Press Releases

August 22, 2016

New York, NY – Artists and community groups seeking a space to perform or meet would be able to search and rent city-owned or operated spaces online under “City Spaces” legislation authored by Council Member Ben Kallos with Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer, Laurie Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) that  manages a large portfolio of the city’s properties, will be required to post all suitable properties and accompanying information to a publicly accessible website where artists or anyone can rent municipal spaces.

 

August 17, 2016

New York, NY – Tuesday August 16, the New York City Council passed Introduction 507-A, by Council Member Ben Kallos and Waterfronts Chair Debi Rose. The legislation reconstitutes the role of the City’s Waterfront Management Advisory Board (WMAB) to play an important part in advising New York City on how to best revitalize and protect our 520 miles of shoreline while also ensuring our waterfront investments are anchored to the priorities of our coastal communities.

 

August 16, 2016

Fair and Complete Tenant Screening Reports Would Protect Renters Who Have Been in Court from Being Targeted by Landlords and Refused Apartments

New York, NY – Tenant screening companies which create so called “tenant blacklists” would be regulated to ensure they provide fair and complete information, including court records that show when tenants were in the right. This added level of scrutiny will lessen the number of prospective tenants who in many cases are repeatedly denied a place to live merely because they were involved in a housing court case. This legislation is authored by Council Members Ben Kallos, introduced with Public Advocate Leticia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, with support from Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and State Senator Liz Krueger.
 
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers named in housing court cases every year are reported to be on “tenant blacklists.” These “blacklists” are created by screening reports sold by companies along with credit reports and are often used to deny applications to renters. Tenant screening companies who provide a list of those named in housing court cases without any indication of the particulars or outcome of the case include: CoreLogic SafeRentTransUnion Rental Screening SolutionOn-Site, and ALM. This legislation would license these companies and require them to provide the necessary details of housing court cases such as the outcome and who initiated the proceedings in order to protect tenants who were in the right from being “blacklisted,” a frightening prospect for anyone looking for an apartment in an already tough renters market.
 
The legislation requires anyone who assembles or evaluates screening reports which contain court histories to register and obtain a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and requires the following:

  • Each housing court case mentioned must contain the names of all parties involved, the claims alleged, the current status or outcome of the case, and which party initiated the case;
  • Tenant screening companies will have to state the defenses asserted by the tenant and the specific outcome of the case, including any rent abatement awarded.
  • The Department of Consumers Affairs is tasked with enforcement with civil penalties of $500 per report inaccurate report and fines for non-compliance up to $5,000.
  • Anyone who believes they have been harmed by an inaccurate screening report could bring their own case in court.

 “No one should face discrimination for having exercised their constitutional right to seek justice in the courts. Tenant screening companies have a responsibility to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but truth about house court cases,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We can't have a legal system where someone can be vindicated in housing court against a bad landlord and then repeatedly denied a place to live. Tenant blacklists degrade housing court and create a system where even if you win, you lose.”
 
 

 

August 15, 2016

New York, NY – Patronage appointments for positions that have never been advertised to the public are being targeted for reform by Council Members Ben Kallos and Vincent Gentile. The proposed legislation would force the city government to publicly post any new position or vacancy for at least 14 days before conducting interviews.

 

July 14, 2016

The Department of Investigation's independent report confirms the influence of lobbyists in the lifting of deed restrictions at Rivington and that the interest of the city was not adequately considered. The report includes many facts and findings that pose more questions which must be answered at a public hearing of the City Council.

 

 

July 11, 2016

In furtherance of CIVITAS’s Reimagining the Waterfront initiative, we are pleased to announce a new community-based vision for the John Finley Walk section of the East River Esplanade (81st-84th Streets). During May and June, CIVITAS, with support from Council Member Ben Kallos, facilitated two visioning sessions for community residents to solicit priorities for possible improvements to this section of the Esplanade. Residents of buildings facing John Finley Walk filled out an extensive survey that enabled CIVITAS to collect data and statistically measure how the neighborhood would like to see improvements implemented. A concerted effort was made to focus on and recommend those improvements that received the most support from these immediate neighbors and from a majority of other community residents that participated in this visioning process.

 

 

CIVITAS 
1457 Lexington Avenue 
New York, NY 10128 
p: 212-996-0745 
f: 212-289-4291 
infoatcivitasnyc [dot] org 
www.civitasnyc.org

 

July 8, 2016

"We've got an additional 18 pre-kindergarten seats in my district and 54 more on the Upper East Side thanks to a strong partnership between the Department of Education, the City Council and parents. Thank you to Chancellor Farina, Deputy Chancellor Wallack, Principal Tara Napoleoni, and parents for working with my office to add 18 pre-kindergarten seats at P.S. 183 in my district and another 36 seats at P.S. 6 serving the Upper East Side," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Universal Pre-Kindergarten provides four year-olds throughout our city with early learning they need to get a head start in life and the childcare families need. I hope that we will soon be able meet this year's need and keep work so that every parent can apply for universal pre-kindergarten next year and know they will have seat waiting in the neighborhood for their child."

 

July 1, 2016

“The City Council has a responsibility to hold an oversight hearing on deed restrictions. I want to get to the bottom of what happened at Rivington, St. Nicholas, and other sites where developers bought out of their duty to serve the community,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee of Governmental Operations with oversight over the Department of Citywide Administrative Services which grants deed restrictions. “Now that they’ve finally turned over the list of deed restrictions that were pending or granted, we must publicly review the benefits communities could be losing.”

 

June 22, 2016

I am Council Member Ben Kallos, representing the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and El Barrio. That’s @BenKallos on Twitter and Instagram.
 
Good afternoon to the Rent Guidelines Board Chair Hon. Kathleen A. Roberts, Public Members Flax, Joza, Rahman and Schaub, Owner Members Walsh and Serafy, and Tenant Members Epstein and Garcia. 
 
To New Yorkers here today, and especially tenants, thank you for attending this hearing. I am proud to stand with you today.
 
This year, I am calling on the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a rent rollback.
 
Last year, the Board voted for a historic rent freeze for one-year leases, the first of its kind, and that began to correct for the disproportionately high increases of previous years.
 

 

June 20, 2016

I am Council Member Ben Kallos, representing the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and El Barrio. That’s @BenKallos on Twitter and Instagram.
 
Good afternoon to the Rent Guidelines Board Chair Hon. Kathleen A. Roberts, Public Members Flax, Joza, Rahman and Schaub, Owner Members Walsh and Serafy, and Tenant Members Epstein and Garcia. 
 
To New Yorkers here today, and especially tenants, thank you for attending this hearing. I am proud to stand with you today.
 
This year, I am calling on the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a rent rollback.
 
Last year, the Board voted for a historic rent freeze for one-year leases, the first of its kind, and that began to correct for the disproportionately high increases of previous years.
 
Year after year, as rent goes up, tenants have shouldered an undue burden. Meanwhile, income cannot keep pace, and only crept up by 2.3% between 2005 and 2013 in real terms. The approved rent increases each year were largely based upon the landlord’s operating costs, measured by the price index of operating cost (PIOC). This practice not only failed to consider tenants, but was also proven to be inaccurate: based upon data from the Department of Finance (DOF), the PIOC has overstated landlord costs by 11% since 2005. This miscalculation led to unfairly high rent increases in past years, which must be corrected with a rent rollback.

 

June 8, 2016

Currently members of the public usually must show up at day time public hearings at City Hall or 250 Broadway that can last hours with public testimony often limited to only two minutes thereby limiting input and engagement in the legislative process from the public.
 
“New Yorkers should be able to ‘like’ and comment on City Council legislation to make civic engagement as easy as Facebook,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee of Governmental Operations. “Government must engage residents where they are in the way they want to engage, which means updating our legislative rules so people can engage online.”
 

 

June 3, 2016

Litter strewn sidewalks on the Upper East Side are about to get cleaner following an investment of $20,710 by Council Member Ben Kallos in 38 new large trash cans personally delivered by Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.

The large trash cans are targeted to street corners with high numbers of trash complaints in order to prevent trash overflow and spillage of litter on to the street. The 38 large trash cans will start from 70th Street and First Avenue through 98th Street and Lexington, with 27 large trash cans just for the East 86th Street commercial corridor.

“I am here to clean up the Upper East Side with larger trash cans that can prevent overflow and litter that spills onto the streets,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Commissioner Garcia and the Department of Sanitation for twice a day pickup and these new larger trash cans to help keep the Upper East Side clean.”

 

May 25, 2016

New Yorkers have won a rare victory over developers by stopping a skyscraper in a residential neighborhood. Even when a Borough President, Council Member, Community Board, neighborhood association, and local residents pool resources, the odds may be against us, but together we can win. I am glad we stopped this loophole before it was too late.

 

May 23, 2016

Four Foot Lot Allowed Developer to Skirt Law

New York, NY — Foundations are getting poured for a 521 foot skyscraper at 180 East 88th Street that would be against the law, but for a determination by the Department of Buildings that by creating a 4 foot by 22 foot lot, the property does not front on East 88th Street despite its address so that it can ignore limitations that would lower the building’s height. Council Member Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer are opposing the zoning determination with a letter and are seeking a reversal of the decision.

“The law must apply evenly to all New Yorkers including developers,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Zoning laws were created to protect our residents from over-development and must not be eroded by creating new loopholes.”

“At first glance, this project looks like a prime example where the Department of Buildings has failed to enforce the law,” Manhattan Borough Presidents Gale Brewer said. “The zoning here is what it is, not what the developer wishes it were.”

 

May 18, 2016

Education, Giveaways and Enforcement by City Agencies and Non-Profits Enters Third Year of Improving Safety for Cyclists and Pedestrians

New York, NY — The Upper East Side’s “Bike Safety” program is expanding from 59th to 96th Street to Midtown East, bringing full coverage to the area from 30th Street to 96th Street. Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick are funding and coordinating education, safety equipment giveaways, and increased enforcement.

Since the summer of 2015, the Bike Safety program has succeeded in its goal of helping pedestrians and cyclists safely enjoy city streets, as covered by CBS, NBC, Our Town and amNY. Following last year’s Bike Safety program in August, the NYPD’s 19th Precinct reported a year-to-date 15% decrease in bike and pedestrian collisions.

The expansion to the Bike Safety program is the result of work by Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, the New York Police Department’s 17th and 19th Precincts (NYPD), the NYPD Transportation Bureau, the Department of Transportation, Citi Bike (Motivate), Transportation Alternatives, and Bike New York.

 

May 17, 2016

New York, NY – Taxpayers will save $430 million in settlements and judgments that the city had planned to pay for lawsuits over the next five years following pressure from Council Member Ben Kallos.

The Law Department plans to expand a “Vertical Case Handling” pilot that assigns individual attorneys to cases from beginning to conclusion with an investment of $18 million. For the previous two years of questioning Governmental Operations Committee’s Chair Kallos challenged the Law Department’s assertion that despite a 2014 policy and funding decision to more aggressively fight frivolous lawsuits, the City expected to pay out ever-increasing amounts of money to settle lawsuits.

 

 

May 16, 2016

It has come to our attention that the above mentioned building planned and permitted for the west side of Third Avenue between 87th and 88th Street used a questionable subdivision strategy so that it could circumvent the explicit intent of the Zoning Resolution Section 12-10.  The resultant building does not have the tower-on-base building form intended by zoning, leaves the City of New York with an unbuildable lot, and treats the development lot and unbuildable lot as separate despite single ownership thereby creating a precedent for a new and dangerous loophole. We request an immediate stop work order and reopening of determinations and approvals for errors and omissions.

 

May 12, 2016

“New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent, we are now one step closer to that becoming a reality,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget and Mayor De Blasio for making it a priority and now a reality.” 

 

 

May 12, 2016

Manhattan –The East River Fifties community came together on May 10th for a rally and demonstration, organized by the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA), asking the City to hurry along approval of its residential rezoning plan and vowing to fight any plans to build megatowers in their community.

“We simply cannot allow wildly out-of-scale supertowers to crush our mostly low-rise residential neighborhood,” said Alan Kersh, ERFA’s President. “Our proposed re-zoning plan, which is currently under review by the Department of City Planning, will guarantee that megatowers cannot be built here. There has already been one attempt to site such a monstrosity here, and we need the City to act as quickly as possible to make our plan a reality and to protect our community,” he added.

"The community has done its part by filing and now it's time for the City to do its part by certifying the application to stop buildings for billionaires in favor of new schools and affordable housing," said Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the neighborhood and is a co-filer on the ERFA rezoning plan. "The fight against superscrapers in residential neighborhoods is far from over."

 

May 11, 2016

Mayor de Blasio, the Office of Management and Budget, Speaker Mark-Viverito, Finance Chair Ferreras-Copeland, and Council Member Kallos today announced that the data underpinning New York City’s $82 billion budget is now available for all New Yorkers to explore at nycopendata.socrata.com. The Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget worked with Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Council Member Ben Kallos to make key budget documents human and computer searchable instead of printed or in lengthy PDFs, available on the City’s Open Data Portal. The data complements the extensive budget documents already published online by OMB.

"New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent, we are now one step closer to that becoming a reality” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget and Mayor De Blasio for making it a priority and now a reality.”

 

May 5, 2016

New York, NY – After more than 120,000 voters in Brooklyn were reported to have been disenfranchised the City Council passed legislation today authored by Council Member Ben Kallos that could have helped avoid confusion on Primary Day by providing voters with the information online and on their phones necessary to participate in elections and verify their votes were counted.
 
The Mayor sought to implement this new policy last week by offering $20 million to the Board of Elections, which the Board of Elections has rejected. The City Council is now mandating many of these reforms, which if signed by Mayor de Blasio, would have the force of law.
 
“Voters shouldn’t have to continually check their status before casting a ballot. But unless Albany finally updates its archaic and disenfranchising election laws, the onus is on voters to verify their eligibility before each election,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Voter registrations should not be an obstacle that leads to disfranchisement.”
 

 

 

May 5, 2016

 New York, NY – How New York City spends $82 billion is about to get more transparent, with a city budget that is searchable and computer readable instead of printed or in lengthy PDFs, through legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos that would require the budget to be searchable, posted in open formats, and available for third parties to “build an app for that.”
 
“New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget.”

 

 

May 2, 2016

New York, NY – Ninety more 4-year-olds will have free pre-kindergarten seats on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island thanks to the efforts of Council Member Ben Kallos who organized parents and children to identify new providers to which parents pledged to send children.
 
Of the 90 new seats, 54 will be at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery and 36 seats will be at the Manhattan Schoolhouse in the Upper East Side. This is an increase over the 425 seats previously offered on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island for the school year starting in September of 2016 to 515.
 
Parents can apply for Round 2 of Universal Pre-Kindergarten starting on May 2, 2016, including families who already applied, accepted an offer, or have not yet applied. “Universal Pre-Kindergarten means having a seat for every four year old in their neighborhood where children can get an education and parents get the help they need in order to afford to live, work and raise a family in the city,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Eva Bosbach of the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network as well as Ariel Chesler and Jack Moran of P.S. 183 for working with me, parents, children, providers, and the Department of Education to bring Universal Pre-Kindergarten to the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.”
 

 

April 22, 2016

New York, NY – New York, NY— Yesterday, over 150 residents prepared for the passage of a Single-use Bag Reduction Law and for the launch of Car Free Day by picking up free reusable bags and Citi Bike Day Passes at an Earth Day Kickoff by Council Member Ben Kallos. “Each of us can do a little to do a lot to save our planet, especially in a city of 8.4 million,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Earth Day is a chance to focus on saving our planet, one bag or one trip at a time. Government must provide residents with what they need so they can minimize harm to our environment.”                                                                                                    

 

 

April 21, 2016

“Quality of life is about to improve because not only will these reforms improve the City’s collection efforts, they will more importantly change the behaviors that harm quality of life and jeopardize public health and safety,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “For far too long, quality of life violations have gone uncollected, with bad actors continuing bad behavior to the detriment of our communities. That is about to change.”