“As Citi Bike ridership soars even during the dark winter months, it is important that we look for new innovative ways to keep pedestrians, cyclists and drivers safe,” said city council member Ben Kallos. “By testing out the Blaze Laserlights the city is showing its commitment to safety in our streets.”
A bill introduced last month by City Council member Ben Kallos would try to end this ridiculous time warp. It would require building owners to finish repair work in six months, so that sheds can be removed. If work on a building ever stopped for seven or more consecutive days, landlords would have to take the sheds down or risk being fined.
Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side, said his grandfather used the vehicular elevator while serving as a doctor at Coler-Goldwater Hospital. Kallos first remembers taking the tram with elementary school classmates in the 1980s. “We had a birthday party on Roosevelt Island, and that’s the first time I remember going there,” he said. “At the time, the only way you were going to get there was on the tram.”
The tram served as an '80s backdrop not only for Kallos’s childhood memories, but also for high-flying scenes in the cheesy 1981 Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks, where Sly’s character pilots a helicopter in a bid to rescue hostages held in one of the tram cabins.
Finally, the subway opened in 1989. The next year, the city came to an interim agreement with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state authority that manages the island, to continue operating the tram, which remained popular.
The New York City subway is the lifeblood of the city, outgoing MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said the other night—that is, the sort of circulatory system that people tend to move through, drift through like blood cells (5,650,610 each weekday, to be precise), not a place they move to. On New Year’s Eve, it was the opposite: six stories down was the figurative height of urban accomplishment, a gleaming destination unto itself. The crazy idea of launching the Second Avenue Subway at a New Year's Eve party inside a subway station—of launching the subway at all, on deadline—was Governor Cuomo's, said the governor, who was standing on a dais above a crowd of well-dressed revelers and not far from a black sign hanging on the wall that said, miraculously, in white Helvetica letters, “72 STREET. 24 HOUR BOOTH.”
“I said to my family, I said, ‘You know how about this for an idea? We have a New Year’s Eve party in the new subway station.’ And they gave me that look, like you know, ‘There’s crazy Dad again!’ But, I said, ‘This is unlike any subway station you’ve ever seen. You look at this mezzanine level, which subway stations normally don’t have. It’s open, it’s airy. You look at the public art that is in all these stations, it is amazing." Here, the walls were decorated with amusing, live-size mosaic portraits of everyday New Yorkers by artist Vic Muniz, including one of a couple of bulky, bearded Brooklynites holding hands. Cuomo did not mention that, nor did he acknowledge another obvious amazement: the station was litter-free, with not a rat in sight.
The rezoning proposal is currently being reviewed by the Department of City Planning, and the group expects an answer on whether the city will move forward with a uniform land-use review process, or ULURP, in the next few weeks.
The process, which would begin as soon as DCP certifies the application, would take months to complete, requiring reviews by Community Board 6, the Manhattan Borough President, the City Planning Commission, and City Council.
But the proposal already has the support of key figures in that process, including Borough President Gale Brewer, CB6, and city council members including Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.
Even Yorkville’s city councilman, Ben Kallos, 35, who grew up in the neighborhood, is weighing how he and his wife can afford to stay in the district. He said there was little he could do to slow rising rents.
“Where I have to place much of my focus is on helping rent-regulated tenants stay in their apartment and exercise their rights,” said Mr. Kallos, a Democrat who has also pushed to set a height limit on so-called superscrapers in the neighborhoods he represents.
Austin Finan, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, said the administration’s top priority remained protecting affordable housing and building new units.
PhotoWorkers on Second Avenue between East 69th and East 70th Streets, completing work on the 72nd Street station. CreditDave Sanders for The New York Times
“We pursue that goal in every neighborhood in the city, including on the Upper East Side,” Mr. Finan said.
Across the United States, good transit access often leads to higher real estate prices, with home values near rapid transit in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and San Francisco far outpacing other properties during the last recession, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association.
Per the de Blasio administration, “only 43 percent of working New Yorkers have access to a plan that can help them save for retirement,” but they are often subject to large fees, and “even those who have started to save do not have much: 40 percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.”
The city-focused ruling from the Department of Labor, which applies only to municipalities of a certain size, comes after DOL paved the way for state-run programs earlier this year. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo already has a commission studying the issue. A state program could supercede a city one, though it would also depend on the details of the programs if the city were to launch one before the state. It is too early to tell which level of government will act first. In the city, Public Advocate James and City Council Member Ben Kallos are expected to lead on introducing legislation at the City Council, and the bill would likely go through Kallos' governmental operations committee.
The site for the skyscraper forms an L-shape, wrapping around several existing buildings and fronting both Third Avenue and 88th Street. Last year the developer carved out a lot measuring four by twenty-two feet on the development’s 88th Street front. Doing so allowed the owner to avoid strict zoning requirements, including height limits for narrow buildings between two low-rise buildings. The move also allowed the owner to designate space on the side facing 88th Street as a required rear yard, when in practice it would serve as an entrance to the skyscraper. The Department of Buildings approved the carve-out.
In May 2016, after construction had begun, the scheme came to the notice of Council Member Ben Kallos who, with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, requestedthat Buildings immediately stop construction at the site for a review. Together, they called the 88 square-foot lot “the smallest created in modern times” and “unbuildable” with “no legitimate purpose.” Buildings stopped construction at the site shortly after.
Working with the City, the developer proposed increasing the carved out lot to ten by twenty-two feet. On October 27, 2016, Buildings approved the increased size, stating that the agency considered the now larger lot “developable.”
Carnegie Hill Neighbors, a preservation group said it planned to file an administrative appeal, and is preparing to go to court if necessary to stop the project.
“I am not sure what kind of building you can build on a 10-by-22-foot lot but I sure wouldn’t want to live there,’ said Council member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, who is opposing the project.
Sick of the Board of Standards and Appeals approving projects contrary to their wishes, members of Queens civic associations are highly supportive of a 10-bill package before the City Council to make the agency more transparent.
A hearing on the bills, some of which were introduced by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) this month and others of which were introduced before, was held on Dec. 14.
Some of the measures that stand out include a bill that would create a $25,000 fine for lying on an application; one that would require the agency to reference arguments made by community and borough boards and the City Planning Commission in its decisions; and another that would mandate the creation of a map showing locations where variances and special permits have been granted.
Three City Council members — Jumaane Williams, Ben Kallos and Carlos Mechaca — released a statement offering their condolences to the worker's families and pledging to make sure developers are held accountable when a job site is unsafe.
The joint statement reads:
"We're saddened to offer our prayers of peace and comfort to the family and friends of yet another young man who lost his life on a New York City construction site. If it is even possible to make such news worse, getting it during the holiday season must be unimaginable. My thoughts are with them.
The de Blasio administration is bringing in a new chief administrative officer to work under First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris starting January 1. Laura Anglin, who comes to City Hall after serving as president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities for the last seven years, “will support the work of a number of City agencies,” according to the December 15 press release announcing her hire.
Those agencies include several within Shorris’ 30-agency portfolio, the vastness of which was a key point of contention at a City Council oversight hearing in September. At that hearing, which focused on the administratioan’s mistakes in removing deed restrictions on Rivington House, City Council Member Ben Kallos asked Shorris a series of questions about the structure of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s upper management and whether the first deputy mayor has too much on his plate. Kallos indicated that he believes de Blasio should have a deputy mayor for operations like some of his predecessors.
Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the area, said some restaurants may count fines for e-bikes as part of the cost of doing business. “I’ve made a very simple request going on two years now saying ‘I’d like [residents] to no longer accept deliveries from people who show up with e-bikes,” he said. “Ultimately I think that if a restaurant gets fined $100, that’s the cost of doing business but if they lose 100 customers in a night, that has an impact.” While his office did not assist in the data collection of data, Kallos said he fully supports the idea of the survey and would suggest it to other communities that feel they have a commercial cycling problem. “Hopefully other neighborhood associations in this district, as well as around the city, will see this as a model and start working so that instead of just complaining about e-bikes people are actually empowered to do something about it,” he said.
Mason said her organization isn’t “against cyclists,” and was quick to say she didn’t want to resort to ending her patronage at the poorer scoring restaurants. Mason was recently hit by an electric bike in Queens, and wants everything possible to be done to increase her neighborhood’s safety. Ideally, Mason would like to see the Department of Health include adherence to commercial cycling rules in their letter grades for restaurants. “We’re hoping that the restaurant community will be responsive,” she said. “We want to keep the restaurants in business.”
If the DOB decides to uphold its decision, then the developer can appeal with the city's Board of Standards and Appeals.
The challenge against DDG's plans, which can be submitted by individuals or organizations, was filed by local group Carnegie Hill Neighbors as well as politicians including Brewer, Councilman Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger and the law firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn.
Their petition argues that DDG has made no changes to resolve zoning issues raised when it first filed plans with the city.
On Wednesday, Dec. 14, the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations discussed legislation that would, for example, slow the approval process for new developments in the BSA. Sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, James Van Bramer, Karen Koslowitz, Steven Matteo, Donovan Richards and Rosie Mendez, the legislation proposes to give communities more time and weight in BSA decisions.
But community critics aren’t mollified. “Six feet doesn’t make a difference,” said New York City Council member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat. “An unbuildable 10-foot lot must not give rise to an illegal skyscraper," he said.
The City Council is trying to drag the Board of Standards and Appeals—the agency that decides zoning changes for many New York City developments—into the 21st century. The council’s Government Operations committee spent yesterday afternoon discussing bills that would force the agency to post zoning applications and decisions publicly, create a map of those decisions, and keep community boards and council members in the loop on applications.
The Board of Standards and Appeals consists of five commissioners appointed by the mayor. City law requires that the board must include one registered architect, one professional engineer, and one urban planner. While many pieces of the city’s land use process can be obscure, the BSA has steadfastly resisted oversight and transparency. Every year, dozens of developers file applications with the agency, seeking a minor change or exemption from zoning rules based on a “financial hardship.”
The plague of pointless scaffolding encrusting Downtown sidewalks for years on end may finally have a cure.
Property owners would have six months to shore up their aging buildings and then take down sidewalk sheds, or else face “heavy penalties” under a new bill introduced by Councilmember Ben Kallos.
Area residents living under the shadow of the sidewalk sheds that have loomed over Downtown for years were overjoyed upon learning that the Upper East Side legislator is attempting to tackle the root of so many of Downtown’s quality-of-life issues, according to the president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association
“I think this is a great starting point, and it’s laudable that someone is doing this,” said Patrick Kennell.
The bill gives landlords three months to complete construction that requires scaffolding or sidewalk sheds for the job, along with an option to apply for an additional three-month extension. After that period expires, however, the city would be entitled to step in to complete any remaining work and take down the scaffolding, before kicking the bill back to the property owners for any costs incurred by the city — likely in the form of liens or by garnishing landlords’ rent earnings, according to Kallos spokesman Josh Jamieson.
The governmental operations committee is headed by Council Member Ben Kallos, who is more knowledgeable about the campaign finance system than Council Member Alan Maisel, the chair of the standards and ethics committee -- somethign Maisel acknowledged in a prior interview with Gotham Gazette. Kallos has expressed concerns about some of the second package of bills, including around bill details and process.
Ten bills will be aired for public opinion to place restrictions on and revamp the processes of the Board of Standards and Appeals. On December 6, 2016, Council Member Ben Kallos introduced five new bills regarding the oversight and operations of the Board of Standards and Appeals at the City Council’s stated meeting. The Board of Standards and Appeals, which was originally created to be an independent board tasked with granting “relief” from the zoning code, is empowered by the Zoning Resolution and primarily reviews and decides applications for variances and special permits.
The City Council will discuss 10 bills Wednesday aimed at tightening the rules that allow property owners to bend zoning regulations.
Council member Ben Kallos is sponsoring the proposed bills that will target the Board of Standards and Appeals, Crain’s reported. The board is able to approve applications from landlords who argue they need to surpass zoning laws in order to make a profit from a development. In some cases, according to the publication, owners ask that a height restriction be relaxed so that revenue-generating apartments can be built. In other circumstances an owner may say that a lot is oddly shaped and it is therefore impossible to conform to zoning laws.
In 2011, the board approved 97 percent of applications that came before it, many of which had been opposed at the local council level. Kallos believes the board is too lenient.
New York City Councilman Ben Kallos explained, “New Yorkers want to get where they are going fast. Everyone hates traffic jams, especially when they are for road work, but no one is actually there doing the work. It’s about making sure we are only impeding traffic and causing traffic when we absolutely need to.”
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, is an avid social media user who often solicits questions through Twitter during committee hearings. He’s well aware of the intersection of technology and governance and the issues that can arise with an elected representative’s use of social media. “Its pretty confusing to the public because they don’t know who to tweet sometimes,” he said of his own experience with separate accounts for official and campaign purposes. “So I have to spend double duty making sure I’m managing both, paying attention to both and ensuring that whether a constituent tweets my campaign or government [account], they get the services they need.”
He said officials should generally ensure that the distinctions between accounts are clear and they “respond from the right places and retweet from the right places.”
“It can be a little bit of a minefield,” Kallos said, “but you just have to be extra cautious.”
A bill introduced in City Council on Tuesday gives a timeline for when scaffolding has to come down or the building owner has to pay up.
The bill would set a 90-day deadline for building owners to fix a dangerous condition, according to Kallos' office. Another 90 days could be requested if an extension is required.
After the deadline, the city would finish the construction work or repairs and the building owner would have to foot the bill.
But sidewalk sheds have been known to overstay their welcome, like a drunken uncle, sometimes sticking around for a dozen years or more, providing magnets for drug dealers, homeless people, trash, and worse. To remedy the situation, city councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, proposed a new law on Tuesday that would give building owners three months, with the possibility of a three-month extension, to make repairs and remove scaffolding and sidewalk sheds, the New York Times reports. If the work is not completed in that time, the city will step in to do it, and charge the owner for the work.