Updates

Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, posed questions aimed at debunking Schulkin’s claims about voter identification requirements. Ryan, in response, reiterated that New York State does not require any identification for voting, only a signature. Only in rare instances, first-time voters may be required to produce identification if their voter registration is incomplete.

When Kallos asked if Schulkin’s claims about voters being bussed to multiple polling sites held any water, Ryan said, “Those issues have never come to my attention, not during my time as a commissioner going back to 2010 or in the three-plus years that I’ve been the executive director.” The state attorney general’s office also told Gotham Gazette earlier this month that the AG’s office has not received complaints of widespread voter impersonation fraud that Schulkin mentioned.

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Press Release
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Council Member Ben Kallos Statement on Fire at 324 East 93rd Street
 New York, NY— The following statement is from City Council Member Ben Kallos (D, Manhattan):
 
“Early this morning, a six-alarm fire attacked several apartment buildings on 93rd Street between First and Second Avenues. Sixteen people were injured in the fire, one critically, and one person was found dead at the scene. My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims, as well as their friends and families. I wish a speedy recovery to those who sustained injuries.
 
"The heroic actions of the New York City Fire Department and emergency responders saved lives this morning, and we thank them. Thank you also to the American Red Cross for helping displaced residents back on their feet on this cold and rainy day. "My office, which is located at 244 East 93rd Street, just across the street from where the fire occurred, is and has been available for any person displaced by the fire who needs a warm place to go or help with any emergency needs. First responders, Red Cross workers, and anyone needing a hand is welcome to stop by and use our facilities." ###

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which oversees the CFB, said in a statement last week that he hoped to see a “a thorough and open search for a new chair who will be independent, non-partisan, and non-political” in their role.

“It is of supreme importance that the next chair be someone who has the stature and integrity to not only stand up to candidates and any elected officials but guide the board through election years independently,” Kallos said.

Notably, de Blasio was faced with a somewhat similar choice when selecting a chair for a mandated commission to study and reccomend compensation levels for the city's elected officials. De Blasio chose Schwarz, Jr. in what was a universally applauded decision.

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Press Coverage
Brick Underground
Monday, October 24, 2016

The end result is that anyone who's ever been brought into housing court by their landlord ends up penalized, and tenants are discouraged from classic methods of protecting their rights, such as withholding rent. While there's been some movement to improve the lists—City Council memberBenjamin J. Kallos has introduced legislation to include more information about the actual cases, for instance—is there any reason we can't do away with this practice altogether?

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Thursday, October 27, 2016

To the relief of many Upper East Siders who have wanted the change for years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has disallowed left turns onto E. 79th Street for cars heading north on York Avenue.

Though there was never a turn signal at that intersection, the light would remain green for drivers going north on York after the other three lights had turned red so the northbound cars could make a left turn. This confused pedestrians, who would think all lights were red and would cross the street without realizing some of them were in the path of the northbound cars who still had a green light.

“This is an intersection where I myself have felt unsafe,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who helped accomplish the safety improvement. “I brought the concern to the Department of Transportation and we went over multiple different options.”

After deciding that eliminating left turns all together was the best move, Kallos and the DOT took it to the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association for a vote.

Betty Cooper Wallerstein, president and founder of the neighborhood association, is happy to see the intersection made safer, but frustrated that it took more than four years to do so.

“People are used to, when the traffic stops, crossing,” Wallerstein said. “The streets have to be safe for blind people, too. It never, never, never should have taken so many years to correct that mistake.”

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Unless you’re standing right in front of Maz Mezcal, on E. 86th Street between First and Second Avenues, you’ll probably miss it. The restaurant is hidden from view from most directions, due to extensive fencing and machinery. That’s all part of the construction of the Second Avenue subway, which has had a negative impact on business.

“It’s been horrendous,” said Mary Silva, owner of Maz Mezcal. “Business – at least mine and most everyone’s that I’ve spoken to – has dropped anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.”

In order to offset the financial consequences Maz Mezcal and its peers are facing, the Department of Finance is offering them the opportunity to have any fines forgiven that they’ve racked up during the construction. Council Member Ben Kallos encouraged the community to take advantage of the program, which will allow Second Ave. business owners and buildings to have any penalties and interest voided for violations such as snow on the sidewalk, working without a permit, improper trash disposal and failure to conduct required inspections, among others.

“It’s an opportunity for them to get to square one ahead of some legislation I’ve introduced that would actually put their businesses at risk if they haven’t been good neighbors,” Kallos said.

At Kallos’ press conference last week, Finance Department Commissioner Jacques Jiha said almost 700,000 violations have gone into judgment since the construction on the subway began.

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Press Coverage
Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts
Tuesday, March 15, 2016

By all accounts, 412 East 85th Street is already an unofficial neighborhood landmark, and a beloved fix­ture of FRIENDS’ educational walking tours. Vocal support by its owners, in addition to Council Member Ben Kallos, the Historic Districts Council, Municipal Art Society, New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Victorian Society in America, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Community Board 8, and FRIENDS will help to ensure a positive outcome for the building. 

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Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch,NYC
Thursday, October 20, 2016

The letter — signed by Councilman Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and State Assembly members Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright — listed several reasons why East 72nd Street deserves select bus service.

"With high bus-dependent populations, infrequent local service, crosstown bus service, hospitals, community support and opening of the Second Avenue Subway with a station at 72nd Street, now is the perfect opportunity to increase ridership by restoring M15 Select Bus Service at 72nd Street," read the letter.

During Wednesday night's meeting the board also voted to adopt a resolution to ask NYC Transit for increased local bus service to the stop for the next six months. Since select bus service was instituted on the M15 line, local bus service has deteriorated, in some cases being four times as slow as before select bus service, according to a press release.

“Residents feel abandoned by our buses. Watching five Select Buses go by what used to be a Limited stop makes seniors with limited mobility feel abandoned as they wait for a local bus that never seems to come,” said Kallos in a press release. “Seniors and children live in one-third of the households near 72nd Street and they must be able to rely on bus service to get where they are going.”

Although the community board was in overwhelming favor of both resolutions, the body is simply advisory. The ultimate decision on whether to extend select bus service to East 72nd Street must be made by NYC Transit.

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Press Release
Thursday, October 20, 2016
 
Rose Gill Hearn’s exemplary career in public service began over two decades ago in the United States Attorney’s Office, followed by tenure as the longest-serving commissioner of the Department of Investigation, and most recently as chair of the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Throughout her career, Chair Gill Hearn has fought corruption and held city employees and elected officials to the highest standard of integrity. Her legacy of fairness and accountability is one New Yorkers can be proud of and I thank her for her many years of service to the City of New York.
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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

“The turnstiles should be a pathway to economic opportunity, not another barrier,” Raskin said. “It means people are not able to use public transportation to access jobs and economic opportunity and the life of the community. And that is wrong.”

Advocates, including Council Members Ben Kallos and Ydanis Rodriguez, said the city has enough money to pay for the program.

“That is a reasonable price to pay to keep the trains and buses accessible for every New Yorker who must depend on mass transit to get to work and job interviews, attend college and job training programs, obtain needed health care, and enable their families to take advantage of the richness of the city’s cultural life,” wrote the officials in a joint letter to the mayor signed by 27 council members.

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Press Coverage
Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Councilman Ben Kallos, who heads the committee on governmental operations, said he hopes the mayor will appoint “a person of stature who can stand up to any elected official and any candidate, who is nonpartisan and nonpolitical.”

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Press Coverage
GCN
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

State agencies can now leverage an open source tool to help ensure that individuals eligible for income-based human service benefits actually receive them.

The software is Benefit Assist, and it was first launched in 2015 by Intuit for that company’s TurboTax users. Benefit Assist sifts through tax information to help determine a person’s eligibility for benefits from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid and Medicare.

Now, Intuit has partnered with New York City Council Member Ben Kallos and the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make its eligibility software free and open source code, according to the company.

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Press Release
Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Maz Mezcal Mexican Restaurant, Upper Eastside — New York City Department of Finance (DOF) Commissioner Jacques Jiha, DOF Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Shear, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce President, Ms. Jessica Walker and the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit (CAU), gather to encourage Upper East Side businesses to take advantage of “Forgiving Fines: The New York City Amnesty Program.” This 90-day initiative will forgive penalties and interest on violations received by individuals and business owners from the Department of Sanitation, Department of Buildings and other City agencies, reducing and eliminating debt owed to the City. The program runs from September 12, 2016 to December 12, 2016 and covers unpaid violations that are now in judgment. There are roughly 1.4 million violations in judgment.

Under the three-month amnesty program authorized by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council, New York City is forgiving penalties, interest and added fees on violations received by home and business owners from the Department of Sanitation, Department of Buildings, NYPD, FDNY and other City agencies. 

"Upper East Side small businesses have gone through a lot over the last couple of years with the construction of the 2nd Avenue Subway. Those same businesses are what make this community special and this neighborhood desirable," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "The Department of Finance's Forgiving Fines program gives small businesses a chance to catch up on outstanding fines and start with a cleaner slate. The program offers a 90-day window to participate and I encourage businesses with unpaid fines to use this opportunity."

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Press Release
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New York, NY – The Department of Transportation has eliminated left turns off York Avenue at 79th Street to make the street crossing safer for pedestrians, in response to advocacy by the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, Community Board 8 Manhattan, and Council Member Ben Kallos.

For seven years East 79th Street and York Avenue had the distinction of being one of the only intersections in the city where red lights would stop cars going South, East and West, but not North, leading to conflicts between pedestrians and speeding vehicles. A frequent vignette would play out multiple times a day, where a pedestrian seeing vehicles stopped in three directions would begin to cross York Avenue at 79th Street, only to be surprised as a vehicle going North, did not stop entering the intersection at high speed, often causing the pedestrian run or jump out of the way.

 
 
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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The board voted to support that request and Councilman Ben Kallos, who names 79th and York Avenue a dangerous intersection in his "Livable Streets" report, worked with them to get the DOT to solve the issue over the past six months.

“Every day I saw pedestrians crossing York Avenue getting caught by surprise as they dodged northbound cars that barreled through the intersection at 79th Street,” Kallos said in a statement.

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Press Coverage
NY1
Thursday, October 6, 2016

"Why can't we just pay with our cellphones like you can in so many other places? Why can't you just tap and go as you get on every single entrance of the bus?" said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan.

 

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

That outcome is largely the reason Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, requested that the authority add SBS to the M66, M96 and M79 bus lines.

“After the success of M86, we wanted to bring it to M79,” Kallos said after the meeting.

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Friday, October 14, 2016

Borelli, who sits on the Council’s governmental operations committee, which has oversight of the Board of Elections, wrote to committee chair Ben Kallos, a Democrat from Manhattan, requesting the hearing. Kallos told Gotham Gazette on Thursday that he disagrees with Borelli about the need for a state voter identification law and said that he will bring up the fraud allegations by BOE Commissioner Alan Schulkin at an already-planned elections oversight hearing in October.

Council Member Kallos told Gotham Gazette he “fervently” disagrees with Borelli. “I do not believe that we need voter identification,” he said. “I believe it is a tool used to disenfranchise voters.”

Kallos said he was “troubled and concerned” about Schulkin’s comments in the video and would bring the issue up at an oversight hearing already in the works before Borelli sent his letter -- the City Council holds a hearing ahead of election administration.

“Everything that was said is troubling,” Kallos said of the video, which released the same day that Kallos hosted an IDNYC pop-up registration event on Roosevelt Island. “We hope to have oversight of the BOE...to find out what happened, whether any of these views had an impact in the conduct of any of the presidential primary elections or any election since this man has been appointed to the BOE.”

 

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Press Coverage
Potomac TechWire
Friday, October 14, 2016

(Washington, DC) The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Servicessaid it has teamed with financial software maker Intuit to release the company's Benefit Assist software as free, open source code on GitHub. The move will allow anyone to freely use, share and improve upon Benefit Assist. The goal is to help people more easily determine eligibility and apply for income-based government benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps and free mobile phone service.
https://github.com/CMSgov/BenefitAssist

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Press Coverage
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“New Yorkers have until Friday to register for what may be the most important general election in our lifetime,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos, who chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations with oversight over the Board of Elections. “New York City’s collective voice must be heard at this year’s election, for that occur residents must ensure they are registered to vote.”

 

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Press Coverage
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“I am excited to become one of the almost 1 million IDNYC cardholders, and I am proud to do it in my district on Roosevelt Island,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side-Midtown East-Roosevelt Island), who personally signed up for an IDNYC card after the press conference.

 

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Press Release
Thursday, October 13, 2016

HHS and Intuit Release App to Fight Poverty Nationwide

Federal Government to host Intuit Benefit Assist as a free, open source Tool to Help More Americans

 Washington, D.C. – Oct. 13, 2016 – Approximately one in six Americans do not have enough money for food or other essential needs and they often miss out on income-based government benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps or free mobile phone service.  To make it easier for Americans to determine eligibility and apply for these benefits, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), through a collaboration with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, is releasing to the Federal Government its Benefit Assist software as free, open source code on GitHub with a demonstration. Now anyone, whether state government, non-profit or a developer, can freely use, share and improve upon Benefit Assist to help Americans in find and use these valuable benefits.

States will be able to save money using Benefit Assist to collectively build and improve on the software to reduce overhead, potentially saving our nation billions.

# # #

 

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Press Coverage
Politico
Saturday, October 15, 2016

An online tool from tax preparation company Intuit that can easily determine whether an application is eligible for food stamps or other benefits is now freely available through a federal agency to states, local governments or nonprofit organizations.

Councilman Ben Kallos has been pushing for legislation that would require the city to use income tax filings to determine eligibility for public benefits.

Last year, Intuit made the Benefit Assist tool available to help users of TurboTax determine whether they were eligible for an array of programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare and many others.

 

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