Our Town Candidates Weigh in on Major East Side Issues by Joanna Fantozzi
... Upper East Siders ... Ben Kallos ... are running for a seat on the City Council. We interviewed each of them about five issues that Upper East Side residents find most pressing.
How would you make sure that the Marine Transfer Station was not built?
Ben Kallos: I try to have a wider scope. This issue has been going on for seven years and nothing’s happened. New York is 15 percent recycling, and San Francisco is over 75 percent recycling. My question is why is New York City following an obsolete waste management plan. We should be educating people about recycling and not putting 50 percent of our waste into the ground. We need to make sure the vehicles we are using for waste transportation aren’t emitting fumes. This is a local issue, but we need to broaden our scope. We’re in this together as a city.
The Second Avenue subway construction has been wreaking havoc for the past several years. What do you think can be done to better improve congestion, traffic and businesses on Second Avenue?
Ben Kallos: I am proud to say I helped launch Shop Second Avenue. We need to support websites like Second Avenue Shopper. I do it myself, and I eat on Second Avenue as much as possible. I encourage people to do the same. We’re goin to implement a grants program for businesses too. We need to make sure that when the Second Avenue subway opens up, it isn’t opening to a ghost town. We also want to have email or text notifications of construction or blasting times on Second Avenue and beyond. So you can decide to go to sleep earlier if a blasting is happening the next morning.
How do you think you can help the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island transition smoothly when the Cornell Tech campus is built?
Ben Kallos: The important thing is supporting the local infrastructure. Roosevelt Island is governed by RIOC [Roosevelt Island Operating Corp], and there were no dollars going from Cornell to support RIOC, nothing for the roads, seawall, etc. There are also serious access problems to the Island. None of the elected officials or candidates were willing to testify against Cornell in public in order to represent the community. As long as there’s someone who’s willing to have that dialogue, we will see a different city.
What are the biggest education issues that need to be tackled on the Upper East Side?
Ben Kallos: I am the only candidate who went to public schools so it’s important to me. We need to invest in our youth. We want to see all of the children eligible for childcare getting childcare. I would love to see children getting wrap-around schools, getting after-school activities and healthy meals while their parents are still at work. In regard to middle school seating, we have booms in one specific age corridor. I propose Central Business District Schools that are open for 5 or 6 years, and then when the kids age out, we turn the middle school into a high school.
The Upper East Side has some of the least open space in all five boroughs. How do you plan on changing that?
Ben Kallos: I use our open space. Anything we can do to improve the amount of free space and to encourage recreation is something that is important. We are working with League of Independent Theatres and other arts groups around the POPS [privately owned public spaces] around creating a database for these spaces. These spaces should be used for children, adults and to have performances. We want a more active, engaged city. We are also looking to increase open space on Roosevelt Island. Right now, they have to pay for the use of their open space.