Main Street WIRE Kallos: State of the District by Sara Maher
City Council Member Ben Kallos staged a State of the District event on Sunday, February 8, to highlight his accomplishments and present his goals for 2015.
Since his election in November 2013, said Kallos, he has proposed and gotten passed four local laws and two resolutions. With fellow Council Member Jimmy Vaca, he introduced and secured passage of a local law that mandates online publication of all items currently in the City Record. Two other laws “improve transparency, efficiency, and participation in our city;” the fourth will make City laws available online.
Kallos reported that he secured $35 million of the $110 million needed to complete the East River Waterfront Esplanade project, which is connecting two miles of public space along the East River.
He is also one of 24 Council Members involved in participatory budgeting, a process that allows community members to decide directly how tax dollars are spent. He allocated $2.7 million toward selected projects.
Said Kallos of the time remaining in his term, “With two years, 10 months, 19 days, 10 hours, 30 minutes and about 40 seconds left, we’ve got so much more to get done, in precious little time.”
Kallos said he is supporting Vision Zero, that “no member of our community should ever lose his or her life in a traffic collision,” by launching a “Livable Streets” initiative to examine the safety of neighborhoods. After a series of traffic and pedestrian collisions, including October’s fatal bike accident on the Island, Kallos asked residents to report the most dangerous intersections and the streets that are most in need of improvements. After polling 60,000 residents, his office released two reports, Dangerous Intersections and Street Improvements. He asked residents to view them and to report additional dangerous intersections, insufficient bus shelters, desired locations for CityBenches and CityRacks (benches and bike racks placed by the Department of Transportation), and streets in a state of disrepair. (The potholes on the Island-access Helix are noted in Street Improvements at benkallos.com/livable-streets.)
Kallos says he is working to improve transportation options on Roosevelt Island and in nearby areas of Manhattan, calling an improved ferry system “another promise for my platform.” He said that service “will be coming to the East Side and Roosevelt Island by 2018.” He proudly announced that “the Second Avenue Subway is on track for completion on December 31, 2016.”
Kallos, a graduate of the City public school system, has proposed many projects to improve it. He said his goal is “to support our principals, teachers, parents, and students” by “providing resources and advocacy for what they need.” He is a Campaign Partner of “Lunch 4 Learning,” a campaign to make free meals available to all public school students. His goal is for “all 1.1 million students to have a free salad bar, breakfast after the bell, and lunch,” and reported that he “won free school lunch for middle schools.”
After a constituent brought up the need for more school counselors, Kallos created mobile offices to send additional social workers to schools, including PS/IS 217. To prepare students for higher education and career opportunities, he put $1 million in discretionary funds into STEM-based programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for public schools, including $225,000 for updated computers, laptops, smart devices, and document cameras for the Island’s public school.
Kallos has also proposed a student-loan-repayment system for CUNY graduates. If adopted, the city would repay 10% of CUNY graduates’ student loans every year that they remain in the city. He re-emphasized his plans for education by saying, “I am committed to making sure our city’s children grow up healthy from cradle to career, with a fair chance at the American dream.”
Kallos said that citizens are his “eyes and ears” around the city. “This office belongs to you – and is open to you.” He hosts First Friday sessions at his office every month so citizens can bring up important issues. Citizens with good ideas for policy or legislation are invited to Policy Night on the second Tuesday of every month. Kallos also has mobile hours at various locations (including the RIOC offices at 591 Main Street on the first Tuesday of the month). He will also come to constituents’ homes for a “Ben in Your Building” session if a minimum of 10 neighbors attend. His designated contact for questions regarding the Island is long-term resident Joseph Strong (jstrongbenkallos [dot] com).