Updates

Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

 The East River 50s Alliance is proposing to cap building heights at 260 feet.
The East River 50s Alliance is proposing to cap building heights at 260 feet.
East River 50s Alliance

SUTTON PLACE — Locals' bid for a zoning change to block super-tall skyscrapers in Sutton Place is undergoing formal public review after a year-and-a-half of planning — but city officials are concerned it could discourage affordable housing in the area.

On Monday, the City Planning Commission began its review of the zoning proposal, which would ban any commercial development between East 52nd and 59th streets east of First Avenue, except for “community uses” such as medical offices and day care centers. It would also impose a height cap limiting any new development to 260 feet, and mandate that 13 percent of any new development be dedicated to below-market-rate housing in exchange for bonus Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

The proposal comes after plans were filed by the Bauhouse Group for a 900-foot skyscraper at 430 E. 58th St. in 2015, though the proposal later fell through.

Residents of 45 buildings totaling more than 2,000 individuals have supported the zoning plan, elected officials said.

"The community has won a major victory with the certification of our rezoning proposal to stop the march of super-scrapers and build more affordable housing in residential neighborhoods," said Councilman Ben Kallos, who supports the proposal with other local elected officials. "While I am disappointed with how long it took to certify, it is better late than never."

Robert Shepler, co-chairman of the The East River 50s Alliance Leadership Committee, which is behind the effort, said that developers in Sutton Place are not required to contribute to the city’s affordable housing goals.

"Nor do supertalls do much to address the City’s need for additional market rate units because they produce fewer apartments — often for absentee owners — than more modestly scaled buildings with comparable square footage," he said.

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Press Coverage
FOX 5 WNYW
Thursday, June 8, 2017

NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - Bike lanes are all over New York City. And yet seeing bikers pedaling wherever they see fit is not uncommon. Many of these bikers are making deliveries.

City Councilman Ben Kallos is working to fix the problem with a bike safety initiative. The group stops by local restaurants and offers delivery people free helmets, safety lessons and more.

But things get more complicated when delivery men and women ride e-bikes. An e-bike looks no different than an average bike, except for a small electric motor attached to the frame. That motor makes the bike illegal.

 

New York's laws on e-bikes are murky. Selling motorized bikes that have a maximum speed of less than 20 mph is legal, but riding them isn't. If your e-bike is confiscated, you can get it back after a having a court hearing and paying a $500 fine.

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The NYPD confiscated 155 e-bikes in 2016 and a whopping 691 so far in 2017. While some lawmakers, like Councilman Kallos, favor the confiscations, others say e-bikes are just as safe as regular bikes. Assemblyman Nick Perry said e-bikes help people who have to pedal a lot during the day, especially low-wage workers who work hard to support their families. He has introduced legislation to legalize e-bikes in New York. The Transportation Committee is reviewing the bill.

Right now, pedal-assist e-bikes are classified as bicycles in New York City, meaning those are legal to use.

Citing safety concerns, the de Blasio administration squashed legislation in 2015 to include other forms of e-bikes.

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Press Release
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In response to a doubling in the number of hate crimes in New York City since last year, with anti-transgender incidents cited as a major cause according to the NYPD, City Council Members Ben Kallos and Education Chair Danny Dromm have introduced a pair of bills meant to expand Gender-Sexuality Alliance student clubs in the city’s Public Schools. The legislation was authored by East Side Middle School students who are representatives to the Manhattan Leadership Council.

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

They originally conceived of a requirement that every school set up a group to help gays but learned the Council doesn’t have the authority to mandate that. Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) introduced the legislation on their behalf Tuesday. “The rise of hate crimes nationally and in the city means it is more important than ever that the city supports our LGBTQ youth through these student-run clubs,” he said.

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Press Release
Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Initiative results can help to diversify the largest municipal fleet in the country and its $200 million plus annual investment NEW YORK––The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) today announced a new procurement initiative to help expand vendor participation in the City Fleet’s trucking and specialized equipment procurements. As part of the Agency’s commitment to increase greater market participation in today’s industry, DCAS, through a Request for Information, will expand its outreach to the industry and provide opportunities for qualified, yet lesser known businesses, including minority and women-owned business enterprises.

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Press Release
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The community has won a major victory with the certification of our rezoning proposal to stop the march of super-scrapers and build more affordable housing in residential neighborhoods. While I am disappointed with how long it took to certify, it is better late than never," said Council Member Ben Kallos.

He added, "Thank you to residents of 45 buildings and over 2,000 individual supporters from the neighborhood who have brought the first of its kind grassroots community rezoning to be certified that I am proud to support. Now the rezoning can go to Community Board 6 for a quick approval since they had sought this rezoning to begin with. Then it’s back to City Planning for what we hope will be a vote in favor of protecting residential neighborhoods from super-scrapers, protecting seniors like Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez living in rent stabilized housing from displacement for billionaires and to actually building affordable housing in the East 50s.”

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Legislation
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Requires reporting on which schools have a GSA, whether existing clubs have a budget, what support the school is providing to the GSA, whether parents and teachers are involved, how frequently the GSA has met, and whether teachers have received GSA training.

- Read more


Press Coverage
Queens Chronicle
Thursday, June 1, 2017

Variance-seeking developers will be affected by one of the laws, which Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) introduced. In their BSA applications, they will have to demonstrate that the situation is a unique one in the neighborhood. And if they lie on their application, they face a civil penalty of up to $15,000.

Kallos introduced four other bills signed by de Blasio that affect staffing at the BSA and aim to make it more transparent.

One of the former requires the Department of City Planning to appoint a coordinator who testifies in defense of existing zoning rules to the BSA; the testimony will be accessible on the internet. The other mandates that a New York State-certified real estate appraiser be available to consult with or work for the BSA to analyze and review real estate financials that developers provide.

The transparency measures dictate that the locations for all sites for which special permits and variances were approved by the BSA since 1998 be viewable as a layer and list on an interactive New York City map. The second law requires the BSA to biannually report the average length of time it takes to make a decision on an application; the total number of applications; how many were approved and denied and the number of pre-application meeting requests.

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Thursday, June 1, 2017

"I attended these meetings and we weren't allowed to say 'no,'" Holmes resident and Community Voices Heard member Lakesha Taylor said. "We were given choices with no answers. What is this really for? You're not even fulfilling your deficit. We're getting darkness, we're getting dust...for a building [that] will be 50/50."

Roughly $40 million in repairs are needed at Holmes Towers alone, officials said.

"The city is losing money on this deal," Kallos said, explaining that the city will only rake in $25 million from the development, while it plans to give Fetner $13 million toward the building's construction and lose millions of dollars in unpaid taxes as part of the building's 99-year lease.

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Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch

The politicians attending Tuesday's rally agreed. A number of local representatives — Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Ben Kallos, State Senators Liz Krueger and Jose Serrano and State Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Robert Rodriguez — submitted a letter to NYCHA containing more than 30 questions about the plan.

"Funding for NYCHA repairs should not come on the backs of NYCHA residents, especially children who will be losing their light, air and playground for little in return," Kallos said in a statement.

On May 17, NYCHA announced that Fetner Properties won a bid to construct a 47-story apartment building on the site of the Holmes Tower playground. The new building would contain hundreds of apartments (estimated at 350 by area politicians), half of which would be offered at market rates and half at affordable rates. But politicians and residents have argued that the affordable rates would actually be unaffordable for public housing residents.

Residents also argued against the size of the building. Taylor said Tuesday that the new building will tower over the rest of the Holmes Towers, with new residents effectively looking down on the NYCHA residents.

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Press Coverage
New York Post
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

“You’re taking their light and air and playground,” she said, standing in the play area alongside parents.

Maloney said the proposed project — for which the city would receive a $25 million payout from the developer in exchange for a 99-year lease — is short-sighted.

“We need more green, not greed, in the city,” she said.

Councilmember Ben Kallos said he has attended dozens of meetings where the details of the lease and the construction plans are being hashed out.

Although half of the units in the new building are intended to be affordable housing, Kallos says he suspects the project would not benefit the existing community.

“I don’t think the NYCHA residences should be trapped in the shadows of the wealthy,” Kallos said.

“I want to save this playground.”

Protestors vowed to fight the plans.

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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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Newsletter

Dear Neighbor,

I hope everyone had a relaxing and reflective Memorial Day and for those who celebrate Shavuos, please enjoy the coming days.

In May, transportation on the Upper East Side got even better as we kicked off Select Bus Service on the M79 and welcomed a fleet of 79 new buses to the neighborhood. If you've noticed the streets are getting cleaner, it is possible that the 284 new high-end trash cans that my office purchased to blanket 104 intersections in District 5 may have something to do with it. And as you may have heard by now, in April my office led a rally for more Pre-K seats on the Upper East Side. Now, a month later the Department of Education has responded with good news for the neighborhood.

I continue to oppose NYCHA’s plan to rip out the Holmes Towers playground to build a 47-story tower with luxury housing, and in May I rallied with tenants to let the city know their deal is unfair. If you dislike unnecessary scaffolding throughout the City as much as I do, the New York Times agrees with us and they editorialized on legislation I have introduced to force property owners to only be able to use scaffolding when it is necessary.

The Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) is a little-known agency that controls exemptions given to developers on how they build in our City. For decades this agency has been used as a rubber stamp by developers to pave the way for buildings communities opposed. Thanks to a package of legislation getting signed into law in May, which included five bills I authored, the BSA will be much more transparent and accountable to the community.

This month we will hold a forum to discuss Fighting Overdevelopment on the Upper East Side, as well as a registration event for the New York City Rent Freeze Program, and our annual Roosevelt Island Town Hall.

As we get set to welcome summer, my office and the Parks Department have teamed up to bring activities for the community. Whether it is tennis open to the public at the Queensboro Oval, Movie Nights Under the Stars or Skate Night there are plenty of free activities for residents to enjoy as the temperatures increase.

Also back by popular demand is Grow NYC’s Fresh Food Box which will kick off at my office on June 15. Cooking with Kallos will also make a return on June 3 at the 82nd Street Greenmarket.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe start to summer, and Happy Fathers Day!

Sincerely,

Ben Kallos

Council Member

SPECIAL EVENTS

June 8, 6PM
Overdevelopment Forum

June 8, 11AM – 1PM
Rent Freeze for Seniors & Disabled

June 22, 6PM
Roosevelt Island Town Hall

OUTDOOR EVENTS

June 3, 17, 24 at Dusk
Movies Under the Stars

June 3, 11AM – 1PM
Cooking with Kallos

June 9, 6PM
Roller Skate Night

June 16 – September 10
Queensboro Oval Tennis

June 15, 22, 29, 3:30PM – 6:30PM
Fresh Foodbox

June 17, 11AM – 2:30PM
Bike Helmet Giveaway

June 7, 14, 21, 28, 7:15AM – 10:30AM
Food Scraps-on-the-Go

DISTRICT OFFICE EVENTS

June 2, 8AM – 10AM
First Friday

June 13, 6PM – 7PM
Brainstorming with Ben

June 22, 6:30PM – 8PM
CitiBike Safety Class

June 13, 27, 28, 11AM – 2PM
Mobile Hours

June 5, 6, 12, 19, 21, 26, 3PM – 6PM
Legal Clinics

 

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Press Coverage
Lic Post
Monday, May 29, 2017

One of the bills that passed now requires the BSA to list the number of applications it has approved or denied as well as the average length of time until a decision was rendered. Another bill requires the BSA to list all the variances and special applications action upon since 1998 to be available on an interactive map of the city.

Ben Kallos (Manhattan), who sponsored several of the bills, said in a statement: “We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents.”

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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
beat10ztalk
Friday, May 26, 2017

Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member, introduced a bill that would require city agencies to begin making their data available via user interface / API. This would be a major step towards increasing city efficiency, by enabling the private sector to build solutions that meet their own local needs.

How we currently interact with various government agencies — even for simple tasks like renewing a license, reporting a power outage, or casting a vote — is incomprehensibly cumbersome and time consuming. There’s little reason why these processes have not already been app-enabled and mostly automated, except that our city agencies are fractured and don’t have the bandwidth to pull themselves off legacy systems into the modern world.

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Press Coverage
SILive.com
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Another bill from Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens) would require copies of BSA applications and materials be sent by certified mail to applicants. 

The Department of City Planning would have to publish online the name and contact information of the BSA coordinator under a measure from Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan). The agency would also have to post a record of each permit and the BSA would have to provide a link on their website to testimony from city planning. 

Two other measures from Kallos would require the BSA have access to an experienced, state-certified real estate appraiser and establish the minimum required materials that must be submitted with applications. Another would require the BSA to report on information regarding applications and compile date on the location of all variances and special permit applications.

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Press Coverage
Tech Crunch
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

“Cities are still thinking about data as archive files. They’re not thinking about streams of data,” Stae co-founder John Edgar told me.

So let’s take this step by step. First, cities already have many sets of data coming from utilities, public transport, ambulances, residence complaints, traffic cameras and more. Instead of exporting a CSV or Excel file every now and then to look at this data, Stae wants to turn this data into APIs. By doing that, Stae standardizes data sets and it becomes easier to manipulate them.

And Stae is not the only one thinking this way. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos just introduced a bill that asks city agencies to share their data using an API.

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Press Release
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council passed a package of legislation aimed at reforming the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). In the past developers have been able to circumvent city zoning laws restricting building forms, use, height, density, through the BSA even though local Community Boards and elected officials objected to their decisions. This legislation aims to reform applications, decisions, notifications, staffing and transparency around the BSA to be more accountable to the public. The BSA is a five-member body tasked with reviewing requests for variances and special permits related to affordable housing and city planning in the zoning law. The package includes nine bills and featured bipartisan support from sponsors including Governmental Operations Chair Ben Kallos, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Minority Leader Steven Matteo and Council Members Karen Koslowitz (D-29) and Donovan Richards (D-31).

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Press Release
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New York, NY – In spite of policies and funding to provide public school students with access to dental, vision, substance abuse, reproductive health vaccines, and contraception in their public schools' actual performance goes unmeasured with some services provided onsite, others offsite, and others not at all.
 
“The city has policies in place to provide every health service they need and expect parents to be satisfied knowing they exist. I am concerned that the city is giving parents a false sense of security when the truth is that we don’t know which public school students have access to which services,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We should know exactly which health services are available to which public schools so that we can ensure all 1.1 million public school students have access to the health services they need.”
 
Under legislation proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos for each healthcare area the Department of Education would have to report on the service offered, the location of services as onsite or offsite, cost of services to students, and the number of participants receiving services at each public school. The Department of Education would also have to set annual strategies to increase access, special initiatives, pilot schools, comparison of pilot schools to standard schools and compare year to year performance.

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Press Release
Monday, May 29, 2017

Commutes are getting better on the Upper East Side. The lines that extended half a block on East 79th Street at York and First Avenues are a thing of the past. Waiting five minutes or more just for people to pay and board is no more.

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