January 2015 News

Happy New Year!

A new year brings new hope, opportunity for growth, and the optimism that the next year will improve upon the last. Thank you for an incredible past year, and here's to an even better 2015 as we build on the progress already made. Please join me as I report to you on the "State of the District" on February 8, 2015. RSVP to attend.

Also, please consider joining your community board. If you are interested in joining a community board, please apply today! As a former community board member,I know that joining the board is a great way to get involved in your neighborhood. Applications close on January 30th.

Whether they be personal desires or wishes for the good of our community and our city, I would like to hear your thoughts about what 2015 holds. What are your New Year's resolutions?

Best wishes to you and your loved ones in the new year,

Ben Kallos

Table of Contents

1. Fight Against the Marine Transfer Station
2. Hail a Yellow Cab on Your Phone
3. Join Your Community Board
4. Bike Safe
5. Commission On Public Information and Communication
6. Early Vote
7. Downsizing Victory
8. Celebrating the Holidays
9. Proclamation for Carol Tweedy 
10. Fracking Banned in New York State
11. Honoring the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association for 30 Years of Service
12. Fighting for a World Class Education
13. Local Progress Conference
14. Equality for Women in FDNY
15. Universal Broadband Advocacy Continues with Hearing on Comcast Merger
16. Honored by Labor Press
17. Carl Schurz Literary Landmark
18. Ben in Your Building
19. Mayor's Management Report
20. Free Senior Fitness Class
21. Here to Help
22. Become an Intern
23. In the Neighborhood
24. City Council Events
25. Neighborhood Events

Fight against the Marine Transfer Station in 2015

In 2015, the fight against the Marine Transfer Station on 91st Street continues. I will not stop pushing for the facts to win out in the end. There are also new proposals that would mitigate the negative effects of the Marine Transfer Station on our neighborhood, such as moving the ramp from the middle of Asphalt Green to 92nd Street. I joined Asphalt Green for a briefing on this and other ways that the fight against the Marine Transfer Station continues. You can read more in the New York Times. I am supportive of these mitigation efforts, even as I am firmly opposed to the Marine Transfer Station and committed to fighting it. 

Hail a yellow cab on your phone 

We trust our NYC yellow cabs to get us where we're going. In 2015, we should be able to hail them on our phones. I introduced legislation that would mandate the city to develop a universal e-hail app for yellow and green cabs, enabled for a TLC app and any third-party apps that wish to participate. It's time for New York City to modernize and innovate. You can learn more about the e-hail app in the NY Times, AM New York, CNN Money, NY Post, International Business Times, WABC, WNBCand more.

Join Your Local Community Board

Applications for Community Boards are now available at our office or at BenKallos.com/cb. If you have considered becoming more involved in the future of your community, I highly encourage you to apply. Please contact my office with any questions or to learn more.

Sixteen-year-olds are now eligible to join. Following the passage of a City Council resolution I introduced with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to allow teenagers to serve on community boards, Assembly Member Nily Rozic and State Senator Brian Lanza passed their bills in Albany codifying it into law. This is just one of the ways that I am seeking to bring reform to community boards, including term limits to ensure that more voices get heard. You can read my report, "Improving Community Boards in New York City," to learn more.

Bike Safe

You can be part of the BikeSafe program, intended to combat the problem of dangerous commercial cycling in the district. The steps of the program are as follows:

1. Educational Forum: We delivered free Safety Vests, bells and lights for the 80 stores that RSVPed and attended.
2. More Safety Vests: 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 my office.
3. Report Unsafe Biking: 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 my office. Tell the store that you can wait longer for deliveries so bikes can be slower and safer for everyone.
4. Enforcement: When you call 311, DOT and NYPD will be notified and will take the appropriate steps to resolve the issue.

In Our Town, I wrote about positive effects we have already set into motion, such as a major increase in safety vests in our neighborhood. You can learn more at BenKallos.com/BikeSafe.

Commission On Public Information and Communication

The Public Advocate relaunched the Commission on Public Information and Communication (COPIC), and I was honored to be selected by my colleagues as the City Council representative. You can read about our first meeting in Capital New York and Crain's New York. We will be tasked with building a more transparent city that communicates better with our residents.

Early Vote

I introduced a bill to allow New Yorkers to vote up to two weeks before Election Day to make it easier for working New Yorkers and increase participation. The Daily News wrote: "Some 33 states plus Washington, D.C., already offer early voting, but New York has never done so." You can also watch a segment on the proposal NY1. It's time for us to join the two-thirds of states that already offer early voting.

One Victory in the Fight Against Downsizing

Our coalition of community leaders and elected officials won an important victory in the fight against downsizing: Elderly tenants on Section 8 Vouchers will no longer be moved from one-bedroom to studio apartments. Read about it in the New York Times. I was proud to work alongside Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on this issue, and we still must do more to protect elderly and disabled New Yorkers. This is a great first step.

Celebrating the Holidays

Thank you for joining me at a Holiday Party to celebrate one year in the City Council and join friends and neighbors for good cheer! I enjoyed seeing many of you at the event, and hope you had a joyful and relaxing holiday season.

Thanks to Carter Burden and Lenox Hill for hosting me on Christmas day, and to the hardworking staff for ensuring the centers stayed open for the holidays. I also joined multiple Menorah lightings to celebrate Hannukkah and usher in the season of lights. Thanks to Chabad Lubavitch for the honor of lighting the largest menorah in the world with Rabbi Schmol Buttman is director of Lubavitch Youth Organization, Rabbi Yosef Wilhelm and Devora Wilhelm, Directors of Chabad Young Professionals UES and Rabbi Uriel Vigler, Director of the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side as well as Rabbi Shmuel Metzger of Upper Midtown Chabad who hosted a menorah lighting at Sutton Place. 

Proclamation for Carol Tweedy Upon Retirement from Asphalt Green

Carol Tweedy has been an excellent presence in our neighborhood for so many years, first at Stanley Isaacs and then at Asphalt Green. Under her leadership, the programs that make the East Side great have grown and flourished. In more recent years, she became a leader in the fight against the Marine Transfer Station. For all these reasons, it was my pleasure to present her with a proclamation upon her retirement for her many years of service to our community. 

Fracking Banned in New York

Just before Governor Cuomo's decision to ban fracking, I introduced a bill together with two of my colleagues for New York City to stand in solidarity with upstate counties barring hydrofracking within their borders. You can read more about it in the article "New York City Council Members Take Stand Against Fracking" in the Epoch Times. In 2013, I hosted a screening of Gas Land Part 2 with MoveOn.org followed by a conversation with the filmmaker Josh Fox and have been proud to work with environmental activists near and far to advocate for this ban.This was an exciting victory based on the evidence featured in a NY State Department of Health report

Honoring the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association for 30 Years of Service

Betty Cooper Wallerstein and the East 79th Street Neighborhood celebrated their 30th anniversary as a community group striving to make change on the East Side. Under Betty's leadership, the group has been greatly successful at improving transit and protecting our historical sites. I was pleased to provide a proclamation to honor their 30 years of advocacy with a proclamation co-signed by Council Member Dan Garodnick and co-presented with State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Dan Quart.

Fighting for a World Class Education

As someone with the opportunity to attend and graduate Bronx Science, I know how important it is that specialized schools remain about what you know, not who you know. On December 11th, I led a rally to keep the test as the sole measure of admission. While I support the intent of the bill to improve diversity, I believe that this is the wrong way to go about achieving it. Instead, we should be investing in a world-class education system by supporting children with the education they need for a fair chance. The event was covered in the Daily News and WNYC.

Local Progress - National Conference in NYC

The Local Progress Conference is a nationwide conference on advancing progressive ideals in local government. This year's conference was attended by the Mayor, the City Council Speaker and many others. I was asked to present on strengthening local democracy--making it easier to vote, more popular to participate and more convenient to engage with local government. Speaking at the conference was a great opportunity to learn from others and share some of the methods I have used to improve digital democracy and create a more open office, including First Fridays, Policy Night, Participatory Budgeting, resources at BenKallos.com, and even this newsletter.

Fighting for Equality for Women in FDNY

I was proud to join Council Member Elizabeth Crowley to advocate for more women in the Fire Department. While women make up the majority of New Yorkers, they only constitute one half of one percent of our city's firefighters.We must ensure that everyone has equal access to this esteemed profession and support women who wish to become firefighters.

Universal Broadband Advocacy Continues with Hearing on Comcast Merger

I was honored to participate in Public Advocate Letitia James' hearing on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. We asked questions of Comcast as well as the many experts, lawyers, advocates and tenant leaders who joined us. You can read more in Gothamist. This is just one part of my efforts to close the digital divide as part of the merger proceedings, in New York State, which were featured in the New York Times.

Honored by Labor Press 

At the Labor Press holiday party, celebrating a newspaper devoted to the causes of working New Yorkers, I was honored to receive an award with my colleagues for labor advocacy. As a former union-side Labor Attorney, I am honored to advocate for every New Yorker's right to organize and earn a living wage. You can see photos on Facebook.

Carl Schurz Literary Landmark

Carl Schurz Park was named a literary landmark in celebration of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of Harriet the Spy with a plaque that will hang near the playground. Harriet lived and went to school in the neighborhood, and after 50 years, it is a pleasure to claim this beloved character as our own. I was happy to join in the dedication and hope it will encourage our young readers to continue to read, imagine and learn. 

Ben in Your Building

If you can't come to me, I am available to come to you! The "Ben in Your Building Program" is a chance to discuss issues of importance to you and your neighbors in person, in your home. If you gather 10 or more friends, I will come to you. Please call 212-860-1950 or email scheduleratbenkallos [dot] com (subject: Ben%20In%20Your%20Building) (scheduleratbenkallos [dot] com) in order to schedule a "Ben in Your Building" event. 

Mayor's Management Report

City government measures success much like a private company: Through rigorous metrics. These measurements are crucial to success. As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, I held a hearing with the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, Chaired by Council Member Gentile, on the Mayor's Management Report. At the hearing, I sought to ensure the highest possible standards for the MMR, so our city agencies can thrive. You can see the MMR yourself at nyc.gov/mmr.

Free Senior Fitness Class - Pass it On

Please join us for FREE senior fitness classes in the John Jay bathhouse on Mondays and Thursdays from 9:30am-10:30am. Exercising is a key to good health, and I hope you will join in for these free classes.

Special thanks to the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association for requesting this class, and to the City Parks Department for working with us to reestablish this program after the previous program was canceled. 

Here to Help

We are here to help. My social work team can help you find out what services you are eligible for, and assist you in your application. Some examples include:

  • For seniors: Medicare savings, Meals-on-Wheels, Access-A-Ride;
  • Housing: searching for affordable units, free legal housing clinic at my office; 
  • Jobs: training and assistance, unemployment benefits;
  • Families: Universal Pre-K, Head Start, After-School programs;
  • Finances: cash assistance, tax credits, home energy assistance; and
  • Nutrition: Food Stamps (SNAP), WIC, free meals for all ages.

Please also call me with any unresolved 311 complaints. Contact us at bkallosatbenkallos [dot] com or 212-860-1950 to get started.

Become a City Council Intern or Fellow

Interns and fellows at our Council office learn firsthand about city government, work closely with senior staff and are encouraged to pursue a project of their own choosing. If you or someone you know is interested in applying to an internship with my government office, please email internshipatbenkallos [dot] com with a resume and cover letter. Visit BenKallos.com/fellowship to learn more.

In the Neighborhood

This month, I joined plenty of community events and celebrations. Here are just a few: 

City Harvest; Knickerbocker Tenants Association; Asphalt Green MTS Briefing; Lower Lab School Breakfast; CWA Rally; Young People's Chorus of New York City; Mt Vernon Hotel Museum Garden Holiday Party; East Side Neighborhood Association Holiday Party; National Dance Institute; DC 1707; CB 6; League of Women Voters; Alternative Futures; CB11; United Firefighters Association; Manhattan Borough Board.

I also visited more schools in the district: Yorkville Community School; Chapin; and Julia Richman Educational Complex. If you have an event you would like me to attend, I will make every effort to be there. To send your invitation, please email scheduleratbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950.

City Council Events

Mondays and Thursdays, FREE Senior Fitness Class
9:30AM-10:30AM, John Jay Bathhouse, East 77th St and Cherokee Place
RSVP to join!

1/2: First Friday (next one on 2/6)
8am-10am, First Friday of Each Month, District Office at 244 East 93rd St.
Please join me for my next First Friday event. This is a chance for me to meet you in person to discuss what's important to you and how to make our neighborhood a better place to live. Please RSVP online or call 212-860-1950. I look forward to seeing you there.

1/13: Policy Night
6:30pm, Second Tuesday of the month, District Office at 244 East 93rd St.
If you are looking to become more involved in your community, please consider joining a District Five policy committee. Committees include education, environment, senior services and more. RSVP.

1/5 and 1/19: FREE Legal Housing Clinic
3-6pm, District Office at 244 East 93rd Street, First and Third Monday of the Month
If you have any legal questions regarding housing, please come join us and reserve a time to speak with a volunteer attorney. This event was organized with assistance from Eviction Intervention Services (EIS). We are excited to announce this new service, and look forward to assisting you on legal housing matters.
You must make an appointment in advance. Please email InfoatBenKallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950 to reserve a time slot. We look forward to helping you! 

Mobile District Hours

Get assistance wherever you are located. Please join us at mobile district hours (New Hours):

Lexington Houses: Second Wednesday of the month, 3-6PM.
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House: Second Tuesday of the month, 3-6PM.
Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center: Fourth Tuesday of the month, 3-6PM.
 Roosevelt Island Senior Center: Fourth Wednesday of the month, 3-6PM

Appointments until 7pm available upon request.

Community Events

1/9: Advance Directives Legal Workshop
10am-11am, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 343 E. 70th St.
More information available at

1/11: New York Mandolin Ensemble
2pm, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 343 E. 70th St.
More information available at

1/14: Conversations from the Cullman Center, The Poet and the Vampyre: Andrew Stott and Melanie Rehak
7-8pm,  Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 42nd and 5th, Wachenheim Trustees Room

Melanie Rehak and Andrew Stott discuss Stott’s new book, The Vampyre and the Poet: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature’s Greatest Monsters.
Reserve Seats

1/16: Vocal Ease Performance
Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center, 244 East 93rd St.
Contact Stanley Isaacs for details at isaacscenter.org

1/21: Community Board 8 Full Board Meeting
6:30pm, New York Blood Center, 310 East 67th Street, Auditorium
Learn more at CB8m.com

1/24: Living on a Fixed Income Presentation
11am, Yorkville Public Library, 222 E. 79th St.
Learn to stretch your income. More info available at nypl.org.

Every Wednesday: RIOC Office Hours
3-5pm, 591 Main Street
Residents are invited to come to the RIOC office to bring any concern or issue to our RIOC representative. For more information, please call 212-832- 4540.

1/7-2/13: Kindergarten Applications
For children born in 2010, the application period opens on January 7 and closes on February 13. Placement offers will be distributed in early April and pre-registration at schools starts in April. Like last year, families can apply online by visiting www.nyc.gov/schools/kindergarten, over-the-phone by calling (718)935-2400 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday or in person at one of the Family Welcome Centers:  http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/NewStudents/WelcomeCenters/default.htm