Winter weather, fighting for reform and more: March News Bulletin

After two months in office, I am working around the clock to ensure you have the services you need, while also fighting to expand pre-K to all children, open up government for public participation, fight the marine transfer station slated to be built in our neighborhood and ensure all New Yorkers have the services they need.  

Recently, I collaborated with fellow Council Members on expanding paid sick leave and supporting early education – both initiatives that will expand opportunity in our great city. In recognition of immediate traffic problems plaguing our streets, I was proud to launch a "livable streets" initiative to improve safe and comfortable transportation. You can learn more about it below.
 
Over the past couple of months, it’s been my privilege to serve you. My office has been working to provide excellent, highly-accessible assistance. Last month, I met many of you at my inaugural First Friday meet-and-greet with residents. Hearing your concerns and ideas for a better community was inspiring and motivating. I am also providing services in new and exciting ways online. My top priority is engaging and helping you in whichever medium you prefer. Please join me on March 7 for the next First Friday event.

Though there’s much to do, we will certainly see success if we invest our time, energy and compassion in one another. I look forward to continuing the good work we already begun.

Sincerely,

Council Member Ben Kallos
District Five: Upper East Side, Midtown East, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island

Table of Contents

1. Inauguration
2. Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
3. A Snowy Winter
4. Supporting Early Education for all NYC Children
5. Livable Streets
6. Special Election Reform
7. A Better City Council
8. Getting Help
9. Apply for Council Funding
10. Tax Assistance
11. Play Streets Applications
12. City Council Reform Hearings
13. City Council Events
14. Community Events

Inauguration

Thank you for joining me at my inauguration ceremony. It was a special celebration of our community, featuring talented groups such as Dances PatrelleAsphalt GreenWave Gymnastics Team, The 92Y Gym Stars, pianist Roy Eaton, the young men at Talented Unlimited High School, and our readers, Elspeth Reimann of Stanley Isaacs Senior Center and Jim Bates of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association. I am also very thankful to the many elected officials and community leaders who attended and spoke: State Comptroller DiNapoli, State Senator Krueger, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Congress Member Maloney, City Comptroller Stringer, Public Advocate James, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, Council Member Garodnick, Former Public Advocate Green, Former Council Member Lappin, Former New York State Assembly Member Bing, Founder of New Roosevelt Bill Samuels, as well as Attorney General Schneiderman, who performed the swearing-in. You can watch the full video online.

Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
 A new report from community group Pledge 2 Protect has offered further evidence that the 91st St. Marine Transfer Station will hurt our city. If you join me in opposing the marine transfer station and supporting a modern approach that will reduce waste, increase recycling and protect residential neighborhoods, please email bkallosatbenkallos [dot] com to discuss ways you can get involved.

A Snowy Winter

A series of snowstorms has walloped the city, leaving many of us in need of services. Please make sure you’re reaching out to my office should you require any assistance, from snow plowing or information on services during storms to sanitation concerns. We will be your strongest advocate and ensure that your concerns are heard. Call 212-860-1950, email infoatbenkallos [dot] com or tweet me @benkallos. You can read snowstorm tips from the last storm on my website. 

Supporting Early Education for all NYC Children

As a public school graduate and a child of a single mother, I have been fighting for the type of fully-funded pre-k and after school program that can make a real difference for families like mine. I saw the sacrifices my mother made, and I know New York City will be better if we can make life easier for working parents. These programs also give every child a fair start and build a foundation of protection for at-risk children later in life. Over the summer, I marched outside City Hall to draw attention to this pressing issue and, this year, helped plan a successful joint hearing between the Women’s Issues Committee of the City Council, of which I am a member, and the Education Committee. I have also been out in the community, sharing ideas on early education with you — advocacy which was recently featured in the New York Times. A small investment in pre-k can reduce drop-out rates and crime later in life, helping all New Yorkers thrive.

Livable Streets

I am pleased to launch a “livable streets” initiative for a neighborhood where residents can walk, bike, drive or take public transportation safely. A series of tragic traffic collisions in our neighborhood have reinforced the importance of Vision Zero, a city proposal, whose launch I participated in, to eliminate traffic fatalities — because no one should die from a preventable accident.
Please report dangerous intersections and corners to my office, so we can pass them along to the relevant agencies. Please also report:

  • Bus stops that need a shelter
  • Sidewalks where you would like to see benches or bike racks
  • Corners that should be wheelchair and walker accessible
  • Potholes to fix
  • And any other concerns you have, so we can all have livable streets.

Please call my office at 212-860-1950 or email streetsatbenkallos [dot] com with as much detail as possible. 

As part of this initiative, I will also be hosting three transportation forums. The months and topics
are as follows:

  • April: Safety along the Second Avenue Subway construction
  • May: Adopt-a-Planter
  • June: Bike lanes

Please contact us for specific dates and times. 

Special Election Reform

In the Committee on State and Federal Legislation, of which I am a member, a vote came up on Resolution 0003-2014 calling on Governor Cuomo to call special elections to fill all vacancies in the Assembly and State Senate. I am deeply concerned that many of our communities do not have representation, and urge urgent action to resolve the problem. However, I am convinced that, as the current system stands, a series of special elections would simply lead to worse and more undemocratic outcomes by entrenching party picks – often for life – in the communities that most require real advocacy. With only 12% participation and 96% incumbency re-election rates, these special elections are too broken for me to condone as they currently stand. You can read my statement on voting "no" at BenKallos.com
 
A Better City Council
 
After so many years of fighting for good government reform, I am proud to be part of a City Council that is doing so voluntarily in an open and transparent process.  More than 30 Council Members already signed on to the changes. This month, I held a tech panel as part of a hearing managed by the Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. Leading experts Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy Media and Sunlight Foundation, David Moore of the Participatory Politics Foundation, Noel Hidalgo of Beta NYC, and John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany suggested innovative methods for a more tech-savvy and accessible City Council.

Getting Help From our Office

My office is your office, and we are here to serve your needs. Please stop by 244 East 93rd street, call 212-960-1950, visit us at benkallos.com or email //bkallosatbenkallos [dot] com " target="_self" rel="nofollow">bkallosatbenkallos [dot] com should you want assistance for any reason, whether you’d like to know your rights as a tenant or need help applying for city services. But that’s not enough — I’ll also be bringing my office to you.

My staff will be at the following locations from 4PM to 7PM to assist you:

Roosevelt Island (RISA, 546 Main Street): First Wednesday of the month
Lexington Houses (1536 Lexington Avenue): Second Wednesday of the month
Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood center (415 E. 93rd Street): Fourth Tuesday of the month

Please contact my office if you have suggestions for mobile district office locations. We look forward to seeing you.

Apply for Council Funding 

If you are a community organization seeking funding from the New York City Council for FY2015, please click here to learn more and apply. 

Tax Assistance 

There are many places where you may be able to receive free assistance preparing your taxes. I urge you to learn more: http://www.nyc.gov/html/ofe/html/policy_and_programs/freetaxsite.shtml

Play Streets Applications 

Applications are now open for Play Streets, a program from the Department of Transportation which shuts down neighborhood streets to cars during select days in the summer to allow children to play outside. Applications take up to eight weeks to process, so apply early and begin working with your community board, as you will need their approval. Click here for more information or to apply: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/living/phys-playstreets.shtml  Contact my office for application assistance.

City Council Reform Hearings

As Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations of the New York City Council, I have held two hearings on bringing reform to our systems, so government functions transparently and seamlessly.

I held a hearing on February 28th on the Department of Investigations (DOI) report which opened the public's eyes to the extent of the institutional dysfunction and patronage at the New York City Board of Elections (BOE). That Report, New York City Department of Investigation Report on the New York City Board of Elections' Employment Practices, Operations and Election Administration, made more than thirty recommendations for the Board to adopt. You can read more about the hearing's success and how I hope to improve the voting process for New Yorkers in the Daily News.  

On March 3rd, I held a hearing on best practices for Community Board appointment and recruitment. This year, four new Borough Presidents and 21 new City Council Members, along with their previously elected colleagues, will be making 1,475 appointments to 59 community boards spanning all five boroughs between April 1st and May 30th. The reforms that have been previously introduced allow us now a tremendous opportunity for standardization and knowledge-sharing for improving the most local level of government across the five boroughs. You can read more about this effort in DNAInfo.

City Council Events

First Friday

Please join us on Friday, March 7, 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 to rsvpatbenkallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950. I look forward to seeing you there.

Office-Warming Party

You're invited to join us for an office-warming party on March 18 from 5:00-8:00PM. This event will be open to all and is a chance for you to see my office, become acquainted with your representative and spend time with your neighbors. Please RSVP by emailing RSVPatBenKallos [dot] com or calling 212-860-1950 to join us. 

Policy Committee Meeting

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 first Tuesday of every month at 6:30PM. Please email RSVPatBenKallos [dot] com or call 212-860-1950 to let us know you'll be joining us (and specify your desired committee).

Community Events

3/6: Medicare HMOs and Supplemental Plans workshop at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House 

10AM-11AM, 343 East 70th Street

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House offers monthly workshops covering a wide range of subjects. Each workshop is held at the same location and at the same time. Click here for more information.

3/7: "First Friday" with Ben

8-10AM, 244 E 93rd Street, Come meet your City Council Member with questions, ideas, concerns or just a desire to mingle. Email RSVPatBenKallos [dot] com with subject line "First Friday."
 

3/13: Beneath the Street: Geology of the Second Avenue Subway
 

6:00PM - 7:30PM, MTA Second Avenue Community Information Center, 1628 Second Avenue

 

Question and Answer Session led by Second Avenue Subway Geologist Julie Freitas, who will discuss the characteristics and origin of the rocks and soil beneath Second Avenue.  

RSVP by calling (646)-449-8700 or clicking here

Homework Assistance at Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center

Daily from 3-6 pm,1700 3rd Ave, for grades K-5

These after school programs help children learn through thematic projects and homework assistance. Click here for more information. Contact: Tiffany Bolling at 212-360-7625
 

3/19: Murals of New York City: A Book Talk
 

6:30 PM, The Society of Illustrators, 128 East 63rd St.

 

A discussion about Murals of New York City, the first book to focus on over 30 of the most influential murals found throughout the city’s five boroughs.  The discussion will be led by author/artist Glenn Palmer-Smith, who will share many of the untold stories behind the city’s famous murals and those who took part in their creation.

$15 for members/$20 for non-members

Please click here to purchase tickets.

 

3/27: Boring Matters: How a Tunnel Boring Machine Works
 

6:00PM - 7:30PM, MTA Second Avenue Community Information Center, 1628 Second Avenue

 

Excavation Expert Alaeden Jlelaty explains how the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) works as it digs the Second Avenue Subway tunnel.  Everything from how it moves to how it disposes of the loose rock it creates will be explained.

RSVP by calling (646)-449-8700 or clicking here  

If you would like your event included in a newsletter, please email bkallosatkallosforcouncil [dot] com (info@b)bkallosatbenkallos [dot] com (enkallos.com) to be listed.