Updates

Press Release
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New York, NY – New York City’s landmark small-dollar matching campaign finance system may soon be protected from an onslaught of dark money and special interests in City elections. Today the Committee on Governmental Operations chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos passed a package of legislation that expands the "doing business" definitions to include owners of companies that own companies and no longer matching funds they bundle as well as providing early determinations and payments of public funds". This package was first introduced in late 2015 by Governmental Operations Committee Chair Ben Kallos along with Council Members Jumaane Williams, Andy King, and Fernando Cabrera. This committee vote sends the legislation to the full council where it is expected to pass.

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Press Coverage
Wall Street Journal
Thursday, December 15, 2016

But community critics aren’t mollified. “Six feet doesn’t make a difference,” said New York City Council member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat. “An unbuildable 10-foot lot must not give rise to an illegal skyscraper," he said.

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Press Release
Thursday, December 15, 2016

New York, NY — The Department of Building has just approved new zoning plans for a 524-foot skyscraper at 180 East 88th Street with the expansion of a 4-foot wide lot at the center of a six-month stop work order by 6 feet to 10 feet. Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Council Member Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have filed with the Department of Buildings an official zoning challenge. 

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Press Coverage
New York YIMBY
Thursday, December 15, 2016

The City Council is trying to drag the Board of Standards and Appeals—the agency that decides zoning changes for many New York City developments—into the 21st century. The council’s Government Operations committee spent yesterday afternoon discussing bills that would force the agency to post zoning applications and decisions publicly, create a map of those decisions, and keep community boards and council members in the loop on applications.

The Board of Standards and Appeals consists of five commissioners appointed by the mayor. City law requires that the board must include one registered architect, one professional engineer, and one urban planner. While many pieces of the city’s land use process can be obscure, the BSA has steadfastly resisted oversight and transparency. Every year, dozens of developers file applications with the agency, seeking a minor change or exemption from zoning rules based on a “financial hardship.”

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Press Coverage
City Land
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ten bills will be aired for public opinion to place restrictions on and revamp the processes of the Board of Standards and Appeals. On December 6, 2016, Council Member Ben Kallos introduced five new bills regarding the oversight and operations of the Board of Standards and Appeals at the City Council’s stated meeting. The Board of Standards and Appeals, which was originally created to be an independent board tasked with granting “relief” from the zoning code, is empowered by the Zoning Resolution and primarily reviews and decides applications for variances and special permits.

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Press Release
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rezoning of Neighborhoods without Public Review 
Targeted for Reform by New York City Council 

Zoning Variances at Board of Standards and Appeals Subject of Council Reforms

 
New York, NY – Over the objections of local Community Boards and elected officials developers have been able to circumvent city zoning laws restricting building forms, use, height, density and more, through the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). The little agency, mostly known as a “rubber stamp” for developers, has been criticized for ignoring objections of community and elected officials, difficulty in appealing determinations without any written decision and short time frame, and ultimately “rezoning by variance” without public review.
 
The BSA granted 97% of variances in 2011 (102 of 105), with community boards only supporting 79% of the variances that they acted on (81 of 103) according to Citizen’s Union.

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The governmental operations committee is headed by Council Member Ben Kallos, who is more knowledgeable about the campaign finance system than Council Member Alan Maisel, the chair of the standards and ethics committee -- somethign Maisel acknowledged in a prior interview with Gotham Gazette. Kallos has expressed concerns about some of the second package of bills, including around bill details and process.

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Press Coverage
The Real Deal
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The City Council will discuss 10 bills Wednesday aimed at tightening the rules that allow property owners to bend zoning regulations.

Council member Ben Kallos is sponsoring the proposed bills that will target the Board of Standards and Appeals, Crain’s reported. The board is able to approve applications from landlords who argue they need to surpass zoning laws in order to make a profit from a development. In some cases, according to the publication, owners ask that a height restriction be relaxed so that revenue-generating apartments can be built. In other circumstances an owner may say that a lot is oddly shaped and it is therefore impossible to conform to zoning laws.

In 2011, the board approved 97 percent of applications that came before it, many of which had been opposed at the local council level. Kallos believes the board is too lenient.

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Press Coverage
Thursday, December 15, 2016

The plague of pointless scaffolding encrusting Downtown sidewalks for years on end may finally have a cure.

Property owners would have six months to shore up their aging buildings and then take down sidewalk sheds, or else face “heavy penalties” under a new bill introduced by Councilmember Ben Kallos.

Area residents living under the shadow of the sidewalk sheds that have loomed over Downtown for years were overjoyed upon learning that the Upper East Side legislator is attempting to tackle the root of so many of Downtown’s quality-of-life issues, according to the president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association

“I think this is a great starting point, and it’s laudable that someone is doing this,” said Patrick Kennell.

The bill gives landlords three months to complete construction that requires scaffolding or sidewalk sheds for the job, along with an option to apply for an additional three-month extension. After that period expires, however, the city would be entitled to step in to complete any remaining work and take down the scaffolding, before kicking the bill back to the property owners for any costs incurred by the city — likely in the form of liens or by garnishing landlords’ rent earnings, according to Kallos spokesman Josh Jamieson.

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Press Coverage
Crain's New York

According to the Manhattan councilman sponsoring five of the bills—which are to be heard Wednesday by the Committee on Governmental Operations—the board is too frequently persuaded. In 2011, it approved 97% of applications, many of which were opposed by local community boards.

"We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents," Councilman Ben Kallos, chairman of the committee, said in a statement. "Developers will have to be honest."

Making a false statement on an application would trigger a $25,000 fine, according to one of the bills sponsored by Kallos. Another would require the board retain a certified appraiser to pore over financial analyses to better vet applicants' claims of financial hardship. Other bills are designed to increase transparency and incorporate opinions from elected officials into the board's considerations. Together, the measures would more thoroughly scrutinize developer's claims of hardship and potentially make it harder to get a zoning variance from the board.

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Press Coverage
BOSS MAGAZINE
Friday, December 9, 2016

New York City Councilman Ben Kallos explained,  “New Yorkers want to get where they are going fast. Everyone hates traffic jams, especially when they are for road work, but no one is actually there doing the work. It’s about making sure we are only impeding traffic and causing traffic when we absolutely need to.”

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Thursday, December 8, 2016

New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, is an avid social media user who often solicits questions through Twitter during committee hearings. He’s well aware of the intersection of technology and governance and the issues that can arise with an elected representative’s use of social media. “Its pretty confusing to the public because they don’t know who to tweet sometimes,” he said of his own experience with separate accounts for official and campaign purposes. “So I have to spend double duty making sure I’m managing both, paying attention to both and ensuring that whether a constituent tweets my campaign or government [account], they get the services they need.”

He said officials should generally ensure that the distinctions between accounts are clear and they “respond from the right places and retweet from the right places.”

“It can be a little bit of a minefield,” Kallos said, “but you just have to be extra cautious.”

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Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch,NYC
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and parts of Midtown, proposed a new bill to wage war on the city's nearly 9,000 units of scaffolding — also known as sidewalk sheds — by placing strict regulations on how long scaffolding is allowed to stay up and by punishing people who opt to leave scaffolding up rather than finish inspections and construction projects.

If passed, the bill would require building owners take a scaffolding unit down within 90 days of its construction, according to a press release from Kallos' office. If needed, building owners could receive a 90 day extension to fix a dangerous condition.

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Press Coverage
Crain's New York
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sidewalk sheds, the unattractive steel-and-wood structures that pop up anytime a building is being built, repaired or has been deemed unsafe, have spread across the city like kudzu during the past decade. As Crain's described in a cover story earlier this year, approximately 190 miles of them are devouring sidewalk space, cutting off sunlight and hurting businesses trapped underneath.

But at long last, there may be relief for exasperated New Yorkers.

On Tuesday, City Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill that would require sheds to be taken down if no work is done on the building above for seven days, with exceptions for weather and other issues. The legislation would close a loophole that allows landlords to keep dormant sheds up forever, so long as the city's Department of Buildings grants a permit, which it routinely does. The bill would also let the city do the work and bill the property owner.

Laurent Delly, who has lived near a shed that has stood since 2004 at the corner of West 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue, called the bill great news for the city. "We would be pleased with a tangible solution to this chronic issue, which has affected all of us as New Yorkers for years," he said.

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Press Coverage
Habitat
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

But sidewalk sheds have been known to overstay their welcome, like a drunken uncle, sometimes sticking around for a dozen years or more, providing magnets for drug dealers, homeless people, trash, and worse. To remedy the situation, city councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, proposed a new law on Tuesday that would give building owners three months, with the possibility of a three-month extension, to make repairs and remove scaffolding and sidewalk sheds, the New York Times reports. If the work is not completed in that time, the city will step in to do it, and charge the owner for the work.

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Press Coverage
Metro
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A bill introduced in City Council on Tuesday gives a timeline for when scaffolding has to come down or the building owner has to pay up.

The bill would set a 90-day deadline for building owners to fix a dangerous condition, according to Kallos' office. Another 90 days could be requested if an extension is required.

After the deadline, the city would finish the construction work or repairs and the building owner would have to foot the bill.

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Press Coverage
ABC7
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In response, Councilman Ben Kallos is proposing a law requiring time limits.

"I put in a proposal that would give landlords three to six months to do the work. They wouldn't be able to stop that work at any point for more than seven days. And if they don't do the work, the city needs to step in and do the work ourselves and make bad landlords pay," Councilman Kallos said.

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Press Coverage
CBS New York
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A New York City councilman has declared war on building scaffolding, claiming landlords should be forced to take them down if no work is being done.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5th) is seeking a new law that imposes a time limit of 90 days to fix a dangerous condition, with the possibility of a 90 day extension if needed.

“Sidewalk sheds are the guest that you invite to your home but never leaves,” he tells CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer.

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Press Release
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New York, NY – Nearly 9,000 scaffolds that entomb 190 miles of City sidewalks may soon be dismantled, under legislation introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos. Unnecessary scaffolding also known as “sidewalk sheds” would have to be removed if seven days pass without construction work.
 
Sidewalk sheds are temporary structures, made of wooden planks, boards and metal pipes to protect pedestrians from dangerous conditions that are being corrected or new construction. Scaffolding is not only an eyesore but attract crime such as drug deals and provide an alternative to shelter for homeless. Many sidewalk sheds persist for years, sometimes more than a decade. There are several sidewalk sheds in Council District 5 represented by Kallos that have been up for years, over two years at 340 East 64th Street and 301 East 95th Street and over three years at 349 East 74th Street. Often times, it is much more expensive to fix a dangerous condition than to leave a sidewalk shed up indefinitely
 Kallos’ legislation would set the following timeline for sidewalk sheds in place for dangerous conditions:

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Press Coverage
NY1
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sometimes it feels like once scaffolding goes up in the city, it stays up forever. But building owners could soon be facing a deadline for taking it down.

Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos is pushing a bill that would put strict limits on how long scaffolding can be installed on city buildings.

The story was first reported by The New York Times.

The measure would give building owners up to six months to finish repairs so the scaffolding can be removed. 

If the repairs aren’t completed in time, the city would finish the work and charge the owner.

The city requires scaffolding to protect pedestrians from falling debris during repair work.

Supporters of the bill say the structures are ugly and hurt business. 

Critics say building owners don’t always have the money on hand to make expensive repairs.

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