New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Councilman Ben Kallos will introduce legislation today to make budget information accessible in a format that is searchable and accessible to third parties who want to build applications that could make the city's $82 billion in spending more transparent.

 

NEW YORK CITY — The city's Rent Guidelines Board voted Tuesday to consider rent freezes for the city's nearly 1 million rent stabilized units.

The preliminary vote to raise rents for one-year leases between 0 and 2 percent passed 5-4, with the members who represent tenants' and owners' interests all voting against it, the Board's executive director, Andrew McLaughlin, told DNAinfo.

Over the next several weeks, the nine-member board will also consider raising rents on two-year leases between 0.5 to 3.5 percent — following last year's first-ever freeze for rent-stabilized apartments.

The board based its proposal on an RGB study that showed that the price of operating for rent-stabilized apartments decreased 1.2 percent this year, mostly due to the fact that fuel costs decreased 41.2 percent. Another study found that the city's unemployment rate fell in 2015 by 1.5 percent. 

The changes would take effect on all lease renewals after Oct. 1, 2016.

Board member Sheila Garcia, who represents tenant's interest, proposed a rent decrease instead of a freeze, which is why she voted against it. 

"The data this year merits a [rent] rollback," said Garcia, referring to lowered fuel costs. "I didn't think [the rent freeze proposal] was radical enough. The board has over-compensated landlords over the years."

"We see that we are evicting less people but more people are homeless because they can't afford to live in NYC." 

Upper East Side council member Ben Kallos joined advocates calling to lower rent for rent-stabilized apartments. 

 

 

Parents at P.S. 183, who worked with Councilman Ben Kallos to increase the total seats on the Upper East Side from just over 123 to 515 since 2014, say they are relieved to have more pre-K seats because it can be tough getting a spot in the neighborhood.

"As an Upper East Side parent, I am concerned not only about the chances of my own child obtaining a pre-K spot in the neighborhood but also about the children of my friends and neighbors," resident Ariel Chesler said. "That is why I have been speaking out about the insufficient number of seats in the area."

For more than a year, members of the Roosevelt Island Parents' Network, which advocates for more than 500 families' needs, also worked to get more free pre-K seats on the island, according to member Eva Bosbach.

 

As Mayor Bill de Blasio is mired in controversy over his fundraising activities and proximity to lobbyists, the City Council is moving on bills to reduce the possibility of ‘pay-to-play’ campaign financing and make significant tweaks to strengthen an already-robust public-matching system.

The Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing on Monday to examine a package of eight bills that would reform campaign finance rules and improve the city’s public matching funds program, which, though it has some critics, is often held up as a national model.

The bills, introduced in November, aim to implement recommendations made by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB) after the 2013 city election cycle. Perhaps most notably, the bills would eliminate public matching funds for contributions bundled by people who do business with the city, provide earlier public matching funds to candidates, and improve disclosure requirements for companies or people that own entities that do business with the city.

 

A bill by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), discussed at a hearing Monday, would prohibit campaigns from accepting public matching funds off money raised by lobbyists who bundle unlimited contributions from other donors.

By law, lobbyists, contractors and others doing business with the city can give no more than $400 to a mayoral candidate. But a loophole allows those same individuals to bundle unlimited amounts from others to the same candidates.

 

“The city should not be providing public dollars to amplify the already strong voices of special interests,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor.

In the 2013 citywide election, 19% of all bundlers were doing business with the city - and they brought in 24% of all bundled funds, he said.

The city Campaign Finance Board backed the changes.

Allowing lobbyists and contractors to bundle unlimited gifts and get matching funds is “a loophole that undermines the intent of the law to prevent or limit the appearance of ‘pay to play’ corruption,” said executive director Amy Loprest.