Midterm Report

Dear Friend,

It has been two years, one month and twenty four days since I began serving as your City Council Member. I am deeply proud of the work we have accomplished together and excited for the road ahead.

I want to thank all whom I have already had a chance to meet and look forward to meeting you or seeing you again at my District Office at 244 East 93rd Street for First Friday, Policy Night, or another event listed at BenKallos.com/Events. Or I can come to you for Ben In Your Building.

If you would like to compare my goals with actions over the past two years, please have a look at my 2013 Policy Book as well as my Inauguration and two States of the District, where we looked to the past and prepared for a bright future. I am proud of these achievements, but I know we have much more to do together. Thank you for your support over the past two years. I am looking forward to the next two.

Sincerely,


Table of Contents

1.      By the Numbers
2.      Management and Quality of Life
3.      Land Use
4.      Transportation
5.      Parks
6.      Education
7.      Marine Transfer Station
8.      Health
9.      Governmental Operations

 

BY THE NUMBERS

Constituent Service Cases: 3,800 and counting
Legislation Introduced: 65
Legislation Passed: 8
Land Use Matters Adopted: 4
City Council attendance: 99.5 % 
Governmental Operations Committee Hearing chaired: 35
Legislation Passed by Committee: 15
First Fridays & Policy Nights: More than a dozen
Community Meetings: More than 100
Participatory Budgeting INvestments in Community: $3.6 Million

Focusing on Management and Quality of Life

Focus on Management: The Wall Street Journal covered my concerns that the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) was “setting the bar too low” on important issues like public safety, public health, or helping homeless off the streets. The MMR is the annual public report card on City government and is critical to managing and evaluating the City’s performance. Unfortunately, according to my analysis, the MMR 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. In other words, if we followed the goals of the report, we would make conditions in our city worse. The New York Post covered an oversight hearing that I chaired on the report noting the city had planned for an increase in homelessness. Thanks to this hearing and the attention brought to the issue the Mayor’s administration made a commitment to address the situation and work together in the upcoming (MMR) for 2016. I look forward to working to get our management reporting and the city back on track.

Quality of Life: Thousands of quality of life violations, such as not cleaning or shoveling sidewalks, excessive trash, or noisy construction before or after hours are issued to the Environmental Control Board every year. But many of these fines go unpaid to the tune of $1.6 billion. I have introduced a legislative package to ensure that if the City issues a fine, the fine gets paid, and businesses that repeatedly flaunt the rules would see their licenses and permits revoked.

 

Protecting Tenants and Fighting Over Development

Rezoning to Stop Superscrapers: Bloomberg News and the Daily News covered our filing of the most sweeping residential re-zoning plan by a community group in New York City history. I was proud to lead the effort with the East River Fifties Alliance, with co-applications to the Department of City Planning by Council Member Daniel Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and State Senator Liz Krueger. The new zoning plan for the Manhattan area between 52nd Street and 59th Street, east of 1st Avenue, will restrict supertowers and over-development in the neighborhood with a contextual height cap of up to 260 feet, incentives for schools, and a requirement for mandatory inclusionary housing.

Community members and I acted fast in response to the proposed Bauhouse tower. After Our Town newspaper covered the Bauhouse plan on April 7, I published an opinion editorial in opposition to the out-of-scale tower, and circulated a petition opposing superscrapers in residential neighborhoods. Community Board 6 passed a resolution calling for height caps in the neighborhood which was sent to the Department of City Planning for consideration on May 13, within 45 days of the news. Over the following months, I visited buildings throughout the neighborhood and spoke with residents about what they could do, including making donations to the newly formed ERFA. In August, The New York Times covered ERFA and my efforts against the tower and highlighted the story of Herndon Werth, a rent-stabilized tenant refusing to sell his apartment to the Bauhouse Group in order to save his home and the neighborhood. Sign the petition against superscrapers at BenKallos.com/Petition/StopSuperScrapers

More Affordable Housing: The New York Daily News and NBC 4 covered my latest legislation that requires owners of affordable housing to register those units with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) who would in turn create a centralized database that accepts a single  universal application for all affordable housing. Landlords have received over $1 billion dollars in tax breaks and abatements to build affordable housing, but the City has no way to verify the affordable units were built. Recent investigations by ProPublica, in which I was featured, found that between 50,000 – 200,000 units of affordable housing 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. Please help ProPublica investigate New York City Rents.

Won a Rent Freeze: 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.

Lower Rents for Senior and Disabled New Yorkers: I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for an expansion of Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). The legislation lowers income eligibility for those receiving SCRIE and DRIE benefits to $50,000 from $29,000 – which will help many more seniors and disabled residents live at ease in New York City.

Ended HPD Downsizing: We rallied together with tenants to demand a moratorium on Section 8 Downsizing, a policy that was pushing seniors and disabled New Yorkers into smaller homes. Since then, we have won a huge victory as HPD has ceased downsizing of the elderly from one bedroom to studio apartments.

Protected Proposed Landmarks: In the year the city recently marked the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law, the law 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 saved. I joined FRIENDS in advocating for the land marking of 412 East 85th Street, which has now been prioritized for designation in 2016 by the commission.

Preserved the Mid-Block: 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. The Department of City Planning heard us, and agreed to protect the midblock. 

Forming a Business Improvement District to Keep Our Streets Clean: Responding to the all too familiar complaint of the 86th street area needs for upkeep and renewal with a proposal to form a Business Improvement District (BID). At 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, 20.7 million riders use the 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 BID. My office in partnership with Council Member Dan Garodnick, the leadership of Susan Gottridge as acting chair of the BID steering committee as well as 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.

 

Safe Streets and Transportation Improvements

Identified Most Dangerous Streets for Improvements: Soon after taking office, we launched a "Livable Streets" program to promote safety for drivers, pedestrians and bikers alike. We compiled your responses to our survey into a report on Livable Streets, highlighting our most dangerous intersections and proposing street improvements throughout the neighborhood. 

Manhattan Borough Pedestrian Safety Plan:  The Department of Transportation and NYPD released a “Vision Zero Manhattan Borough Pedestrian Safety Plan” following our "Liviable Streets" report that included priority corridors on 1st, 2nd and 3rd Avenues as well as seven intersections we recommended.  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 at BenKallos.com/livable-streets

Bike Safety Program Launched: Last summer, I launched a Bike Safety Program, covered in Pix11CBS2WNBC, and amNY, to make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to share the road. We partnered with the Department of Transportation, the NYPD, Citi Bike, Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York to:

  • Distribute safety materials and safety equipment such as bells, lights, vests and helmets.
  • Trained cyclists on safe practices and rules of the road on the streets, in schools, parks and bike stores, and even in my office.
  • Increase traffic calming buy uniformed officers and enforcement against unsafe cyclist behavior.

And we got results. The Bike Safety Program lead to the NYPD’s 19th precinct stepping up enforcement by 52% and distributing safety materials to over 8,000 cyclists. This resulted in 18% fewer bike and vehicle collisions and 15% fewer bike and pedestrian collisions.

Accessible Sidewalks for All: After hearing from seniors and disabled members of the the community who couldn't cross the streets because sidewalks were inaccessible for walkers and wheelchairs I introduced legislation that would require landlords to fix crumbling curb cuts to ensure the 889,219 New Yorkers with disabilities and nearly one million residents 65 or older can cross the street safely.

Safer Citibike Riders: 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. I wanted them to be safer and CitiBike has been providing a monthly 90-minute bike safety class at my office that provides participants with a free day pass or month on an annual membership.  

Expanded Select Bus Service:  Following my advocacy to improve crosstown transportation, the New York Times covered the launch of off-board fare payment for the M86 as part of Select Bus 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 lines including the M79. That time saved translates into revenue for businesses whose taxes help pay for further transit improvements: a virtuous circle.

Brought WiFi to Lexington Avenue Subway: Following my advocacy at City Council hearing, I am proud to have brought free Wi-Fi to 86th Street and much of the Lexington Avenue line. Manhattan Express covered the ribbon cutting ceremony that included Transit Wireless, Council Member Garodnick, Assembly Member Seawright, and representatives from Congress Member Maloney and Borough President Brewer.

Ferry Service for the East Side and Roosevelt Island: Following years of advocacy from my campaign to office, I am proud that there will be new stops for Roosevelt Island in 2017 and 62nd and 90th Streets by 2018, utilizing our waterfronts to improve commutes.

Uber: Crain’s Business covered my opposition to City Hall’s plan to limit the number of Ubers, unfairly targeting innovation and making it harder for New Yorkers to get where they are going. I was proud to help defeat this ill advised plan, a win that was bolstered when a study commissioned by the Mayor found no basis for such a ban. Government should embrace innovation from the private sector and pass an NYC e-hail app that would allow any New Yorker to hail all 19,000 of our trusted yellow and green taxi.

 

Protecting Our Parks

Fixing Carl Schurz Playground: Following complaints from parents and children about broken equipment at the Carl Schurz Park Playground on 84th Street, we are working with the Parks Department to use $1.3 million from Council District 5 for new equipment. Following coverage by DNAinfo and thanks to co-sponsorship from Community Board 8, the Carl Schurz Parks Conservancy, and the Parent Teacher Associations at P.S. 151, P.S. 290, and P.S. 527 we got feedback from park goers, grandparents, parents and most importantly the children who play in the park on how best to upgrade the playground.

A Conservancy for Every Park: This year we supported the launch and funding for conservancies for Ruppert and Sutton Parks. These new groups join the long-standing and invaluable conservancies we work with at Carl Schurz, St. Catherine’s, John Jay and the East River Esplanade. Conservancies are invaluable in protecting our all-too-limited park space. I hope in the next year we can launch a conservancy for Stanley Isaacs, thereby achieving my goal of having a conservancy for each and every park in my district.

A Vision for the East River Esplanade: When I took office, our community’s tireless leader, Congresswoman 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. We’ve already broken ground on improvements for the Esplanade from 64th to 68th and 70th to 72nd Streets that will provide:

  • Landscaping with irrigation to keep it alive,
  • Water fountains,
  • Seating and lighting,
  • Designated bike lanes,
  • Noise barrier along the FDR Drive, and
  • Maintenance in perpetuity to keep it that way.

 

Investing in Education

School Funding: I am especially proud to have negotiated major gains for public education into this year’s City Budget:

  • $12.7 million for renewal schools that offer city services and support for families and children who need it most
  • $1.14 million to hire 80 more crossing guards so students can be safer
  • $17.9 million for “breakfast after the bell” to fight hunger for 339,000 children at 530 elementary schools in the city.

Advanced Stem Education: Here in the district, I’ve invested over $5 million in discretionary funding to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education in our local public schools. I am a big believer in technology's power to create jobs and better the lives of citizens, but for that to happen, students must be educated in STEM courses from an early age.

New Schools: We’ve opened two new schools in the district this year: the Iken pre-school where former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined us in introducing the school's goal to inspire young children to become scientists and the Trevor Day School.

Green Roofs: Last year, our top vote-getters for $1 million in participatory budgeting were new green roofs for P.S. 151 and P.S./I.S. 217 on Roosevelt Island. This will provide students an opportunity to be exposed to the future of energy and inspire them to look to careers of the future, as well as understand environmental protection.

Eliminating Hunger at School: One in four New York City children lacks access to food and necessary healthy nutrients, and a lot has to be done to fight child hunger. As covered by the Wall Street Journal, I introduced a bill requiring schools to report on their school breakfast use rates and efforts. Citywide clarity on these numbers would get us one step forward in our fight to get universal breakfast after the bell. When I got elected only 35% of students who eat free school lunch also eat school breakfast. Last year, following our advocacy, $6.25 million was allocated for a pilot program providing school lunches for free to 170,000 middle school students.  It has been a success, increasing participation by 10,000 middle school children. This year, I believe that the program should expand to all 1.1 million public school students to eliminate the stigma associated with being on free or reduced lunch and increase participation rates.

More UPK for Roosevelt Island: With the Roosevelt Island Parents Network, through Eva Bosbach, we've been working to address the need for more Universal Pre-Kindergarten seats on Roosevelt Island. Through our advocacy we were able to double the number of seats at P.S./I.S. 217 in partnership with the Department of Education. There is still more to do and I personally met with Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña to discuss this issue. We are working together to identify spaces and providers who can partner to open up more pre-K seats for our kids. Please let my office know if you would like to help provide UPK or if you have a child you would like to attend pre-K on Roosevelt Island or on the East Side.

Art ShowAnnual Sotheby's Public School Art Show: As a lover of the arts, I am proud to co-host an annual public school art show featuring student work at Sotheby's. We held the show last June and again this month, continuing a rich tradition of promoting arts in City Council District Five. Learn more at BenKallos.com/ArtShow.

Introduced Ban on Toxic Pesticides with P.S. 290: The students at P.S. 290, with whom I worked to introduce legislation to ban toxic pesticides, held a class play on the importance of safe parks and civic action. This was a joy to watch and I commend the students for their performance and hard work. I look forward to working with them to make real progress towards a safer and more environmentally friendly city.

Supported Increased Library Funding: For the first time since 2008, the New York Public Library received an increase in funding in the City Budget, a movement I fully support. Additionally, I supported their Early Childhood Literacy Initiative and allocated capital funding from my office's budget.

Visitng Every School in the District: This year, I made great progress in my goal 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 order to address its needs.

 

Fighting the MTS and Moving the Ramp

Moved the MTS Ramp: The Marine Transfer station remains one of my largest priorities. I was happy to work with city leaders and in partnership with Pledge 2 Protect as well as the local community to successfully move the ramp one block north as our march towards a safe and clean Upper East Side continues. The New York Daily News and Our Town covered the ramp move that will protect the 35,000 children from all over New York City who play at Asphalt Green and the local community.

Uncovered New Costs: By commissioning a report from the City’s Independent Budget Office, we exposed the high costs of the Marine Transfer Station in both the New York Post, and on NY1. The report showed costs would increase from $93/ton to $278/ton for a total price tag of $632 million.

Rallied With You Against the MTS: Our Town covered a rally I lead to stop the Marine Transfer Station. After a report from Pledge 2 Protect made it clear that the marine transfer station plan is antiquated and focuses merely on waste transport rather than reducing and recycling waste.

Coalition Building: We built a three-borough coalition against garbage dumps in residential neighborhoods, with which we continue to work on legislation.

Documented the Truth Behind the MTS: Watch Pledge 2 Protect’s “Talking Truth” documentary, in which I toured transfer stations throughout the city and was concerned with the public health and environmental precautions taken by these facilities. Congresswoman Maloney, State Senator Krueger, Assembly Member Dan Quart and I share the screen with our community leaders to highlight the dangers of building a Marine Transfer Station in a residential neighborhood. Watch "Talking Truth" now.

Garbage Trucks Driving Through Our Neighborhood Capped:  Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathyryn Garcia committed under oath to limit use of the E. 91st Street Marine Transfer Station to 1,780 of the total 5,200 tons per day capacity, keeping hundreds of garbage trucks off our streets.

Monitoring Air Quality: The NY Daily News covered a bill I co-authored with Council Member Dan Garodnick that would require air quality monitoring near marine transfer stations. The bill, which we drafted in partnership with Pledge to Protect, will bring more attention to the dangerous effect the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station would have on our residential community, if built. 


Better Benefits for a Healthy New York

Paid Sick Leave: I was proud to cast a vote in the City Council to expand the Paid Sick Leave Act so it covers 1 million residents. This took effect on April 1, 2014 and has made it easier for working New Yorkers to earn the money they need and stay healthy. I took to the streets to share information on the new law the day it took effect. My office is here to assist if you need any information on the program.

Healthy Happy Meals: Research by NYU found that “Healthy Happy Meals” legislation I introduced, which requires that kids' meals that include toys as incentives meet specific nutritional standards, would reduce unhealthy calories consumed by children that lead to obesity. According to The New York City Department of Health, half of elementary school children are overweight, while one fifth of kindergarten students and one fourth of Head Start students are obese. It's hard enough for parents to make healthy choices for their kids without the fast food industry spending hundreds of millions on advertising to children. The bill aims to help families make free choices. You can see positive coverage of my plan in the Daily NewsAPCNNWABCCBS, and more.

Fresh Food Box: I was proud to bring a GrowNYC Fresh Food Box to the Stanley Isaacs Senior Center and fund one at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. The Fresh FoodBox delivers produce for just $10 to New Yorkers from all backgrounds.

Automatic BenefitsThis summer the New York Times covered legislation I proposed that would automate the annual renewal/sign up process for public benefits, just by filing your taxes. My proposal this summer would give government benefits to everybody who qualifies automatically, no new application required, using information the government already has. This would plan 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, we can help you get the benefits you are entitled to. In 25 minutes we can screen you for more than 25 government benefits. Please schedule your screening today or visit NYC.gov/AccessNYC

 

Upgrading Government

Low-Cost Broadband for Low-Income Youth and Seniors: The New York Times and Daily News have covered my advocacy with Public Advocate Tish 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. Following our advocacy the Public Service Commission 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.

Legislation Passed to Improve Democracy:

  • Pro-Voter Law Expansion (Law 63 of ’14) - requires 25 city agencies to provide voter registration forms and assist individuals with completing them, so everyone gets registered.
  • Online Voter Guide (Law 43 of ‘14) - saving the environment and money, while increasing access to information in off-year uncontested elections.
  • Teens on Community Boards (Res. 115 of ‘14) – opens community boards to our best and brightest 16 and 17 year olds

Legislation Passed to Improve Transparency in Government:

  • Open Legislation (Res. 184 of ’14, cosponsor) – as part of the Council’s rules reform process, I provided language requiring posting legislation online and public engagement.
  • Open Mapping (Law 108 of ’15) - standardizes address and geospatial information so Open Data has location information.
  • Law Online (Law 37 of ‘14, co-prime sponsor) – puts our city’s law online for you to search, download, and read.
  • City Record Online (Law 38 of ‘14) – public notices from the city, previously published in a daily newspaper, are now online and fully searchable so you can learn what is happening in your community.

Legilsation Passed to Support Women's Issues:

  • Health Education (Law 14 of '16, co-prime sponsor) - reporting on reproductive health education in schools.
  • National Women’s History Museum (Res. 354 of ‘14) – supporting Congress Member Maloney’s successful passage.

Learn more and comment on legislation at  BenKallos.com/legislation

Introduced Board of Election and Campaign Finance Reforms: As covered by the New York Daily News and the Gotham Gazette, we are working to strengthen the city's campaign finance laws and insulate elections from the consequences of outside money trying to buy influence. I introduced a suite of bills that would enact several of the recommendations made by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) in its 2013 post-election report. They move to make determinations about public funds payments earlier in the election cycle, reduce the impact of bundling by people doing business with the city, add flexibility to the Voter Guide mandate, among other changes which address various technical aspects of elections such as voter guides, debate eligibility, and contributions from non-registered political committees. We want to make sure that for the 2017 election cycle we are prepared for fair inclusionary and transparent campaigns.

Reformed Community Boards for EffectivenessI’ve worked to provide support and transparency to community boards, and we have already implemented sweeping reforms. Perhaps most excitingly, we passed a law to allow 16 and 17 year olds to serve. I was then excited to appoint high schooler Zoe Markowitz upon the law’s implementation. We are 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 take the chance to apply next year.

Ensured a Fiscally Responsible Budget: In the New York City budget that was passed last summer, I was most proud to support and successfully fight for a $500 million for a Capital Stabilization Reserve to save during good times so we are protected in the long run. In addition, you can also find my district funding for schools, parks, senior centers and more in a searchable and downloadable format at http://www.benkallos.com/budget/results/2015-16

Thank you for your continued support. As we enter the last two years of my first term, please let me know how my office is doing by taking our survey.