Community Updates

Press Coverage
Total Food Service
Friday, November 17, 2017

This is why we support Council Member Ben Kallos’ effort to pass legislation that would regulate the length of time in which scaffolding may stay constructed, helping to mitigate unnecessary scaffolding that stays up for many months or in some cases years beyond its intended purpose. 

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Press Coverage
AM New York
Thursday, November 16, 2017

The area’s councilman, Ben Kallos, said he fields complaints daily about overdevelopment and is worried the city is not ready to absorb the population boom it is experiencing.

“They don’t have the school seats we need for the people living here and moving here,” he said. “The Second Avenue Subway is already surpassing ridership goals and they are adding more and more trains.”

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Press Coverage
The New Yorker
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Since the shutdown of Gothamist and DNAinfo, there has been talk among laid-off staff members of seeking funding to start a new local-news outlet to replace what’s gone. Their experience with Ricketts, several said, has only confirmed their belief in the importance of unions in protecting the rights of workers. On a recent afternoon, former staffers held a rally at City Hall, at which politicians, union leaders, and reporters from other publications showed up in solidarity. It was a muggy, overcast day. Peterson, the Guild director, told the crowd, “We come not to mourn but to organize.” Whitford, wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans, spoke later. “Anyone out there thinking of unionizing, don’t be scared by what happened to us, because this is the worst that can happen,” she said. Later, Ben Kallos, a city-council member from the Upper East Side, told the crowd, “Head over to Broadway, see a little show called ‘Newsies.’ I don’t want to give the end away, but the workers always win.”

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Press Coverage
NBC News 4 New York
Friday, October 27, 2017

NYC Council Member Ben Kallos (D – Upper East Side) said it is difficult to understand how DDG safety managers could be unaware of the smoke breaks, given how blatant some laborers were about their pot smoking.

"It’s pretty hard to believe that a developer would have workers go literally across the street, smoke up, and then come back to the site and then deny that they know what is going on," Kallos said. "That’s a problem."

 
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Press Release
Thursday, October 12, 2017

In a reversal, city planners are assisting a group of neighbors trying to halt ongoing construction of an 800-foot tower across from the luxury high rise where many in the group live.

For over two years, the neighbors and a group they founded, the East River Fifties Alliance, has spent more than $1 million drafting an unusual do-it-yourself zoning rule, that could block the tower on East 58th Street near Sutton Place.

City Hall and the city’s Planning Commissioner had lambasted the campaign in the past for a misguided efforts to block a single building to protect views at the Sovereign, an 485-foot tall, co-op.

In June, when asked about an earlier proposal, Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “This proposal would protect the views of a handful of residents who live in a building that is hundreds of feet taller than the height they feel is appropriate and block new buildings.”

At the time, the city planning commissioner, Marisa Lago, said “there is an important distinction between planning based on a sound, land-use rationale and policy-making designed and shaped to stop a specific building proposal.”

But last week, the commission staff released a new zoning proposal by the group and offered support for it. It set an unusual fast-track review process that would enable it to be approved by the commission by Nov. 1, before election day, and by the City Council by mid-November.

“We believe there is a land-use rational,” said Bob Tuttle, a city planner, about the group’s latest proposal at a recent commission meeting. “We understand the community’s desire for height limits.”

But at the meeting, Mr. Tuttle acknowledged that the proposed zoning change, which covers portions of a 13-block area east of First Avenue, would only affect a single development site in the foreseeable future: the East 58th Street construction site.

Both the developer and the community opponents said it would halt the current project, known as Sutton 58 as it is envisioned.

Jonathan Kalikow, president of Gamma Real Estate. which is developing the new tower, warned that this zoning change targeted at his building would have a chilling effect on developers across the city.

“This zoning change, if passed, will have really horrific negative consequences for the city of New York,” he said. Mr. Kalikow said he was rushing to try to complete the complex foundation needed for the tall narrow tower before the zoning change could take effect.

The new zoning proposal grew out of a meeting in August between planners and elected officials, including the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who had joined East River Fifties group in submitting the plan.

Earlier plans by the group had called for strict height limits. The new approach, recommended by the planning staff, would create a new zoning rule that would force developers on side streets to keep much of the bulk of their buildings below 150 feet and only indirectly cap heights.

It would particularly penalize developers like Mr. Kalikow, who obtained air rights from nearby buildings, zoning experts said. The fast-track schedule was made possible after a decision by Ms. Brewer and the local community board to forego hearings on the proposed zoning changes.

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry group, noted that Ms. Brewer has long been an advocate for more openness in city government and in land-use decisions. A spokesman for Ms. Brewer said she had already held a hearing earlier this year, on another version of the plan.

 

Alan Kersh, president of the East River Fifties Alliance, and a resident of the Sovereign, said the revised city plan is more “flexible” than the height limits his group first proposed.

He said it would allow for a building taller than what his group had originally proposed, but much shorter than what the developer planned to build.

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Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch
Friday, September 29, 2017

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The Olympic-sized pool at Upper East Side fitness center Asphalt Green has reopened after a three-week project to install a new water filtration system, the center announced this week.

The 50-meter pool has serviced more than nine million New Yorkers since it opened in 1993, but was using its original water filters, a spokesman for Asphalt Green told Patch. Upper East Side City Councilman Ben Kallos secured more than $600,000 for new Neptune Benson Defender filters for the pool.

The new system will keep the pool cleaner and require less maintenance by filtering a whopping 2.6 million gallons of water per day, an Asphalt Green spokesman said.

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Press Coverage
City Limits
Thursday, September 28, 2017

(New York, N.Y.) – New York City sports and fitness nonprofit Asphalt Greenreopened its Upper East Side Olympic-size swimming pool earlier this month, after a three-week shutdown to install new pool filters for the first time since it opened in 1993.

The eco-friendly, energy-efficient Neptune Benson Defender filters require less maintenance, and keep the water cleaner, filtering 2.6 million gallons per day. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos led the effort to secure City funding for the project, which cost $698,000.

“Council Member Kallos continues to be a valued supporter of Asphalt Green’s mission to help New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds live active, healthy lifestyles through sports and fitness,” said Maggy Siegel, Executive Director of Asphalt Green. “We are tremendously grateful for the Council’s funding for our new eco-friendly pool filters, which will make our water cleaner for the thousands of children and adults who use our pool each month.”

“Asphalt Green is one of my favorite places on the Upper East Side to exercise, and now it has likely the cleanest pool in all of New York City thanks to the new, state-of-the-art filters and renovation,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who provided $100,000 and advocated for an additional $513,000 from Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in discretionary funding for the improvements. “Asphalt Green is one of the unique neighborhood jewels that make the Upper East Side a special place to live, and that is why I am proud of the investment my office made to keep the facility running better than ever for residents and Olympians alike.”

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Press Release
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New York, NY – Parents interested in having a say in local government could have free child care provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos. The legislation was announced today in honor of the United Nations Women's founding of HeForShe and launch of IMPACT 10x10x10 Parity. It was inspired by a move to provide childcare at conferences in academia, civic technology, and by NYC Community Education Council 2. Countless parents have found childcare to be a challenge to their professional careers, not to mention civic engagement.
 
“It actually costs parents money to be civically engaged,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who grew up with a single mother and now offers free child care at his annual events. “How can democracy work when we exclude parents from representing the interests of themselves and their children because they may not have access to child care? If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City it means offering free child care when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”
 
 

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Press Coverage
The Riverdale Press
Friday, September 15, 2017

Councilman Ben Kallos doesn’t represent the Bronx, but he bets he knows what the views are like.

“We are in the unfortunate situation where if I am standing under one scaffolding in the city, I can look around and see another set of scaffolding,” said Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and Midtown. “There’s scaffolding everywhere — there is literally hundreds of miles of it.”

Yet, sidewalk sheds are nearly impossible to enforce, Kallos said, because the law only requires scaffolding to be put up and for landlords to have a permit for it. There’s nothing in the law that dictates when such scaffolding needs to come down.

“There is scaffolding in this city that is almost old enough to vote,” he said. “It is a problem all over the city.”

The existing law, according to Councilman Andrew Cohen, creates an environment like the one that allowed sidewalk sheds to stay in front of the historic Tracey Towers at 20 and 40 W. Mosholu Parkway S., for four years.

“That recently came down, and that was transformative,” Cohen said. “It was unsightly and, you know, disruptive. There was a celebratory mood at Tracey Towers when the scaffolding came down, that’s for sure.”

Yet, there could be hope for people sick of living with sidewalk sheds. Last year, Kallos introduced a bill to city council placing time limits on how long scaffolding can be left in front of buildings. 

The bill proposes a hard, six-month deadline for sidewalk sheds, requiring workers be present six days a week, and that work not stop for more than seven days at a time while such scaffolding is in place.

If a landlord can’t afford — or worst yet, doesn’t want to do — the work, Kallos said the city would step in and bill the landlord later.

“Deadlines are good things — it’s how things get done,” Kallos said. “It’s how every other part of the private sector works.”

Yet, it’s not how things get done in city council. Debate hasn’t opened on the bill yet because he needs 30 council members to sign on. His tally so far? Just two — Ydanis Rodriguez, whose district dips into Marble Hill, and Karen Koslowitz in Forest Hills.

One of the bill’s biggest enemies, Kallos said, could very well be the real estate lobby — groups like the Real Estate Board of New York, and the Rent Stabilization Association. In fact, when the bill was first proposed, Real Estate Board senior vice president Carl Hum called it “ill-conceived.” RSA representatives blasted the bill because it doesn’t account for the financial burden landlords would have to shoulder to pay for the work in these shorter spurts of time.

Cohen has a different idea, however. He thinks Kallos’ bill is too stringent, and although he is open to changing the way sidewalk sheds are regulated, he prefers a system with fees instead of hard deadlines.

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Friday, May 26, 2017

Taking cues from the community about trash spilling out of garbage bins and onto sidewalks, Councilman Ben Kallos set aside $154,780 of city discretionary funds to purchase 284 "High-End Litter Baskets," which cost $525 each. 

The new cans are larger than the typical bins found on many street corners and feature narrower openings at the top to prevent spillage, as well as covered tops to discourage "that extra coffee cup," according to Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who unveiled the bins alongside Kallos Friday outside the East 86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station.

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Press Release
Friday, May 26, 2017

Kallos Promises New Large Cans For Every Corner to Clean Up the Upper East Side

New York, NY – Litter strewn sidewalks on the Upper East Side are about to get cleaner following an investment of $154,780 by Council Member Ben Kallos in 284 new large trash cans personally delivered by Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. The new large trash cans are housed in a green metal case with a dome top and a small opening that prevents trash from spilling and has been reported to deter rodents.

“I am here to clean up the Upper East Side with larger trash cans on every corner that can prevent overflow and litter that spills onto the streets,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I promise a new large trash can on every corner that needs one to keep our streets clean. I encourage any resident whose corner needs a new trash can or even a second large trash can to reach out so we can clean up our neighborhood together.” 

This massive rollout followed an initial pilot that brought 38 large trash cans to hot spots with 27 large trash cans just for the East 86th Street commercial corridor. Council Member Kallos sought out to cover Second Avenue from 96th to 54th street to coincide with the opening of the Second Avenue Subway in 2017. Following the 2016 pilot resident reported reduced litter and rodents with requests for more cans from the East Sixties Neighborhood Association (ESNA), the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association (E72NA), and the East 86th Street Association (E86NA). In response Council Member Kallos expanded from his original plan of covering Second Avenue to cover every corner that had a wire mesh trash can, providing 284 new large cans that cover 104 intersections in his district. 

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Council Member Ben Kallos said his office is working with police to increase oversight of that stretch of York.

Kallos said his office worked to eliminate asymmetric lights at East 79th Street and York, and recently installed leading pedestrian intervals at the intersection where the collision took place, which allow pedestrians to enter the intersection before vehicles.

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Press Coverage
The Real Deal
Monday, April 10, 2017

A Sutton Place community group working to curb supertalls in the neighborhood has formally submitted a rezoning proposal to the Department of City Planning. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick support the proposal.

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Kallos, who was one of several politicians to create the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS) last year, said that until the woman is proven to be a harm to herself or others, he can't do anything about her.

"She's been brought to the hospital on numerous occasions and assessed by a psychiatrist," he told DNAinfo New York on Tuesday. "If anyone has been spat on, touched without consent, chased, or threatened, I will go with them personally to the 19th Precinct to swear out a complaint so that the city has additional resources to help her."

Kallos said he's successfully helped connect homeless New Yorkers with services in the past, and even sat down with the Department of Homeless Services last October to go through a list of local homeless people one by one to see what kind of services they needed. 

"We've had success in some places, but there are some folks we haven't seen recently because people have accepted help, or found help on their own," he said. "The worst case is that they just disappear and we don't know what happened to them."

Kallos noted that the Upper East Side is very dense, so when there is one person singing or screaming, it's bound to impact thousands of people and amplify the the problem.

"We have been putting immense pressure on this administration to address the homeless concerns in this community and we have asked them to use every tool [they have]," he said.

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Councilman Ben Kallos has set aside $1 million in capital funds under the participatory budgeting program to go toward improvement projects on the Upper East Side. Starting Saturday, residents of District 5 who are 14 and older can vote on which ones should receive the money.

 
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Press Coverage
Main Street WIRE
Saturday, March 11, 2017

Residents, Community Board 8 (CB8) members, and other elected officials, including Council Member Ben Kallos, have complained that the agreement with Sutton East Tennis prohibits the larger public from using the public park for all but about two months of the year when the space is converted to a softball field.

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Press Coverage

“They’re not writing judicial-style decisions that provide findings of fact or issues of law,” Ben Kallos, chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, told the NY Press.

Singer said that the BSA does not oppose this but argues that it already takes into consider community board recommendations already.

Other bills include extending the time frame in which developers or the community could appeal a decision rendered by the BSA from 30 days to four months. The Real Estate Board of New York, an influential trade organization that represents the real estate industry, is opposed to it, arguing it could unfairly delay a developer from starting construction. Such delays, the trade group argues, could be costly.

One of the bills would impose a $25,000 fine for a material false statement during the application process. Currently it is not illegal to make inaccurate statements or put forward incorrect drawings, Kallos told NYPress.

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the area, said some restaurants may count fines for e-bikes as part of the cost of doing business. “I’ve made a very simple request going on two years now saying ‘I’d like [residents] to no longer accept deliveries from people who show up with e-bikes,” he said. “Ultimately I think that if a restaurant gets fined $100, that’s the cost of doing business but if they lose 100 customers in a night, that has an impact.” While his office did not assist in the data collection of data, Kallos said he fully supports the idea of the survey and would suggest it to other communities that feel they have a commercial cycling problem. “Hopefully other neighborhood associations in this district, as well as around the city, will see this as a model and start working so that instead of just complaining about e-bikes people are actually empowered to do something about it,” he said.

Mason said her organization isn’t “against cyclists,” and was quick to say she didn’t want to resort to ending her patronage at the poorer scoring restaurants. Mason was recently hit by an electric bike in Queens, and wants everything possible to be done to increase her neighborhood’s safety. Ideally, Mason would like to see the Department of Health include adherence to commercial cycling rules in their letter grades for restaurants. “We’re hoping that the restaurant community will be responsive,” she said. “We want to keep the restaurants in business.”

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Monday, December 19, 2016

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations discussed legislation that would, for example, slow the approval process for new developments in the BSA. Sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, James Van Bramer, Karen Koslowitz, Steven Matteo, Donovan Richards and Rosie Mendez, the legislation proposes to give communities more time and weight in BSA decisions. 

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