Low-income seniors and families now have access to high-speed internet service for less than 15 dollars per month through a new program available to customers of Charter Communications, the cable giant that acquired Time Warner Cable last year and offers broadband service in New York through its Spectrum brand.
“Over a million New Yorkers will have access to low-cost broadband” through the Spectrum Internet Assist program, City Council Member Ben Kallos said at an event announcing the initiative at Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center on East 93rd Street last week.
“This new service will ensure internet access is no longer a luxury that goes to the few, but is rather treated as a basic necessity in the 21st Century,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
Elderly and low-income New Yorkers will soon have access to affordable high-speed internet, thanks to a new product from Charter Communications.
Spectrum Internet Assist offers qualifying seniors and families high-speed broadband internet for $14.99 a month. Standard features like email inboxes, internet security software and a modem are included for free.
Public Advocate Letitia James and City Councilman Ben Kallos announced the initiative at the Stanley Issacs Community Center on East 93rd Street Thursday.
"Access to affordable high-speed internet should not be a luxury reserved for few -- it is increasingly important for everyone to have access in today's society," said James. "New Yorkers young and old depend on internet access for basic life functions but too often do not have access in their own homes because services are truly cost prohibitive."
State regulators gave the Connecticut-based communication company permission last year to buy Time Warner Cable on the condition that it upgrade broadband speeds and expand high-speed Web service to low-income consumers.
City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Public Advocate Letitia James supported the sale conditions.
“Access to affordable high-speed internet should not be a luxury reserved for few — it is increasingly important for everyone to have access in today’s society," James said in a statement.
The new service is meant to "bridge the digital divide" and bring the "absolute necessity" to those who haven't been able to afford it until now, according to Public Advocate Letitia James, who announced the service on Thursday at the Stanley Isaacs Community Center with Councilman Ben Kallos — both spearheaded the push for more affordable internet.
Charter's lead offer for residential high-speed internet at 100MB is $44.99 a month.
Stanley Isaacs resident Ron Riley, 41, said that he'll now be able to afford internet access instead of relying on his smartphone. His son has a learning disability and frequently uses the phone's internet to watch educational videos.
"This is going to help get him online so he can watch YouTube and the programs he watches to learn," Riley told DNAinfo New York. "This will help me take care of him."
Carter, who heads the city’s Law Department, testified before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations that the state and federal investigations into the mayor and his aides necessitated the hiring of outside counsel. “The ongoing investigations are criminal in nature,” Carter told Council Member Ben Kallos, the committee chair, “and I know from my 40 years of experience in law enforcement that that is a…specialized area of practice that requires experience because of the delicacy of the judgments to be made.”
Carter noted that the investigations involve an area of practice “particularly sensitive to conflicts of interest” and dozens of witnesses, some of whom insisted on independent counsel, thus the hiring of at least 11 outside law firms for the legal defense.
Local resident group, Carnegie Hill Neighbors (CHN), has been feverishly fighting the development since it was given the go-ahead in summer 2015. In March 2016, CHN enlisted the services of planning expert George M. Janes to help the cause.
After looking at the zoning drawings, Janes said he noticed a “tactic to subdivide the lot” so that DDG’s building would no longer face on to East 88th Street. By avoiding this, the firm escaped further zoning laws triggered by coming up to the street’s edge.
Two months later, councilmember Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer penned a letter to the city flagging the issue and calling for construction to be halted. They succeeded and work stopped in May.
Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, addressed the budget disparity, although he did not make it a focus of the hearing.
Kallos pointed out that the notoriously dysfunctional BOE has proposed its largest budget increase in years, and also has not proposed any savings, referencing the mayor’s preliminary budget promise to identify $500 million in additional agency savings in time for the executive budget. “The cost increase you’re proposing is actually more than 10 percent of the existing savings that the mayor’s asking for,” Kallos said.
Ryan pointed out that the BOE is not beholden to the city. “Unlike some other agencies, the Board is an independent board and while we are certainly sensitive to requests, wherever they may come from...we do operate a bit differently from some of the other agencies,” Ryan said.
Rivington House sale not reason the Department of Citywide Administrative Services fired top official: commissioner
"It's not a topic that I can get into," Camilo said when asked by Council government operations chair Ben Kallos whether "poor performance" got Morales fired. She also refused to say whether Morales was cooperating with federal authorities investigating the mayor.
Camilo said she made the decision to get rid of Morales and informed first Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris. Morales's lawyer has said the dismissal was improper and called the timing "highly suspicious."
Meanwhile, DCAS revealed that since overhauling their rules on deed restrictions in response to the scandal, they've received requests to change or remove the restrictions on seven properties.
The properties are in Harlem, Longwood in the Bronx, and Bedford Stuyvesant, East Flatbush, Crown Heights, Bushwick, and East New York in Brooklyn. No action has been taken on any of the proposals yet.
Kallos (D-Manhattan) said the Longwood request raises red flags because like Rivington, it is a non-profit nursing home and rehab facility currently restricted to that use.
His request comes after US intelligence and law enforcement agencies released a January report in the final days of the Obama administration that found the Russian government employed cyberattacks to undermine Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump.
Considering the request for additional funding, Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the committee chair, asked Ryan why he isn’t taking up de Blasio on an offer for an extra $20 million provided the agency agrees to a series of reforms, including establishing a blue-ribbon panel to identify failures.
Ryan cited “philosophical” differences with the administration for not taking the money.
Asked by Council member Ben Kallos whether, “poor performance” led to Morales’ firing, Camilo said, “It’s not a topic that I can get into.” She also declined to say whether Morales is cooperating with federal prosecutors. Camilo asserted that she made the decision to fire her deputy commissioner and then informed first Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris. De Blasio has said he knew nothing about it.
Morales’ lawyer has called the timing of the dismissal suspicious.
The lifting of deed restrictions at Rivington House cleared the way for the sale of the former nursing home to luxury condo developers for $116 million.
A top city official wasn’t fired because of his role in a controversial land deal that allowed a non-profit nursing home to be converted to luxury housing — but his boss refused to say Monday if he was ousted because of other federal investigations.
The axed official, Ricardo Morales, who served as a deputy commissioner at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, was at the center of two deals now being probed by federal investigators.
One was the lifting of deed restrictions on Rivington House, a Lower East Side nursing home, that eventually led to its sale for luxury condos.
The city’s top lawyer predicted Monday that taxpayers will have to shell out “a few million dollars more” for the legal bills of mayoral aides swept up in several corruption probes.
And that’s on top of the $10.5 million already spent on outside lawyers.
Corporation Counsel Zach Carter described the additional legal costs as not “a large magnitude” and said it appears the federal probes are “winding down and concluding.”
“We believe that there will be a few million dollars more expended, but I can’t give you an exact figure,” Carter testified at a City Council budget hearing. “I don’t believe that it will be a large magnitude of expenditures.”
City Councilman Ben Kallos, who has been pushing for the stops to be returned, posted photos on Thursday of MTA workers installing the ticketing machines.
If you work in Manhattan and have the gift/luxury of a lunch break, you’ve probably used a POPS without knowing it.
POPS, or privately owned public spaces, can be sunny or shaded plazas or sitting areas in indoor atriums, where you can enjoy your sandwich away from the desk.
At worst, these POPS are barren, vacant lobbies, or simply (and illegally) inaccessible.
Why does that matter beyond the fact that you can’t find a place to nibble your sandwich? Because there’s no such thing as a free POPS: each one was set aside for the public by property owners or developers in exchange for building bigger or taller towers and thus renting out more commercial space.
A new City Council effort aiming to get developers to stick to their end of the bargain has a particularly juicy case study: Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, which was able to build taller in exchange for setting aside public spaces.
The public part of Trump Tower has received significant attention since Trump descended the escalator in June 2015 to announce his presidential run.
The Wall Street Journal reports that on Wednesday, three new bills to protect POPS were introduced in the City Council, sponsored by Council members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick. The first of the three bills would raise penalties for building owners from $4,000 to $10,000 for first offenses, and to $20,000 for additional offenses. Under the bill, a fine of up to $2,500 could be imposed for each month a violation goes unattended.
How many students apply to each New York City school, how many get in, and where do they come from? We could soon find out
While some of that information is already publicly available, Kallos wants to gather more details and make it available in a single report.
He also hopes to expand the bill to include information about Pre-K for All applications to help reveal what he sees as unmet need. Kallos said that 54 percent of families who applied for pre-K on the Upper East Side, part of his district, were not offered seats in their zip code in 2015.
“The Mayor’s promise of ‘Pre-Kindergarten for All’ must include enough seats in every neighborhood,” Kallos said in a statement. “Parents in my district are giving up on our public schools and with it our government, and parents who can’t afford private school are being forced out.”
Council member Ben Kallos of Manhattan, a sponsor of the legislation, said the attention surrounding Mr. Trump’s campaign led to enforcement efforts that other buildings had escaped. Council member Daniel Garodnick is also a sponsor of the legislation.
Councilman Ben Kallos is expected to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would require the Education Department to release additional data such as the number of applications each school receives, how many offers it extends and where students live. Credit Emon Hassan for The New York Times
Mr. Kallos said that his constituents routinely complain of being turned away from nearby prekindergarten classrooms or gifted and talented programs, for which they have qualified, because there is not enough room.
This legislation would show where students end up when they leave their neighborhoods to attend school, as many do. Mr. Kallos said that most elementary schools in his district were populated with students from the area, but at Ella Baker School, at 317 East 67th Street, which serves students from prekindergarten through eighth grade, most of the students are from elsewhere.
City Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents a broad swath of Midtown East and the Upper East Side, on Wednesday introduced a bill requiring expanded disclosure on school enrollment, part of an effort to address a space crunch that has half of the city's public school students attending overcrowded schools.
Under the terms of the proposed bill, the Department of Education would make publicly available aggregated and disaggregated data on the number of applications and admissions granted for each school in the city, as well as enrollment numbers and expected open seats for the next school year. This data would be further broken down by grade level and the community school and council districts of residence for students, as well as their zip codes.
"We need to better track what schools people are applying to, how many folks are being turned away from schools, and have a better sense of where they're ending up so we can re-adjust programming," Kallos told Gothamist.
The council members, including Margaret Chin, Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez, Daniel Garodnick, Ben Kallos, Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez, expressed concern that the regulatory agreement had been crafted without significant input from HDFC stakeholders, that the regulation was “one-size-fits-all,” that additional restrictions could hurt stakeholders’ leveraging ability, among other concerns.
“Look out Silicon Valley, here comes Silicon Alley, supported by a city government that is providing the funding, space, and data the tech sector needs to thrive,” stated New York City Council Member Ben Kallos.
Councilman Ben Kallos, who attended the CB8 meeting on Wednesday, supported finding new use for the Queenboro Oval, telling tennis players to "get on the Roosevelt Island tram" to play at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club or to back the creation of a non-profit that could maintain tennis courts at the location.
He pointed to the Riverside Clay Tennis Association which maintains courts at Riverside Park near West 96th Street.
"If you don't want to worry about the RFP and don't want Parks to have to worry about ethics laws, the best thing you can do is get the community board to pass a resolution saying that it wants to work with a nonprofit like Riverside and I can give funding from my office to get that started," Kallos said.
“New York State should be a national role model for voter access and voting rights, with same-day registration, early voting, and no-excuse absentee voting,” said NYC Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s efforts to get these voting reforms passed, and in the City Council we will continue to support that effort with resolutions calling on the state legislature to do the right thing.”
Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, has been pushing the city to do better for years and, at his request, the latest reports now show spending information by general categories of appropriation. But, he points out, the report still fails to connect budgeting with agency goals, despite being mandated by the city charter. “The MMR should be treated as an investment document,” Kallos said in a phone interview, “and spending should be tied to specific programmatic performance goals so New York City residents know how their tax dollars are being spent and can advocate for them to be increased or decreased.”