Spring Arrival: May Updates

Marking 100 days of representing you in the City Council was a chance to take stock of the progress made and where we still have to go together. I'm proud of advances on key issues such as the fight against the Marine Transfer Station, bringing public pre-k funding to New York City, reforming community boards so they better represent neighborhoods, reforming the New York City Board of Elections to make them a more effective institution and allowing you to vote on how public money gets spent.

Many of these fights are long-entrenched and difficult to tackle, but we have seen movement in all of them in just the past few months. Only with your help and involvement can we continue making meaningful strides forward.

We are now in the budgeting season, where we decide how to allocate funding for a fairer, better city. I have been working with the Council to determine our budget priorities as a body, and distributing our own discretionary funds based on the community's voice.

I look forward to redoubling my efforts on your behalf in the next 100 days, and all the days after that.


Ben Kallos

Table of contents

1. Holocaust Remembrance Day
2. Keeping up the Fight Against the MTS
3. Celebrating Holidays
4. Revitalizing the Esplanade
5. Construction Safety Act
6. Livable Streets Forums
7. Vision Zero: Fighting for Safer Streets
8. Community Board Reform
9. Budget Season
10. Standing Against Unfair Tests
11. A Leadership Role in the Progressive Caucus
12. In the Community
13. City Council Events
14. Community Events

Holocaust Remembrance Day 

April 28 was a day of remembrance for all those lost in the Holocaust. Council Member Levine and I introduced a resolution calling on the state not to do business with major corporations that profited from the Holocaust but never paid proper restitution. We stood together with Congresswoman Maloney, who has introduced a bill to prevent the government from allowing a French rail company that transported 75,000 people to concentration camps from receiving a government rail contract without first paying reparations to international survivors and families. We must never forget.

Keeping up the Fight

I am fighting the Marine Transfer Station in our neighborhood every day, and appreciate you being in the fight with me. This month, I demanded an independent investigation into the costs and effects of the 91st St. Marine Transfer Station. Read about it in amNY. I believe the results will show that the Marine Transfer Station wastes millions of taxpayer dollars, in addition to all of its other harms.

For more frequent updates on the fight, please sign up for my list: BenKallos.com/MTS

Celebrating Holidays

In honor of the multicultural Seder tradition in the White House, my staff and I took a pause from a hectic month to celebrate the Pesach together. Our Seder featured an "Orange For Inclusion," which you can learn more about by clicking here. Sometimes, we need a moment to remember the past, reflect on the present and consider the ties that bind us together. I hope that you had a meaningful Easter or Passover if you celebrate.

Revitalizing the Esplanade

The East River Esplanade is in a state of disrepair, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and I co-chair the task force to improve it. I am working with community members to create a vision for an esplanade we can all enjoy. Such a vision includes:

  • Advocating for $115 million in funding to prevent having to spend $430 later if the esplanade continues to deteriorate -- or risk losing our chance to improve it. I am pleased to report that this priority made it into the City Council response to the Mayor's preliminary budget
  • Eco-friendly urban planning options such as green barriers between the esplanade and the highway.
  • Public-private partnerships to revitalize our piers.
  • And much more.

Tell me your thoughts on the above or ideas for how to improve the esplanade by emailing bkallosatbenkallos [dot] com.
Construction Safety Act 

Following in the footsteps of a safety pioneer, former Council Member Jessica Lappin, I introduced the Construction Safety Act, two bills designed to ensure that New York City's construction safety standards remain the most stringent in the nation. The Construction Safety Act would ensure that the city administers licensing exams rather than for-profit companies and that master riggers with over five years of experience can't be replaced by a so-called "competent person" taking a 32-hour course. We must always prioritize safety over profit. With so much construction hanging closely overhead, New Yorkers must feel safe walking down the streets. 

Livable Streets Forums 

Last week, I hosted a forum on safety along the Second Avenue subway construction. District residents got the chance to hear from the MTA, DOT and NYPD, then take a night walk along the construction site to identify areas in need of increased lighting or improvements. You can suggest your own on my website, BenKallos.com/LightUpSecondAve. These suggestions have been sent to the relevant agencies and we will be following up to ensure results.

This month, please join us for an Adopt-A-Planter forum on how you can get involved in beautifying our streets. In June, we will host a forum on bike lanes. See details below under "City Council events" and RSVP at BenKallos.com.

Vision Zero: Fighting for safer streets

No pedestrian should die from a traffic collision. The tragic death of a bright, promising 22-year-old woman named Kelly Gordon in our own neighborhood inspired me to fight even harder for safer streets. I stood with her family to demand that the City act to reach Vision Zero.

As part of my Livable Streets program, I have been working to identify dangerous intersections in the neighborhood and am partnering with the Department of Transportation to fix them. I have also signed on to a bill to identify and enforce slow zones, so New York City can lower our own speed limit without Albany approval. 

Community Board Reform 

My suggestions for reforming the recruitment and appointment process to New York City's community boards are attracting the attention and consideration of the boards themselves across the five boroughs.

You can read about my policy report and City Council resolution to reform the boards in The Queens Chronicle, The Brooklyn EagleThe Bronx Times and in our very own Our Town.
Budget Season

I'm pleased to announce the results of participatory budgeting, our district's first-ever chance to vote on how your tax dollars get spent in the community. You can read all about where the money went in DNAInfo. In addition to the top vote-getters -- public schools, senior services and transit improvements -- I am also implementing improvements to public housing, local libraries and other top choices on the ballot. The City Council also issued our own response to the Mayor's preliminary budget. Read my thoughts on the Council's budget priorities.

Standing Against Unfair Tests

I was proud to stand with educators, parents and students to protest this year's English Language Arts Exams, widely decried by New York City principals as unfair and contrary to their teachings. This year's exam even featured brands such as Nike -- which have no place in our students' tests.

Sign my petition to demand improvements to next year's exams.

A Leadership Role

I was proud to be elected as Vice Chair for Policy of the Progressive Caucus. It will be an honor to help shape a city of increased opportunity for all New Yorkers. Ours is a city of progressive ideals at the local level, from championing higher wages to fighting to reform our city's broken stop-and-frisk system. I remain firmly committed to those ideals. Now, we have the chance to determine the next wave of progressive policy. As always, feel free to reach out to me on the issues that matter to you so we can share our vision for a better city. To me, progressive also means "common sense." I'm firmly committed to fighting the Marine Transfer Station, supporting small businesses and more.

In the Community

Below are just a few community events I attended this month. If you would like me to join you at a community event, please email scheduleratbenkallos [dot] com, and if my schedule permits, I will be happy to attend.

  • 4/4: "From Bleak House to Geek House" Law and technology conference at Brooklyn Law School: I discussed the importance of taking personal ownership and understanding of the law.
  • 4/5: Spring Festival at Wagner Middle School: I got the chance to discuss preserving our environment with the students.
  • 4/5: Social Diversity Panel on LGBTQ issues through the NYU School of Social Work.
  • 4/6: JustFood Conference at Columbia University: Celebrating New York City's thriving food policy sector and discussing the future of our urban food infrastructure.
  • 4/9: 92Y Connect After-School programs: I discussed with the students policy, advocacy and how my background web development has shaped my governing style.
  • 4/9: NYCHA Manhattan South Swearing-In of Leadership: Congratulations to Christina Johnson and Ms. Bergin on their tenant leadership roles.
  • 4/10: CityMeals-on-Wheels volunteer appreciation ceremony: After distributing meals following the first winter storm, I appreciate firsthand the hard work these volunteers do.
  • 4/20: Sutton Area Community Easter Egg Hunt: An excellent community celebration.
  • 4/23: Zoning and franchises meeting on Rockefeller University: fighting for open space and community programming.
  • And much more!

Again, I'd be honored to attend your event. Please email scheduleratbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950.

City Council Events

5/2: First Friday
Please join me on Friday, May 2, 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 to rsvpatbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950. I look forward to seeing you there.

Until 5/5: Food Drive
9AM-5PM, 244 E 93rd St., City Council Office

Drop off your canned goods and nonperishable items for a food drive run by Wagner Middle School Students. Canned items will go to hungry New Yorkers.

5/8: Policy Night
Second Tuesday of Each 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. We need residents who are interested in advancing progressive and innovative agenda items, with the experience and enthusiasm to help formulate city policy. Committees, which include education, environment, senior services and more, will meet on the second Tuesday of every month at 6:30PM. Please sign up online, email rsvpatbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950 to let us know you'll be joining us.

Adopt-A-Planter: May 15th, 6:30-7:30PM
MSK Auditorium at Rockefeller Research University Laboratories Building (67th Street)

Learn more about the program that allows you to adopt street plantings, helping your neighborhood become more beautiful. RSVP today.

Bike Lane Forum
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
331 E 70th St

Let's discuss how to keep our streets safe.
RSVP today
Community Events

5/3: Asphalt Green 19th Annual Big Swim & Benefit
11AM-4PM, Asphalt Green, 555 East 90th St.

An organized an friendly race for children ages 6-12. Registration is required. Learn more and sign up.

5/5: 19th Precinct Shredding Event
4-7PM, 19th Precinct Station House, 153 E. 67th St.

In our effort to combat identity theft the 19th 
Precinct will hold its third shred event. 
A large DOCUMENT NYPD SHRED TRUCK will be at the Precinct.

 5/7: Healthcare Decision Making Workshops about Advance Directives: Group information sessions
10 AM to 11 AM: Senior Center at Saint Peter’s Church at 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street) OR Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 331 E 70th St.

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s Legal Advocacy Department will provide Healthcare Decision Making Workshops about Advance Directives.

Pre-register or learn more by calling Emily Kan at  212 218-0429. Pre-registration requested.

5/9: Presentation on Cognitive Processes by Mt. Sinai
1:15PM, Stanley Isaacs Senior Center, 415 E 93rd St

Membership is free to NYC seniors age 60 or above. Learn more by calling the front desk: 212-360-7620 ext 110

5/11: Art Deco on the Upper East Side: A Walking Tour

10:00 a.m., Meeting location provided upon registration

$15 Members, $20 Non-Members. Learn more or register. 

 5/18: Second Sundays Performance Series: 2:00 PM: Neighborhood House Auditorium at 331 East 70th Street.

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Second Sundays Performance Series will present Matt Davis’ Aerial Photograph, featuring new music for a guitarist-led jazz ensemble that is inspired by New Yorkers from all walks of life.

 5/22: Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Theater Thursday Original Reading Series
7:30 PM: Neighborhood House Auditorium at 331 East 70th Street

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Community Theatre’s original reading series, Theatre Thursdays, will present readings of original one act plays written by members of the community and performed by members of the company.

5/26: Memorial Day Parades

Honor those who have fallen in combat defending our country at parades across New York City. Click here for details.

 5/31: League of Women Voters Annual Meeting
9:30AM-12:30PM, TBD

League of Women Voters Members will hold their annual meeting featuring an address by Anthony Shorris, First Deputy Mayor of New York City. During May, the league will also be visiting public high schools to help HS seniors register to vote. Learn more, volunteer or join today.