Press Coverage

New York Post
Jennifer Bain and Linda Massarella
Jennifer Bain
5/31/17
 

“You’re taking their light and air and playground,” she said, standing in the play area alongside parents.

Maloney said the proposed project — for which the city would receive a $25 million payout from the developer in exchange for a 99-year lease — is short-sighted.

“We need more green, not greed, in the city,” she said.

Councilmember Ben Kallos said he has attended dozens of meetings where the details of the lease and the construction plans are being hashed out.

Although half of the units in the new building are intended to be affordable housing, Kallos says he suspects the project would not benefit the existing community.

“I don’t think the NYCHA residences should be trapped in the shadows of the wealthy,” Kallos said.

“I want to save this playground.”

Protestors vowed to fight the plans.

 

Lic Post
Christian Murray
5/29/17
 

One of the bills that passed now requires the BSA to list the number of applications it has approved or denied as well as the average length of time until a decision was rendered. Another bill requires the BSA to list all the variances and special applications action upon since 1998 to be available on an interactive map of the city.

Ben Kallos (Manhattan), who sponsored several of the bills, said in a statement: “We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents.”

 

DNAinfo.com
Shaye Weaver
5/26/17
 

Taking cues from the community about trash spilling out of garbage bins and onto sidewalks, Councilman Ben Kallos set aside $154,780 of city discretionary funds to purchase 284 "High-End Litter Baskets," which cost $525 each. 

The new cans are larger than the typical bins found on many street corners and feature narrower openings at the top to prevent spillage, as well as covered tops to discourage "that extra coffee cup," according to Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who unveiled the bins alongside Kallos Friday outside the East 86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station.

 

beat10ztalk
Editorial
5/26/17
 

Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member, introduced a bill that would require city agencies to begin making their data available via user interface / API. This would be a major step towards increasing city efficiency, by enabling the private sector to build solutions that meet their own local needs.

How we currently interact with various government agencies — even for simple tasks like renewing a license, reporting a power outage, or casting a vote — is incomprehensibly cumbersome and time consuming. There’s little reason why these processes have not already been app-enabled and mostly automated, except that our city agencies are fractured and don’t have the bandwidth to pull themselves off legacy systems into the modern world.

 

SILive.com
Anna Sanders
5/25/17
 

Another bill from Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens) would require copies of BSA applications and materials be sent by certified mail to applicants. 

The Department of City Planning would have to publish online the name and contact information of the BSA coordinator under a measure from Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan). The agency would also have to post a record of each permit and the BSA would have to provide a link on their website to testimony from city planning. 

Two other measures from Kallos would require the BSA have access to an experienced, state-certified real estate appraiser and establish the minimum required materials that must be submitted with applications. Another would require the BSA to report on information regarding applications and compile date on the location of all variances and special permit applications.

 

Tech Crunch
Romain Dillet
5/24/17
 

“Cities are still thinking about data as archive files. They’re not thinking about streams of data,” Stae co-founder John Edgar told me.

So let’s take this step by step. First, cities already have many sets of data coming from utilities, public transport, ambulances, residence complaints, traffic cameras and more. Instead of exporting a CSV or Excel file every now and then to look at this data, Stae wants to turn this data into APIs. By doing that, Stae standardizes data sets and it becomes easier to manipulate them.

And Stae is not the only one thinking this way. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos just introduced a bill that asks city agencies to share their data using an API.

 

Fortune Tech
Barb Darrow
5/23/17
 

If enacted, the bill would mean people "won't have to deal with the bureaucracy and red tape of government," argued Kallos, a Democratic councilman who represents Midtown East, the Upper East Side, East Harlem, and Roosevelt Island. "Government gets a lot wrong, and a lot of that comes from having to shove pieces of paper around," he said, explaining that automating all that paper pushing could eliminate or lessen the chances of error.

Kallos said it's all about making government services and public data more easily accessible to constituents. One example already in place: New York City's 311 phone line for reporting non-emergency situations. Under this new law, all new services would include an API that would let people submit requests directly to the city, without having to spend a ton of time on hold and without having to enter their information over and over again, as can often be the case now.

 

New York Daily News
Ginger Adams Otis
5/19/17
 

The mayor might not like to take questions from the press — but he does believe they have the right to join a union.

De Blasio was among nearly two dozen city officials who signed a letter Thursday in support of reporters at two popular local websites who are fighting to get management to recognize their recent union vote.

“We support the editorial staff of DNAinfo and Gothamist as they exercise their right to unionize,” the letter said.

“The work of these reporters and editors is crucial for NYC. We call on management to respect their democratic right to organize and immediately recognize their union,” it concluded.

 

Curbed
Rachel Sugar
5/19/17
 

But while the project has garnered its share of community support, not everyone is pleased with the plans. The main complaint: that affordable units, which Fetner has said will be “evenly” distributed throughout the building, won’t be all that affordable after all. The units will be designated for residents earning less than $41,000 for an individual and $52,000 for a family of three—too high to actually meet the needs of the community, critics say.

As Councilman Ben Kallos pointed out, the minimum annual income for one of the new affordable apartments is $38,100, which is above the eligible income for NYCHA residents. “It's pouring salt in a wound that they're building housing that none of the NYCHA residents can get into,” he told DNAInfo.

 

New York Daily News
Greg B. Smith
5/18/17
 

Half the units will be market rate, half affordable, with most of the lower-income tenants on the lower floors and almost all of the wealthier residents on the upper floors, according to Councilman Benjamin Kallos.

“All the low-income people will be stuck in the shadows with the high-income people living above them,” said Kallos (D-Manhattan), who was briefed by NYCHA on the project. “The majority of the low-income units will be in the bottom 20 stories and they will have windows facing other NYCHA tenants. We will have effectively walled in the low-income tenants.”

 

New York Daily News
Greg Smith
5/18/17
 

Fetner will pay an upfront fee of $25 million to NYCHA, but between the public subsidies and the loss of millions of dollars in potential property taxes, Councilman Benjamin Kallos (D-Manhattan) predicted the city ends up in the red.Fetner will pay an upfront fee of $25 million to NYCHA, but between the public subsidies and the loss of millions of dollars in potential property taxes, Councilman Benjamin Kallos (D-Manhattan) predicted the city ends up in the red.

 

DNAinfo.com
Shaye Weaver
5/18/17
 

The new tower will rise 47 stories and feature a recreation center and playgrounds, according to city officials.

Fetner Properties
YORKVILLE — The city finally released renderings of a mixed-income tower set to rise on top of an existing playground at the Holmes Towers public housing complex — and while the city is celebrating, some locals see the news as "salt in the wound."

The images released Wednesday are the first to come out of a year-and-a-half long debate between current Holmes Towers residents and the New York City Housing Authority about the logistics of the plan, which falls under the city's new NextGen program meant to raise capital funds for its existing developments across the city.

The renderings show a 47-story, off-white building rising among the red-brick Holmes Towers buildings on East 93rd Street, as well as a new 18,000-square-foot recreation and community center run by Asphalt Green and new playgrounds.

run its recreation center, which will include an indoor basketball court, a rooftop turf field and low-cost programming.

 

 

StreetFilms
Clarence Eckerson
Jr.
5/17/17
 

 

Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid
5/16/17
 

City Council Member Ben Kallos is always looking for ways to make government more efficient and accessible through technology and the use of data. To that end, Kallos, himself a programmer, introduced a bill last week that would require information generated or received by city agencies to be available through an interface that allows easy use of the data and, ideally, a streamlined experience for New Yorkers interacting with their city government.

This would occur through an Application Program Interface (API); essentially, Kallos explained, “a language dictionary so a piece of software can communicate with another software.” Such a system would facilitate the automatic availability of city data through mobile- or web-based applications, opening up opportunities for the private sector to create programs that interact with city government. A program that easily transmits permit and license applications, for example.

 

New York Daily News
Erin Durkin
5/16/17
 

The city has instituted universal free lunch for middle schools, but declined to expand it citywide.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) asked  Fariña to also issue rules that school staffers could not go after parents to collect unpaid lunch fees later, but she declined to do that without studying it first.

“Students are not deprived of eating lunch because of money,” she said.

 

Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid
5/16/17
 

“I guess I have an overarching concern here,” Kallos responded, “just that you’re spending four times more on auditing and penalizing candidates than you are on supporting them and your candidate-to-liaison ratio far exceeds what would be allowed in a public school at this point [for student-to-teacher].” He said the candidate services unit should at least be on par with the audit unit, to provide more personal attention to campaigns, and later floated the idea of legislation to mandate it. “I feel a bill coming up,” he said.

Read more at http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6934-city-council-members-question-cam...

 

Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid
5/15/17
 

The government operations committee, chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos, met to discuss the BOE’s $136.5 million proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Council members sought answers from the board about the latest WNYC report, which came after a series of reports by Bergin exposing problems at the BOE, including tens of thousands of voters purged from the rolls ahead of the presidential election. Kallos said his wife was one of those voters whose vote did not count, and that she received a notice from the BOE just last month.

“There is a quasi-manual, quasi-automated process,” said Michael Ryan, BOE executive director, insisting that the board could not send notices to voters who aren’t in the system until they provide relevant missing information to the board.

Referring to a specific voter highlighted by WNYC, who shuttled numerous times between two poll sites in attempting to cast her vote, which eventually was not counted, Ryan said the voter’s actions on Election Day seemed “suspicious” and also said WNYC’s report, “simplistically analyzed a complex process.”

 

Upper East Side Patch
Brendan Krisel
5/12/17
 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A fleet of 79 brand-new buses will replace some of the oldest buses in New York City servicing five Upper East Side routes — the M14, M15, M101, M102 and M103 — officials announced.

The new buses, equipped with WiFi and USB charging ports, will be based out of the Tuskegee Bus Depot in Harlem, City Councilman Ben Kallos said in a press release. The depot will provide three to five of the new buses per week to the five Upper East Side routes, which should speed up local bus service. The buses stationed at the Tuskegee Bus Depot were some of the oldest in the city, causing frequent breakdowns and "missing buses" — when fewer buses run per hour than scheduled.

"Bus service on the East Side is about to get better with brand new buses that won’t cause disruptions in service from breaking down as often," Kallos said in a statement. "Residents complain about poor bus service every day, but after years of advocacy, we are getting the new buses we need."

 

DNAinfo.com
Shaye Weaver and Allegra Hobbs
5/11/17
 

A number of East Side politicians, including Councilman Ben Kallos, Sen. Liz Krueger, and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, along with the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, petitioned the MTA for the new buses after receiving a slew of complaints from commuters who wait long periods of time for their bus to come.

"Bus service on the East Side is about to get better with brand new buses that won’t cause disruptions in service from breaking down as often,” said Kallos. “Residents complain about poor bus service every day, but after years of advocacy, we are getting the new buses we need."

The new buses will eventually phase out the older buses, which is the primary cause of "missing buses," according to Kallos. 

The buses that run on all five routes come out of the Tuskeegee Bus Depot in Harlem and are some of the oldest, Kallos said.

"When local buses end up 'missing' that further compounds the problems," he said. "The M15 had the oldest fleet in the city. This is great news for M15 riders."

Locals and politicians on both the Upper and Lower East Side have for years been asking the MTA to fix the slow local M15 service or add additional Select Bus Service stops on the route.

Upper East Side residents have pushed for more local M15 buses or at least the addition of a Select Bus Service stop at East 72nd Street since the local bus takes too long to arrive. 

"You can stand there for 25 to 35 minutes and see three Select Bus Service buses go by," said Valerie Mason, president of the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association, last year. "In the last six years, local service has deteriorated greatly."

 

Vice News Munchies
Alex Swerdloff
5/11/17
 

The purpose of the legislation is, in part, to would allow workers more easily to arrange for child care or take on second jobs. Among its supporters is New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio and council member Ben Kallos, who attended the rally today. He told MUNCHIES, "Fast food workers deserve respect from their employers and these laws will make sure we are taking steps in that direction." He called the legislation "common sense" and said it "will go a long way towards improving quality of life for New York City workers. I was proud to show my support."

 

New York Times
Editorial Board
5/10/17
 

While responsible apartment managers adhere promptly to the spirit of the building safety law, recalcitrant owners leave the sheds up for years as a cheap way to avoid making building repairs. There are no deadlines set to force the work to be done or the sheds to come down.

The pole-and-metal roofed structures, designed to catch debris, attract it instead, along with idlers and loners, according to the complaints of nearby residents who are urging the city to take action. City Councilman Ben Kallos has proposed legislation to force a timetable of three to six months on building owners, but some insist that they don’t have the money to finish jobs. Thus sheds stay perpetually, as much a protection for scofflaw owners as pedestrians.

 

Our Town
Madeleine Thompson
5/10/17
 

Until recently, the most crowded bus route in Manhattan also had the oldest buses in the fleet. According to data analyzed by the Bus Turnaround Coalition, which advocates for better bus service citywide, the M15 carries more than 46,000 passengers every day, though ridership has decreased roughly 10 percent since 2010. Thanks to a combined community effort, 79 new buses have already begun to replace the vehicles on the M15 route, as well as on the M14, M101, M102 and M103 routes.

“We spent an enormous amo”unt of time demonstrating the need for the buses,” Council Member Ben Kallos said. “When residents complain about bus service we pass it on to MTA and MTA usually tells us the buses were there.” Kallos, who has a background in software development, partnered with Civic Hackers to collect and assess bus data in order to demonstrate that bus service on the Upper East Side was spotty and often bunched. Between gathering the data and convincing the MTA, Kallos said the project “ended up soaking up about two years of my life.”

Betty Cooper-Wallerstein, the president of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association and a former Council member, began collecting her own data many years ago by compiling results from survey cards she would hand out at community meetings. She would ask bus riders to note the route they took and their driver’s punctuality, both to monitor service standards and to give awards to the highest ranking bus drivers. “We have very many seniors,” Cooper-Wallerstein said, emphasizing the need for more reliable service so older riders aren’t waiting as longer or having to walk far away to a better line. Cooper-Wallerstein said she expects the new buses will be “a big help.”

Kallos credited state Senator Liz Krueger with helping set up the meeting last fall with Darryl Irick, the president of the MTA Bus Company, who confirmed that the M15’s vehicles were the oldest in the fleet and agreed to provide the new ones. “The MTA has advised me that the 79 buses is enough for a full replacement on the M15,” said Kallos, who takes that route to work. The remaining new buses will be distributed across the M14, M101, M102 and M103 routes, he added, “where we will continue advocating for more buses.”

The Bus Turnaround Coalition shows that the M101, M102 and M103 have the fourth, 15th and 22nd highest ridership in Manhattan. On the M101 route, one of every six buses arrives bunched.

The 79 new buses will have Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and digital displays displaying upcoming stops. They are also equipped with a pedestrian warning system to prevent collisions. “It can be tough to balance trying to keep people getting to work on time with pedestrians in the intersection who may or may not be obeying the law,” Kallos said. “This technology will really help drivers avoid any mishaps.