New York, NY— The following statement can be attributed to City Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer, following the de Blasio administration's release of an audit of Verizon's fiber Internet services:
New York, NY — A “Bike Safety” initiative is launching with a partnership between Council Member Ben Kallos’ office, the Department of Transportation, the New York Police Department (NYPD), Citi Bike (Motivate), Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York, Council Member Kallos announced today. The program kicks off in the warm weather months when more New Yorkers tend to cycle.
This year, I am calling on the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a rent rollback. Our tenants have endured an undue rent burden, with high increases year after year. Meanwhile, income cannot keep pace and only crept up by 2.3% between 2005 and 2013 in real terms.
Last year, the Board voted for a historic low 1% increase for one-year leases and 2.75% for two-year leases—but that did not correct for the disproportionately high increases of previous years.
The approved rent increases each year have largely been based upon the landlord’s operating costs, measured by the price index of operating cost (PIOC). This practice not only fails to consider tenants, but has also proven to be inaccurate: based upon data from the 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.
Those increases have come with consequences. A unit is considered affordable if the rent is no higher than 30% of their household income. The median rent-to-income ratio of tenants in rent stabilized apartment is 36.4%. By this standard, a majority of rent-stabilized tenants have units that are not affordable. The stress of financial insecurity takes a toll on New Yorkers every day.
A rent rollback is also economically feasible for landlords. Even by the slanted standards of the PIOC, operating costs only increased by a mere .5% this year. We have an opportunity to correct for years of high rent increases and subsequent burden on tenants, without greatly burdening landlords. After so many years of only considering landlord costs, it is time to consider the needs of our tenants. This is a city of renters, but we will only remain one if we vigorously protect the affordable housing we already have. Please join us by voting for a rent rollback this year.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Mary Grace Belfi and her family in this difficult time. No one should have to go through what they are now going through. This devastating collision is a call to action to fight harder to ensure all can be safe in our streets. I hope the suspect who fled the scene will soon be apprehended."
New York, NY — A four-bill legislative package to improve how the city issues and collects fines for Environmental Control Board (ECB) violations, was announced today by New York City Council Members Ben Kallos and Julissa Ferreras. The Environmental Control Board (ECB) is a city tribunal that adjudicates “quality of life” violations issued by 13 city agencies. After the decision, the fines are collected by the Department of Finance or referred to the Law Department or a third-party debt collector. Of the debt referred to the Department of Finance, 90% has been issued a default judgment, making it extremely challenging to collect. Eighty-four percent of debt owed to is over two years old.
New York, NY— Today, Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) joined tenants, advocates and colleagues to call for a rent rollback in public testimony before the Rent Guidelines Board. The following is Council Member Kallos' testimony, as prepared for delivery:
New York, NY – The following statement can be attributed to Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), on the Mayor's plan to insource IT jobs:
"Government is getting more high tech by insourcing jobs. I am proud to have advocated for in-sourcing in the city budget at oversight hearings since I took office, and I look forward to seeing far more in-sourcing in future years. Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio on signing an agreement to in-source IT work when possible, saving the city up to $3.6 million this year."
New York, NY – The following statement can be attributed to Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), a software developer and Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations, on FCC Chair Tom Wheeler's proposal to modernize the Lifeline program to include broadband:
"Lifeline provides low-income Americans with the utilities they need, which must include Internet. I have been advocating for Lifeline for Internet and thank FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler for his leadership on a Federal level. Lifeline is the tool we need to provide low-cost Internet to low-income New Yorkers for truly universal broadband that can finally begin to narrow the digital divide."
I was pleased to recently join the Communications Department at SUNY Albany, my alma mater, for their Commencement ceremony.
New York, NY— Pesticides in parks would be limited by a bill announced today by Council Member Ben Kallos among members of the kindergarten and first grade class at PS 290, who first advocated for the city legislation. The law, co-sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would require that the city use only biological pesticides, derived from natural materials, instead of synthetic, traditional pesticides--except under necessary circumstances. The EPA maintains that biological pesticides tend to be less toxic and safer than synthetic pesticides. The bill will be introduced on May 27.
“With fireworks on the East River, Roosevelt Islanders and East Siders should have a great vantage point with which to view them,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I am thrilled that the fireworks have been moved back to where many New Yorkers, from Brooklyn to Queens to Manhattan can enjoy them.”
Roosevelt Island, NY—After a 20-year-old was shot in the abdomen on April 25 in the Roosevelt Landings Complex, stakeholders announced the launch of a Law Enforcement Explorers Program to provide a safe and productive outlet for young Roosevelt Islanders. A May 27 event at Good Shepherd Center at 7 p.m., co-sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, the 114th Precinct, RIOC and the Public Safety Department will introduce the community to the Law Enforcement Explorers and young people sign up.
The following statement can be attributed to Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), a software developer and Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, on Mayor Bill de Blasio's pledge to invest $70 million to bring universal broadband to New York City:
“Access to the Internet is as essential to helping New Yorkers stay in touch, find jobs and learn--but a stunning 36 percent of our poorest families in New York City go without it. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for committing to invest $70 million to universal broadband, a bold and forward-looking move that will improve mobility and connect more families."
This testimony was given to the Public Design Commission on April 20, 2015 to ask them to delay approval of this project so that the City may review the design and construction of the 81st Street Pedestrian Bridge with the aim of addressing community concerns and implementing a design consistent with the future plans for the East River Esplanade.
The New York City Administration for Child Services (ACS) which oversees the largest city childcare system in the nation, would become increasingly transparent and accountable under a new City Council bill introduced by Ben Kallos and Stephen Levin. ACS-subsidized childcare programs, serving around 120,000 low-income children annually, have been plagued by under-enrollment and daycare center closures. Though there are up to 40 eligible students for every one childcare slot, some ACS childcare programs still report 20% vacancy rates, according to City Limits. Government, the public and watchdog groups would have access to more detailed information on the programs under the new bill.
New York, NY — Hunger in schools is being taken on by new legislation requiring reporting and planning on free school meals for 1.1 million public school children, being introduced by Council Members Ben Kallos and Stephen Levin today. One quarter of New York City children are food insecure, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. New York City ranks second-to-last among 62 large school districts in effectiveness in reaching children eligible for free breakfast surveyed by the Food Research and Action Center. Advocates have pushed for “Breakfast After the Bell”—free breakfast in classrooms, after the school day begins—to increase participation rates.
Fast food workers, students, car washers and others supported hundreds of airport workers from JFK and LGA airports who went on strike today.
THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015 — Last week, airport workers turned out to support fast food workers in the Fight for $15 national day of action. Today fast food workers, students, car washers and other low-wage workers returned the favor.
"On April 15, I saw airport workers around the country stand with us in the fight for $15. Airport workers and all low wage workers deserve respect on the job,” said Jose Sanchez, a fast food worker at Domino’s. “I am supporting striking Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants because I know, if we stand up for each other, we can all win."
After receiving renewed, illegal threats, 250 baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants working for the airline subcontractor Aviation Safeguards walked off the job today and went on strike over these unfair labor practices. The strike started at 3 a.m. and includes multiple shifts of workers.
Aviation Safeguards services British Airways and Delta at both LaGuardia and JFK airports and has a history of violations at the airports. During the last two years, Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants have filed various lawsuits and complaints about unfair labor practices, health and safety violations and wage theft against their employer. Aviation Safeguards employees have been fighting alongside 12,000 other subcontracted airport workers in New York and New Jersey for higher wages, benefits and the right to union representation and are included in the majority of contracted airport workers who report financial hardship due to the low wages and benefits they make at the airports. The majority are forced to rely on government subsidies to survive.
When Aviation Safeguards airport workers began to take action and call for the workplace changes they need, Aviation Safeguards sent a threatening letter stating that employees who engage in certain strikes “are not protected. This means participating employees may be disciplined or even fired.” Region 29 of The National Labor Relations Board found that this was an illegal threat and in February a group of Aviation Safeguards baggage handlers held a one-day strike to protest this intimidation and unfair labor practice. But the abuses didn’t stop. In fact the company sent a letter threatening the same thing. Today a much larger group of Aviation Safeguards employees said, “enough is enough,” and directly defied their employer threats by going on strike.
“The second letter was the last straw, why would Aviation Safeguards send us a letter that had already been found to be illegal?” said Pedro Gamboa, an Aviation Safeguards baggage handler at JFK Airport. “I am on strike today in order to show Aviation Safeguards that I will continue fighting for a better life for me and my coworkers.”
Striking Aviation Safeguards employees were supported by a growing movement of low-wage workers who have been standing up for each other in the fight for a $15 minimum wage and a union.
"I have stood up for fast food workers and I am standing up for airport workers today because I know that every hard working person in this country deserves respect on the job and wages that can actually support them,” SaidRobert Ascherman, a student at NYU. “Last week it was inspiring to see airport workers standing with me in the Fight for $15 actions, and I want to make sure I return the favor."
More than 100 low wage workers attended a strike rally at the airport along with community groups NYCC and Make the Road, elected officials including NY City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and airport workers from other contractors. New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, will join airport workers later in the day.
"All workers must have the right to organize. I am proud to be here with airline workers demanding these basic rights from Aviation safeguards. I stand with them as they fight for higher wages to support themselves and their families and freedom from harassment," said Council Member Ben Kallos, who served as a Union-Side Labor Attorney.
After rallying at the airport, Aviation Safeguards employees took their fight to the streets of Manhattan and held a second rally outside British Airways’ headquarters at 2 Park Avenue.
“This strike was not against British Airways but workers thought it was important to urge the highly successful airline to tell its contractor to treat airport workers right,”said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ, the union which the majority of workers voted to be their union representative. “It is not easy to be a baggage handler or a wheelchair attendant at the airport, especially if you are making poverty wages. But today Aviation Safeguards’ hardworking employees showed that they are not afraid to stand up for their rights under the law.”
Following reports that Comcast is dropping its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos released the following statement:
“New Yorkers welcome competition and the opportunity it brings to finally achieve broadband for all. Now, I hope to see actual competition in New York City between Time Warner and Comcast that will finally move New York City towards high-speed, universal broadband and better service."
New York, NY – Council Member Ben Kallos praised the administration’s OneNYC plan released today, calling it a path to a stronger and more sustainable city.
Council Member Kallos said, “Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for working with elected officials and New Yorkers throughout this city to hear our solutions for OneNYC."
Council Member Ben Kallos today announced that he has appointed six new members to Community Board 8 Manhattan: Zoe Markowitz, David Menegon, Glen Pandolfino, Loraine Brown, Peter Patch and Dr. Katherine LaGuardia. The new members make up more than 10% of the community board.
Council Member Kallos introduced Resolution 115 with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in support of allowing 16- and 17-year-olds on Community Boards, and it passed the City Council with widespread support. That led to the passage of a law in Albany sponsored by Assembly Member Nily Rozic and State Senator Andrew Lanza allowing teenagers to join their community boards.
“16-year-olds will be joining Community Boards, thanks to a resolution I introduced with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer that become law last year,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who served on Community Board 8 Manhattan. “Community Boards are becoming more representative of their communities because of a system of reforms implemented by Manhattan Borough President Brewer, including group interviews to see how new applicants and re-applicants alike work together when solving problems. We look forward to providing residents with a stronger voice through their Community Boards.”
New York, NY— New Yorkers could receive more than a lease from new landlords, if election reform legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos passes. Kallos’ bill would require landlords to distribute voter registration forms for every tenant signing a lease for a vacant apartment—including forms in Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Bengali upon request. Landlords can additionally provide assistance or submit the forms directly to the Board of Elections upon request.
Yesterday, the New York City Council released the official FY 2016 preliminary budget response priorities, which calls for a $2 million funding increase for the Office of Special Enforcement's (OSE) budget, for a total of $3.6 million to strengthen enforcement of illegal hotels. The list of priority budget recommendations outlines that the increased funding would be used to hire 25 additional staff, expanding upon its current 11-person staff, to support a more proactive and robust enforcement operation. Additionally, the budget response calls on the Administration to involve other ticketing agencies, and increase transparency in OSE budgeting by providing a clear and complete description of OSE's budget and staffing.
Council Member Ben Kallos applauded the new City Council digital reforms announced today, which he worked closely with other Council Members and civic technologists to craft. Under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, the Council 2.0 digital roadmap includes a plan for more engagement and innovative tools, changes to the City Council website and an Open Application Processing Interface (API) that allows app-makers to create their own tools with information from the City Council’s legislative website. Kallos helped shape the open technology plan that was part of rules reform, alongside Council Members Lander, Williams, Cabrera and Greenfield.