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About Ben Kallos

New York City Council Member Ben Kallos was praised by the New York Times for his “fresh ideas” and elected in 2013 to represent the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and East Harlem along with all 8.4 million New Yorkers in the New York City Council.  He 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. As Vice-Chair of the Jewish Caucus he has been an ardent advocate for Israel and supporter of Jewish causes.

As Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee where he has sought to root out patronage, de-privatize government, eliminate billions in waste, expand elections, and to use technology to improve access to government.  He has become a leading advocate for education, affordable housing, public health, sustainable development and transportation improvements and safety.  His office is open and transparent, with constituents invited to decide on how to spend one million dollars on local projects in the district as well as to join him in a conversation on the First Friday of each month, or he will go to them if they can gather ten neighbors for “Ben In Your Building.”

Most Recent Newsletter

ALERT: Legionnaires’ Disease Cluster on Upper East Side

Over the past 11 days, seven cases of legionnaires disease have been reported in the Lenox Hill area of the Upper East Side, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Of the seven cases, four patients are recovering and two have already been discharged from the hospital. Sadly, one member of our community has died, and my thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones.

Upper East Side Legionnaires' Disease
Information Session with Department of Health
Monday, June 19 at 6PM

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 331 East 70th Street
Event details subject to change so please RSVP

Please be on the lookout for respiratory symptoms, which may be a sign of the disease, including:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

If you are experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Legionnaires’ disease cannot be spread from person to person. Those at high risk include people aged 50 or older, especially cigarette smokers, people with chronic lung disease or with weakened immune systems.

In 2015, following the outbreak in the Bronx I co-sponsored legislation introduced by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, which was signed into law as Local Law 77 of 2015 to require registration, inspection, cleaning, disinfecting, testing, and annual certification in order to reduce and contain the growth of Legionella in cooling towers, which causes Legionnaire's.

I am in close contact with the Health Department as they identify the source of the cluster and eliminate it as quickly as possible.

Learn more:

You can get more timely updates on Twitter at @BenKallos or @nycHealthy.

Sincerely,

Ben Kallos
Council Member

Updates

Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch,NYC
Friday, May 12, 2017

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A fleet of 79 brand-new buses will replace some of the oldest buses in New York City servicing five Upper East Side routes — the M14, M15, M101, M102 and M103 — officials announced.

The new buses, equipped with WiFi and USB charging ports, will be based out of the Tuskegee Bus Depot in Harlem, City Councilman Ben Kallos said in a press release. The depot will provide three to five of the new buses per week to the five Upper East Side routes, which should speed up local bus service. The buses stationed at the Tuskegee Bus Depot were some of the oldest in the city, causing frequent breakdowns and "missing buses" — when fewer buses run per hour than scheduled.

"Bus service on the East Side is about to get better with brand new buses that won’t cause disruptions in service from breaking down as often," Kallos said in a statement. "Residents complain about poor bus service every day, but after years of advocacy, we are getting the new buses we need."

Read more

Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Thursday, May 11, 2017

A number of East Side politicians, including Councilman Ben Kallos, Sen. Liz Krueger, and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, along with the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, petitioned the MTA for the new buses after receiving a slew of complaints from commuters who wait long periods of time for their bus to come.

"Bus service on the East Side is about to get better with brand new buses that won’t cause disruptions in service from breaking down as often,” said Kallos. “Residents complain about poor bus service every day, but after years of advocacy, we are getting the new buses we need."

The new buses will eventually phase out the older buses, which is the primary cause of "missing buses," according to Kallos. 

The buses that run on all five routes come out of the Tuskeegee Bus Depot in Harlem and are some of the oldest, Kallos said.

"When local buses end up 'missing' that further compounds the problems," he said. "The M15 had the oldest fleet in the city. This is great news for M15 riders."

Locals and politicians on both the Upper and Lower East Side have for years been asking the MTA to fix the slow local M15 service or add additional Select Bus Service stops on the route.

Upper East Side residents have pushed for more local M15 buses or at least the addition of a Select Bus Service stop at East 72nd Street since the local bus takes too long to arrive. 

"You can stand there for 25 to 35 minutes and see three Select Bus Service buses go by," said Valerie Mason, president of the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association, last year. "In the last six years, local service has deteriorated greatly."

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Press Release
Thursday, May 11, 2017

79 New Buses Headed to East Side to Replace Oldest Buses in Fleet
M14, M15, M101, M102, & M103 

New York, NY – Manhattan’s East Side, where seniors and others depend on buses with slow service and long waits, is getting 79 new buses to help alleviate these issues. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA’s announcement of the new buses followed strong, data-driven advocacy from Council Member Ben Kallos, Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and the East 79th Street Neighborhood.
 
The community and elected officials brought the issue of “missing buses” to the attention of then-MTA Bus Company President Darryl Irick at a meeting convened by Senator Liz Krueger. The MTA shared that bus lines based out of the Tuskegee Depot were amongst the oldest in the system, leading to more frequent than usual breakdowns, and agreed to prioritize these buses for replacement.
 
The MTA is now bringing 79 new buses with free Wi-Fi and USB charging to the Tuskegee Depot, which will provide 3 to 5 new buses per week to the M14, M15, M101, M102, and M103 lines.
 
The East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, led by Betty Cooper-Wallerstein, has been fighting for improved bus service for decades, from awarding bus operators for a job well done to distributing survey cards for residents to provide feedback on their experiences with the buses. This advocacy has ensured that quality bus service remains a top priority for elected officials who receive these cards with service complaints.
 
In 2014, Council Member Ben Kallos presented at Beta NYC's National Day of Civic Hacking event and facilitated a conversation on using MTA BusTime data to track every bus in the system at all times in order to analyze bus service. Nathan Johnson took up this challenge. In his analysis, he found “missing buses,” where fewer buses ran per hour than were scheduled.
 
In discussions facilitated by TWU Local 100 with bus operators from the Tuskegee Bus Depot, they identified frequent breakdowns and insufficient buses as two primary causes of “missing buses.” Council Member Kallos identified these issues in multiple letters and meetings with the MTA, BetaNYC, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).
 
Further analysis by the Bus Turnaround Coalition at BusTurnaround.nyc found:

  • M15: has the highest ridership in Manhattan at 46,029 daily riders, with more than 1 of 8 buses arriving bunched and an average speed of only 4.8 mph.
  • M101: is one of the top ten most bunched buses in the city at 1 of 6 buses arriving bunched, with the fourth highest ridership in Manhattan at 26,127 riders per day, and an average speed of only 4.9 mph.

Read more

Press Coverage
Vice News Munchies
Thursday, May 11, 2017

The purpose of the legislation is, in part, to would allow workers more easily to arrange for child care or take on second jobs. Among its supporters is New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio and council member Ben Kallos, who attended the rally today. He told MUNCHIES, "Fast food workers deserve respect from their employers and these laws will make sure we are taking steps in that direction." He called the legislation "common sense" and said it "will go a long way towards improving quality of life for New York City workers. I was proud to show my support."

Read more

Press Coverage
Our Town
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Until recently, the most crowded bus route in Manhattan also had the oldest buses in the fleet. According to data analyzed by the Bus Turnaround Coalition, which advocates for better bus service citywide, the M15 carries more than 46,000 passengers every day, though ridership has decreased roughly 10 percent since 2010. Thanks to a combined community effort, 79 new buses have already begun to replace the vehicles on the M15 route, as well as on the M14, M101, M102 and M103 routes.

“We spent an enormous amo”unt of time demonstrating the need for the buses,” Council Member Ben Kallos said. “When residents complain about bus service we pass it on to MTA and MTA usually tells us the buses were there.” Kallos, who has a background in software development, partnered with Civic Hackers to collect and assess bus data in order to demonstrate that bus service on the Upper East Side was spotty and often bunched. Between gathering the data and convincing the MTA, Kallos said the project “ended up soaking up about two years of my life.”

Betty Cooper-Wallerstein, the president of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association and a former Council member, began collecting her own data many years ago by compiling results from survey cards she would hand out at community meetings. She would ask bus riders to note the route they took and their driver’s punctuality, both to monitor service standards and to give awards to the highest ranking bus drivers. “We have very many seniors,” Cooper-Wallerstein said, emphasizing the need for more reliable service so older riders aren’t waiting as longer or having to walk far away to a better line. Cooper-Wallerstein said she expects the new buses will be “a big help.”

Kallos credited state Senator Liz Krueger with helping set up the meeting last fall with Darryl Irick, the president of the MTA Bus Company, who confirmed that the M15’s vehicles were the oldest in the fleet and agreed to provide the new ones. “The MTA has advised me that the 79 buses is enough for a full replacement on the M15,” said Kallos, who takes that route to work. The remaining new buses will be distributed across the M14, M101, M102 and M103 routes, he added, “where we will continue advocating for more buses.”

The Bus Turnaround Coalition shows that the M101, M102 and M103 have the fourth, 15th and 22nd highest ridership in Manhattan. On the M101 route, one of every six buses arrives bunched.

The 79 new buses will have Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and digital displays displaying upcoming stops. They are also equipped with a pedestrian warning system to prevent collisions. “It can be tough to balance trying to keep people getting to work on time with pedestrians in the intersection who may or may not be obeying the law,” Kallos said. “This technology will really help drivers avoid any mishaps.

Read more

Press Release
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

GovAPI Act Would Provide Interface for Digital Requests and Submission for All Government Information As Proposed by City Council Member Kallos  New York, NY – Long lines, hold music and bureaucratic forms could soon be replaced by an app for that as the private sector innovates government thanks to new legislation (Int.1594) introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos that would require that all information received or transmitted by city government to be available through an Application Program Interface (API).
 
“Government, there should be an app for that. We need to build an API for government, so that the private sector can innovate and bring government into the 21st century. New Yorkers should be able to use government services as simply as new apps deliver food or a car when you need one,” said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos a free and open source software developer.
 
Any time a paper form, an operator, or website requests information like a name, email, income, or other details that information could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. Similarly, anytime the city shares information on whether you qualified for public benefits, are registered to vote, or owe taxes that could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. An Application Programming Interface or API provides a set of definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software, or in general terms, it provides a translation dictionary for different software to communicate to make it easier for developers to program new applications.

 

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Legislation
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Any time a paper form, an operator, or website requests information like a name, email, income, or other details that information could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. Similarly, anytime the city shares information on whether you qualified for public benefits, are registered to vote, or owe taxes that could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. An Application Programming Interface or API provides a set of definitions, protocols and tools for building application software, or in general terms it provides a translation dictionary for different software to communicate to make it easier for developers to program new applications.

- Read more

Press Coverage
New York Times
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

While responsible apartment managers adhere promptly to the spirit of the building safety law, recalcitrant owners leave the sheds up for years as a cheap way to avoid making building repairs. There are no deadlines set to force the work to be done or the sheds to come down.

The pole-and-metal roofed structures, designed to catch debris, attract it instead, along with idlers and loners, according to the complaints of nearby residents who are urging the city to take action. City Councilman Ben Kallos has proposed legislation to force a timetable of three to six months on building owners, but some insist that they don’t have the money to finish jobs. Thus sheds stay perpetually, as much a protection for scofflaw owners as pedestrians.

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Press Coverage
Gothamist
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Advocates have plenty of examples to point to when describing the lien sale process running amok. By their tally, 89 properties with community uses had their tax debt sold in 2016. Among them was Grace Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which sold last year to cover wrongfully levied tax bills, according to reporting by Urban Omnibus. The Al-Muneer Foundation, a mosque and community center, in Jamaica, Queens had its wrongfully issued tax debt sold in 2014 and had to fight to get the tax erased.

A church's failure to pay taxes or file for an exemption for one of three neighboring lots that make up the Imani Community Garden in Crown Heights led to its tax debt being sold in 2004. The affected lot is in the middle of the garden and contains a decades-old willow tree. In 2015, BNY Mellon's trust foreclosed on the debt, and a developer bought it at private auction. The new owner fenced the lot off from the other two sides of the garden, and is now planning to build an apartment building there, according to Buildings Department records.

Aging nonprofit administrators, dwindling church congregations, decentralized dioceses, and transient volunteer pools can all contribute to nonprofits missing the significance of bills or failing to file paperwork, according to people familiar with the issue.

"I’ve heard from some folks who are like, 'Why can’t some nonprofits fill out some forms?'" said East Side Councilman Ben Kallos, who lead the sign-on effort. "If this goes into the lien sale, no bank is going to say, 'Oh you don’t need to pay us back, you just need to fill out this form with the city.' The city should be reaching out proactively to folks."

Read more

Press Release
Monday, May 8, 2017

Since taking office I have been fighting to keep the East River Esplanade from falling into the river. As Co-chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Maloney, I have secured $49 million in private and public dollars to maintain and rehabilitate a crumbling Esplanade. A portion of the $35 million in funding that I secured in partnership with the Mayor was already being used to shore up the portion of the Esplanade that fell into the river behind Gracie Mansion with work to begin this Summer. I am disappointed that despite having the funding and identifying this portion of the Esplanade, that work did not begin in time to prevent the collapse.

Earlier this year and last week I advocated for $169 million dollars from the City’s budget to rehabilitate the Esplanade. The City Council’s budget response also prioritized the $169 million necessary to keep the East River Esplanade from falling into the river from 60th to 125th Street. I welcome the $100 million in funding from Mayor de Balsio to connect the East River Esplanade from 53rd to 61st Street but stress the importance of supporting existing infrastructure and budgeting for new infrastructure to be created so that this never happens again.

 

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