Updates

Press Release
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

GovAPI Act Would Provide Interface for Digital Requests and Submission for All Government Information As Proposed by City Council Member Kallos  New York, NY – Long lines, hold music and bureaucratic forms could soon be replaced by an app for that as the private sector innovates government thanks to new legislation (Int.1594) introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos that would require that all information received or transmitted by city government to be available through an Application Program Interface (API).
 
“Government, there should be an app for that. We need to build an API for government, so that the private sector can innovate and bring government into the 21st century. New Yorkers should be able to use government services as simply as new apps deliver food or a car when you need one,” said New York City Council Member Ben Kallos a free and open source software developer.
 
Any time a paper form, an operator, or website requests information like a name, email, income, or other details that information could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. Similarly, anytime the city shares information on whether you qualified for public benefits, are registered to vote, or owe taxes that could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. An Application Programming Interface or API provides a set of definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software, or in general terms, it provides a translation dictionary for different software to communicate to make it easier for developers to program new applications.

 

Read more


Legislation
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Any time a paper form, an operator, or website requests information like a name, email, income, or other details that information could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. Similarly, anytime the city shares information on whether you qualified for public benefits, are registered to vote, or owe taxes that could just as easily be provided by an app through an API. An Application Programming Interface or API provides a set of definitions, protocols and tools for building application software, or in general terms it provides a translation dictionary for different software to communicate to make it easier for developers to program new applications.

- Read more


Press Coverage
New York Times
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

While responsible apartment managers adhere promptly to the spirit of the building safety law, recalcitrant owners leave the sheds up for years as a cheap way to avoid making building repairs. There are no deadlines set to force the work to be done or the sheds to come down.

The pole-and-metal roofed structures, designed to catch debris, attract it instead, along with idlers and loners, according to the complaints of nearby residents who are urging the city to take action. City Councilman Ben Kallos has proposed legislation to force a timetable of three to six months on building owners, but some insist that they don’t have the money to finish jobs. Thus sheds stay perpetually, as much a protection for scofflaw owners as pedestrians.

Read more


Press Coverage
Gothamist
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Advocates have plenty of examples to point to when describing the lien sale process running amok. By their tally, 89 properties with community uses had their tax debt sold in 2016. Among them was Grace Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which sold last year to cover wrongfully levied tax bills, according to reporting by Urban Omnibus. The Al-Muneer Foundation, a mosque and community center, in Jamaica, Queens had its wrongfully issued tax debt sold in 2014 and had to fight to get the tax erased.

A church's failure to pay taxes or file for an exemption for one of three neighboring lots that make up the Imani Community Garden in Crown Heights led to its tax debt being sold in 2004. The affected lot is in the middle of the garden and contains a decades-old willow tree. In 2015, BNY Mellon's trust foreclosed on the debt, and a developer bought it at private auction. The new owner fenced the lot off from the other two sides of the garden, and is now planning to build an apartment building there, according to Buildings Department records.

Aging nonprofit administrators, dwindling church congregations, decentralized dioceses, and transient volunteer pools can all contribute to nonprofits missing the significance of bills or failing to file paperwork, according to people familiar with the issue.

"I’ve heard from some folks who are like, 'Why can’t some nonprofits fill out some forms?'" said East Side Councilman Ben Kallos, who lead the sign-on effort. "If this goes into the lien sale, no bank is going to say, 'Oh you don’t need to pay us back, you just need to fill out this form with the city.' The city should be reaching out proactively to folks."

Read more


Press Release
Monday, May 8, 2017

Since taking office I have been fighting to keep the East River Esplanade from falling into the river. As Co-chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Maloney, I have secured $49 million in private and public dollars to maintain and rehabilitate a crumbling Esplanade. A portion of the $35 million in funding that I secured in partnership with the Mayor was already being used to shore up the portion of the Esplanade that fell into the river behind Gracie Mansion with work to begin this Summer. I am disappointed that despite having the funding and identifying this portion of the Esplanade, that work did not begin in time to prevent the collapse.

Earlier this year and last week I advocated for $169 million dollars from the City’s budget to rehabilitate the Esplanade. The City Council’s budget response also prioritized the $169 million necessary to keep the East River Esplanade from falling into the river from 60th to 125th Street. I welcome the $100 million in funding from Mayor de Balsio to connect the East River Esplanade from 53rd to 61st Street but stress the importance of supporting existing infrastructure and budgeting for new infrastructure to be created so that this never happens again.

 

Read more


Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fuleihan insisted that the city has baselined 65,000 slots for the program, showing that the administration is indeed committed to SYEP. He also noted that a joint youth jobs task force created by the Council and the administration to study the issue only recently released its recommendations and that those would be incorporated before the adopted budget. “I had no doubt that this was going to be another priority that we’re going to be working together on adoption now that we have the task force recommendations,” Fuleihan said.

The hearing touched on a number of other budget items, small and large, and many related to individual Council members’ purviews as chairs of Council committees. For instance, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of the cultural affairs committee, brought up funding for the arts; transportation committee chair Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez questioned the administration’s refusal to back discounted Metrocards for low-income New Yorkers; and Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of governmental operations, pushed for budgeting to be linked with agency performance. In his typical refrain, Fuleihan repeatedly said OMB would work with the Council members on their individual concerns.

One of the larger issues addressed at the budget hearing was the city’s capital plan -- not the level of funding, but rather the process of allocation. Council members said the city has often allocated excessive funds for projects that are often delayed and that no plans exists to account for cost overruns.

Read more


Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Improvements to two neighborhood schools won funding during this year's participatory budgeting cycle, City Councilman Ben Kallos announced Thursday.

Nearly 2,500 residents from the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island voted on how to allocate $1 million to improve the neighborhood.

The projects that won funding are:

  • 1,514 votes – P.S. 183 Green Science and STEM Lab Classroom - $600,000
  • 1,139 votes – P.S. 198/77 Playground Renovation - $500,000

The cost of both projects exceeded the $1 million allotment, but Kallos said his office will chip in $100,000 in capital funds to make sure both projects are fully funded. If the project you voted for didn't make the cut, all is not lost.

Read more


Press Release
Thursday, May 4, 2017

“Getting equal pay for equal work should not be an issue New York City residents are still battling in 2017,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos. “What someone earned at a previous job should have no bearing on salary negotiations with a potential employer. Introduction 1253 will help close the wage gap between women and men as well as minorities and whites. Thank you to Public Advocate James for her leadership on this issue that is so central to making our City more equitable. Thank you also to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito for supporting this groundbreaking legislation.” 

Read more


Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Thursday, May 4, 2017

Two weeks after he announced the initiative, de Blasio and others who had spurred the effort -- especially Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Member Ben Kallos, Comptroller Scott Stringer, liberal activist Bill Samuels, and members of AARP-NY -- held a celebratory rally at City Hall. They said they were pushing the federal Department of Labor to issue rules paving the way for their plan and that legislation would soon be introduced at the city level.

Several months later, in the waning days of the Obama administration, the Department of Labor did issue such a ruling, but just a few months after that, the new Congress passed a resolution to negate the permission the DOL had extended to large cities like New York. President Trump then signed the bill on April 13. According to multiple sources, and further illuminated by International Business Times reporting, the financial services industry has been opposed to allowing city and state-backed private-sector programs, which led to federal action.

In fact, rolling back city permission appears to have been a high priority for the Trump administration. In photos posted to Twitter by a visitor to his office (left), top Trump advisor Steven Bannon is shown to have listed the resolution number one under “Bills,” as part of several lists of priorities and pledges.

“This is a deeply disappointing move by President Trump and Congressional Republicans,” said Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “As the mayor has repeatedly pointed out, fewer than half of all working New Yorkers have access to a plan that can help them save for their retirement years. This legislation does little more than block them from securing their futures.”

Read more


Press Coverage
Our Town
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled out a new initiative last week to offer universal pre-kindergarten to all New York City 3-year-olds, though kinks in the original program have yet to place all 4-year-olds in their preferred schools. Before the mayor’s announcement, Council Member Ben Kallos already had a rally planned for April 30 to demand additional seats for 4-year-olds within his district. “Pre-K for all must include the Upper East Side,” Kallos said at his event. “Three hundred 4-year-olds are being told that they have to take a commute down to the financial district.”

There has been progress on the Upper East Side, however. Since 2013, seats available for 4-year-olds enrolling in pre-K have increased fourfold, from about 150 to about 600. This school year, though, 900 4-year-olds applied to fill them. As of 2014, more than 2,700 children in that age group lived on the Upper East Side, some of whom choose private school. Numerous elected officials attended Kallos’ rally, including city Comptroller Scott Stringer and state Senator Liz Krueger, all of whom echoed Kallos’ call for de Blasio to keep his promise.

Read more


Press Coverage
Curbed
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

While its a step in the right direction, annoyed New Yorkers are saying its not enough and call for legislation that will penalize property owners who keep the sidewalk sheds up for extended lengths of time to avoid making necessary repairs. “We already know how big a problem it is, and unless the city is willing to take steps to get the scaffolding down, it doesn’t matter,” City Councilman Ben Kallos told the Times. He has proposed a bill that would require building owners to make facade repairs within three to six months so that scaffolds aren’t up for longer than that.

 

As a result of the new map, the DOB was able to order 150 scaffolds to be dismantled since work had been finished. Though the database consolidates data, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will help scaffolds come down any quicker. “We’re erring on the side of safety to keep them in place so no one gets hurt,” said DOB Commissioner Rick Candler.

Read more


Newsletter

 

Thank you to all the parents, teachers, delegates, and the 2,421 voters who made the 2017 Participatory Budgeting process a huge success by voting on how we spend $1 million. And the winners are: P.S. 183’s Science and STEM Lab and the P.S. 198/77 Playground Renovation!

This month, we joined Mayor Bill de Blasio in announcing $100 million to add 8 new blocks of parkland and close the gap on the East River Esplanade from 53rd to 61st Streets. We also worked with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to include a request for $169 million in the City Council's preliminary budget response to continue necessary repairs to the Esplanade.

I continue to lead the fight for Pre-Kindergarten seats on the Upper East Side, where 300 four-year-olds are being asked to commute out of district as far as the Financial District for Pre-K. In response, parents, children, and elected officials rallied for Pre-K for All to include seats on the Upper East Side. As we continue to fight for school seats, I have been advocating for Universal Childcare for all city children from birth to four, and the city has taken a big step with a plan to provide Pre-K to three-year-olds too.

Governor Cuomo announced the first in the nation Excelsior Scholarship for students whose families make $125,000 per year or less, who will now qualify for free college tuition at all City (CUNY) and State (SUNY) two- and four-year colleges in New York State as long as they live in state. When I ran for office in 2013, one of the "fresh ideas" for which the New York Times endorsed me was providing a debt-free higher education for CUNY students. I am proud to support Governor Cuomo's program.

Legislation I authored to “Get Big Money Out of New York City Politics” by matching every small dollar got a hearing, a rally, and support from a broad coalition of organizations representing communities of color, immigrants, tenants, preservation, good government, candidates, and regular New Yorkers.

In celebration of Earth Day, I joined in the “March for Science” and introduced legislation to make New York City greener by decreasing light pollution, increasing commercial recycling and mandating zero waste by 2030 to make the MTS obsolete.

Do you want to learn more about your rights as a tenant? Join me on Thursday, May 18, you for a Housing Forum with presentations on your rights as a tenant, how to organize your building, how you can get involved in our campaign to lower rent for rent stabilized tenants, with housing experts on hand to answer your questions. The event will begin at 6pm at the Julia Richman Education Complex located at 317 East 67th Street. RSVP

Please join me for First Friday on Cinco de Mayo. I would also like to wish my mother and all the District 5 mothers a Happy Mother’s Day.

Sincerely, 


Ben Kallos
Council Member

SPECIAL EVENTS:

May 18, 6pm
Housing Forum

May 20, 10am-2pm
Shred-A-Thon

DISTRICT OFFICE EVENTS

May 5, 8am - 10am
First Friday

May 9, 6pm
Brainstorming With Ben

May 25, 6pm
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Citi Bike Skills Class

May 29
Office Closed 
Memorial Day

 

Read more


Press Coverage
New York Times
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

While Mr. Rubin said the city’s new scaffolding database would be useful, he added that it did not go far enough to address the problem. “As long as building owners find it cheaper and easier to keep up a sidewalk shed, rather than remedy the dangerous building conditions that make sheds required, the many problems that are caused by these ubiquitous sidewalk sheds will never be solved,” he said.

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, said he was “underwhelmed” by the building department’s efforts, adding that it will do little to address scaffolding that has overstayed its welcome. “We already know how big a problem it is, and unless the city is willing to take steps to get the scaffolding down, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Mr. Kallos has proposed legislation that would give a building owner three months to repair a facade, with the possibility of a three-month extension, so that scaffolding can be removed within six months of going up, or sooner when no work is being done. The legislation has drawn support from many residents and business groups, including the New York State Restaurant Association and the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Read more


Press Release
Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and transportation advocates today announced that an array of transit improvements over the last year have transformed the Upper East Side from a so-called “transit desert” into a “Transit Garden.”   They stood together at a new Q station stop at 2nd Avenue and 86th Street, celebrating the numerous transit, traffic, and safety improvements that now complement the new Second Avenue Subway -- including faster MTA Select Bus Service (SBS), a new Second Avenue protected bike lane and Citi Bike.   The Commissioner also released a progress report on the success of the M86 SBS route, while noting TLC data showing a 32 percent decrease in taxi trips from the Upper East Side to Midtown since Q train service began.  She also noted that starting next year, the Upper East Side would be serviced by the new NYC Ferry.

Read more


Press Coverage
CBS New York
Sunday, April 30, 2017

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Officials and parents rallied Sunday on the Upper East Side, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to open up more pre-kindergarten seats in neighborhood schools.

As WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz reported, Irina Goldman was planning on placing her 4-year-old into the City’s Pre-K program this upcoming school year. Living at 83rd Street and First Avenue, she was really looking for anything within a 20-minute walk.

But as many parents in the neighborhood are facing, her child was placed in a school six miles away in Lower Manhattan.

“When I found out, honestly, I cried, just out of frustration,” Goldman said.

Upper East Side parent Rob Bates was also hoping he could get his son, Michael, a pre-K seat a program somewhere – really anywhere – in the neighborhood. But Michael, 4, was assigned to a program in Union Square – at least a 30-minute subway ride away.

Bates said the trip was a huge burden for their family.

“The subways are very crowded, and it makes us nervous,” he said. “You know, you have a fragile little child. You don’t want to put him on a crowded subway like that, especially for that length of time.”

In all, more than 900 Upper East Side families with 4-year-olds applied for the Pre-K program. A third of them were given seats outside the neighborhood, creating a logistical nightmare for parents.

Goldman said her family has no clue now if they are going to send their child to pre-K at all.

Read more


Press Release
Monday, May 1, 2017

New York, NY - Four-year-olds and their parents rallied alongside elected officials at St Catherine’s Park on the Upper East Side to demand that the Department of Education to fulfill its duty to the Community and provide a Universal Pre-K seat for the over almost 300 four-year-old’s who were not offered seats in the neighborhood.
 
In 2014 WNYC  reported that 2,767 four-year-olds only had 151 pre-kindergarten seats. Since taking office Council Member Kallos has worked with community leaders and organization, providers and the Department of Education to bring hundreds of seats to his district and joined with Council Member Garodnick to bring dozens to the Upper East Side, quadrupling the number of seats for the 2016-17 school year to 618.
 
This year, the Upper East Side lost seats, while applications increased leaving over 900 four-year-olds with only 596 seats on the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, and Midtown East. Children have been assigned to schools not even list as choices by parents as far away as the financial district.
 
On April 17, Council Member Kallos authored a letter with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Assembly Member Dan Quart and Council Member Dan Garodnick, to the Department of Education demanding seats for every four-year-old in the neighborhood.
 
Now the elected officials join with four-year-olds, parents, to demand a pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds on the Upper East Side in their neighborhood.
 
 

Read more


Press Coverage
Curbed
Friday, April 28, 2017

Neighbors and local elected officials have however argued that that consensus was ludicrous, and that it would be hard to imagine a building going up in a 10-by-22-foot lot. Neighbors have already filed two appeals against the project, according to DNAinfo, and now led by their local City Council member, Ben Kallos, they have filed a third. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has expressed her opposition to the project as well.

Read more


Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Friday, April 28, 2017

"If you own a piece of land where the zoning says you can't build a skyscraper in this part of the district, you don’t get to draw an imaginary line in the sand," said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who filed the appeal with other elected officials and the Carnegie Hill Neighbors group this month.

Read more


Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Friday, April 28, 2017

A bill heard by the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Thursday aims to further limit the influence of big-dollar donations and special interests in city elections. The bill, co-sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the committee, would tweak the city’s public campaign finance system by removing a cap on public funds disbursed to candidate campaigns by the Campaign Finance Board (CFB).

The city’s campaign finance system is held up as a national model that incentivizes small dollar donations by matching them with public funds. Each qualifying contribution up to $175 is matched 6-to-1 by the city, through the CFB, allowing candidates with a lack of access to personal wealth or deep-pocketed donors to run competitive campaigns. Currently, the CFB only matches public funds up to 55 percent of the spending limit for a particular seat.

Read more


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.

Read more