“No more having to peer through bars to see our beautiful waterways at the 90th Street pier thanks to our new park. I am committed to examining every inch of the East Side to find more park space that residents can use year round,” Council Member Ben Kallos said in a statement.
Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, and others have said the board should be nonpartisan. Political parties hold too much sway in the appointments, he said.
“At the end of the day when you have an institution run by patronage, where people are there because of who they know and not what they know, I will never be confident that they will be able to run a smooth election,” said Mr. Kallos, who leads a council committee that has oversight of the board.
In terms of funding for these waterfront projects, $35 million has been secured from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $10 million from Rockefeller University, $6 million from the City Council, and an additional $2 million from Councilmember Ben Kallos.
“We are dedicated to getting every single square inch of park space that we can,” Kallos said. “Because even with this addition, this district is still going to rank amongst the bottom according to New Yorkers for Parks in terms of the Open Space Index.”
Under another law, introduced by Councilman Ben Kallos, HPD’s third-party transfer program — which allows the city to foreclose and sell distressed buildings to pre-qualified third parties — would be expanded to include buildings whose owners have incurred large numbers of unsatisfied building violations.
The legislation aims to put pressure on landlords who fail to address recurring building problems and fail to pay the fines incurred on those violations.
HPD officials have been working with the Council as part of a task force on how to reform the sales of distressed properties and said they hope to study the issue further based on the group’s findings.
Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, posed questions aimed at debunking Schulkin’s claims about voter identification requirements. Ryan, in response, reiterated that New York State does not require any identification for voting, only a signature. Only in rare instances, first-time voters may be required to produce identification if their voter registration is incomplete.
When Kallos asked if Schulkin’s claims about voters being bussed to multiple polling sites held any water, Ryan said, “Those issues have never come to my attention, not during my time as a commissioner going back to 2010 or in the three-plus years that I’ve been the executive director.” The state attorney general’s office also told Gotham Gazette earlier this month that the AG’s office has not received complaints of widespread voter impersonation fraud that Schulkin mentioned.
“Uber engages with regulators and complies with regulation,” City Council member Ben Kallos said. “And Airbnb does whatever it wants in violation of the law.”
Councilman Ben Kallos, whose district includes the East 80s, said he would have preferred the subway to open years ago, as it's been planned since the 1920s, but now is better than never.
But Kallos said he thinks while "100 years is a long time to wait for a subway," when the line finally opens it will be a welcome sight.
"The Second Avenue Subway will [lure] a lot of the riders from Lexington over to," said Kallos. "Businesses that are now here will have the benefit of more traffic, both foot traffic and subway traffic. The neighborhood will get Second Avenue back."
To the relief of many Upper East Siders who have wanted the change for years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has disallowed left turns onto E. 79th Street for cars heading north on York Avenue.
Though there was never a turn signal at that intersection, the light would remain green for drivers going north on York after the other three lights had turned red so the northbound cars could make a left turn. This confused pedestrians, who would think all lights were red and would cross the street without realizing some of them were in the path of the northbound cars who still had a green light.
“This is an intersection where I myself have felt unsafe,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who helped accomplish the safety improvement. “I brought the concern to the Department of Transportation and we went over multiple different options.”
After deciding that eliminating left turns all together was the best move, Kallos and the DOT took it to the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association for a vote.
Betty Cooper Wallerstein, president and founder of the neighborhood association, is happy to see the intersection made safer, but frustrated that it took more than four years to do so.
“People are used to, when the traffic stops, crossing,” Wallerstein said. “The streets have to be safe for blind people, too. It never, never, never should have taken so many years to correct that mistake.”
City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which oversees the CFB, said in a statement last week that he hoped to see a “a thorough and open search for a new chair who will be independent, non-partisan, and non-political” in their role.
“It is of supreme importance that the next chair be someone who has the stature and integrity to not only stand up to candidates and any elected officials but guide the board through election years independently,” Kallos said.
Notably, de Blasio was faced with a somewhat similar choice when selecting a chair for a mandated commission to study and reccomend compensation levels for the city's elected officials. De Blasio chose Schwarz, Jr. in what was a universally applauded decision.
Unless you’re standing right in front of Maz Mezcal, on E. 86th Street between First and Second Avenues, you’ll probably miss it. The restaurant is hidden from view from most directions, due to extensive fencing and machinery. That’s all part of the construction of the Second Avenue subway, which has had a negative impact on business.
“It’s been horrendous,” said Mary Silva, owner of Maz Mezcal. “Business – at least mine and most everyone’s that I’ve spoken to – has dropped anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.”
In order to offset the financial consequences Maz Mezcal and its peers are facing, the Department of Finance is offering them the opportunity to have any fines forgiven that they’ve racked up during the construction. Council Member Ben Kallos encouraged the community to take advantage of the program, which will allow Second Ave. business owners and buildings to have any penalties and interest voided for violations such as snow on the sidewalk, working without a permit, improper trash disposal and failure to conduct required inspections, among others.
“It’s an opportunity for them to get to square one ahead of some legislation I’ve introduced that would actually put their businesses at risk if they haven’t been good neighbors,” Kallos said.
At Kallos’ press conference last week, Finance Department Commissioner Jacques Jiha said almost 700,000 violations have gone into judgment since the construction on the subway began.
The end result is that anyone who's ever been brought into housing court by their landlord ends up penalized, and tenants are discouraged from classic methods of protecting their rights, such as withholding rent. While there's been some movement to improve the lists—City Council memberBenjamin J. Kallos has introduced legislation to include more information about the actual cases, for instance—is there any reason we can't do away with this practice altogether?
The letter — signed by Councilman Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and State Assembly members Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright — listed several reasons why East 72nd Street deserves select bus service.
"With high bus-dependent populations, infrequent local service, crosstown bus service, hospitals, community support and opening of the Second Avenue Subway with a station at 72nd Street, now is the perfect opportunity to increase ridership by restoring M15 Select Bus Service at 72nd Street," read the letter.
During Wednesday night's meeting the board also voted to adopt a resolution to ask NYC Transit for increased local bus service to the stop for the next six months. Since select bus service was instituted on the M15 line, local bus service has deteriorated, in some cases being four times as slow as before select bus service, according to a press release.
“Residents feel abandoned by our buses. Watching five Select Buses go by what used to be a Limited stop makes seniors with limited mobility feel abandoned as they wait for a local bus that never seems to come,” said Kallos in a press release. “Seniors and children live in one-third of the households near 72nd Street and they must be able to rely on bus service to get where they are going.”
Although the community board was in overwhelming favor of both resolutions, the body is simply advisory. The ultimate decision on whether to extend select bus service to East 72nd Street must be made by NYC Transit.
Councilman Ben Kallos, who heads the committee on governmental operations, said he hopes the mayor will appoint “a person of stature who can stand up to any elected official and any candidate, who is nonpartisan and nonpolitical.”
“The turnstiles should be a pathway to economic opportunity, not another barrier,” Raskin said. “It means people are not able to use public transportation to access jobs and economic opportunity and the life of the community. And that is wrong.”
Advocates, including Council Members Ben Kallos and Ydanis Rodriguez, said the city has enough money to pay for the program.
“That is a reasonable price to pay to keep the trains and buses accessible for every New Yorker who must depend on mass transit to get to work and job interviews, attend college and job training programs, obtain needed health care, and enable their families to take advantage of the richness of the city’s cultural life,” wrote the officials in a joint letter to the mayor signed by 27 council members.
The board voted to support that request and Councilman Ben Kallos, who names 79th and York Avenue a dangerous intersection in his "Livable Streets" report, worked with them to get the DOT to solve the issue over the past six months.
“Every day I saw pedestrians crossing York Avenue getting caught by surprise as they dodged northbound cars that barreled through the intersection at 79th Street,” Kallos said in a statement.
State agencies can now leverage an open source tool to help ensure that individuals eligible for income-based human service benefits actually receive them.
The software is Benefit Assist, and it was first launched in 2015 by Intuit for that company’s TurboTax users. Benefit Assist sifts through tax information to help determine a person’s eligibility for benefits from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid and Medicare.
Now, Intuit has partnered with New York City Council Member Ben Kallos and the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make its eligibility software free and open source code, according to the company.
An online tool from tax preparation company Intuit that can easily determine whether an application is eligible for food stamps or other benefits is now freely available through a federal agency to states, local governments or nonprofit organizations.
Councilman Ben Kallos has been pushing for legislation that would require the city to use income tax filings to determine eligibility for public benefits.
Last year, Intuit made the Benefit Assist tool available to help users of TurboTax determine whether they were eligible for an array of programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and many others.
Borelli, who sits on the Council’s governmental operations committee, which has oversight of the Board of Elections, wrote to committee chair Ben Kallos, a Democrat from Manhattan, requesting the hearing. Kallos told Gotham Gazette on Thursday that he disagrees with Borelli about the need for a state voter identification law and said that he will bring up the fraud allegations by BOE Commissioner Alan Schulkin at an already-planned elections oversight hearing in October.
Council Member Kallos told Gotham Gazette he “fervently” disagrees with Borelli. “I do not believe that we need voter identification,” he said. “I believe it is a tool used to disenfranchise voters.”
Kallos said he was “troubled and concerned” about Schulkin’s comments in the video and would bring the issue up at an oversight hearing already in the works before Borelli sent his letter -- the City Council holds a hearing ahead of election administration.
“Everything that was said is troubling,” Kallos said of the video, which released the same day that Kallos hosted an IDNYC pop-up registration event on Roosevelt Island. “We hope to have oversight of the BOE...to find out what happened, whether any of these views had an impact in the conduct of any of the presidential primary elections or any election since this man has been appointed to the BOE.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it has teamed with financial software maker Intuit
(Washington, DC) The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Servicessaid it has teamed with financial software maker Intuit to release the company's Benefit Assist software as free, open source code on GitHub. The move will allow anyone to freely use, share and improve upon Benefit Assist. The goal is to help people more easily determine eligibility and apply for income-based government benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps and free mobile phone service.
City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who has been a fierce proponent of CB8’s mission to end private management of the park, said he is ready to allocate funds for this cause.
“I have already represented to the parks department that I would be interested in investing capital funding from my office,” Kallos said, adding there was additional money available from Borough President Gale Brewer and the state.
“I am willing to put my money where my mouth is in investing in this park,” Kallos said.
CB8 has brought up the idea of establishing a conservancy for the park that would raise money for maintenance and other expenses.
The parks department has indicated that if it decides to revert the Queensboro Oval to public management, it would take more than three years to create a fully accessible park.
Kallos insisted that in that scenario, the park should not go unused. Sutton East, he said, could remain in the space during the months it has a license to run its tennis facility provided that it return the park to its original condition during the summer months –– as its license currently requires.
“I am excited to become one of the almost 1 million IDNYC cardholders, and I am proud to do it in my district on Roosevelt Island,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side-Midtown East-Roosevelt Island), who personally signed up for an IDNYC card after the press conference.
“New Yorkers have until Friday to register for what may be the most important general election in our lifetime,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos, who chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations with oversight over the Board of Elections. “New York City’s collective voice must be heard at this year’s election, for that occur residents must ensure they are registered to vote.”
The Office of Immigration Affairs opened a one week pop-up today at the Carter Burden Center on Roosevelt Island. A team will assist residents in applying for the IDNYC card. Unexpectedly, on the same day, a slipshod report in the New York Post attacked the popular program. Council Member Ben Kallos used the occasion to briskly knock the report down.
"What I love about this ID Card is it shows that what is good for older people is good for everyone," said Bill Dionne, Executive Director of the Carter Burden Center for the Aging.
Carter Burden, which oversees the Roosevelt Island Senior Center at 546 Main Street, is hosting the week long pop-up. It runs daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and until noon on Monday, October 17th. While Dionne and others spoke, Office of Immigration Affairs staffers could be seen at their computers in an adjoining room, already working with early applicants.
Deputy Commissioner Kavita Pawria-Sanchez reported, "As of today, enrollment has grown to 900,000 cardholders, already one out of every ten New Yorkers."
That outcome is largely the reason Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, requested that the authority add SBS to the M66, M96 and M79 bus lines.
“After the success of M86, we wanted to bring it to M79,” Kallos said after the meeting.
UPPER EAST SIDE — Thousands of locals have signed a petition to add East 72nd Street to the M15 Select Bus Service route along First and Second avenues.
The stop was removed from the M15's express route when the MTAreplaced limited bus service with Select Bus Service along the line six years ago.
Now, residents have to walk to East 68th Street, East 67th Street or up to the East 79th Street stop to catch the Select Bus, a hike they say is difficult for the elderly and disabled. The other option is to wait up to 30 minutes for the local bus, residents said.