Press Releases

April 4, 2016

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:

 

April 1, 2016

“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.”

 

March 22, 2016

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.

 

March 22, 2016

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.”

 

March 22, 2016

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).

 

March 19, 2016

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.

 

March 18, 2016

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.

 

March 17, 2016

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. 

 

March 9, 2016

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.

 

March 1, 2016

Elections and Civic Engagement Targeted for Upgrades by N.Y. City Council  

New York, NY – A legislative package of 11 bills and resolutions aiming to improve elections and civic engagement through increasing voter information, additional language access, expanding the franchise and improving election administration were heard yesterday in the Committee on Governmental Operations, chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos. Many of the bills in the package were highlighted in Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivierto’s State of the City.

U.S. voter turnout in recent elections has been staggeringly low. 53.6% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2012 presidential election and 36.4% in the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest rate since 1942. In New York State, the number is even lower, with turnout of only 29% in the 2014 midterms, making it 49th in the nation for voter participation. In New York City, the turnout rate for that election was an historic low of 20%.

Voter information legislation would offer email and text reminders, mail voter histories, notify voters when poll sites moved during preceding four years, and provide a voter guide for all elections. Language access legislation would offer that voter guide in additional languages and mandate Russian language interpreters. Resolutions to expand the franchise seek to restore voting rights to parolees and designate a day for student voter registration. Legislation to improve the election administration would consolidate primaries, allow in person early voting, and requests that the Board of Elections allow poll workers to work 8 hour shifts instead of 16 hours or longer. Taken together, these changes hope to improve the democratic process ahead of this year’s Presidential election.

“We need a voting process that encourages greater participation,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. “This package of legislation ensures that New York City’s voting process is transparent, inclusive, and adaptable to new technologies. By opening up the process to more voters, we are one step closer to a City that has a more inclusive voting process which aims at strengthening civic engagement.”

 

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February 26, 2016

Broad coalition supporting the city’s proposal includes business, labor, AARP, and more
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James,  Comptroller Scott Stringer and a broad coalition of business, labor, and other leaders rallied today in support of New York City’s push to become the first city in the country to create a retirement savings program for private sector employees.

 

February 22, 2016

NEW YORK CITY– Today, more than 150 New Yorkers joined community groups, environmental justice leaders, national environmental organizations, and local officials on the steps of City Hall to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for his commitment to power 100 percent of City operations with renewable energy and urge him to ensure that offshore wind power plays a major role in achieving that goal.

At the rally, a letter signed by over 50 diverse organizations calling for offshore wind power was delivered to the Mayor. The letter highlights the massive potential of offshore wind power to reduce pollution and spark transformative job creation in New York City and across the state. Prioritizing offshore wind power for NYC is also crucial for meeting Mayor de Blasio’s broader goal of cutting climate pollution in New York City 80 percent by 2050 and 35 percent within government operations by 2025. The letter also calls on New York State and the Federal Government to take the actions necessary to launch offshore wind power for New York.

 

February 8, 2016

The Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (“ETHOS”) launched today by Council Member Ben Kallos, Council Member Dan Garodnick, State Senator Liz Krueger and Manhattan Borough Preisdent Gale Brewer with churches, synagogues, and non-profits devoted to addressing challenges facing the significant number of homeless people on the Upper East Side. The Taskforce, in formation over the past 4 months, will provide support for breakfast, lunch and dinner meals, food pantries, street outreach, legal services, substance abuse, medical, supportive housing and shelter services.

 

February 5, 2016

"Retirement isn't something aging New Yorkers should have to worry about. We need pensions for all so New Yorkers can retire in security," said Council Member Ben Kallos, who helped develop the Retirement Security for All proposal while at Bill Samuels' EffectiveNY and will be introducing legislation to make it a reality. "Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Member I. Daneek Miller for their leadership and partnership in bringing retirement security to the private sector and all New Yorkers."

 

 

January 31, 2016

New York City Council Members would become full time with stipends referred to as “lulus” banned for all members other than the Speaker and Minority leader by legislation introduced today by Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee.

“City Council Members will be working full time for their residents without the influence of stipends and outside income,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “New York City continues to lead with reforms the people want to see at all levels of government.”

 

January 21, 2016

The most sweeping residential re-zoning plan by a community group in New York City history was filed today by a neighborhood coalition lead by Council Members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick, and joined by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger and the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA), who are all co-applicants to the Department of City Planning. The new zoning plan for the Manhattan area between 52nd Street and 59th Street, east of 1st Avenue, would restrict supertowers and over-development in the neighborhood with a contextual height cap of up to 260 feet, incentives for schools, and a requirement for mandatory inclusionary housing.

"We are drawing a line on the march of superscrapers at billionaire's row to protect our city's residential neighborhoods," said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the neighborhood and is a plan applicant. "The outdated zoning laws developers currently use for self-enrichment will be updated to protect residential neighborhoods from over-development. The East River Fifties Alliance has proposed a rare community application to rezone a neighborhood, making it impossible to build superscrapers 'as of right.' They have risen to the challenge of winning support from elected officials, the community board, buildings and residents to bring an application to rezone and save the neighborhood."

The re-zoning proposal was sparked by the out-of-scale 1,000 foot megatower proposed by the Bauhouse Group on East 58th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place. That proposed tower would exploit the loopholes in the 1960’s era zoning designation that still dictates construction on in the Far East Fifties, and which sets no specific height limits on apartment buildings, despite new technologies that allow for super-tall, skinny towers.

Community members and Council Member Kallos acted fast in response to the proposed Bauhouse tower. After the Our Town newspaper covered the Bauhouse plan on April 7, Council Member Kallos published an opinion editorial in opposition to the out-of-scale tower, and circulated a petition opposing superscrapers in residential neighborhoods. Community Board 6 passed a resolution calling for height caps in the neighborhood which was sent to the Department of City Planning for consideration on May 13, within 45 days of the news.

Over the following months, Kallos visited buildings throughout the neighborhood and spoke with residents about what they could do, including making donations to the newly formed ERFA. In August, The New York Times covered ERFA and Kallos’ efforts against the tower and highlighted the story of Herndon Werth, a rent-stabilized tenant refusing to sell his apartment to the Bauhouse Group in order to save his home and the neighborhood.

 

January 8, 2016

1,050,247 low-income students and senior households in New York City will finally have access to affordable broadband, training and computers.

 

January 7, 2016

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

    We write to encourage you to ask your administrative agencies to identify 5% in potential savings for Fiscal Year 2017 before you issue the Preliminary Budget.

    This is an important exercise to ensure that agencies are operating at their most efficient, and that there is minimal waste. Beginning in 1982, prior administrations made a point to incorporate gap closing measures into yearly, city wide funding plans -- whether or not a budget deficit was anticipated for the current year. Identifying savings has the benefit of contributing to the City’s financial stability by helping to cover gaps in current or future budgets by paring down agency spending, and avoiding the need for revenue-raising measures.

 

December 17, 2015

Inspiration

“I want us to ask ourselves every day, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people’s lives.” — President Barack Obama.

Executive Summary

We have the opportunity to help state and local governments dramatically improve the services they provide to citizens while saving money, if it acts to create and support implementation of the policy framework to enable “automatic benefits.”  Accomplishing these goals is now possible due to (1) the significant advancements in technology and responsible information sharing, and (2) leveraging open government data, to make data held by government reusable and accomplish the following priorities:

  • Universal Application - qualifies citizens for all the human services to which they are entitled based on the completion of a single form.
  • Automatic Renewal – renews people for services rather than depending upon them to reapply.
  • Automatic Benefits - use open government data (IRS, SSA, Human Services, etc.) to means test eligibility and automate the process of determination in order to deliver services for which people are eligible automatically.

We can advance automatic benefits at the federal, state and local level and create a lasting legacy for more open and effective government by:

1. Challenge the States to Use Existing Funding - The Federal government can lead the states by publicly challenging governors to use Affordable Care Act funding available until 2018 to reduce bureaucracy and waste by removing unnecessary paper work and rules in order to provide human service benefits to those who need them.

2. Integrate Automatic Benefits into Healthcare Exchanges - Upgrade HealthCare.gov so that applicants for health insurance are also screened, qualified and awarded all the other human services citizens qualify for in order to give them the comprehensive care they need to stay healthy.

3. Challenge the Private and Non-Profit Sector - Issue a challenge to states and locals to make the business rules underlying benefits decisions freely available as open data and invite the private and non-profit sector to innovate in delivery of government benefits, including by creating new kinds of eligibility apps.

4. Super Waiver – seeking a blanket waiver of any bureaucratic rules, identified below, that stand in the way of granting benefits to people who need them and following the framework laid out by automatic benefits legislation introduced in New York City.

President Obama has already laid the groundwork for “automatic benefits” through the Affordable Care Act, Executive Order 13563, Executive Memorandum, waivers, guidance and funding for each state to use integration and interoperability to improve delivery of federally-assisted human service benefits to their residents by leveraging information sharing across human service agencies to automatically recertify or provide benefits. Across the nation, states including California, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York have begun to implement one stop websites for multi-benefit screening and application, online and mobile phone apps for self-service case management and updates, eligibility systems and business rule engines (BREs), electronic evidence imaging, and electronic data matching to provide benefits automatically.

Automatic benefits have the advantage of decreasing interaction with bureaucracy and making government more efficient, effective, and humane. But without intervention, a handful of states may build automatic benefits with governors claiming credit individually, but the vast majority will miss the 2018 deadline, leaving much of America without the benefits they need.

Download the PDF

 

December 16, 2015

I am Council Member Ben Kallos, representing the Upper Eastside, East Midtown, East Harlem and Roosevelt Island. The City Planning Commission has an opportunity to protect our neighborhoods, our midblocks, make floor area ratio a three dimensional measure, protect our public parks from shadows, build a city that is affordable for all New Yorkers with a strong middle class, with necessary school seats to educate the next generation, and with a plan that reflects the voices and expertise of our city’s communities.

 

December 10, 2015

NEW YORK – Cornell Tech, New York City public school P.S./I.S. 217 and Councilmember Ben Kallos today unveiled a groundbreaking three-year program that will enable teachers at Roosevelt Island’s P.S./I.S. 217 to incorporate computer science (CS) activity across the curriculum. Every teacher in the K-8 school will receive professional development training, after which they will devise and implement CS lesson plans covering every student in every grade. The program is part of an ongoing partnership between Cornell Tech and the New York City Department of Education to make computer science instruction available to public school students. 

 

December 8, 2015

Underground cell service, public safety call boxes and free Wi-Fi were announced today by Transit Wireless, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, and City Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick at the 86th Street Subway Station. Transit Wireless, the company contracted by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to design and construct wireless connectivity in New York City’s underground subway stations, recently launched Phase 4 of the project, bringing wireless connectivity to 37 stations in the Bronx and Manhattan, including the 86th Street Station.