Each year I pledge to report on the State of the District.
Over 700 community members joined my inauguration ceremony on January 26 featuring:
Thanks are also due to the many elected officials and community leaders who attended and spoke:
Thank you for joining me today for this inauguration which we have dedicated as a celebration of our community and of one another. We are bastion of culture and diversity that stands together in unity as one council district.
There are many people to whom I owe profound gratitude.
You have given me a remarkable responsibility.
I will heed the lessons of the “greatest generation.” I will speak for those for whom there is no one else to speak, regardless of whether I am one of them. Four essential human freedoms that we heard about from Jim remain a generation overdue. But like FDR, I believe them to be “attainable in our own time and generation.” And I believe that they start at the local level, in the community. I will focus on “freedom from want” to ensure “a healthy peace time life for inhabitants,” a living wage for all so that we may eliminate the ever-growing gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” in hopes of unifying our great city.
I started this journey out of love for the neighborhood where I grew up and the conviction that government could do better. After thousands of conversations, hundreds of volunteers, dozens of special interest checks turned away, and your solutions for a better city submitted on my website and shared with me in person, I have been overwhelmed by your support for my vision: A government that is open, transparent, and accountable to you.
In the City Council, I will be chairing the Government Operations Committee in order to help make that vision a reality. With broad oversight powers I hope to bring reforms to:
Our mandate will be to make our city’s operations more efficient at seamlessly serving you.
This City Council office belongs to the community and I am just its steward for the time being. That means that your hopes and needs will shape the actions that we take and the battles that we wage. I am confident we can make real progress on the important issues in our neighborhood because we’ll be working together.
Join me for “First Fridays” where we will meet monthly in-person to discuss what issues are important to you. The next one is on Friday, February 7 from 8AM to 10AM in our new District Office at 244 East 93rd Street, just off Second. It is in the old Weight Watchers, where we can help you with almost any problem other than a new diet. If getting to my office is too difficult you can call me at 212-860-1950 or we can bring our office to you with mobile hours in your closest community center.
You can visit BenKallos.com where we have over one hundred solutions for a better city that you can vote on, comment and improve upon, or suggest your own. We have our work cut out for us and will need your support to get it all done. Please consider leading or joining a policy committee on education, senior services, transportation, environment or propose your own.
I graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, and believe every child is entitled to the same world-class education. But we need more seats in schools and I was proud to see our community successfully push for a new middle school in Yorkville. That’s just the kind of collective action that we need. Together we can propose and implement innovative new solutions for new schools from incentivizing their inclusion in new construction to identifying new locations.
We know that pre-K helps children thrive – and we need to fund it universally so we don't deny any child that chance.
We have a generation of young people, who, for the first time, expect to be worse off than their parents. By developing innovative loan forgiveness programs for CUNY students who work and stay in New York, we can help our city’s economy thrive.
We can no longer isolate learning to the classroom alone. A truly holistic education includes vibrant afterschool and summer programs. It includes nutritious meals and essential medical care. Our schools can be hubs for services, so children with fewer opportunities get a fair chance in life.
My mother is a senior who lives in the district. I am committed to keeping senior centers open, protecting vital services like meal on wheels, and healthcare so that seniors and their caregivers can be healthy and independent.
We must protect and expand affordable housing. Those that made our neighborhood what it is today deserve to remain here to reap the rewards of their lifetimes of hard work. New construction, which is sure to come with the completion of the Second Avenue Subway, must include affordable housing for middle-class New Yorkers. If we do this right, even I will be able to afford to live here.
I am taking over this seat from Jessica Lappin, who did an incredible job for all of us. That means that there will be one less woman in the City Council. But I have joined the Women’s Issue Committee of the Council and will keep the equal rights of all New Yorkers at the top of my agenda.
Of course, we have some battles to take on. I am a member of Asphalt Green’s Triathlon Team and will continue to fight the Marine Transfer Station in Yorkville. As we speak I am working to build a broad city-wide coalition of Council Members and community leaders in opposition to any dump in a residential neighborhood. It won’t be easy, it won’t happen right away, and I will need your help: but together we can make real progress in defeating it.
A lot of this depends on you. In order to create real change, we need you to join us in partnership. We will have many opportunities in the months and years ahead for you to connect with us about what you are passionate about in the community, so please get involved. If we invest in each other – our time, energy and compassion – our government can work better for all of us. Please join me because together we can build a better city.
Watch the Full Program:
Thank you to this afternoon’s program participants and to my staff, interns and volunteers without which, today would not have been possible.
More than a year ago, five hundred residents of this district joined me as I was sworn in as your City Council Member.
Thank you to those of you who were there then, those of you who are here today, and to all of you who have been there along the way.
Since that time, one year, one month, eight days later, much has been accomplished.
My team and I have been honored to assist more than 1,000 residents with problems ranging from potholes to evictions.
As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, I have chaired 14 hearings, and passed 7 bills and 2 resolutions through committee.
I am proud to stand before you as a law maker who has passed 2 resolutions and four bills into law.
I’ve held 20 first Fridays and policy nights and attended 100 community meetings.
I secured $35 million in funding for the East River Esplanade and distributed $2.7 million in participatory budgeting.
With 2 years, 10 months, 19 days, 10 hours, 30 minutes and 10 seconds left, we’ve got so much more to get done, in precious little time.
Democracy depends on government that is transparent, open, and accountable, that empowers residents to have the information, access, and ability to play a meaningful role in the decision-making process.
These are your streets, your parks, your light, your air, and your city.
If it wasn’t clear already, this office belongs to you—and it is open to you.
On the First Friday of every month from 8am to 10am residents are welcome to join me in my office to discuss issues that matter to them. Attendance varies from a high of fifty to an average of ten to twenty. But I hold them each month because of how important it is to open government to provide a chance for residents to meet me face to face.
Democracy only works with your participation. Thank you to residents like Mel Lyman, Elsbeth Reimann and Carole Hughes who have been there each month and inspire me to keep going.
For those who join us at First Fridays, you may know that if anyone has a good idea for a policy or legislation they get invited to Policy nights, to mobilize people who want to create change.
With such precious time to get so much done, the only way to get more done then I otherwise could alone, it to empower residents with the tools and support they need from my office to help advocate for and set policy.
Mrs. Lorraine Brown, who did a beautiful reading of ‘Still I Rise,’ has been working with me to close the digital divide in public housing, a project that came from policy night.
Mrs. Myrna Lebow, concerned for the mental health of public school students following acts of violence in schools, far too many to name, advocated for more school counselors, and I was proud sponsor legislation that became law requiring reporting by the Department of Education.
I’ve hosted monthly forums on topics from safer streets to emergency preparedness so you can speak directly to city agencies.
Opening my office wasn’t enough, I decided to be even more proactive and come to you.
I launched a Mobile Office where my social work team goes into the community with hours at Stanley Isaacs and Holmes Towers, Robins Plaza and Lenox Hill, and Roosevelt Island. If you know of a community that needs my help, with a location to host us, please let me know so we can expand our services.
In order to make it even easier, I launched “Ben in Your Building” where I will come to your home if you can organize 10 neighbors to be there whenever it is most convenient for you. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with condo and cooperative boards, tenant associations, and concerned citizens in their apartments to learn from you and your neighbors what is most important.
I’ve also decided to give you one million dollars, through Participatory Budgeting which allows you to propose projects and vote directly on how your tax dollars get spent. Last year the community voted to bring bus count down clocks to the downtown M31 and crosstown buses and improvements to NYCHA including accessibility, new appliances, gardens, and security.
Most people do not know what a Council Member is, or what we do. Some Council Members don’t even know what a Council Member does. So I started an education campaign, visiting street fairs in the district to talk to you about how my office can help.
Through outreach like this, I have been able to discuss with many of you the issues of importance to you and your families.
I grew up across the street from it when it was active, have been a member of Asphalt Green, and ran for office in large part so that I could help fight it.
In my first months in office, I worked with Pledge 2 Protect — who tabled outside the event today — to reframe the narrative. Rather than fighting over where to spread harm, we advocated for investing in our future: reduce, reuse, recycle.
According to the Pledge to Protect talking trash report:
You can take the pledge and read the report at Pledge2ProtectNYC.org
This year, we built a coalition with activists from Brooklyn who are also facing a marine transfer station in their residential communities.
All summer, we held rallies in front of Asphalt Green. Elderly residents and activists like Joan Cavanaugh, Barbara Heyman and Lorraine Johson got arrested for the first time in their lives.
During budget hearings I exposed the fact that the estimated capital costs for the station quintupled since the project began, jumping from $44 million dollars to $215 million dollars.
I commissioned a report from the Independent Budget Office that showed that it will cost New Yorkers three times as much to dispose of trash through this Marine Transfer Station than the current system of sending our trash to New Jersey with $600 million, or two-thirds of a billion over the next 20 years.
I have used this information to call on the administration to stop the marine transfer station for the good of all New Yorkers.
I support the proposal to move the ramp away from the center of the Asphalt Green fields. But I remain ever-vigilant and hopeful that logic, reason and facts will win over politics – and that the dump can finally be stopped.
According to New Yorkers for Parks, we have less open space on the East Side than nearly any other part of the city.
When Rockefeller University announced that it would be expanding their campus over the FDR, as part of a deal from a generation ago, I was pleased to follow the Community Board and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in working with President Marc Tessier Lavigne to provide millions to support infrastructure and a redesign, with a first-of-its-kind million dollar trust to maintain their area of the waterfront forever.
Rockefeller University, through Vice President Tim O’Connor, will be representing hospitals and research universities along the Esplanade on the board of the Friends of the East River Esplanade, a nonprofit that I have designated as the conservancy to be the caretaker for our waterfront. Thank you to its founder and leader Jennifer Ratner as well as other volunteers for tabling today and your ongoing service.
Coming into office, I knew that the Parks Department projected a need to invest 115 million dollars in repairing our esplanade to avoid having to spend 430 million dollars to rebuild it.
I worked hard to secure 35 million dollars in funding in partnership with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, as co-chairs of the East River Esplanade Task Force, to repair and revitalize our open space.
I will continue to work with agencies to invest in our waterfront on piers that have fallen into disrepair and adding concessions that can generate revenue and most importantly make our waterfront a destination.
I have long advocate for ferry service, along with Congresswoman Maloney.
Ferry service is yet another promise from my platform, which I will be coming to the East Side and Roosevelt Island by 2018, as announced by Mayor de Blasio in the State of the City.
We are taking back our waterfront so that it can become a center for transportation, commerce and recreation once again.
I support Vision Zero – with the goal that no member of our community should ever lose his or her life in a traffic collision.
Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists must all be able to use our streets safely.
I used my first newsletter to ask 60,000 residents to share their knowledge of the most dangerous intersections and desired street fixes and improvements.
I compiled the information into a “Livable Streets” report, and am now putting it into action. It is available for download at BenKallos.com/Livable-Streets
In the past year, I held three forums on street safety.
During my campaign and once in office, I have had thousands of conversations, many concerning commercial bicyclists, and a frustration, that complaints have gone unheard.
In response, I launched the “Commercial Bike Safety” program to empower every resident to help improve safety for pedestrians concerned about delivery bikes.
The program has a few easy steps:
We canvassed every restaurant in the district and held a forum for over one hundred of them where the Department of Transportation distributed FREE Safety Vests, bells and lights.
If you see or receive a bike delivery from a person with NO safety vest displaying business name and ID number, report it to the business, 311 and to me.
If you see wrong way or unsafe biking, remember the business name and identification number from the safety vest then report it to the store, 311 and to me.
The most important is your communication with the restaurant, the power of your dollars, far outweighs the power of government to these stores.
When you call 311, DOT and NYPD will be notified and will take the appropriate steps to resolve the issue.
The program has already had success in curbing unsafe behavior, spreading awareness and increasing the use of safety vests.
CitiBike and bike lanes are coming to our district in the coming years. I will work with residents and city agencies to ensure we all have a voice in the locations and the implementation process.
I hear a LOT about the M79 — and living at 80th and York, I experience it, too. Recently the M79 won the “Pokey Award” for slowest bus in the city by the Straphangers Campaign.
I am working to make the archival bus time GPS information of these buses public, so we can hold the MTA accountable.
I also invested in Bus Clocks, so you will be able to see when your bus is going to arrive and plan accordingly.
We’ve all suffered through the construction of the Second Avenue Subway and I’ve done my best to support businesses along the corridor, through advocacy for funding in the budget to support with my own dollars. If you are going out for a meal or ordering in, please Shop Second Avenue.
I am proud to announce, the Second Avenue Subway is on track for completion on December 31, 2016.
While we wait, I’ve authored legislation that would allow you hail a New York City yellow or green cab easily on your phone. Since I proposed it, the idea has become so popular that the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago have already adopted it. I look forward to making it easier for everyone to hail a cab on their phone and get where they are going, fast.
You are my eyes and ears, and we can only improve transportation if we work together.
So please tell me the locations that need improvement and visit BenKallos.com/Livable-Streets
I have been trying to visit all 29 incredible schools in the district. Some have even visited me. If I haven’t visited your school yet, please contact my office to let me know.
My goal is to support our principals, teachers, parents and students. Providing resources and advocacy for what they need.
Far too many children go hungry every day. That is why I helped lead the Lunch 4 Learning Campaign to provide free school lunches to every student. We won free school lunch for middle schools.
I will continue fighting for all 1.1 million students to have a free salad bar, breakfast after the bell and lunch.
With hunger rampant throughout our city, I am committed to making sure our city’s children grow up healthy from cradle to career with a fair chance at the American dream.
Last year, I invested one million dollars in Science, Technology Engineering and Math education (STEM) education through my discretionary funds to improve our labs, computers and equipment. Our children must be prepared for jobs in what has become a STEM based economy.
I learned how to code growing up, and it opened up a world of possibilities. Every child deserves that chance.
Education is also about learning to be a good citizen. That is why I have made special effort to connect our schools with our local democracy.
This year, I pioneered a mock voting program for children at PS290, offered civics classes to schools in our district, and gave a Summer Reading Challenge for dedicated students to read five or more books.
I am introducing a Council Member for a Day essay contest for students in grades five through eight.
My young adult voter registration bill would guarantee that high school seniors get voter registration forms in their classrooms and at graduation to encourage them to register.
But, as they get older, students are being crushed under a mountain of debt.
During my campaign, The New York Times endorsed my plan to create free CUNY right here in New York City. For every year a young graduate works and stays, they should be forgiven ten percent of their loans.
There is momentum for this idea: President Obama called for 2 years of free Community College and Governor Cuomo has called for low-income SUNY graduates to have loan payments covered for the first 2 years after graduation.
We must invest in students so they can power our city’s economy. Instead of crushing debt, students deserve opportunity.
What if finding an affordable apartment wasn’t impossible?
What if rents didn’t skyrocket each year?
What if our seniors and our disabled residents didn’t have to choose between medication and paying rent?
Last year, I was proud to help lead a coalition, that won a historic low 1% increase on 1-year leases for rent-regulated apartments. I will keep fighting for a rent freeze in 2015.
I was proud to fight side by side with tenants at Knickerbocker Plaza like Rita Popper and Harri Molese to protect former Mitchell-Lama residents from being downsized to smaller apartments. The City heard our voices – and now, seniors are now longer being moved from 1-bedroom to 0-bedroom apartments.
Recently, I introduced a bill to protect tenants from being placed on a blacklist simply for being named in housing court. And, last year, the City Council successfully raised the maximum income for residents receiving Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemptions and Disabled Rent Increase Exemptions.
And we must continue to develop responsibly once the Second Avenue Subway is built.
Any new building must contain affordable units.
We must fix our zoning code so that tall skyscrapers for the few do not block light and air for the many.
The future of our community depends on neighbors working together for responsible, community-driven development.
Since taking office, I have made it a mission to move government out of the backrooms and into plain sight.
As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations in the City Council, I have fought to reform the most entrenched dysfunction.
Though changing government takes time, just one year later, some of the results are in:
The City Council passed Rules Reform to make it more fair and accountable with legislation that will be online for you to do what you wish.
I identified 4 billion dollars in potential waste in contract overruns.
I fought corruption at the Board of Elections, fighting for them to post jobs publicly instead of using them as patronage and won their adoption of a conflict of interest policy. I also successfully advocated for a transparent process for appointing three new commissioners, who swore under oath to instate these key reforms.
Finally, I passed four laws to improve transparency, efficiency and participation in our city:
When government is efficient, honest, and technologically sound, it is easier for residents to have a say, get help and get ahead.
I hope to see you again soon, far before next year’s State of the District, at a First Friday, Policy Night, Mobile Hours, Ben in Your Building, Cooking with Kallos, Street Fair, Participatory Budgeting, Forum, Community Meeting, or just saying stopping by to say hello.
One year ago, I promised to faithfully discharge the duties of Council Member to the best of my abilities.
Today, I promise to continue to fight as hard as I can to make the changes we want to see in our streets, our neighborhoods and our city.
But the state of our district depends not just on me, but on you, because together we can ensure it keeps getting better.
Watch the Full Program:
Thank you to the elected officials and their representatives who have joined us today. Most importantly, thank you to those in the audience who came out here today, this speech is for and about you.
I am your Council Member Ben Kallos. I have had the privilege of representing the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Sutton Area, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island over the past 24 months and 9 days.
Today, I will report on what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time period and a plan for what we can get done together in the remaining 1 year, 11 months and 21 days, 10 hours, and 20 minutes of my first term.
As a constituent and advocate myself, then candidate, and now Council Member, I have always been frustrated with how government can be opaque, closed, unaccountable and broken. What if we started to change all that -- empowering our community -- what would that look like?
I opened my office as “your office,” a community center, where I invite you to join me, in person, for the First Friday of each month from 8am to 10am, Policy Night at 6pm on the second Tuesday of each month, for you to organize and shape public policy. Free legal clinics provide free housing, family law and domestic violence counseling each month. Monthly mobile office hours at senior centers and NYCHA bring our office to you. Each evening, I or my staff attend Community Board, precinct council, neighborhood association, and tenant association meetings. Over the warmer months, you will find us at street fairs or Cooking with Kallos at greenmarkets. But all of that involves you coming to meet us, so we’ve launched Ben In Your Building, where if you can gather 10 neighbors, I will come to you and meet in your home or lobby to discuss whatever is important to you. Yes, I make house calls
Thank you to Elsbeth Reiman, Daniel Dornbaum, and Danny Kayton, who join me each and every month for First Friday and Policy Night. Their support and regular contributions make my job fulfilling and more effective. We’ve had nearly two dozen First Fridays and Policy Nights.
My Constituent Service team led by Debbie Lightbody with support from Tirso Tavarez and roughly a dozen graduate students in social work have helped more than 4,000 constituents. Our legal clinics have provided individual counsel to nearly 250 of our neighbors, who are trying to stay in their homes or get heat back in their apartments. And I have made dozens of house calls through “Ben In Your Building.”
Ultimately, my goal is to personally meet all 168,413 people who live in my district in order to better serve and work with you to find affordable housing or get that 311 complaint resolved or to work together to draft and pass a law that will make our city better. Please stop by my office and let us know how we can help.
Most of of our most substantial and pressing constituent service is around housing issues. From poor conditions to evictions we are here to help individuals and protect housing in our neighborhood. I grew up here; I want to raise a family and grow old here too. We must protect our affordable and public housing, and combat the forces of overdevelopment. Our affordable housing crisis is forcing people from their homes and on to the streets.
As of Christmas we had 23,416 children, 17,071 parents, and 12,845 single adults in our shelter system and the more than 3,100 people on our streets. When you see someone who is homeless or panhandling on the street, please don’t give them money, but call or use the 311 app to report it so that we can send an outreach team to offer them 3 meals a day and shelter. 311 will let you know the results of their outreach. Even if the person says “no,” if you keep calling, each interaction helps build a relationship that gets them closer to saying “yes” to our help.
The development boom threatens rent-stabilized and affordable housing, we have fought to preserve the affordability and character of our residential neighborhoods.
When the Mayor’s housing plan called for adding height to the contextual height caps that allow for the East Side’s quiet side streets, we opposed the measure with Borough President Gale Brewer and Senator Liz Krueger, so developers wouldn’t tear down rent stabilized buildings to get more height. And the Department of City Planning heard us, and agreed to protect the midblock.
With CIVITAS Chair Felipe Ventegeat and Executive Director Emma Bologna, we’ve continued to address the Mayor’s housing plan, ensuring that historic districts remain protected and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing provides housing to keep our middle class from being squeezed out. This city must be affordable for all New Yorkers.
The Upper East Side has a long history of rent stabilization, and after two years of ardent advocacy alongside tenant leaders we won a rent freeze on rent regulated leases for the first time in New York City’s history.
There is overdevelopment and then there are superscrapers. When residents of the Sutton Area, including Sutton Area Community President Dieter Selig, alerted my office to a proposed 90-story building for billionaires, we worked with local residents to form the East River Fifties Alliance. Under the leadership of President Alan Kersh, the Alliance has worker with our office to organize the community behind an effort to rezone the neighborhood to draw the line on billionaires row at residential neighborhoods. Integral to this community effort are Herndon Werth, the “Sage of Sutton”, and Charles Fernandez, who have rejected buyouts and resisted harassment, and stayed in their apartments, saying the light and air and history of our neighborhood are too important to demolish for a superscraper.
Preserving the history of our city this past year held special significance.
Just as we marked the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law, it came under attack, first with a proposal to remove hundreds of buildings from protection without review, and then with legislation that would have created a five-year moratorium incentivizing historic communities to be razed. Leading a coalition of over seventy preservation groups with Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts’ Chair Franny Eberhart and then Executive Director Tara Kelly, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, we persuaded the Landmarks Preservation Commission to review every proposed landmark that was on the chopping block and we have fought the bad legislation.
Developers have long sought to privatize our public housing, which provides a safety net from homelessness, in a city that is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Now, Mayor de Blasio seeks to build luxury apartments on a playground serving the children of Holmes Towers. Prior to NYCHA’s announcing Holmes as a location, I came out against the plan, unless it had (1) resident support, (2) maximum preference for existing tenants, and (3) 100% affordable housing. Congress Member Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Brewer and I stand united with Holmes Towers Tenant Association President Sandra Perez against building luxury units on NYCHA playgrounds.
All of these campaigns, whether they’re local or citywide, are meant to address the issues that you have brought me and my team.
When Rebecca Sears, who is disabled living in a basement walk-up apartment on the East Side, applied for affordable housing, she was put on a wait list, twice, with no information about how long the wait would be. Rebecca raised awareness of this issue by sharing her story with NBC, and I introduced a bill that would create a single, universal application for all affordable housing and bring transparency to waiting lists. Landlords have received over $1 billion dollars in tax breaks and abatements to build affordable housing, but the City currently has no way to verify the affordable units were built, so my bill would also require them to register with the city. Recent investigations by ProPublica have found that 50,000 to 200,000 units of affordable homes are being hidden from New Yorkers. Our City is in desperate need of affordable housing and we cannot allow landlords to hide even a single unit of it from the public.
Another of the most common issues I hear about from you is transportation.
In my first year, when a series of traffic collisions in our neighborhood reinforced the importance of Vision Zero, I mailed a survey to 60,000 households, asking for your feedback about improving our streets. We compiled your responses into a report on Livable Streets, highlighting our most dangerous intersections and proposing street improvements throughout the neighborhood. The Department of Transportation’s Manhattan Pedestrian Safety Plan prioritized seven of our most dangerous intersections, and we are already starting to see repaving, medians, neckdowns, and other safety improvements on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Avenues. Please continue to report dangerous intersections and corners to my office — so we can all have livable streets.
In addition to making our transportation infrastructure safer, I’ve been focused on improving the behavior of those using our streets to better share them safely.
First we took on commercial cycling. If you order food at home, which all of us do, a commercial cyclist has delivered it. We’ve gone to every restaurant in the neighborhood two years in a row to offer free vests, lights and bells in exchange for participating in a training on safe cycling. We also changed 311 so you can report commercial cyclists without vests, and we secured a commitment from DOT to send an inspector in response to your calls. You should see more vests now and are empowered to be my eyes and ears in the community to report specific restaurants whose cyclists are not obeying the law. I’ve also asked every building that has hosted a Ben In Your Building to ban commercial cyclists from delivering food on electric bikes or without vests, which is the same way we eliminated menus being slid under our doors.
This past summer, we launched a Bike Safety Program to ensure the safety of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike. I partnered with the DOT, the NYPD, Citi Bike, Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York’s Sharon Pope to:
And we got results. The 19th precinct stepped up enforcement 52 percent and distributed safety materials to over 8,000 cyclists, resulting in 18 percent fewer bike and vehicle collisions and 15 percent lower bike and pedestrian collisions as of this summer.
This summer also saw CitiBike expand to the Upper East Side. Thank you to the hundreds of people who provided feedback, online and in person at several community forums. Through your hard work, we were able to move multiple locations including at 72nd and 84th streets.
CitiBikes are already the safest vehicles on the road with not a single death and only 10.5 collisions per million trips as compared to 1,121 fatal car crashes in New York in 2013 alone. But, I wanted them to be safer, and CitiBike has agreed to provide a monthly 90-minute bike safety class at my office that provides participants with a free day pass or month on an annual membership.
I also introduced legislation to improve hazardous sidewalk conditions and fix crumbling curb cuts to ensure the 889,219 New Yorkers with disabilities and nearly one million residents 65 or older can navigate the city streets safely.
Safety is first but improving your commute is the purpose of all this work.
I have long advocated for expanded East River ferry service and am proud that the City has approved new stops for Roosevelt Island in 2017 and 62nd and 90th Streets by 2018, utilizing our waterfronts to improve commutes.
Select Bus Service has brought off-board fare payment to the M86, following my advocacy to improve crosstown service. The block-long lines we all know too well should be a thing of the past as the bus gets 20% faster. I continue to advocate for the expansion of select bus service to other crosstown buses including the M79. That time saved translates into revenue for businesses whose taxes help pay for further transit improvements: a virtuous circle.
Being trapped in the subway without a lifeline is now a part of the past, following my advocacy for mobile service and free Wi-Fi in subways, I am happy to announce the service at 86th Street and at stops along Lexington Avenue.
The Second Ave Subway construction last started, nearly a decade ago. Since then, I have joined Congress Member Maloney at regular meetings and press conferences to hold the MTA accountable so that they finish “on time” by December 2016. We remain on track for completion by then and are fighting the MTA’s decision to stall working on Phase 2 construction into East Harlem.
This summer City Hall proposed limiting the number of Ubers, unfairly targeting innovation and making it harder for New Yorkers to get where they are going. I came out against and helped defeat this plan. Government should embrace innovation from the private sector and pass my legislation for an NYC e-hail app that would allow any New Yorker to hail all 19,000 of our trusted yellow and green taxis.
This year I continued to tour our local schools. I have now made it to nearly every public school in the district to meet with principals, teachers, students and parents. I hope to re-visit schools each year as this has been a valuable way to get to know each school in to address its needs.
We’ve opened two new schools in the district this year: the Iken pre-school with the goal of inspiring young children to become scientists and the Trevor Day School, with a new building on 95th Street.
I am especially proud to have worked with allies like Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James to negotiate major gains for public education into this year’s City Budget:
But more has to be done to fight child hunger. I introduced a bill requiring schools to report on their school breakfast use rates and efforts, which would get us one step closer in our fight to get universal breakfast after the bell. Only 35% of students who eat free school lunch also eat school breakfast.
Here in the district, I’ve invested over $5 million in discretionary funding to support STEM education in our local public schools.
My office worked with Eva Bosbach, coordinator of the Roosevelt Island Parents Network and the Department of Education to open additional pre-k seats on Roosevelt Island.
The five and six year olds in Paula Rogovin’s class at PS 290 were only just out of pre-K, but that didn’t stop them from pitching me on legislation. The kids asked me to write a bill banning toxic pesticides in our City’s parks, allowing only natural pesticides, and when the bill was ready to be introduced in the Council, we announced it together for the press in the playground, on the heels of the World Health Organization’s announcement that certain toxic pesticides were carcinogens.
We’ve continued the annual public school art show featuring student work at Sotheby's. Thank you to PS 183 Principal Tara Napoleoni, Art Director Wan Ling Fahrer, and parent Patricia Correge for leading the effort and to the students from PS 183, PS 77, PS 290, PS 151, Vanguard HS, PS 169, PS 6, PS 527, MS 177 who participated. Creativity must be nurtured in schools by promoting the arts.
Each year residents in my district ages 14 older get to vote on how to spend one million dollars in the community. The ballot is decided and the process is run by residents like you who volunteer as Delegates. Last year, our top vote-getters were new green roofs for P.S. 151 and P.S./I.S. 217 on Roosevelt Island. Thank you and congratulations to principals Samantha Kaplan and Mandana Beckman, PTA Presidents Nesli Ciner, Michael Rawlinger and Olga Shchuchinov, and on Roosevelt Island Girl Scout Troops 3244 and 3245 led by Janine Schaefer, and the brownies of Girl Scout Troop 3001 led by Aiesha Eleusizov, all of whom worked together to develop and gain support for their respective projects.
In our first year we had under 600 votes, last year we had 2,140 votes, and this year I am hoping that you can help us reach the more than 130,000 people who live in the district for them to vote.
Our parks will also see significant improvements, starting on the East River Esplanade.
When I took office, our community’s tireless leader, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, asked me to Co-Chair the East River Esplanade Task Force, as the Esplanade was in desperate need of repair. In my short time in office, I have negotiated $35 Million in city funding and over $9 million from Rockefeller University and $1 million from Hospital for Special Surgery. The Esplanade will see improved landscaping with irrigation to keep it alive, new seating and lighting, designated bike lanes, and a new noise barrier along the FDR Drive for a more peaceful and beautiful park from 64th to 68th and 70th to 72nd Street with maintenance in perpetuity to keep it that way. This is coupled with investment in a “Friends of” conservancy founded by Jennifer Ratner, which just brought on Executive Director Jessica Marcellin. We’ve already broken ground and see the Esplanade becoming a central public space for our community once again.
Carl Schurz Park Playground is in line for a $1.3 million renovation, and I’d like to say thank you to the children, parents, grandparents and community members who attended community meetings to provide guidance for the Parks Department.
This year saw the launch of conservancies for Ruppert and Sutton Parks, thanks to Nancy Ploeger and Jack Barnett, respectively. These new groups join the long-standing and invaluable conservancies we have. The Carl Schurz and St. Catherine’s Parks who protect our all-too-limited park space. Thank you to the neighborhood associations that support our parks including the East Sixties with Judy and Barry Schneider as well as East 79th Street with Betty Cooper Wallerstein along with Marcia Reese who helped bring senior fitness classes and an adult passive recreation space to John Jay Park. I hope in the next year we can found conservancies for John Jay Park and Stanley Isaacs, thereby achieving my goal of having a conservancy for each and every park in my district.
Please also consider adopting a planter on your block or on First Avenue, a program we’ve established in partnership with Sarah Gallagher and the Upper Green Side.
Since before I was elected, I have been a vocal opponent of the building of a marine transfer station in a residential neighborhood. We continue to fight the Marine Transfer Station and, thanks to your support, here is what we've already accomplished:
With your help we will continue to fight this ill-conceived Marine Transfer Station.
In order to limit trash, I have cosponsored legislation to limit the use of disposable plastic bags and am distributing free reusable bags from Citizens Committee for New York so that we can each save the planet one bag at a time.
Speaking of trash, constituents have complained for years about conditions emanating from 86th Street and Lexington. This is where 20.7 million riders use that subway station each year, which is similar ridership to Penn Station at 7th Avenue. The permanent, sustainable solution to keep 86th Street clean is a Business Improvement District. My office, with the leadership of Susan Gottridge as acting chair of the BID steering committee and Elaine Walsh of the East 86th Street Association, and the support of local property owners, is leading this push to provide funds to supplement city services with sidewalk sweeping, trash pickup, Big Belly solar compactors, public safety and small business support. Thank you to Andrew Fine for his tireless reporting of this problem and his productive outreach to business owners to gather support for this initiative. If you want to clean up 86th Street, the best thing you can do is get every store in the neighborhood to support the BID and fill out the survey at BenKallos.com/BID.
Thousands of quality of life violations are issued to the Environmental Control Board every year for things like leaving trash in the streets, un-shoveled sidewalks, construction companies working outside of hours or not following the safety regulations, and stores violating health regulations.
Unfortunately, many of these fines go unpaid to the tune of $1.6 billion dollars. I co-chaired a hearing on a package of legislation that would allow the city to revoke licenses and permits from property owners who have unpaid debt and are repeat offenders so quality of life will improve.
I have growing concerns that the city has been setting the bar too low in the Mayor’s Management Report, the annual public report card on local government that is critical to management. Unfortunately, according to my analysis the city failed to set performance targets more than half the time and, when it did, 35% of the time targets were set below current performance standards, which if followed would make conditions in our city worse. At an oversight hearing I chaired on the report, we asked the Administration why their report had planned for an increase in homelessness and infant mortality. They agreed to work with us going forward to improve the report and I look forward to working to get our Management reporting and the city back on track.
I have authored legislation and resolutions that have passed the City Council and been signed into law to improve democracy:
Transparency in Government:
A lot of my laws use technology and the Internet to upgrade our government, but that isn’t much use for those on the other side of the digital divide. That is why I have advocated with Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for affordable broadband for low-income New Yorkers as a condition to any merger with Time Warner Cable in New York City.
I am proud to announce that following our advocacy the Public Service Commission has just ordered Charter, which will replace Time Warner Cable, to provide affordable broadband at 30 MBPS for $14.99 a month to 875,601 low-income students receiving free and reduced school lunch, and 174,646 seniors receiving Social Security Supplemental Income in New York City. This will be coupled with subsidized laptops for $199 and free training, which all together will help eliminate the “home work gap” and go a long way towards bridging the digital divide.
But the best is yet to come. As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, you may have already figured out that I have been focused on improving democracy, transparency, and a no wrong door approach to government as a public utility that just works like your faucet.
One of the most significant steps we could take towards fulfilling this vision can be found in “Automatic Benefits” legislation I proposed this summer that would give government benefits to everybody who qualifies automatically, no application or renewal required, using information the government already has to increase efficiency and reduce bureaucracy. My constituents like Ken Craddock, whose nutrition benefit renewal took four appointments and nearly 16 hours of waiting on the phone would get the help they need when they need it, helping us bridge the 550,000 person gap between New Yorkers who qualify for nutrition benefits and those who receive them. And that’s just food. No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
As we work towards that ambitious goal of Automatic Benefits, we can help you get the benefits you are entitled to. In 25 minutes we can screen you for more than 25 government benefits at my office, or you can go online to nyc.gov/ACCESSNYC.
It should be obvious by now, that nothing we’ve gotten done, we’ve done alone. If you’re looking for one more way to get involved in the community, please join me in my office, or one of the organizations I’ve mentioned, or apply for your local Community Board.
I know many of our hardworking board members are in the audience today, including Community Board 8 Chair Jim Clynes. I’ve worked to provide support and transparency to the boards, perhaps most excitingly by passing a law to allow 16 and 17 year olds to serve, and I was then excited to appoint high schooler Zoe Markowitz upon the law’s implementation. I am also fighting to add urban planners to the board staffs and have published best practices for appointments. I believe this is a great time to join our most grass-roots level of government and I hope you will pick up a form in the lobby and apply.
Speaking of the lobby, please join us there for “Bagels with Ben” and please fill out your form for your picture with me in our photo receiving line.
Whether or not you have a title, all of us in this room are leaders in some aspect of this neighborhood and city. Whether on the community board, your neighborhood association, your building, your PTA, or in your home, your experience and expertise in our community can bring value to the rest of us. Thank you for your partnership and I hope to see you over the next year as we work to make the Fifth Council District and New York City an even better place to live.
Good afternoon. If we haven’t met yet, I am your Council Member Ben Kallos. I have the privilege of representing the Upper East Side, Sutton, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island.
Thank you to the elected officials and their representatives who have joined us. Most importantly, thank you to those in the audience who came out today. The State of the District is a report on all that we have accomplished together over the past 3 years, 21 days, 13 hours, 35 minutes, and 5 seconds and a chance to look ahead at our future.
If this is your first time, welcome. You don’t have to wait for our annual State of the District.
I want to meet all 168,413 people who I represent in order to better serve you.
You can join me, in person, on the First Friday of every month from 8am to 10am, to have a conversation with neighbors, or for Brainstorm with Ben on the second Tuesday of every month at 6pm for policy discussion and organizing.
We have Mobile Hours at Senior Centers. Free Legal Clinics in our District Office on Housing, Family Law, Domestic Violence, Land Use, Landmarking, and even Life Planning.
Each evening, I or my staff attend Community Board, precinct council, neighborhood association, and tenant association meetings. Over the warmer months, you will find us at street fairs or Cooking with Kallos at greenmarkets. And don’t forget to stop by our Fresh Food Box with farm-to-table produce for just $12.
But you don’t have to come to us. I will come to you for Ben In Your Building. Just gather 10 neighbors in your home, your lobby, or at a board or annual meeting. Yes, I make house calls.
Each month we hold public meetings from Town Halls to special events focusing on the environment, tenants’ rights, or senior health. These events rely on community partnerships, like our emergency preparedness trainings, which we do with our local Community Emergency Response or CERT teams on Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side. Thank you to CERT leaders Howard Polivy and Christine Donovan.
We are here to help: We can work with you on issues related to seniors, housing, jobs, families, finances, nutrition, and especially getting your 311 complaints resolved.
When you are in need, getting government to work for you should be as easy as turning on the faucet in your kitchen sink. I’ve introduced “Automatic Benefits” legislation to cut through bureaucracy and get you your benefits automatically. We’ve launched a benefits screening tool in partnership with Intuit and the Federal government which we’ve release nationwide, but in the meantime to borrow from GEICO, “25 minutes or less could screen you for 25 or more government benefits.”
My Constituent Service team led by Debbie Lightbody with support from Tirso Tavarez and more than a dozen graduate students in social work, as well as many of our undergraduate interns, has helped more than 5,000 constituents to stay in their homes, renew their SNAP benefits, or get that pothole outside their bedroom window fixed.
This was quite the year. Here on the local level, a lot of it was actually good, so let’s review. Just like Law and Order, we will share stories ripped from the headlines of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and NBC news about the fights we’ve taken on as a community. Where we’ve won and where we continue to fight on.
We’ve fought special interests, greedy landlords, over development and displacement, the Marine Transfer Station. We’ve invested in education, expanded our transportation, opened new parks, and so much more.
When I ran for office, I promised to work for you fulltime without taking money on the side from private employment as a lawyer. I also promised to work for you, not the Speaker of the City Council, foregoing the common practice of receiving tens of thousands in personal income called a “lulu” for being a Committee Chair, which the Daily News long called “legal bribery.” So I kept my pledge and I wrote the law that made outside income and lulus illegal, so that all city elected officials would work exclusively for their constituents.
New York City’s Campaign Finance system matches every dollar you give with $6 dollars from the government up to $175 to empower the small dollars of residents over special interests. But lobbyists were bundling small contributions to help candidates get matching dollars without going through the residents themselves only strengthening special interests. I wrote the law that stopped that match, so public dollars will only amplify your voices.
While we were at it, we closed the Campaign for One New York loophole that allowed elected officials to take tens of thousands of dollars from special interests and spend it on advertisements to support themselves in office. Elected officials that control non-profits will have to disclose their donors who will be limited to “doing business” contribution limits of $400.
In the wake of the unlawful purge of hundreds of thousands of voters at the Board of Elections before the Presidential Primary, I wrote a law to create a voter information portal so voters can track absentee ballots, find poll sites, view ballots, and verify registration status and whether votes were counted.
Following outrage after a deed restriction was lifted allowing a nursing home on Rivington Street to become luxury housing, I reviewed records and held a hearing so that New Yorkers could finally learn what happened on the record and under oath. I then worked with Borough President Brewer and Council Member Chin to pass a law to prevent it from happening again.
Fiscal responsibility requires saving in good times to get us through the bad. Since I was elected I’ve advocated for the City to save more money to get us through the next economic downturn, and in response the City increased its reserves to an estimated $8.76 billion.
Fiscal responsibility also means watching your budget for escalating costs. When I noticed the City’s lawsuit payouts were escalating to over a billion dollars a year, I was able to pressure the Law Department to reduce planned lawsuit payouts by $430 million over the next five years.
With a budget of $82 billion dollars, it can be hard to monitor how our taxpayer dollars are being spent, especially when the budget is only available in print or PDF. So I introduced legislation to put New York City’s budget online and shortly thereafter the Office of Management and Budget did it. Please take a look at the city’s budget and let me know if you notice anywhere we can save money. After all it is your money.
The City can and must do more to fight overdevelopment and the march of Superscrapers across 57th Street and into residential neighborhoods. In April of 2015, Dieter Selig brought a planned 1,000 foot tower to my attention as children were collecting Easter Eggs at the annual Sutton Area Community hunt. We sprang to action bringing hundreds of neighbors to Community Board 6, which passed a resolution within 45 days calling on City Planning to cap heights of the mid-blocks between First Avenue and Sutton, just like in the rest of the neighborhood.
But we didn’t wait for City Planning to do it for us, because we’d still be waiting. So Dieter Selig and I began meeting with buildings throughout Sutton, and we were soon joined by Alan Kersh to raise money for a community-led rezoning. We launched the East River Fifties Alliance, led by Alan Kersh, Robert Shepler, Lisa Mercurio, Jessica Osborne, and the Leadership Committee with elected officials, organizations, over 35 buildings, and more than 400 individual members.
With local heroes we’ve been winning the fight.
When Herndon Werth, the “Sage of Sutton,” who grew up here, was offered a buyout offer, he refused to sell out the community and abandon his home of over 40 years. He stopped the developer from acquiring 434 East 58th Street, a crucial fourth building that the developer was saying he already owned.
Charles Fernandez, a retired security guard who has lived here with his family for decades has also refused numerous buyout offers. He began facing harassment, receiving a letter saying construction workers would be entering his home to cut holes in the ceiling and the walls leaving him exposed to the elements through the cold winter months. He reached out on a weekend and by that Monday the Department of Buildings had blocked the demolition work because of errors, omissions, and their failure to have a legally required plan to protect tenants.
Last month ERFA, Borough President Brewer, Senator Krueger, Council Member Garodnick and I finally filed an application to rezone the neighborhood, capping buildings at 210 feet or 260 feet if they included affordable housing on-site. Join the fight at ERFA.nyc/donate. You can do it now, on your mobile phones. Seriously.
Just as we made progress in Sutton, a skyscraper, the tallest north of Trump Plaza, popped up at 180 East 88th Street, and just as they were pouring the foundation, the Carnegie Hill Neighbors came to the rescue led by President Lo Van Der Valk with expert urban planner George Janes. We worked together and found that they had created a “loophole” in the form of a tiny four-foot lot that would allow them to build much taller than normally allowed. We wrote a letter with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and got a stop work order that was in place for months. Thanks to the vigilance of Senator Liz Krueger we noticed when new plans were filed with a still unbuildable ten-foot lot and together we filed a zoning challenge. Though the city is letting the developer build, the challenge stands and if the city does not do the right thing, we will go to court. Please join the fight at CarnegieHillNeighbors.org.
The zoning law was created to stop tall buildings, like the 40-story, Equitable Building. If we want to stop every building on the Upper East Side from being 400 feet and taller, please support Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, who work every day to protect our neighborhood’s character.
With all this construction, New York City has nearly 9,000 scaffolds that cover nearly 200 miles of city sidewalks. Scaffolding is supposed to temporary, to protect the public from falling bricks or construction. However, when I met residents like Robert Feiner and Warren Yeh at Ben In Your Buildings they complained of scaffolds that went up and never came down, because it was cheaper for neighboring buildings to leave them up then fix the underlying problems. Jane Foss lives in a building where her landlord is trying to use scaffolding that’s been up for years to force her and other tenants out. In response, I’ve introduced legislation with timelines so that when scaffolding goes up, the work gets done and goes back down, or the city steps in and makes bad landlords pay.
When the Mayor proposed a city-wide zoning change “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability” in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Brewer and our Community Boards we fought to make sure it worked for our neighborhoods and won:
If you are one of the million New Yorkers who lives in rent stabilized housing, you know that the Rent Guidelines Board votes on how much your rent goes up each year. So we have fought for tenants each year, leading the City Council with letters and testimony. After a generation of always seeing the rent go up, even when inflation went down, we won the lowest rent increase ever our first year and the first ever rent freezes for the next two years.
Whether or not you are in rent stabilized housing, if you’ve been to housing court you are on the Tenant Blacklist. Margot Miller ended up in court and won her case, then agreed to move out. But when she tried to rent a new apartment, tenant screening companies reported that she’d been in housing court and no one would rent to her, leaving her out on the street. Nobody should be discriminated against for exercising their right to go to court. In response to what happened to Margot and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers like her, we worked with Senator Liz Krueger and tenant lawyer Jaime Fishman to propose legislation to license tenant screening companies, forcing them to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The City’s homelessness continues to rise to over 60,250. But why can’t they go get a job? Well 23,456 of those homeless are children. 23,456 woke up in a shelter and went to public schools with our children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. 17,858 are their family members, 3,790 are single women, and 9,858 are single men in our shelters, with more than 2,794 people on the streets.
In 2015, as we saw an increase in the city’s homeless, we began organizing an Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services. Launched in 2016 to bring elected officials, city agencies, nonprofit and faith-based providers to the table to ensure they have support in helping our city’s neediest.
Please take a moment now to download the 311 app. If you see someone in need, take 30 seconds to use the 311 app to dispatch “homeless assistance.” The city will offer 3 meals a day, free medical, mental health or substance abuse care, shelter including rent vouchers, and even free job training. 311 will let you know the results of their outreach. Even if the person refuses, which they likely will, if you keep calling, each interaction helps build a relationship that gets them closer to saying “yes” to our help.
The Mayor continues to build the Marine Transfer Station, a project started with its approval in 2006. We’ve been able to delay its opening for another four years and continue to fight every day. We’ve gained many concessions, including moving the ramp to 92nd Street, limiting use to only one-third of capacity to keep 300 garbage trucks off our streets each day, and as promised during my campaign with my advocacy for zero waste to make this landfill dump obsolete, the city has set a goal of zero waste by 2030.
Along those lines, we can reduce 7,500 garbage truck trips a year through reusable bags. We’ve given away over 500 with another 200 hundred today as we prepare for a single use plastic bag reduction bill that will go into effect on February 15.
We do all this, because we do not inherit the earth from our parents, but borrow it from our children. In whom we must invest and educate.
I believe in a world class public education. That starts with Universal Pre-Kindergarten for all. I was proud to campaign alongside the Mayor for this, but was disappointed when in 2014, my district only had 123 seats to serve an estimated 2,100 four year olds.
When Eva Bosbach and Susana del Campo of the Roosevelt Island Parents Network reached out, we immediately worked with PS/IS 217 Principal Mandana Beckman to double the number of pre-kindergarten seats.
With more seats in hand but still not enough, we assessed the need by collecting a list of three year olds on Roosevelt Island to prove to the Department of Education that there was need. We worked with Pamela Stark at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery through the bureaucratic application process, and when there was one last hoop that we couldn’t clear alone, Susan Rosenthal, President of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation stepped in to secure the space we needed for 54 four year olds.
We’ve built a model and replicated it with Ariel Chesler and Jack Moran at P.S. 183 where Principal Tara Napoleoni opened more seats.
I will continue to pressure the Mayor and Chancellor Farina to make sure every child in my district has a seat in the neighborhood because pre-k for some but not for all. But the best thing we can do is find vacant first and second floor commercial spaces or private providers with whom we can partner to open more seats in the district.
Once in school, children shouldn’t have to worry where their next meal is coming from. Children should be able to focus on learning. That’s why I advocated for and won free school lunch for middle schools and continue to push for free lunch for all 1.1 million public school students.
While some might cut funding to the arts, I believe in supporting them with our annual Art Show at the world-famous Sotheby’s. Thank you to Patricia Correge, the PTA President at P.S. 183 who helped get the Art Show back off the ground, Principal Tara Napaleoni and Art Teacher Wan Ling Fahrer for organizing and seeing the event through, and to hundreds of children whose art we hang at Sotheby’s each year.
Arts are part of, our investment in STE[A]M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Green Roofs and Technology have been the top vote getters in Participatory Budgeting where residents over 14 vote on how to spend discretionary capital dollars from my office, so together we’ve invested $3.1 million in Green Roofs and $3.8 million in computers, smart boards and science labs. Please become a delegate in order to decide what goes on the ballot and help secure one million dollars for an improvement in the neighborhood.
We must also make sure it is safe for our children and adults to get around our neighborhood. Drivers, riders, bikers, and walkers must all have a space on the street so we may share it safely. With the launch of Vision Zero, we held forums and surveyed 60,000 households to identify dangerous intersections, compiling responses into a Livable Streets report. The Department of Transportation’s Manhattan Pedestrian Safety Plan prioritized seven of our most dangerous intersections for improvement. Please continue to report dangerous intersections and corners to my office — so we can all have livable streets.
Pedestrians are afraid of being hit and hurt or killed by a car or bicycle. But so are bicycle riders. We launched a bike safety program and are expanding it from my district to the entire Upper East Side and Midtown East this year with Council Member Garodnick.
We are using education, equipment and enforcement to make our street safer all the way from East 30th to East 96th Street, training residents at bike shops and monthly classes in my office with a free month on a CitiBike membership for those who attend. We are also training commercial delivery bikes in English, Spanish and Chinese with free safety vests so we can identify who isn’t obeying the laws. Our next training is Thursday, January 26 from 2:30PM to 5PM at RFK, please make sure your favorite restaurant gets the training.
I’ve asked everyone who has hosted a Ben In Your Building to ban commercial cyclists from delivering food on electric bikes or without vests, which is the same way we eliminated menus being slid under our doors. I want to thank the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association led by Valerie Mason and Liz Patrick for beginning the process by grading restaurants on their use of safety vests and electric bikes.
With the continued help of all of our partners, especially the 17th and 19th precincts, we have seen results, in 2016: 17,615 moving violations issued to motor vehicles, 1,865 summonses issued to bicycle riders (a nine fold increase from last year), and seizure of 70 illegal electric bicycles.
We will continue to do more. But please go to the 19th Precinct on the first Monday of every month to thank Commanding Officer McPherson for all the bike enforcement and express your support for more.
How many of you took a bus to get here this afternoon? In my district we love our buses but we want faster service and more of it. We won Select Bus Service, which increases speeds by as much as 20% for the M86 and now the M79 following my request, and we are studying it for more crosstown routes.
Residents complain about poor service but MTA denies it. Using BusTime, I can tell you where every single bus is in the City of New York at every moment of the day. We found that as many as 17.9 percent of buses in the district were showing up bunched, which is the equivalent of losing one in five buses on a route. I’ve requested that the MTA share information from their fare box so we can see ridership for ourselves and to test our hypothesis that ridership declines with poor service and long delays.
After residents near East 72nd Street, including my mother, complained about the loss of limited bus service, we worked with numerous volunteers from the East 72nd Neighborhood Association to collect over 2,700 signatures of residents who want Select Bus Service reinstated at this stop. You can add your name at BenKallos.com.
In response to the petition, I authored a letter with Senator Krueger signed by our East Side elected officials in October. At the January meeting of CB8 the MTA declined to add the stop as requested and erroneously stated they had advised elected officials. The following week we received the letter they had claimed to send. In the letter they blamed low ridership, but to this day they refuse to share fare box information and so we fight for transparency and the restoration of this stop.
After decades without a franchise agreement to protect the iconic and indispensable Roosevelt Island tram -- especially on weekends when F trains don’t always run -- I am proud to have passed authorization in the City Council through 2068. We also brought Ferry service to Roosevelt Island, starting later this year and to the East Side next year.
Congress Member Carolyn Maloney has been ever vigilant in pushing to get the Second Avenue Subway completed on time and I’ve been proud to join in her fight. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, MTA Chair Prendergast, and Dr. Michael Horodniceanu of MTA Capital Construction, we opened the Second Avenue Subway on New Year’s Eve.
For a more “connected” commute, free Wi-Fi has been expanded from 86th Street and the 4/5/6 where we opened it in 2015 to every subway station in the system.
Improving commutes is one thing, but we still need open space to play or relax. My council district ranks fourth from the bottom for park space per capita according to New Yorkers for Parks and its only getting worse with new construction. So we’ve been focused on finding new spaces and improving the parks we do have.
As Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Maloney, I have secured $47 million in public and private funds for the Esplanade, with more to come.
Working with Jennifer Ratner, founder of the Friends of the East River Esplanade, Senator Serrano, and Assembly Member Rodriguez, we identified several locations along the waterfront to activate for the public. Working with the Department of Transportation, the Parks Department, and Friends, I was proud to add more than 3,000 square feet of park space by opening the 90th Street Pier to the public.
When we figured out that the lease for the 1¼ acre Queensboro Oval under the 59th Street Bridge at York Avenue would finally be up after more than a generation as a private tennis club, Community Board 8 Parks Committee Chairs Peggy Price, Susan Evans and I got together with one goal in mind: “Open the Oval.” We launched a petition, Peggy and Susan organized a rally, and we’ve been working with the Parks Department ever since. Please join us by signing the petition.
Thank you to the leaders in the community, thank you to those who signed petitions, who came out to meeting after meeting, who made your voice heard in government, because a democracy by the people for the people, only works when people are involved.. Thank you to my staff, graduate students in social work, undergraduate fellow and interns, who help residents every day.
As you can see, we’ve come a long way in just three years, but none of it happened through one person, none of it happened on its own, we’ve done so much because of those of you who stood up to the challenge, to get involved and make change. Because together we can do anything.
I have 11 months, 8 days, 8 hours, 56 minutes and 13 seconds left in my first term as your Council Member. Although I have every intention of staying on the job, a second term cannot be taken for granted. Let’s make every second count.