Updates

Press Coverage
Fortune Tech
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

If enacted, the bill would mean people "won't have to deal with the bureaucracy and red tape of government," argued Kallos, a Democratic councilman who represents Midtown East, the Upper East Side, East Harlem, and Roosevelt Island. "Government gets a lot wrong, and a lot of that comes from having to shove pieces of paper around," he said, explaining that automating all that paper pushing could eliminate or lessen the chances of error.

Kallos said it's all about making government services and public data more easily accessible to constituents. One example already in place: New York City's 311 phone line for reporting non-emergency situations. Under this new law, all new services would include an API that would let people submit requests directly to the city, without having to spend a ton of time on hold and without having to enter their information over and over again, as can often be the case now.

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Press Coverage
Curbed
Friday, May 19, 2017

But while the project has garnered its share of community support, not everyone is pleased with the plans. The main complaint: that affordable units, which Fetner has said will be “evenly” distributed throughout the building, won’t be all that affordable after all. The units will be designated for residents earning less than $41,000 for an individual and $52,000 for a family of three—too high to actually meet the needs of the community, critics say.

As Councilman Ben Kallos pointed out, the minimum annual income for one of the new affordable apartments is $38,100, which is above the eligible income for NYCHA residents. “It's pouring salt in a wound that they're building housing that none of the NYCHA residents can get into,” he told DNAInfo.

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Press Release
Sunday, May 21, 2017

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) NYC Transit and New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) together today began service on a new Select Bus Service (SBS) route along 79th Street in Manhattan. This busy 2-mile crosstown corridor links Manhattan’s Upper East Side to the Upper West Side and serves over 14,000 riders daily.   The M79 is the 13th Select Bus Service route Citywide and the 7th in Manhattan.  Using SBS’s signature combination of dedicated bus lanes, curbside fare collection, all-door boarding and transit-signal priority, the new line is expected to both reduce travel times and increase reliability.

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Friday, May 19, 2017

The mayor might not like to take questions from the press — but he does believe they have the right to join a union.

De Blasio was among nearly two dozen city officials who signed a letter Thursday in support of reporters at two popular local websites who are fighting to get management to recognize their recent union vote.

“We support the editorial staff of DNAinfo and Gothamist as they exercise their right to unionize,” the letter said.

“The work of these reporters and editors is crucial for NYC. We call on management to respect their democratic right to organize and immediately recognize their union,” it concluded.

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fetner will pay an upfront fee of $25 million to NYCHA, but between the public subsidies and the loss of millions of dollars in potential property taxes, Councilman Benjamin Kallos (D-Manhattan) predicted the city ends up in the red.Fetner will pay an upfront fee of $25 million to NYCHA, but between the public subsidies and the loss of millions of dollars in potential property taxes, Councilman Benjamin Kallos (D-Manhattan) predicted the city ends up in the red.

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Thursday, May 18, 2017

The new tower will rise 47 stories and feature a recreation center and playgrounds, according to city officials.

Fetner Properties
YORKVILLE — The city finally released renderings of a mixed-income tower set to rise on top of an existing playground at the Holmes Towers public housing complex — and while the city is celebrating, some locals see the news as "salt in the wound."

The images released Wednesday are the first to come out of a year-and-a-half long debate between current Holmes Towers residents and the New York City Housing Authority about the logistics of the plan, which falls under the city's new NextGen program meant to raise capital funds for its existing developments across the city.

The renderings show a 47-story, off-white building rising among the red-brick Holmes Towers buildings on East 93rd Street, as well as a new 18,000-square-foot recreation and community center run by Asphalt Green and new playgrounds.

run its recreation center, which will include an indoor basketball court, a rooftop turf field and low-cost programming.

 

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The city has instituted universal free lunch for middle schools, but declined to expand it citywide.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) asked  Fariña to also issue rules that school staffers could not go after parents to collect unpaid lunch fees later, but she declined to do that without studying it first.

“Students are not deprived of eating lunch because of money,” she said.

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Thursday, May 18, 2017

Half the units will be market rate, half affordable, with most of the lower-income tenants on the lower floors and almost all of the wealthier residents on the upper floors, according to Councilman Benjamin Kallos.

“All the low-income people will be stuck in the shadows with the high-income people living above them,” said Kallos (D-Manhattan), who was briefed by NYCHA on the project. “The majority of the low-income units will be in the bottom 20 stories and they will have windows facing other NYCHA tenants. We will have effectively walled in the low-income tenants.”

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Monday, May 15, 2017

The government operations committee, chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos, met to discuss the BOE’s $136.5 million proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Council members sought answers from the board about the latest WNYC report, which came after a series of reports by Bergin exposing problems at the BOE, including tens of thousands of voters purged from the rolls ahead of the presidential election. Kallos said his wife was one of those voters whose vote did not count, and that she received a notice from the BOE just last month.

“There is a quasi-manual, quasi-automated process,” said Michael Ryan, BOE executive director, insisting that the board could not send notices to voters who aren’t in the system until they provide relevant missing information to the board.

Referring to a specific voter highlighted by WNYC, who shuttled numerous times between two poll sites in attempting to cast her vote, which eventually was not counted, Ryan said the voter’s actions on Election Day seemed “suspicious” and also said WNYC’s report, “simplistically analyzed a complex process.”

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

City Council Member Ben Kallos is always looking for ways to make government more efficient and accessible through technology and the use of data. To that end, Kallos, himself a programmer, introduced a bill last week that would require information generated or received by city agencies to be available through an interface that allows easy use of the data and, ideally, a streamlined experience for New Yorkers interacting with their city government.

This would occur through an Application Program Interface (API); essentially, Kallos explained, “a language dictionary so a piece of software can communicate with another software.” Such a system would facilitate the automatic availability of city data through mobile- or web-based applications, opening up opportunities for the private sector to create programs that interact with city government. A program that easily transmits permit and license applications, for example.

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette

For City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, and City Council Member David Greenfield, a committee member, those delays in audits are just one reason that they believe the CFB’s system is flawed and in need of change. In December, Kallos, Greenfield, and other Council members ushered through nearly two dozen campaign finance related bills, some of them tweaks to how the Campaign Finance Board operates. Several of the measures were based on recommendations from the CFB, others were seen as addressing problems with the CFB identified by Council members and their consultants.

The Friday hearing did touch on the CFB’s budget needs for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 and in which there will be a citywide election with a primary in September and a general election in November. These city elections account for a massive increase to $56.7 million for the 2018 fiscal year from last year’s CFB budget of $16.17 million.

About half of the proposed budget, $29 million, is allocated to the public matching funds program, which provides participating campaigns with 6-to-1 matches of small contributions up to $175. Another $11 million will go to printing and distributing a voter guide for the upcoming election.

But Kallos seemed more concerned that the board was spending more money, and time, on auditing campaigns than the money they received from resolutions of those audits. When Loprest told the committee that the CFB’s candidate services unit has seven full-time employees and the audit unit has 26, Kallos insisted that the CFB should dedicate more resources to candidate services and campaign liaisons, so campaigns can preemptively steer clear of missteps in navigating a complex campaign finance system, and avoid fines and penalties down the line.

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

“I guess I have an overarching concern here,” Kallos responded, “just that you’re spending four times more on auditing and penalizing candidates than you are on supporting them and your candidate-to-liaison ratio far exceeds what would be allowed in a public school at this point [for student-to-teacher].” He said the candidate services unit should at least be on par with the audit unit, to provide more personal attention to campaigns, and later floated the idea of legislation to mandate it. “I feel a bill coming up,” he said.

Read more at http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6934-city-council-members-question-cam...

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Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch
Friday, May 12, 2017

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A fleet of 79 brand-new buses will replace some of the oldest buses in New York City servicing five Upper East Side routes — the M14, M15, M101, M102 and M103 — officials announced.

The new buses, equipped with WiFi and USB charging ports, will be based out of the Tuskegee Bus Depot in Harlem, City Councilman Ben Kallos said in a press release. The depot will provide three to five of the new buses per week to the five Upper East Side routes, which should speed up local bus service. The buses stationed at the Tuskegee Bus Depot were some of the oldest in the city, causing frequent breakdowns and "missing buses" — when fewer buses run per hour than scheduled.

"Bus service on the East Side is about to get better with brand new buses that won’t cause disruptions in service from breaking down as often," Kallos said in a statement. "Residents complain about poor bus service every day, but after years of advocacy, we are getting the new buses we need."

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Thursday, May 11, 2017

A number of East Side politicians, including Councilman Ben Kallos, Sen. Liz Krueger, and Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, along with the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, petitioned the MTA for the new buses after receiving a slew of complaints from commuters who wait long periods of time for their bus to come.

"Bus service on the East Side is about to get better with brand new buses that won’t cause disruptions in service from breaking down as often,” said Kallos. “Residents complain about poor bus service every day, but after years of advocacy, we are getting the new buses we need."

The new buses will eventually phase out the older buses, which is the primary cause of "missing buses," according to Kallos. 

The buses that run on all five routes come out of the Tuskeegee Bus Depot in Harlem and are some of the oldest, Kallos said.

"When local buses end up 'missing' that further compounds the problems," he said. "The M15 had the oldest fleet in the city. This is great news for M15 riders."

Locals and politicians on both the Upper and Lower East Side have for years been asking the MTA to fix the slow local M15 service or add additional Select Bus Service stops on the route.

Upper East Side residents have pushed for more local M15 buses or at least the addition of a Select Bus Service stop at East 72nd Street since the local bus takes too long to arrive. 

"You can stand there for 25 to 35 minutes and see three Select Bus Service buses go by," said Valerie Mason, president of the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association, last year. "In the last six years, local service has deteriorated greatly."

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Press Release
Thursday, May 11, 2017

79 New Buses Headed to East Side to Replace Oldest Buses in Fleet
M14, M15, M101, M102, & M103 

New York, NY – Manhattan’s East Side, where seniors and others depend on buses with slow service and long waits, is getting 79 new buses to help alleviate these issues. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA’s announcement of the new buses followed strong, data-driven advocacy from Council Member Ben Kallos, Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and the East 79th Street Neighborhood.
 
The community and elected officials brought the issue of “missing buses” to the attention of then-MTA Bus Company President Darryl Irick at a meeting convened by Senator Liz Krueger. The MTA shared that bus lines based out of the Tuskegee Depot were amongst the oldest in the system, leading to more frequent than usual breakdowns, and agreed to prioritize these buses for replacement.
 
The MTA is now bringing 79 new buses with free Wi-Fi and USB charging to the Tuskegee Depot, which will provide 3 to 5 new buses per week to the M14, M15, M101, M102, and M103 lines.
 
The East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, led by Betty Cooper-Wallerstein, has been fighting for improved bus service for decades, from awarding bus operators for a job well done to distributing survey cards for residents to provide feedback on their experiences with the buses. This advocacy has ensured that quality bus service remains a top priority for elected officials who receive these cards with service complaints.
 
In 2014, Council Member Ben Kallos presented at Beta NYC's National Day of Civic Hacking event and facilitated a conversation on using MTA BusTime data to track every bus in the system at all times in order to analyze bus service. Nathan Johnson took up this challenge. In his analysis, he found “missing buses,” where fewer buses ran per hour than were scheduled.
 
In discussions facilitated by TWU Local 100 with bus operators from the Tuskegee Bus Depot, they identified frequent breakdowns and insufficient buses as two primary causes of “missing buses.” Council Member Kallos identified these issues in multiple letters and meetings with the MTA, BetaNYC, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).
 
Further analysis by the Bus Turnaround Coalition at BusTurnaround.nyc found:

  • M15: has the highest ridership in Manhattan at 46,029 daily riders, with more than 1 of 8 buses arriving bunched and an average speed of only 4.8 mph.
  • M101: is one of the top ten most bunched buses in the city at 1 of 6 buses arriving bunched, with the fourth highest ridership in Manhattan at 26,127 riders per day, and an average speed of only 4.9 mph.

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Press Coverage
Vice News Munchies
Thursday, May 11, 2017

The purpose of the legislation is, in part, to would allow workers more easily to arrange for child care or take on second jobs. Among its supporters is New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio and council member Ben Kallos, who attended the rally today. He told MUNCHIES, "Fast food workers deserve respect from their employers and these laws will make sure we are taking steps in that direction." He called the legislation "common sense" and said it "will go a long way towards improving quality of life for New York City workers. I was proud to show my support."

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Until recently, the most crowded bus route in Manhattan also had the oldest buses in the fleet. According to data analyzed by the Bus Turnaround Coalition, which advocates for better bus service citywide, the M15 carries more than 46,000 passengers every day, though ridership has decreased roughly 10 percent since 2010. Thanks to a combined community effort, 79 new buses have already begun to replace the vehicles on the M15 route, as well as on the M14, M101, M102 and M103 routes.

“We spent an enormous amo”unt of time demonstrating the need for the buses,” Council Member Ben Kallos said. “When residents complain about bus service we pass it on to MTA and MTA usually tells us the buses were there.” Kallos, who has a background in software development, partnered with Civic Hackers to collect and assess bus data in order to demonstrate that bus service on the Upper East Side was spotty and often bunched. Between gathering the data and convincing the MTA, Kallos said the project “ended up soaking up about two years of my life.”

Betty Cooper-Wallerstein, the president of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association and a former Council member, began collecting her own data many years ago by compiling results from survey cards she would hand out at community meetings. She would ask bus riders to note the route they took and their driver’s punctuality, both to monitor service standards and to give awards to the highest ranking bus drivers. “We have very many seniors,” Cooper-Wallerstein said, emphasizing the need for more reliable service so older riders aren’t waiting as longer or having to walk far away to a better line. Cooper-Wallerstein said she expects the new buses will be “a big help.”

Kallos credited state Senator Liz Krueger with helping set up the meeting last fall with Darryl Irick, the president of the MTA Bus Company, who confirmed that the M15’s vehicles were the oldest in the fleet and agreed to provide the new ones. “The MTA has advised me that the 79 buses is enough for a full replacement on the M15,” said Kallos, who takes that route to work. The remaining new buses will be distributed across the M14, M101, M102 and M103 routes, he added, “where we will continue advocating for more buses.”

The Bus Turnaround Coalition shows that the M101, M102 and M103 have the fourth, 15th and 22nd highest ridership in Manhattan. On the M101 route, one of every six buses arrives bunched.

The 79 new buses will have Wi-Fi, USB charging ports and digital displays displaying upcoming stops. They are also equipped with a pedestrian warning system to prevent collisions. “It can be tough to balance trying to keep people getting to work on time with pedestrians in the intersection who may or may not be obeying the law,” Kallos said. “This technology will really help drivers avoid any mishaps.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

 

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