What's New in June
This month, our community experienced tragedy in the form of a fatal traffic collision. In moments like these, we come together to mourn and demand action.
On the East Side, I have piloted a "Livable Streets" program to solicit street information from nearly 60,000 households. I also held a safety walk along Second Avenue Subway construction in April in order to empower residents to investigate and improve safety along the construction site.
Last week, the Council passed an 11-bill street safety package, and I will keep working with colleagues and city agencies to make Vision Zero a reality.
Please join us at a Vision Zero forum on June 24 at 6:30PM at Hunter College's Lang Recital Hall co-sponsored with State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Dan Garodnick.
You can share dangerous intersections or other safe streets information you have by visiting BenKallos.com/Livable-Streets. If you are experiencing trauma as a result of the tragedies, please reach out to me at 212-860-1950 or bkallosbenkallos [dot] com so our social work staff can assist you in finding the services you need.
Only through teamwork can we improve our neighborhood, our streets and our city as a whole.
Table of contents
1. Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
2. A Revitalized Esplanade
3. Vision Zero
4. Saving First Avenue Estates
5. Rockefeller University
6. Transparent Government
7. Memorial Day at Four Freedoms Park
8. Reform to City Council Rules
10. An Office of Food
11. Free and Open Source Software
12. Supporting the Arts
13. Bleak House to Geek House Event
14. Community Board Reform
15. Increasing Participation
16. Where I've Been in the Community
17. Legislative Corner
18. City Council Events
19. Community Events
Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
The fight against the Marine Transfer Station has picked up, and our community has shown strength in coming together to oppose this senseless plan.
In the month of May, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Dan Quart and Council Member Dan Garodnick joined me in urgently requesting an investigation into the 91st St. Marine Transfer Station's skyrocketing costs -- they have more than quintupled since the project began, and that demands investigation. The effort was covered in the Daily News, The Real Deal and Curbed. I was also proud to join two community rallies against the Marine Transfer Station, including a protest at the site when the city began demolition of Asphalt Green's trees. I am proud of our community's efforts, which will only intensify in the coming months. Our efforts were covered on CBS and in amNY, Gothamist and DNAInfo.
Please visit BenKallos.com/MTS to sign up for a list that will offer more frequent updates and to learn more.
A Revitalized Esplanade
Our neighborhood has one of the least amounts of open space in the entire city, so it's crucial that we expand and preserve our parks. In partnership with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, with whom I co-chair the East River Esplanade task force, I am thrilled to announce funding and critical improvements to the East River Esplanade will be coming, thanks to $35 million in funds from Mayor de Blasio. With this money, we can begin the process of repairing our Esplanade for all to enjoy. And I'll keep fighting for city funds to improve the walkway.
Email me at bkallosbenkallos [dot] com with YOUR creative ideas and vision for the East River Esplanade.
I am working with members of the City Council and the Mayor to achieve Vision Zero, a New York City where no New Yorkers die from traffic incidents. Please join us at a Vision Zero forum co-sponsored with State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Dan Garodnick on June 24 at 6:30PM at Hunter College's Lang Recital Hall.
Please also fill out the livable streets form on my website to help us identify dangerous areas: BenKallos.Com/Livable-Streets This form went out to 60,000 households already, and we are in the process of gathering the information.
I also introduced a bill in the City Council called "OpenGIS" to improve the quality of public information and help developers map collision data for more street safety. You can learn more in amNY.
Last Thursday, I was proud to be part of the City Council passing a historic package of eleven Vision Zero bills to improve enforcement and strengthen the safety of our streets.
In a victory for affordable housing and preservation of historic neighborhoods, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) denied the Stahl organizations application to tear down the First Avenue Estates for reasons of financial hardship. I sent a letter to the LPC urging them to deny the application to raze the century-old tenements, intended to provide affordable housing for a need that persists to this day. Friends of the Upper East Side and Former Council Member Jessica Lappin worked tirelessly to oppose the razing of these historic buildings. In the New York Times, I said: "No matter how many affordable units they [Stahl] promise to build, it can never make up for the generation of rent-regulated apartments that have sat vacant for decades now."
Rockefeller University Research Hub
We will see key neighborhood improvements coming from Rockefeller University's renovation. As a result of collaboration with me, the Manhattan Borough President and Community Board 8, they have agreed to fund repairs and improvements to the Esplanade, while opening their campus for community and arts programs. The negotiations were covered in the New York Times, DNA Info and Crain's. In addition, our neighborhood is pleased to expand the science and research corridor that we have become famous for.
I have spent my career fighting for a more transparent, accountable government, from putting Albany voting records online so the public could hold their representatives accountable to heading a good government reform organization.
My time in the City Council is a continuation of that commitment, and last week, I introduced legislation to open city government to New Yorkers. In the 21st Century, public means online, and information should only be a mouse click away. The public has a right to government information, and these bills, covered in the Daily News, will help New Yorkers access it.
I also put forward a bill that would transform our City's Freedom of Informational Law (FOIL) processes to make them more responsive to journalists and to you. Read about it in Gotham Gazette.
Memorial Day at Four Freedoms Park
Laying the wreath at Four Freedoms Park was a meaningful way to commemorate Memorial Day, and to thank the brave Americans who have made sacrifices so our country could preserve its freedoms.
The City Council adopted a series of major reforms to the rules of the body to make it more fair, open and transparent. I was especially pleased that the Council adopted changes to open up its technology, an idea that was singled out as beneficial by the New York Times. Let's bring our city government into the 21st Century.
We held a forum on community members adopting the planters along First Avenue, and I'm pleased to say that the program is, so far, a success. Many volunteer gardeners, coordinated by Upper Green Side, have stepped up to assist. In time for warm weather, we hope soon to see the lackluster plantings become beautiful gardens. Please email bkallosbenkallos [dot] com (subject: Adopt%20A%20Planter) or call 212-860-1950 to sign up for your own planting pit.
This month, I introduced legislation to create a 17-member New York City Food Policy Council to tackle the city’s most pressing food policy issues, as reported in the Daily News. New York City’s Food Policy Council would be one of over 200 food policy councils across the nation coming together to advocate for better food systems. This bill was a result of a grassroots organizing effort by the New York City food advocacy community to gain a greater voice in food policy issues in city government. The NYC Food Policy Council will empower experts and advocates to work alongside the Mayor's Office to create innovative solutions to hunger, rising obesity rates, and lack of access to local, healthy and environmentally responsible food.
As a software developer, I usually use Free and Open Source Software because it is often better and more cost-effective. I introduced legislation to mandate a government preference for Free and Open Source Software and establish a Civic Commons of code that can be shared between agencies and institutions. Sharing the ingenuity of our city and nation's coders will save money and create better programs, and I am proud to have support from some of the best technological minds in New York City, as well as advocates such as Representative Carolyn Maloney and Representative Darrell Issa, who has introduced a version of this at the federal level. The bill introduction received coverage in Gotham Gazette and Slashdot.
This month, I was honored to present two proclamations to luminaries of the arts at the Tank, a nonprofit arts space. Playwright Amy Herzog has an illustrious career writing world-class plays, while Fractured Atlas has done excellent work supporting arts institutions and educations.
If you know a member of the community who deserves to be honored, please let me know. Email bkallosbenkallos [dot] com.
Bleak House to Geek House
I gave a "lightning" keynote speech at "From Bleak House to Geek House," an event on the intersection of law and technology at Brooklyn College of Law. I am committed to allowing New Yorkers more power over their legislative process through technology.
Community Board Reform
The community board reform proposals released in a March report from my office continue to generate conversation, including in the Wall Street Journal, and excitement from New Yorkers at the prospect of revitalized boards. These ideas were endorsed by the Queens Chronicle in May. What are your thoughts on making community boards more independent and open to New Yorkers? Email me at bkallosbenkallos [dot] com (BKallosBenKallos [dot] com )with your thoughts.
I introduced a resolution to call for a consolidated June Primary in New York. Consolidating primaries would save taxpayers $50 million, according to the New York Times, and many good government groups believe it will improve turnout and reduce confusion. Read more in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Here are just a few of the inspiring community events I've been honored to attend this month:
- Grand Opening of Spence-Chapin’s Modern Family Center
- East River Esplanade Task Force Meeting with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
- Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition Annual Meeting
- Asphalt Green’s “Big Swim”
- Yorkville Community School’s PTA 2014 Spring Auction
- 5 Boro Bike Tour
- New York Coalition Against Hunger Benefit
- Community Board 8 Transportation Committee Meeting
- PS 527 East Side School for Social Action Benefit
- East 69th Street Association’s Annual Meeting
- Carl Schurz Conservancy Board Meeting
- Stanley Isaacs Tenants Association Meeting
- Bike to City Hall in celebration of “Bike to Work Day”
- 5/16: Met with Captain McPherson of the 17th Precinct at a Vision Zero Command Post
- AIDS Walk
- 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden
- Friends of the Upper East Side and Columbia University graduate students presentation on a preservation plan for Yorkville.
- Borough President Brewer's celebration of New York City Community Board members.
If you would like me to join you at a community event, please email schedulerbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950. If my schedule permits, I will be happy to attend.
Learn more about the laws that affect the fabric of New York City. Stay informed and comment at BenKallos.com/legislation
Here are just a few highlights:
These bills will ensure New York City maintains the most stringent construction safety regulations in the nation, so we avoid deadly crane accidents and ensure our city never puts profit over safety. Read more about it in Crain's.
2. Int. 329, OpenFOIL
“OpenFOIL” creates a centralized, online process for submitting, tracking, and responding to Freedom of Information Law requests to hold government accountable. When the Mayor was Public Advocate, he issued a report that showed that response time varied wildly between agencies and up to 10% of requests slipped through the cracks; We can do better.
See "Transparent Government" above.
3. Int. 329, Office of Food Policy
See "An Office of Food" above.
4. Res. 164, Community Board Reform
Community boards are the most local form of government for residents of our city and serve an essential role in our city’s democracy by shaping neighborhood development and advising government on the needs and interests of our communities. To that end, I introduced a resolution of best practices for appointing and recruiting community boards compiled from testimony from borough presidents, good government groups, and community boards themselves. It has already received strong support in the Council and generated lively discussion in the boards.
See "Reforming Community Boards" above.
5. Res. 232, A Consolidated Primary
See "Increasing Participation" above.
A few bills I am co-sponsoring:
1. Int. 344, LGBT Youth Services: I am honored to join our Public Advocate, Letitia James, in leading the push to create a division of LGBT youth services within the department of health and mental hygiene. It will research and develop programs and initiatives to prevent suicide and depression and protect youth from sexually transmitted diseases.
2. Int. 243, SCRIE Expansion: This bill increases the maximum income level to qualify for exemption from rent increases (SCRIE). I am pleased that this bill, designed to help seniors struggling with ever-increasing housing costs, was passed by the council on May 14th and signed into law by the Mayor on May 29th.
3. Int. 96,Senior Tenants' Rights: This bill provides legal counsel for seniors subject to eviction, ejectment, or foreclosure proceedings. During these difficult periods, it is important that all seniors, regardless of income level, have the resources necessary to assert their rights.
4. Res. 2, Universal Pre-K: The City Council passed a resolution in support the Mayor's Universal Pre-K push, which I proudly advocated for. When the city received hundreds of millions to support Universal Pre-k, it was a great day for New York City. Now I will keep fighting to ensure that those in our neighborhood who need full day pre-k are able to access it.
City Council Events 6/6: First Friday, 8-10AM
First Friday of Each Month, District Office at 244 East 93rd St.
Please join me on June 6 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 rsvpbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950. I look forward to seeing you there.
6/10: 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 rsvpbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950 to let us know you'll be joining us.
6/12: Hack-A-Thon at MIT Media Lab
Learn more and buy tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mit-legal-hackathon-tickets-11434305315 6/24: Vision Zero Forum
6:30-8:30PM; Hunter College's Lang Recital Hall (Room 424, Hunter College North Building), E 69th St.
Join this Vision Zero forum on safer streets co-sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Dan Garodnick.
6/25: 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.
ALL SUMMER: Join the Summer Reading Challenge. Visit BenKallos.com/ReadingChallenge for the lists, coming shortly. Participants grades (5-high school) who complete the challenge will receive certificates and more. Email bkallosbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950 for more details, or ask your teacher. Let's read!
6/1: CityParks PuppetMobile Presents: Little Red’s Hood
12PM and 2PM, St. Catherine’s Park, 1245 1st Avenue
CityParks PuppetMobile presents a free performance of an updated version of “Little Red Riding Hood” featuring a dozen hand-made marionettes. Learn more here.
6/2 or 6/5: Senior Benefits and Entitlements Workshop
6/2: 11AM-12PM, Senior Center at Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue
6/5: 10AM-11AM, The Center at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 343 East 70thStreet
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s Legal Advocacy Department is hosting two workshops for seniors. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact 212-744-5905.
6/7: 20th Annual First Avenue Street Fair Festival
12pm – 5pm, First Avenue from 68th Street to 79th Street
This street fair will have a variety of activities, including games for children, performances, healthy food and fitness demonstrations, and a bounce house.
6/11: Disability Benefits Workshop
12PM-2PM, Harlem Community Law Office, 230 East 106th Street
The Legal Aid Society is hosting a workshop on applying for SSI and Social Security Disability. Representatives will assist with application materials and acquiring medical records, explain benefit rules, and assist with an appeal if you have been denied. For more information, please call 212-426-3000.
6/14: Volunteer Gardening at Carl Schurz Park Conservancy
9:30AM-12:30PM, 86th Street Mall at East End Avenue
The Carl Schurz Park Volunteer Gardeners meet monthly to work in the park.Learn more here and infobenkallos [dot] com (RSVP) to our office.
6/18: EatPlayGrow Webinar
Children’s Museum of Manhattan and Let’s Move present a free webinar ofEatPlayGrow, a nationally recognized early childhood health curriculum. Teachers, childcare providers, early childhood educators, health researchers, and others interested can register for it at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/614180479.
6/20: Volunteers of Legal Services (VOLS) Elderly Project Legal Clinic
10AM, Stanley Isaacs Senior Center, 415 East 93rd Street
The VOLS Elderly Project, which provides pro-bono legal services to low-income senior residents, is hosting a legal clinic for provide legal advice regarding a variety of issues. For more information, please contact Amy Loewenberg at 212-360-7620 ext. 112.
6/22: Upper Green Side Shred-A-Thon at the 92nd Street Greenmarket11am - 2pm, West Side of First Avenue between 92nd and 93rd Streets
Bring paper of any kind to shred to welcome back the 92nd Street Greenmarket! Please no cardboard, handled shopping bags, or hardcover books.
6/23: PRIDE Night
4:30PM-7PM, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd Street
Join CMOM and The Center and Family Equality Council for a free after-hours event celebrating PRIDE week and LGBTQ families including art activities, raffles, and snacks. Reserve your spot by calling 212-721-1223 ext. 241 or emailing mswanbycmom [dot] org by June 13.
6/24: East River Esplanade Community Meeting
6:30PM, Bonifacio Senior Center, 7 East 116th Street
CIVITAS and Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects are hosting a series of community meetings to discuss improvements to the East River Esplanade. Please RSVP to infocivitasnyc [dot] org or by calling 212-996-0745.