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Has the communication and decision-making process under Shorris been changed?
Although Shorris conceded that on Rivington his decisions were not adequately relayed and that there were gaps in communication between him and other top officials, he offered little in the way of fixes that have been made in that regard. He staunchly defended the administration’s record and insisted that Rivington was an “episodic” failure that would be prevented by an overhaul of DCAS’ process for deed restrictions. He insisted that he could not personally follow up on the innumerable decisions he makes each day considering his portfolio of about 30 city agencies and his coordinating role over people who supervise the city’s 350,000 employees. Shorris wouldn’t say, when asked by Council Member Ben Kallos, whether he would offload any of the city agencies he personally oversees.
“Overall, I would’ve liked to hear some management plan that would address the lack of communications that resulted in this outcome,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile, in a Friday phone interview with Gotham Gazette. Gentile chairs the Council’s Oversight and Investigations committee which held the joint hearing with the Committee on Governmental Operations chaired by Kallos.
"Something went very wrong here," said Councilmember Ben Kallos, Chair of the Council Committee on Governmental Operations. "We must address the issues of mismanagement, communication failure and outside influence."
Council member Kallos told those present at the hearing that he agreed to limit Shorris' questioning to two-and-a-half hours because the mayor's office told him that Shorris had to be on a plane to Oklahoma for a mayoral conference the same day.
But Shorris said he was not going to Oklahoma and added that he had no idea why the City Council got that impression.
Kallos said he found the misinformation "disturbing." The city council later released a statement on the matter.
City Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, said the hearing elicited a number of contradictions from prior accounts from City Hall.
Thursday’s hearing by the City Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations — co-chaired by Vincent Gentile and Ben Kallos — clocked in at a solid six hours.
CBS2’s Kramer asked Shorris if the administration thinks building the new facility will help the mayor dig out of the Rivington scandal.
“I don’t think it deals with all of the issues,” Shorris responded.
Council members said it won’t make Rivington disappear.
“The Rivington scandal is too deep to be gotten out from under. The whole thing is just a debacle,” said Councilman Rory Lancman, D-Queens.
Councilman Ben Kallos, D-Manhattan, said, “What happened at Rivington is wrong. There is no way that they dig out from this. Not only do they need to fix the policy, they need to change it so that something like this never happens again.”
And in another attempt to get out from under the scandal, the city is also going to hold public hearings. Members of the public will be allowed to testify about proposed restrictions to dead restriction laws.
That hearing is Nov. 1
Overall, the hearing lasted six hours, the New York Times reported with several other members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration also questioned. There were questions about competency. City Coucilman Ben Kallos wondered how Shorris could do his job properly when he had to oversee 30 different city agencies, according to the Wall Street Journal.
There were questions over the timeline. De Blasio had previously stated that he only became aware of the whole wrongdoing towards the end of March, whereas Shorris’s testimony on Thursday seemed to suggest that it was towards the end of February or early March, according to the New York Post.
Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan asked why Mr. Shorris had not followed up to make sure his decision — that the center should remain a nursing home — had been observed.
Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat and chairman of the hearing, pointed out that Mr. Shorris is responsible for about 30 different agencies, making it difficult for him to know exactly what each is doing.
The miscommunication today played out in “real-time,” as City Councilman Ben Kallos, the chairman of the committee on governmental operations put it, when, during the hearing, he asked Shorris why he had to leave—”for the record.”
City Councilman Ben Kallos asked First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris if he would say on the record why he could only testify for a limited time.
Councilmembers Ben Kallos, chair of the committee of governmental operations, and Vincent Gentile, the chair of the oversight and investigations committee, sparred with a soft-spoken Shorris, who spoke in exhausting detail of his involvement in the deed removal beginning two years ago.
“We want to give the public an unprecedented view into what’s happening and the different forces and actors at play,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which is holding the hearing.
"Eric Phillips, the mayor’s chief spokesman, said: ‘We’re happy to have the city’s second-highest official and top lawyer testify. Providing that level of transparency, cooperation and accountability to the council and public are critical to the mayor.”
Faulting “a process that has failed to protect and preserve significant community assets, like Rivington House,” Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes 28 Liberty, along with speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmember Ben Kallos, and Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, favor a process that would make deed restriction changes subject to a ULURP.
Council Members Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, and Elizabeth Crowley - all Democrats like de Blasio - have each submitted a request that legislation be crafted around regulating 501(c)(4) nonprofits. Kallos’ bill drafting request is “on point” with a recent proposal made by Citizens Union, a government reform group. That proposal would require that 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(3) organizations created at the behest of elected officials to promote their own image or agenda be treated like political committees under the city’s campaign finance laws. This would entail detailed disclosure of contributions and expenditures, limits on contributions similar to those for political candidates, and oversight by the Campaign Finance Board.
“Anytime you’ve got elected officials whose political campaigns are limited in the money they can raise affiliated with 501(c)(4)s that engage in quasi-electoral activities that don’t have the same limits, that is a place we should be paying attention,” Kallos said in a phone interview. Kallos chairs the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, where the bills would likely be introduced and heard.
The tenants have gained the backing of Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President and Ben Kallos, the City Councilman. Brewer said that the NYCHA’s promises have not been specific in telling residents what they stand to gain from the project.
The NYCHA formally requested proposals from developers for the project on June 30. They said that they have tenant support for their plan to build 300 units, half at market rate and half affordable, in the public site of the playground. NYCHA officials, see the plan as a great way to raise desperately needed funds. The Housing Authority says it will use revenue from the new leases to fix the currently deteriorating apartments. NYCHA says the playground will be replaced in a different, yet-to-be-named location. They insist there has been plenty of communication with tenants.
Bikes were the hot topic at the town hall held by Council Member Ben Kallos last Thursday.
Bike lanes, bike shares and the enforcement of biking laws seemed to weigh heavily on the minds of the 70 or so attendees at the event. It was not the first time an audience largely comprised of senior citizens has turned out in full force at a community meeting to raise concerns about bikes.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Luis Sanchez was present to address the issue, which he acknowledged but largely passed off to the city’s police department.
“NYPD is responsible for enforcing the laws,” Sanchez said. “[DOT] doesn’t have the power to actually write tickets, but what we do is we go to the restaurant because the restaurant is supposed to have a roster of their cyclists. … If they don’t then we can issue a violation to the restaurant.”
Sanchez and Kallos encouraged residents to go to their respective NYPD precinct community councils with specific questions or requests for more thorough enforcement.
The Housing Authority insists that tenants of Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side have embraced its ambitious plan to raise cash by building luxury apartments on what’s now their playground.
That’s news to them.
The tenant “stakeholder committee” organized by NYCHA to vet the plan — along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilman Ben Kallos — made clear in a recent letter obtained by the Daily News that they never signed off on it.
In a letter delivered to NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye on September 1st, the Holmes Stakeholder Committee—which includes City Council Member Ben Kallos, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Holmes Tower residents—outlined their concerns with the selected site.
Of three proposed sites, the stakeholders claim, the playground was chosen "amid widespread resistance from the community to development that would take away the park from the children."
"The entirety of the Stakeholder Committee is not in favor [of the site], so there are a lot of questions about whether it really represents what residents chose," Paul Westrick, Kallos's Legislative Director, told Gothamist. Westrick added that although NYCHA held community engagement meetings this past February, they "were not well attended, and the public outreach they did wasn't really extensive." Because of a lack of community engagement, the stakeholders are requesting that the agency extend the proposal deadline from September 30th to November 30th.
But there is no protocol for communication between the attorney general’s office and the Council, and transparency records show that in December 2015, Hospital Audiences received additional funding from the Council.
The Council did not raise red flags until April 2016 when, in a letter obtained by POLITICO New York, Dyer contacted Councilman Ben Kallos to explain the situation.
Hospital Audiences had been awarded $123,100 in the 2016 fiscal year through several different grants from seven Council members: Kallos, Peter Koo, Daneek Miller, Karen Koslowitz, Jimmy Van Bramer, Inez Dickens and Mark Treyger.
Community Involvement in Action
GBS students are taught about the importance of community involvement and being informed about current events. When Joey and Eli shared their concern about the increasing number of track fires in the subway system, they decided to take action in the local community. Working together, they hand wrote a letter, which we shared with our local City Council member, Ben Kallos. Councilman Kallos invited Joey and Eli to come and pick him up in his office, where they got to take a tour. Then, Councilman Kallos came with us back to Gillen Brewer, where Joey and Eli gave him a tour of the school. After the tour, Councilman Kallos visited the Puffins classroom to discuss this civic issu`e and to answer questions from the students.
After running on a platform calling for more Pre-K funding, City Council Member Ben Kallos began delivering right away, increasing the number of seats in his district 5-fold, with Roosevelt Island alone gaining 49.
It was an exhilarating moment for Roosevelt Island Parents' Network leader Eva Bosbach when Ben Kallos, early in his first term on the City Council, announced funding for 49 additional Pre K seats for the community.
Along with vigorous moral and philosophical support, Kallos acted as navigator, guiding the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery, led by Executive Director Pamela Stark, through the bureaucratic intricacies of the Department of Education in getting its application approved.
At the same time, Bosbach and Susy del Campo Perea organize
NY Council Member, and LIT endorsed candidate, Ben Kallos announced on Monday, Aug 22an incredible piece of legislation that allows community members to use City-owned buildings for rehearsals and performances.
Councilman Ben Kallos said he has written a letter to DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia requesting more information about the plan.
“The big concern that many constituents have is whether or not commercial carters as part of a franchising system would be required to dump in the neighborhoods that they pick up, or whether they might use this marine transfer station to force all the private carters who have franchises for Manhattan to dump on the Upper East Side,” Kallos said.
New York City's budget was passed this week, and it is a budget that you can have confidence in. The progressive, compassionate budget puts residents first and brings more opportunity to our neighborhood and city. It was reached through a transparent negotiating process that took the voice of every Council Member and community into account in order to serve all New Yorkers.
It has been six months since I became your City Council Member. In these six months, we have built a stronger community together. Through it all, the City has become more fair and compassionate, thanks to measures such as:
- Expanding Senior Citizen Income Exemption (SCRIE);
- Funding Universal Pre-K; and
- Paid sick leave, all of which I was proud to support and advocate for.
I have also been fighting to improve our neighborhood and city as a whole:
- As Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee of the New York City Council, I have taken on waste and corruption;
- Introduced legislation to make our often cynicism-inducing government more transparent.
- Took the fight against the Marine Transfer Station to another level; and
- Protected our neighborhood by prioritizing safe streets, healthy food, safe construction, science education and affordable housing.
Now, I want to hear from you: Have you received assistance from our office? Have you and I gotten the chance to meet? Have you been happy with the direction of the City and the advocacy I've taken on? Please reply with your feedback and ideas.
This is just the beginning. I hope you'll take a chance to share your feedback at this six-month stage so we can continue to grow, learn and build a better neighborhood together.
Last week, I celebrated 100 days representing you in the New York City Council. In just this short time, I have already been able to achieve many of the promises made before I took office. With a few well on their way, it seems that they weren't promises but plans.
You can see for yourself by reading my policy book, but here are a few items from the book that we've been able to accomplish by working together:
- I was front and center in the movement that won $300 million in pre-kindergarten funding for New York City with to make us a nationwide leader by giving every child a fair start;
- I am committing millions in funding to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in our schools;
- Stop and frisk reform has become a reality; and
- I co-sponsored the bill to expand paid sick leave to half a million New Yorkers so we can all be healthier.
There is still much more to do. I am more committed than ever to taking on the challenges and seizing on the opportunities that face our neighborhood and city. As your Council Member, I am taking on the tough fights on your behalf:
- I am fighting the marine transfer station on 91st Street every day, reorienting the debate to focusing on increasing recycling and reducing waste citywide;
- I am protecting residents from unsafe construction and being kicked out of their affordable housing;
- I am bringing accountability to city agencies, from the Board of Elections to community boards;
- I am advocating for ferry service for Roosevelt Island; and
- I am working to provide educational support outside the classroom by supporting community learning schools.
And I am proud to maintain an attendance record of 100% -- because you deserve a representative that shows up!
This April, you can vote on how to spend $1 million in your neighborhood. This program, participatory budgeting, has been piloted with great success in many neighborhoods around the world and here in New York City.
It has been a busy month of budgeting, oversight and advocacy on your behalf. As always, my office is a space for you to meet your needs and interact with the major issues in your neighborhood. Scroll to the bottom of this newsletter for events from my office and the community.
For those of you celebrating this month, I wish you a joyous Easter or Pesach, a chance to celebrate the beliefs we hold dear. As we gratefully welcome the spring, let's renew our spirit of engagement and work together on the issues that face our community.
Council Member Ben Kallos
District Five: Upper East Side, Midtown East, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island
After two months in office, I am working around the clock to ensure you have the services you need, while also fighting to expand pre-K to all children, open up government for public participation, fight the marine transfer station slated to be built in our neighborhood and ensure all New Yorkers have the services they need.
I hope you are staying warm and dry as we face another winter storm. New York City is expected to get up to a foot of snow, with a winter storm warning in effect until 6AM on Friday. My office is your resource to make sure you stay safe and that your city keeps on working for you in spite of the conditions outside.
In my first month as your City Council Member, I am focused on making our schools better and our city government more transparent. We’re already working to assist members of our community with their needs – whether it’s helping you navigate local government or delivering meals to homebound seniors after following our first winter storm.
You’ve given me a remarkable responsibility: to represent you in City Hall. Under previous Council Member Jessica Lappin’s leadership, our community thrived — a legacy I will diligently continue. I am honored to now represent the community where I grew up and where my mother still lives. My office will always accessible be and available to you and can be reached by calling 212-860-1950, visiting us at 244 East 93rd Street, or emailing bkalloscouncil [dot] nyc [dot] gov.
We have important work to do together. Every child should receive the same world-class education that I did at Bronx High School of Science. We can work together to implement innovative solutions such as identifying new spaces for schools in our neighborhood, making pre-k universally available to help children get a fair start, and creating CUNY college loan forgiveness programs to help our city’s economy thrive.
Older New Yorkers and their caregivers must be supported so they can be healthy and independent. My mother is a senior who lives in the district, and I am committed to keeping senior centers open and protecting vital services like Meal on Wheels.
We must protect and expand affordable housing. Those who made our neighborhood what it is today deserve to see the benefits of their lifetimes of hard work. New development, which will come with the completion of the Second Avenue Subway, must include affordable housing for middle-class New Yorkers. We also have standing battles to continue. I am a member of Asphalt Green’s Triathlon Team and will continue to fight the Marine Transfer Station. I am working to build a broad coalition of elected officials and community leaders in opposition to any dump in a residential neighborhood. It won’t be easy, it won’t happen right away, and I will need your help — but together, we can defeat it.
If we invest in each other — our time, energy and compassion — our government can work better for all of us. Please join me, so that together we can build a better city.
Council Member Ben Kallos
District Five: Upper East Side, Midtown East, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island
In this Issue:
- Participatory Budgeting
- City Council Inauguration
- Supporting Early Education for all New York City Children
- Committee of Governmental Operations
- Recently Married
- Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
- Safer Streets
- Transportation Forums
- Join A Policy Committee
- Summer Reading Challenge
- Summer Fellowship
As we head full steam toward the election, I am taking a moment to reflect on the support I have received in this important year of my life from you, my friends and family. I hope that you will be able to take an evening to join me and my campaign at my Birthday Celebration, 7pm this Wednesday, and 230 Fifth Avenue.
We're taking action in February, with the following events. We hope you will join us in working to improve our community.
Thank you for your financial support that kept us in the lead for 2013. We've once again outraised all of our opponents combined and could never have done it without your help. We've made it well past the halfway point for a fully funded City Council campaign by raising almost $50,000, with only $30,000 left to raise.