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About Ben Kallos

Confronted with corruption in Albany, Ben put voting records online so New Yorkers could finally hold politicians accountable. Since then he's run a government reform organization that successfully removed corruption from government and served as Policy Director for former Public Advocate Mark Green.

Ben grew up on the Upper East Side with his mother, who still lives in the neighborhood, and his grandparents, who fled anti-Semitism in Europe. A Bronx Science graduate, Ben knows that our public schools are more than just budget line.  He attended SUNY Albany and SUNY Buffalo Law School, where he paid his own way through.

In the City Council, Ben chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations, where he promotes transparency to ensure every dollar gets spent to improve your quality of life--from affordable housing to senior services to better schools.

Updates

Event
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
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Press Coverage
Gothamist
Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's a little-known fact that renters who end up in housing court can find themselves on a dreaded "tenant blacklist," making it difficult to procure a NYC apartment in the future. Now, thankfully, several City Councilmembers are taking steps to kill the list once and for all, so go ahead and skip a rent payment when your landlord shuts your heat off, you deserve it.

Though the city stopped permitting housing court to identify tenants sued for eviction by their names and addresses in 2012, private companies have been able to gather that identifying information through public records, which they can then sell to landlords screening prospective renters. This is a problem, particularly because you don't have to be convicted in such a case to end up on this list—in fact, people who've been taken to court by mistake can still end up on the list.

But legislation sponsored by City Councilmembers Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, Alan Maisel, and Mark Levine aims to curb all this by amending the city's administrative code, making it impossible for landlords to reject an applicant based on whether or not they were "a party in past or current landlord-tenant action or housing court proceeding." Landlords would still be able to screen tenants who are evicted or fail to satisfy the terms of a court order.

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Press Coverage
Our Time Press
Saturday, January 24, 2015

“The safety and affordability of our city must be protected. We need to ensure that AirBnB is not putting profit over people by allowing unsafe or illegal practices that threaten New Yorkers and the affordability of our neighborhoods. Thanks to the proactive leadership of Chair Jumaane Williams and others, the New York City Council can ask the hard questions about what the sharing economy really means for residents,” said NYC Council Member Ben Kallos.

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Press Coverage
Capital New York
Thursday, January 22, 2015

Councilman Ben Kallos on Thursday reintroduced two pieces of legislation on behalf of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer aimed at ensuring that New Yorkers' personal information is protected in interactions with city agencies.

The first piece of legislation, related to personal information privacy, directs agencies collecting personal information to inform individuals about the legal framework for gathering personal information, the purpose of gathering it and how it will be used, codifies that agencies may not use data for purposes without an individual's permission and that agency officials should only have access to that personal information that is necessary for their duties, and directs agencies to ensure the security and confidentiality of systems containing personal data.

The second piece of legislation, related to personal information security, directs all agencies maintaining personal information records to implement a security program that details administrative, technical and physical safeguards protecting that data.

Brewer originally introduced the first piece of legislation in 2010, and the second in 2011, but timing issues prevented them from moving forward, she said.

In an interview, Kallos said the legislation was intended as a proactive measure, especially in light of increasing reports of data breaches in the private sector.

"A lot of people aren't paying attention to what data they are sharing," he said. "City agencies should only be collecting information that is necessary for their task.... If someone is applying for SNAP benefits...the only people who need to know that are them and the person [they] are applying to."

He said the legislation would not prevent the gathering of anonymized, aggregated data for research purposes, and that it was mandating measures that the city "should be engaged in anyway."

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Press Coverage
AM New York
Thursday, January 22, 2015

A City Council member will introduce a bill Thursday that would help New Yorkers avoid being discriminated against for being on the "tenant blacklist."

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) said there have been too many cases where a prospective home buyer would be denied a lease by a landlord because they were involved in a housing court dispute. The councilman said many of these landlords would request a report about the applicant's history from a service that has access to the court's index number database, but wouldn't go into detail about the circumstances.

"Someone who had a perfectly strong credit score would be denied by the fact that they are in landlord tenant court, even if they were on the right side," he said.
 

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Press Release

New York, NY – An “Anti Tenant-Blacklist” City Council bill to be introduced today would protect tenants named in housing court from being placed on “blacklists." The legislation, sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, Alan Maisel, and Mark Levine would prevent landlords from using the information to discriminate against tenants when they have satisfied the terms of an order issued in housing court. The so-called blacklists contain an estimated hundreds of thousands of names of would-be renters.

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Press Coverage
City and State
Thursday, January 22, 2015

New York City Councilman Ben Kallos plans to introduce legislation today aiming to ensure that city high schools fulfill their legal mandate to distribute voter registration forms to graduating students, in part by instituting a tracking system to be used by the Department of Education.
 
Kallos, who will be joined by Council Members Linda Rosenthal and Fernando Cabrera, said the Young Adult Voter Registration Act already directs both public and private high schools to have voter registration applications available on campus and to hand them out with diplomas upon graduation, but that it has gone largely unimplemented since its passage in 2004.
 
Under his legislation, schools would maintain a stash of voter registration forms in several languages and distribute them to students. The Department of Education would then be required to track how many forms make it back to the city's Board of Elections each year, and to submit annual reports to the City Council. 
 
“The current law just requires that they put voter registrations with diplomas and mail it to the kids. One hundred thousand go out a year, and 100,000 kids do not register to vote,” Kallos said, also noting that in the time since he began helping students register to vote in 2012, he has never called a campus that reported having forms on hand. “We’re just trying to improve it and make sure we’re actually following it,” he said.
 

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Press Release

High School students in public and private schools will be required to receive voter registration forms during class under new legislation that would improve upon the decade long-unenforced Young Adult Voter Registration Act (YAVRA), if Council Members Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal and Fernando Cabrera have a say.

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Newsletter

In May, Council Member Kallos and Council Member Dromm--Chair of the Education Committee--sent a letter to Department of Education, requesting improved compliance with the Young Adult Voter Registration Act through a new Young Adult Voter Registration Day.

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Press Coverage
Examiner
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On September 20th of this year, one of the biggest fights over housing will take place at City Hall as the New York City Council hears arguments for and against the hotel service providers, Airbnb’s operations in residential buildings. Share NYC Better has already stated they expect to fill the council chamber with both Hotel workers union members and tenant advocates.
The biggest concern for the consortium of groups is that the industry’s practices are driving up rents in many buildings, leading to increased warehousing of already scarce rent regulated apartments. These businesses lead to security troubles in apartment units due to the constant flow of traffic coming in and out of these buildings. The biggest danger, however, are the serious fire safety hazards posed by illegal hotel operations.

Commercial hotels and residential buildings have two very different standards when dealing with fire protection; standards for hotels are much more strict. Commercial hotels must have on-site fire marshals on top of a sprinkler system along with clearly stated maps throughout each floor and multiple exits on each floor. Doors must swing “out’ to allow for rapid egress. Doors in residential buildings swing inward – partly to safeguard against burglaries. The lack of these safety requirements in residential units are something which the head of Airbnb has refused to address in any meaningful way. Councilman Ben Kallos has alluded that the company may be putting their own profit ahead of the safety of tourists according to the New York Post. But Airbnb whose upper hand always has been on the side of financial resources is now attempting to reach out to younger and in some cases more liberal millennials by circulating petitions on such sites as change.org and cause.com under the auspices of helping students and middle class tenants stay in their homes.

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