the Marine Transfer Station and pushing for a smarter way to handle our city's waste, which is already paying off with a 25% reduction in trucks and trash," Kallos said in a statement. "We must continue our fight to stop the Marine Transfer Station from opening, if it opens see it closed, and spend every moment reducing waste through diversion, such as reusing, composting and recycling."

 

Mr. Johnson’s more assertive posture is reflective of an attitude shared by many Council members, including those who ran against Mr. Johnson for speaker and others who did not support his bid.

Councilman Benjamin Kallos of Manhattan welcomed a new era of debate. “I think conflict is good for resolving problems,” he said.

“The notion that the mayor is the sole branch of New York City government is an anachronism,” said Ritchie Torres, a councilman who represents the Bronx. “It has no place in the age of Corey Johnson.”

 

A kinder, gentler, cleaner dump

BY DOUGLAS FEIDEN

PUBLISHED MAR 6, 2018 AT 4:28 PM (UPDATED MAR 6, 2018)

The garbage depot on the East River, one of the most reviled projects on the UES, may not be quite as dreadful as feared — but just-revealed sanitation truck routes will stress out plenty of neighbors

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    Twilight falls on the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station on Sunday, March 4th. Loathed by locals since it was proposed nearly 15 years ago, the MTS will now process far less trash than originally projected -- and the number of garbage trucks rumbling across the East Side will also plummet. Photo: Douglas Feiden

“Simply put, less trash means fewer trucks.”

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia

The mountains of trash that will be hauled to the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station when it opens in 2019 have been dramatically reduced, new data from the city's Department of Sanitation shows.

Municipal garbage trucks will still thunder across the Upper East Side as they travel to and from the MTS — but the size of the planned fleet will be sharply scaled back, according to DOS projections.

In a January 25 letter sent to East Side elected officials, Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia summed up the bottom line: “This is not the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station of years ago,” she wrote.

The missive, provided to Straus News by East Side City Council Member Ben Kallos, who has long battled to kill the project, is perhaps the only good news the MTS has generated since it was first proposed in 2004.

“Thanks to your work — and more importantly, the great recyclers in your community — the amount of refuse processed at the MTS will be lower than anticipated during the planning process,” Garcia wrote.

Flash back to 2003, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated the planning for a facility that would process all residential waste from Community Boards 5, 6, 8 and 11 — an area bounded by 14th Street on the south and 135th Street on the north, Eighth Avenue to the west and the East River to the east.

 

Rita Sklar, of the family has possessed the building since the 1940s and principal of Ninety Five Madison Corp., warmly embraced designation of the “grande dame that has withstood the test of time.” Sklar said the Emmet was a “tiny building in a growing sea of towering modern buildings,” that “remained a jewel”, and was worthy of individual landmark designation. The Historic Districts Council’s Kelly Carroll discussed Dr. Emmet’s support for the Irish independence movement, and noted that he left his extensive library to the Irish American Historical Society and Notre Dame. Designation was also supported by Community Board 5, the 29th Street Block Association, the Society for the Architecture of the City, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, who had recently visited the site, said the building has been “beautifully maintained,” and “has great presence on the block.”

Chair Srinivasan stated that State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, and Council Member Ben Kallos had communicated their support for both designations in a joint letter to the Commission.

 

"The city does not limit how long a sidewalk shed can stay in place. Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) has proposed legislation that would require such eyesore sheds be removed after seven days if no work takes place, but the bill has stalled."

 

The subject of the suit is DDG luxury condo located at 180 E. 88th St. The suit contends that the project’s developers and a pair of New York City agencies took advantage of a loophole in designing the project’s height and configuration.

“The loophole being abused here is just an example of what residents have endured from overdevelopment in our city,” City Councilman Ben Kallos, who is a party to the suit, said in a statement.

Ground broke on the DDG building back in April of 2015. Approximately one year later, however, trouble arose when local community groups voiced concerns over what they saw as an unusual aspect of the location’s zoning. Specifically, they said, the developer had included a separate 4-ft.-by-22-ft. lot along East 88th Street that permitted changing the building to a more suitable shape.

 

Some building owners just leave it up for years instead of doing costly facade repairs.

“The scaffolding is there to keep us safe from the building, but who’s going to keep us safe from the scaffolding,” City Councilmember Ben Kallos said.

Kallos has been trying to bring down lingering metal piping that cover sidewalks for years on end— calling it a quality of life and safety issue. He is currently proposing legislation in this latest legislative session that would mandate owners “get the work done within six months or the city will step in and do the work and make bad landlords pay.”

 

“The loophole being abused here is just an example of what residents have endured from overdevelopment in our city,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who is one of the parties of the suit.

In summer 2016, developers were hit with a stop-work order from the DOB over a four-foot lot that DDG carved out on the property in order to allow for a taller building. After the stop-work order, DDG increased the lot’s size and the DOB allowed construction to resume. However, community members continued to express opposition and proceeded with their third appeal at the time.

 

Four years ago, after being elected to the New York City Council, we both learned what it means to be a public official the only way you really can: on the job. Now we are learning on the job in a very different role, with our families, as fathers of new children. As we experience this once-in-a-lifetime moment alongside our respective partners, we are excited and, perhaps like all parents, more than a little nervous. Helping to settle our nerves is the fact that we’re able to stay home with our families as we navigate this new stage in life. We are both lucky: As elected officials, our leave is at our discretion. We have both decided to take the time to be with our families.

In the United States, new parents seeking time with their child face both a legal and cultural challenge. There is no national mandate for paid family leave. Even where it is offered, fathers remain a lot less likely than mothers to take full advantage. As elected officials and as fathers, we hope that taking leave will help empower other new fathers who are considering their leave options to take time as well.

 

Community groups and elected officials representing the Upper East Side filed a lawsuit targeting DDG’s 32-story luxury condo tower rising at 180 E. 88th St. The suit against the developers and two city agencies contends that the project’s height and configuration were achieved by exploiting a quirk in the zoning code.

“The loophole being abused here is just an example of what residents have endured from overdevelopment in our city,” City Councilman Ben Kallos, who is a party to the suit, said in a statement released Friday.

DDG broke ground on the project in April 2015, but a year later ran into trouble after community groups complained about an unusual aspect of the site’s zoning: The developer had carved out a separate, 4-foot by 22-foot lot along East 88th Street that allowed it to alter the building to a more advantageous shape.

 

Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District, City Council member Ben Kallos and State Sen. Liz Krueger filed the lawsuit. The courts will allow construction to continue while the case proceeds.

Work on the project, currently at the 16th story, is expected to be finished by early next year. [Crain’s] – Eddie Small