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."
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
New York, NY – Yesterday, as many as 63,821 Democratic voters in Brooklyn who were eligible to vote last November may not have found their names in poll books, according to data from the State Board of Elections. Mistakes were reported by Board of Elections employees and Election Day workers that lead to poll sites opening late, without poll books, voting machines, and other instances where voters were turned away.
This could have been mitigated through the elimination of patronage as well as voter information portal legislation introduced and heard last year by Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight over the Board of Elections. The portal would have allowed voters to check their registration status, update information, request and track absentee ballots, and verify their voting histories.
New York, NY—Nearly 2,000 Upper East Side residents 14 and over turned out in person or online to vote on how to spend $1 million in tax dollars to improve the community as part of “Participatory Budgeting.” Residents were able to vote in the district office 7 days a week as well as at 17 mobile “pop-up” voting locations, by absentee and even online. This is the third year of Participatory Budgeting and the results were:
- $500,000 – 802 votes – Green Roof at P.S. 290 the Manhattan New School (MNS)
- $350,000 – 768 votes – Laptop Carts for 10 schools on the Upper East Side P.S. 77, P.S 198, P.S 290, P.S/I.S 217, M. 225, Eleanor Roosevelt, Urban Academy, Vanguard, Manhattan International and Life Sciences serving over 5,000 students.
The $500,000 for P.S. 290 adds to $1 million previously allocated by Council Member Kallos for a green roof at the location, where the project cost is estimated at $2.8 million. This allocation brings the school to the half-way point during Kallos’ third year in office.
New York, NY — Overflowing trash cans that have led to trash on the sidewalk along the East 86th Street commercial corridor will be addressed with an increase in city trash can pick up from once to twice day as ordered by Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia upon the request of Council Member Ben Kallos.
Council Member Ben Kallos, co-founder of the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services, said, "We can and must help our homeless off the streets by starting with investing in prevention, improving shelter conditions with increased safety and mental health support, and a focus on permanent housing. Ninety days is not much time to fix a longstanding problem, but the City has not waited, with the launch of HOME-STAT and investments into mental health, job training, and enrichment for our city's most vulnerable. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayors Shorris and Palacio, and Commissioner Banks for their focus on the helping the homeless.”
$1.6 billion in outstanding debt could be recovered
New York, NY – Today, the City Council passed three bills co-authored by Council Members Ben Kallos and Julissa Ferreras-Copeland to improve quality of life enforcement by including specific information to identify who is responsible for violations and requiring agencies to consider prior offenses when issuing or renewing permits, licenses and registrations. These reforms will not only improve the City’s collection efforts, but will more importantly change the behaviors that harm quality of life and jeopardize public health and safety.
The bills passed are:
- Int. 810-A by Kallos, requires agencies to consider prior offenses and outstanding debts to the city prior to issuing or renewing permits, licenses and registrations with reporting on when they are denied.
- Int. 807-A by Ferreras-Copeland, requires agencies issuing summonses to "owner of" to make reasonable efforts to learn the actual name and amen. Currently, violations issued to “owner of” are difficult for the Department of Finance (DOF) to collect on.
- Int. 812-A by Kallos, requires agencies to include the borough, block, and lot number (BBL) and building identification number (BIN) on summonses. A major difficulty in DOF’s collection efforts is that summonses do not contain sufficient information to identify the responsible party.
Free Safety Vests, Lights and Bells Distributed to Hundreds Who Participated in Ninety Minute Safety Training in English, Spanish and ChineseNew York, NY – Last night, over one hundred fast food delivery bike workers joined Council Member Ben Kallos for training by the Department of Transportation in English, Spanish and Chinese on traffic rules and bike safety.
Since 2013, then candidate Kallos was supportive of Mayor Bloomberg “Reinvent Payphones” initiative raising awareness for information sessions and the upcoming request for proposals. In 2014, now Council Member Kallos advocated in Fast Company for upgrading phone booths, many of which lacked actual phones and providing phone service. This year, Kallos praised DoITT for the more than $20 million in annual advertising revenue for the City of New York
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"We as a city must do all we can to help the homeless off the streets, from proactive canvassing, to quarterly nighttime counts, and a public dashboard so residents can see the results of our efforts," said Council Member Ben Kallos, co-Founder of the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach Services (ETHOS). "Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Steve Banks for their leadership and focus on helping the homeless."
New York, NY – Today, Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, applauded the New York City Council’s response to the Mayor’s FY 2017 Preliminary Budget and FY 2016 Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report (PMMR).
“Speaker Mark-Viverito and the Council have put together a broad set of recommendations unified by the principle that our City’s government should serve New Yorkers seamlessly and effectively,” said Council Member Kallos. “By spending taxpayer money wisely and transparently, we can free up needed funds for schools, parks, assistance programs, and public infrastructure.”
Discussed at the Committee on Governmental Operations Preliminary Budget Hearing was:
“Uncertainty of outcomes is one the biggest challenges to governing, but through time travel we could see the immediate results of our public policy and make changes where necessary,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee of Governmental Operations with oversight over the Department of Citywide Administrative Services whose fleet could one day include a time machine. “Investment of tax dollars into time travel, will provide an infinite return on investment as we are able to avoid calamity by altering our time line. So long as we do not create a portal to the alternate timelines we destroy, we should all be fine.”
I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to win these final changes:
Zoning for Quality and Affordability as amended will:
- Reduced height increases in contextual districts, including bringing the maximum R10A increase from 50 feet to 25 feet with different heights for narrow and wide streets.
- Tying additional heights in contextual districts in Manhattan to affordable housing.
- Protecting seniors from being squeezed into 275 square foot micro units, with a new minimum of 325 square feet.
- NYCHA tenants who would have been walled in by new construction 40 feet from their windows will continue to be protected by 60 feet between buildings.
- The Sliver Law has been protected and will remain intact.
Mandatory Inclusionary Housing as amended will:
- Provide housing for lower income New Yorkers at 40% of AMI
- HPD will be required to track, register, and monitor the new affordable units created as would be required by Introduction 1015, legislation I authored and co-prime sponsored by Housing Chair Jumaane Williams and Council Member Rosie Mendez.
- HPD projects will provide funding and incentives for local outreach and hiring.
- Department of Buildings will impose requirements and fines that will make construction safer.
New York, NY – New Yorkers would have more choices at the polls, with a proposal to automatically grant ballot access to candidates who qualify for public dollars under the campaign finance system, Int. 1129, introduced today by Council Members Ben Kallos, Fernando Cabrera, and Antonio Reynoso.
“Ballot access reform is more than a century overdue. Democracy must mean giving voters more than one ‘choice’ on the ballot,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of Committee on Governmental Operations with oversight of campaign finance and elections. “Candidates who receive public matching will have the funds they need to be competitive and should get on the ballot.”
New York, NY – Candidates for public office in New York City would no longer need big dollar contributions in order to run for office under new legislation, Int. 1130, introduced by Council Members Ben Kallos, Fernando Cabrera and Brad Lander. The legislation would increase the amount that is matched with public dollars at 6 to 1 from $175 to $250 and would increase the public match from 55% to 85% of the total spending cap.
In the 2013 mayoral race, maximum contributions of $4,950 accounted for less than 5% of all contributions. These big dollar contributions accounted for nearly than half of funds raised ($23.9 million out of the total $48.9 million).
Our city continues to grow and with it our need for more schools. The challenge we face as a city is juxtaposing that need against a limited amount of land on which to build new schools, especially in areas where new development is occurring. As you know, the limited supply of land is a key barrier to the construction of new schools and every vacant lot must be seen as a potential opportunity for building structures that can be used to educate the city’s children. My district, and the city as a whole, is currently faced with the challenge of impending church closings. Although we wish to avoid the closings, they present a unique and time sensitive opportunity for building new schools that would go a long way in increasing the number of available school seats, and especially pre-kindergarten seats.
The death of an Upper East Side resident Tuesday morning after being struck by a city Sanitation truck at First Avenue and 92nd street was the type of tragedy our city is working so hard to avoid. My thoughts and prayers are with the victim of this tragic collision as well as her friends and family.
Unfortunately, the administration's plan to build a Marine Transfer Station -- the only such facility in a residential neighborhood -- will bring many more trucks through this dense area and make it all too likely for tragedy to repeat itself. Garbage trucks and residential neighborhoods don't mix and we must stop hundreds of trucks from driving through residential side streets that are already dangerous.
Council Member Kallos gave the below remarks upon voting in favor of both Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability at today's hearing of the Committee on Land Use. "Thank you to the Speaker, Chair Greenfield, Chair Richards, and the Council Staff for your hard work amending both proposals to reflect the voices and expertise of our communities. I have spent the past year fighting to improve Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) to build affordable housing for all New Yorkers while protecting light and air by limiting building heights.
New York, NY – The vast bureaucracy of New York City would be tamed by a new bill that would centralize New Yorkers’ interactions with government through a new mobile app and website personalized to each resident. The legislation authored by Council Member Ben Kallos would allow residents to apply for affordable housing, benefits and jobs, and business licenses, or pay parking tickets, taxes and fines as well as manage their city services all from one account on a mobile app or website.