Council Member Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The 168,000 residents in his district, the second largest in the city, mostly live in high rises. Mr. Kallos has proposed a measure that would mandate the mayor’s Zero Waste initiative to include targets and updates. The measure failed, and the effort to bring residential composting to his district has been frustrating, he said.
“We’ve worked with a number of residents and buildings to get composting,” Mr. Kallos said. “But I’ve yet to hear of any successes. I’ve never seen any brown bins in my district and I’d be surprised if there are any.”
Thousands of commuters were stranded outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, the busiest bus station in the country, after more than 1,100 scheduled buses were canceled. The line of people stretched a full city block.
On a bitterly cold day last winter, Sumaya’s mother placed her on her school bus in Brooklyn. Later that morning, her mother received a frantic call. Sumaya, a nonverbal 13-year-old with autism, had been found at a school far from the one she attended. The bus driver had left her, unsupervised, outside the wrong school. Luckily, instead of wandering off to the park across the street, Sumaya had walked into the school building, where she covered her ears and screamed repeatedly, until a staff member found her. A search of Sumaya's backpack turned up a notebook with her mother's phone number. Her mother still has nightmares about how differently the day could have ended.
Displacing single-use bottles is an issue that Mark Chambers, the City Hall official in charge of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, said was related to a fundamental question of urban life: “How do we change our relationship to waste?”
Obviously, it is a question that has come up often as the country has debated pollution and environmental consciousness has surged. In April, Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr., a Democrat from Brooklyn, and Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat from the Upper East Side, proposed a ban on selling disposable plastic bottles in city-run parks, golf courses and beaches. The measure would cover soft drinks and juices as well as water. Other proposals would ban plastic straws that can be used only once, or plastic bags.
Mr. Chambers sees Bring It and the S’well bottles as “a great opportunity for us to make a strong public statement around why this matters” — and it is a statement that can be made without having to wait for a City Council vote.
Councilman Kallos said the Trump decision spurred him to action. He said he has wanted to ban disposable plastic water bottles since trying to buy one himself while visiting San Francisco several years ago and being told he could not. So he bought a reusable bottle to tote around — something he now does in New York.
“You see plastic bottles everywhere,” he said. “It makes New York look like a dump and we can do better.”
This is not the first time that New York has taken a stand against plastic bottles. In 2008, the office of the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, stopped buying bottled waterfor Council offices. A 2009 state executive order barred state agencies from buying bottled water, to save taxpayer dollars and improve the environment.
The city has also targeted other plastic waste. In 2016, the Council sought to encourage shoppers to give up plastic store bags by charging 5 cents for most plastic and shopping bags. But that law was blocked last year by state legislators, some of whom argued that it imposed a regressive tax on the poor, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Mr. Kallos and Mr. Espinal said their proposed ban on plastic bottle sales was more limited than the plastic bag fee and less likely to draw interference from state lawmakers.
Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, said that while Mr. Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, had not yet seen the proposed ban, “The speaker has always said that the city has the ability to enact a ban on unnecessary plastic waste.”
Mr. Kallos and Mr. Espinal said they will introduce bills next week to lay out more details about the proposed ban. Mr. Kallos said that vendors in city recreational areas could face penalties for selling plastic bottles, including possibly having their concessions revoked.
Breakfast had already been free systemwide, school officials said, and the city’s stand-alone middle schools had a universal free-lunch pilot in place since 2014 that fed an additional 10,000 children who would not necessarily have qualified for free or discounted lunches, officials said.
Among the parade of speakers at Wednesday’s announcement was City Councilman Ben Kallos, who recounted his own experience with the stigma of subsidized school meals.
He grew up on the Upper East Side and, like many of his neighbors, attended Bronx High School of Science. But his mother’s income in his single-parent household was low enough that he qualified for reduced-price lunches — a fact he tried to hide from his peers by not eating.
“I had to choose between friends and food,” Mr. Kallos said. “I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did.”
Mr. Kallos has made curbing noise one of his top priorities. He and Costa Constantinides, a councilman from Queens, are proposing legislation that targets some of the most grating sounds by requiring city noise inspectors to respond within two hours when possible to catch noisemakers in the act. Inspectors currently have no legally mandated deadlines but follow departmental guidelines for responding within a certain period of time.
As the scaffolding has proliferated, the Buildings Department has faced growing criticism that it is not doing enough to police those structures that stay too long. A City Council bill targeting such scaffolding would require it to be taken down within six months of going up, or sooner when no work is being done. The bill has drawn opposition from building owners and managers who say they may not have the money to make repairs immediately.
City building officials say that scaffolding ensures public safety and that they are required to ensure that it remains up as long as a building needs work.
Over the years, the city has struggled to keep track of scaffolding when permits have lapsed, or when existing scaffolding is simply replaced with new scaffolding under a new permit. In the case of the Harlem building, city records initially showed that the scaffolding went up only in 2012, which is when the owner replaced it.