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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

Newsletter is Back and There's a Lot of Good News to Share

Dear Neighbor,

The newsletter is back! We send the newsletter once a month so we don't clutter your mailbox and keep you up to date on everything going on in the community, as well as opportunities to influence government decisions by making your voice heard.

Thank you to all the residents who came out to the polls in the Primary and General Elections, where we won with 7,847 votes at 75% and 22,514 votes at 81% respectively. This is a testament to our partnership and shows that empowering residents helps to govern honestly and inclusively—and it's the best way to get things done.

During the blackout period when we could not send government newsletters because of our pending elections, we won Universal School Lunch, launched ferry service and opened Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island, rolled out bus countdown clocks, broke ground on $35 million in improvements to the East River Esplanade, signed tenant safety legislation I authored into law, and I was even recognized as one of the best Council Members by City and State.

Last month we broke ground on $1 million in renovations to the East River Esplanade in partnership with the Hospital for Special Surgery, cut the ribbon on a new laboratory building with Memorial Sloan Kettering, made progress on rezoning Sutton to stop supertall skyscrapers, passed two bills so that schools ensure no child goes hungry and train teachers to support GSAs, passed legislation to open the city's $85 billion budget and welcomed the Technion Israel Institute of Technology world tour.

As November starts I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and take this opportunity to invite everyone to my annual holiday party on Tuesday, December 5th, 5-7pm. RSVP

Regards,


Ben Kallos
Council Member

 

 

SPECIAL EVENTS

November 27
9:45AM - 11PM
Medicare Open Enrollment Event

November 27
6:30PM-8:30PM
Community Town Hall, Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island

November 30
6:30PM
College Affordability Excelsior Scholarship Forum

December 7
7:30PM
Mayor's Town Hall

January 7
1PM-3PM
State of the District 

DISTRICT OFFICE EVENTS

November 14
6PM – 7PM
Brainstorming with Ben

November 30
6:30PM-7PM
CitiBike Street Skills Class

December  5
5PM – 7PM
Holiday Party

SUMMER HIGHLIGHTS

  1. August
  2. September
  3. October

OVERDEVELOPMENT

  1. Sutton Rezoning at City Planning Commission
  2. Scaffolding Bill Gets Hearing
  3. Marijuana Smoking at 180 East 88th Street
  4. Height Protections for Upper East Side

EDUCATION

  1. Ensuring No Child Goes Hungry (Bill Passed)
  2. Support GSAs in Public Schools (Bill Passed)
  3. Silicon Island: Technion Israel Institute of Technology World Tour
  4. Fighting to Fund Hunter Science Campus Construction

PARKS & ENVIRONMENT

  1. Breaking Ground on East River Esplanade Construction at HSS
  2. It's My Park Day
  3. Banning Toxic Pesticides from Parks
  4. Climate Works for All Building Retrofits

PUBLIC HEALTH

  1. New MSK Center for Laboratory Medicine Ribbon Cutting
  2. Senior Health Fair Success
  3. American Academy Committee on Nutrition and Obesity
  4. Asphalt Green Swim Meet

GOOD GOVERNMENT

  1. Open Budget (Bill Passed)
  2. Oversight of Mayor's Management
  3. Questioning City Technology Costs

TRANSPORTATION

  1. Plan to Fight Double Parking and Move Deliveries Off-Hours
  2. Bike Safety Helmet Fitting
  3. Bernie, Bill and Ben

COMMUNITY

  1. Protesting Gun Violence with Congress Member Maloney
  2. Know Your Rights for Immigrants at Islamic Cultural Center
  3. Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach
  4. Youth Action March
  5. Building Service Worker Helping Hand Award
  6. Honoring former Community Board Chair David Liston
  7. Halloween Neighborhood Celebrations

OFFICE UPDATES

  1. Legislative Corner
  2. Free Legal Clinics
  3. Here to Help
  4. Ben in Your Building

EVENTS 

  1. City Council Events
  2. Community Board Meetings
  3. New York City Police Department
  4. Community Events For Adults
  5. Community Events For Children

Updates

Press Coverage
Our Town
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

All of this is playing out on the Upper East Side, where social-service groups and community-based nonprofits, churches and synagogues, block associations and community boards, and civic, faith and elected leaders — not to mention a perplexed citizenry — are grappling with the homeless issue. And mulling a basic question: To give or not to give?

Those ruminations, like so much else today, burst into public view with a tweet.

The scene was the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, at 337 East 74th Street, on the evening of October 16th, where the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association was holding a public meeting, and City Council Member Ben Kallos was discussing the homeless problem.

That night, says Tina Larsson, the group’s secretary-treasurer, she tweeted a message that emerged from his presentation, and shortly after, Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and Midtown East, retweeted it.

“Don’t give money to the homeless in our neighborhood,” she wrote. “Donate to the faith-based institutions that help them instead.”

The sharp surge in the homeless presence locally has been disturbing to residents, Larsson says. She notes a small square at 75th Street on the west side of First Avenue near the Saratoga apartment building as one problem spot.

And she cited a local nuisance known as the “Spitting Lady of 77th Street,” a longtime fixture on Third Avenue who cursed, screamed and spat upon people, often children. The woman became the focus of a Facebook page, and an online petition to de Blasio demanding her removal that garnered 1,500 signatures. She hasn’t been spotted since May.

Handouts to people like that encourage their behavior, increase the volume of solicitations and fuel dependency, the argument goes. “If you keep giving them money, they’ll keep staying here,” Larsson said.

Kallos say his constituents are deeply compassionate. “And when they see someone on the street, many people give from the bottom of their hearts,” he says. “The problem is for everyone else in the neighborhood who don’t want to see panhandlers, those who give are literally paying them to be there.”

He regularly addresses groups of as many as 100 residents in their buildings, asking for a show of hands of those who give cash to street beggars. Typically, some 10 percent of attendees raise their hands, and Kallos will implore, “Please stop doing that. You are paying them to stay there.”

Offering money can also discourage the needy from accepting tax-supported city services that could get them off the streets, he argues.

The alternative? “If you want to help someone on the street, call 311,” Kallos urges, saying a call can open the door to city shelter, three square meals a day, substance abuse programs, job training, even money to help pay the rent.

Read more

Press Coverage
Crain's New York
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

We are getting ready to fight,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, a critic of residential skyscrapers who supports the board’s proposal and is working to advance it from idea to reality. He has reason to be hopeful.

The City Planning Commission held a hearing last week on another proposal in Kallos’ district that would limit heights in Sutton Place.

Read more

Press Coverage
Commercial Observer
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has championed the expansion of affordable housing throughout all five boroughs, but he, as well as the City Planning Commission, opposed the ERFA’s original rezoning proposal, which was backed by several community representatives, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the residents of Sutton Place. New York State Senator Liz Krueger has backed the proposal, and recently, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney signed on in support of the ERFA’s mission, having already written and voiced concerns to the CPC on the organization’s behalf, according to an ERFA spokeswoman.

Read more

Press Coverage
Curbed
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Previously the rezoning wanted to curtail the height of buildings in this area to 260 feet, but after City Planning raised concerns about that rezoning, the Alliance altered its rezoning proposal.

This latest effort has the backing of several local elected officials including City Council member Ben Kallos. In order for Gamma to move forward with its current plan for the tower, it will have to complete construction on the foundation by Thanksgiving. That’s basically impossible, Kalikow told AM New York.

Read more

Press Release
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I am here today to give testimony in support of the community-led grassroots zoning text change application submitted to the Commission by the East River Fifties Alliance in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Dan Garodnick, and me. ERFA, the community coalition leading this application, consists of 45 buildings, represented by co-op boards, condo boards and individual owners, and over 2600 individual supporters living in more than 500 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area.

Thank you to Commission Chair Marisa Lago, Vice Chair Kenneth J. Knuckles, and the members of the City Planning Commission for hearing us today. Thank you as well to your staff, and in particular to the Department of City Planning’s community affairs and Manhattan Borough offices’ professional and dedicated work in handling this application.

In the Sutton Area, a small residential neighborhood by the East River in Midtown Manhattan, we have come together to envision a community that welcomes new construction while protecting the rent-regulated tenants who have lived in our neighborhood for decades, like our friends Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez.

We are here to support real housing for real New Yorkers, including affordable housing, instead of 800-foot-high full-story penthouses built to serve as investments, often for foreign speculators.

We envision a residential community in the Sutton Area where new buildings serve the needs of the local community and of the City as a whole, adding to our housing stock for working people and fitting the shape and character of our neighborhood.

We have seen the super-tall buildings at 432 Park and 111 West 57th Street, and we believe they have no role on quiet side streets in fully residential neighborhoods. When I first learned that the super-tall buildings could creep onto our residential side streets, I wanted to do something that had not been done before: to organize the community to propose our own plan to rezone the neighborhood for the present and the future. That is what we did, led by residents from the Sutton Area and co-signed by four elected officials: we filed the first ever community-led rezoning at City Planning, which we are discussing today.

This rezoning corrects an accident of history that has left the Sutton Area the only residential neighborhood in the city with uncapped R10 zoning without any further protections. The proposal seeks to impose tower-on-a-base zoning, which would result in squatter, more human-scale buildings, with a dense base and a shorter tower, adding more units to our housing stock, which will be filled by real New Yorkers. Depending on lot configuration, maximum building heights in tower-on-a-base zoning are estimated between 300 and 500 feet, far closer to the built context of the neighborhood than a super-tall building that would cast a shadow all the way across the East River into Queens.

Read more

Press Release
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bicycle Safety Improves on East Side for Third Year in a Row

Bike Safety Education, Equipment & Enforcement Program Led by

Council Members Kallos and Garodnick Gets Results

New York, NY —  Following an increase in education, safety equipment, and enforcement, bike safety from 30th to 97th streets on Manhattan’s East Side continues to improve as a result of a program led by Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.  Since the program’s launch by Council Member Kallos in 2014 there has been a reduction in the number of collisions involving cyclists each year, and fewer pedestrians and cyclists injured in collisions.

The NYPD reports 17th and 19th precinct report Year to Date (YTD) through mid-October:

·         1,557 summons issued to bicycles mostly for not giving right of way to pedestrians and disobeying a steady red signal;

·         15,929 moving violations issued to vehicles, with 5,717 violations for improper turns, 2,730 violations for disobeying a traffic control device, and 1,541 violations for not giving right of way to pedestrians among other violations as of August; and

·         103 seizures of “e-bikes” with all but one receiving a summons (ECB/OATH), representing more than 10% of all enforcement with 923 seized citywide;

Read more

Press Release
Thursday, October 12, 2017

In a reversal, city planners are assisting a group of neighbors trying to halt ongoing construction of an 800-foot tower across from the luxury high rise where many in the group live.

For over two years, the neighbors and a group they founded, the East River Fifties Alliance, has spent more than $1 million drafting an unusual do-it-yourself zoning rule, that could block the tower on East 58th Street near Sutton Place.

City Hall and the city’s Planning Commissioner had lambasted the campaign in the past for a misguided efforts to block a single building to protect views at the Sovereign, an 485-foot tall, co-op.

In June, when asked about an earlier proposal, Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “This proposal would protect the views of a handful of residents who live in a building that is hundreds of feet taller than the height they feel is appropriate and block new buildings.”

At the time, the city planning commissioner, Marisa Lago, said “there is an important distinction between planning based on a sound, land-use rationale and policy-making designed and shaped to stop a specific building proposal.”

But last week, the commission staff released a new zoning proposal by the group and offered support for it. It set an unusual fast-track review process that would enable it to be approved by the commission by Nov. 1, before election day, and by the City Council by mid-November.

“We believe there is a land-use rational,” said Bob Tuttle, a city planner, about the group’s latest proposal at a recent commission meeting. “We understand the community’s desire for height limits.”

But at the meeting, Mr. Tuttle acknowledged that the proposed zoning change, which covers portions of a 13-block area east of First Avenue, would only affect a single development site in the foreseeable future: the East 58th Street construction site.

Both the developer and the community opponents said it would halt the current project, known as Sutton 58 as it is envisioned.

Jonathan Kalikow, president of Gamma Real Estate. which is developing the new tower, warned that this zoning change targeted at his building would have a chilling effect on developers across the city.

“This zoning change, if passed, will have really horrific negative consequences for the city of New York,” he said. Mr. Kalikow said he was rushing to try to complete the complex foundation needed for the tall narrow tower before the zoning change could take effect.

The new zoning proposal grew out of a meeting in August between planners and elected officials, including the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who had joined East River Fifties group in submitting the plan.

Earlier plans by the group had called for strict height limits. The new approach, recommended by the planning staff, would create a new zoning rule that would force developers on side streets to keep much of the bulk of their buildings below 150 feet and only indirectly cap heights.

It would particularly penalize developers like Mr. Kalikow, who obtained air rights from nearby buildings, zoning experts said. The fast-track schedule was made possible after a decision by Ms. Brewer and the local community board to forego hearings on the proposed zoning changes.

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry group, noted that Ms. Brewer has long been an advocate for more openness in city government and in land-use decisions. A spokesman for Ms. Brewer said she had already held a hearing earlier this year, on another version of the plan.

 

Alan Kersh, president of the East River Fifties Alliance, and a resident of the Sovereign, said the revised city plan is more “flexible” than the height limits his group first proposed.

He said it would allow for a building taller than what his group had originally proposed, but much shorter than what the developer planned to build.

Read more

Press Coverage
Commercial Observer
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“The BSA is the most powerful city agency that no one has ever heard of,” said New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents District 5 (the east side of Manhattan from Midtown up to East Harlem). “It literally has the power to change how neighborhoods are planned without going through the regular city planning process.”

Kallos, who sponsored five of the nine bills in the BSA legislative reform package that the City Council passed in May, said his interest in the body goes back more than a decade to his time as a member of Manhattan’s Community Board 8 and concerns that arose as he witnessed his Upper East Side neighborhood “turn from a residential neighborhood into a commercial and hospital district.”

“I watched a parade of applicants come in and build buildings that could never be built under the current neighborhood plan,” he recalled.

Alongside Kallos, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, the reforms drew bipartisan support from Democratic Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Republican Minority Leader Steven Matteo, as well as Democratic council members Karen Koslowitz and Donovan Richards.

Read more

Press Coverage
Bloomberg Business
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A fresh proposal, drafted with input from members of the city planning department, is scheduled for public hearing on Oct. 18, paving the way for a possible approval by the city council in November, said Ben Kallos, a councilman who is one of the applicants seeking rezoning.

“All along, this has been a race to the finish,” Kallos, the councilman, said in an interview. “I hope to vote on it as soon as possible. Communities want a say in how their neighborhoods are developed.”

 

Read more

Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Thursday, October 5, 2017

There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.

“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council,  which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”

Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.

“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.

Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.

“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.

While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”

Read more