New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Community

As a&nbsp;<a href="/about/biography"><strong>third generation Upper East Sider</strong></a>, I am committed to maintaining our neighborhood's quality of life. I will support and work with our community centers such as cultural and religious institutions as well as neighborhood associations to ensure our neighborhood remains safe, clean and a wonderful place to live.

Upper East Side Patch Scaffold Covers West Village Block For 22 Years, Residents Say by Gus Saltonstall

Scaffold Covers West Village Block For 22 Years, Residents Say

WEST VILLAGE, NY — The day a sidewalk scaffolding shed first went up over part of a West 9th Street block, Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City, "Shakespeare In Love" had recently won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Britney Spears had just earned her first No. 1 hit.

It's still there.

The shed of wood and metal first went up outside 24-26 West 9th St. on Nov. 7, 1999. Though official records show it came down briefly in 2004 and again in 2007, it quickly returned both times, making it a 22-year blight, frustrated local residents said.

 

"Manhattanites are so sick of this nonsense: sidewalk sheds go up and decades later they are still up. It is frankly embarrassing for us as a City that we cannot get these repairs done and get the sheds down," Kallos told Patch.

"My legislation would force the building owner here to make the necessary repairs for the facade to be safe and then take the scaffolding down all within 90 days. If they don't want to, the city would get it done, and the landlord would have to deal with the bill. With over 300 miles of scaffolding crowding City sidewalks, hurting local businesses, and ruining quality of life, the time is now to enact this reform."

Upper East Side Patch These 2 Upper East Side Projects Won Ben Kallos's Budget Bucks by Nick Garber

These 2 Upper East Side Projects Won Ben Kallos's Budget Bucks

The two winning projects in this year's round of participatory budgeting in Ben Kallos's District 5 are: $750,00 for laptops and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs at 15 schools in the district; and $187,000 to plant 50 trees with guards on sidewalks.

"I am proud of the millions of dollars our community has voted on over the years. Our residents have prioritized education and beautifying our neighborhood this year," Kallos said Wednesday when his office announced the results.

Upper East Side Patch These UES Projects Could Win Kallos's Participatory Budget Bucks by Nick Garber

These UES Projects Could Win Kallos's Participatory Budget Bucks

Ben Kallos attends a ribbon-cutting on the East River Esplanade in April 2019. Voting for this year's participatory budgeting projects opens April 5.

Ben Kallos attends a ribbon-cutting on the East River Esplanade in April 2019. Voting for this year's participatory budgeting projects opens April 5. (Jeffrey WZ Reed/New York City Council)

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — For the eighth straight year, residents of the Upper East Side can vote to decide how $1 million of their City Council member's budget should be spent.

Nine different projects are in the running for this year's round of participatory budgeting in District 5, represented by Ben Kallos and covering the eastern stretch of the Upper East Side as well as Roosevelt Island.

Kallos has made about $1 million available for neighborhood projects — one of just four Council members who set aside money this year for participatory budgeting. (Plans for a citywide program have been delayed due to the pandemic.)

 

Online voting will run from April 5 to April 14. (More information below on how to vote.)

Here are the District 5 projects on the ballot for participatory budgeting this year:

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  • $750,000 to purchase laptop carts for 10 District 5 schools
  • $700,000 to purchase and install new play equipment at NYCHA Lexington Houses
  • $500,000 for an expansion of the children's play areas in Rupert Park
  • $450,000 to renovate, update and configure bathrooms at Talent Unlimited High School
  • $300,000 to replace the existing wheelchair lift at the New York Public Library at 328 East 67th Street with an improved design for accessibility
  • $285,000 to purchase and install public safety cameras to cover five high-traffic locations
  • $250,000 to repair and finish the flooring, upgrade the lighting and replace all safety wall padding at P.S./I.S. 217 gym
  • $250,000 to fund the purchase of telemetry machines at H+H Coler Hospital
  • $187,000 to plant 50 new trees with guards on sidewalks throughout the district

AM New York Maloney and other elected officials celebrate Mayor’s and Parks commitment to repair East River Esplanade by Dean Moses

Maloney and other elected officials celebrate Mayor’s and Parks commitment to repair East River Esplanade

Councilmember Ben Kallos is grateful for the Mayor’s allocation of $284 million to the East River Esplanade, but he wants repairs to start now.Photo by Dean Moses

“At this point we are three quarters of a billion, and some of the money is moving. We were able to get a repair done on 76th Street in less than six months during a pandemic, but now the challenge is to say to the Mayor, ‘Thank you for the money, start the work now,'” Kallos said.

Now the funds have be allocated, residents are keeping their eyes peeled, waiting for the announcement of when they can expect construction to begin.

New York Daily News NYC Councilman Kallos to push for expanded early voting access, blasts Albany lawmakers by Michael Gartland, Denis Slattery

NYC Councilman Kallos to push for expanded early voting access, blasts Albany lawmakers

Just months after New York City offered early voting for the first time during a presidential election, voters could soon get more early voting options under a new City Council bill expected to be introduced Thursday.

The bill, which Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos, plans to introduce to the Council at a Thursday meeting, would increase the number of early voting sites, with expanded hours of operation and at least two sites required in each Council district initially for the upcoming June primary.


“This would add at least two early voting polling sites per Council district for the coming election and would eventually scale up to eight. It would also give voters more hours to vote,” Kallos told the Daily News. “During the last election, there were zero early voting sites in my Council district. To be fair, one was 500 feet outside my district, but we don’t have enough early voting sites.”

Kallos blamed the city Board of Elections and legislators in Albany and called state lawmakers “corrupt” for not passing a law mandating more early voting sites.

The current state law requires just seven sites per county, he pointed out.

Curbed Upper East Siders Embrace a Homeless Shelter, Unlike Their Crosstown Neighbors by By Caroline Spivack

Upper East Siders Embrace a Homeless Shelter, Unlike Their Crosstown Neighbors

You’re probably used to seeing headlines about neighborhood groups as they rail against shelters and hotels housing homeless New Yorkers — particularly over the past year and particularly on the Upper West Side. This week, residents on the Upper East Side surprisingly bucked that trend: At a community-board meeting about a new shelter on East 91st Street, locals overwhelmingly supported the project, Patch reported. “No fanfare, no problem. The men can stay,” said City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who actually advocated for the shelter (imagine that!).

This couldn’t be more different from the monthslong saga of their neighbors on the other side of Central Park. There, residents raised just shy of $180,000 to support legal action against three Upper West Side hotels to oust their homeless residents, and on a Facebook group, locals openly fantasized about using wasp spray and dog feces to make the homeless feel unwelcome. Some now oppose a newly planned shelter for women on West 59th Street. As one commenter on a recent West Side Rag post put it, “I don’t want to hear another word from anybody that the UWS isn’t doing its ‘fair share’ of housing the homeless. We’re doing far more. Why doesn’t the UES have any shelters and we get flooded with them?” This sentiment was echoed at community-board meetings, where residents asked why their similarly well-to-do Upper East Side neighbors weren’t hosting more homeless beds.

Upper East Side Patch New 'Safe Haven' Shelter On Upper East Side Welcomed By Board by Nick Garber

New 'Safe Haven' Shelter On Upper East Side Welcomed By Board

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A proposed shelter on the Upper East Side won the unanimous backing of a community board committee on Wednesday, as members expressed hope that the new facility could help the neighborhood's street homeless population find more permanent housing.

The 88-bed shelter is set to open in January 2022 on East 91st Street between First and York avenues. It will be run by Goddard Riverside, the housing-focused nonprofit that is headquartered on the Upper West Side and operates nearly two dozen locations around Manhattan.

An existing building at the current site will be torn down to make way for the new seven-story structure, which will be purpose-built as a shelter serving single adult men and women.

The facility will be a Safe Haven — a type of shelter with a low threshold for admission, whose primary goal is to get people off the streets and into a safe bed. The site will offer social and meal services, counseling, and a rooftop recreational area.

A number of elected officials joined Wednesday's Community Board 8 meeting to speak out in favor of the shelter. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose office had advocated for the facility, said it would serve the neighborhood's street homeless residents who are already visible in places like subway stations.

A number of elected officials joined Wednesday's Community Board 8 meeting to speak out in favor of the shelter. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose office had advocated for the facility, said it would serve the neighborhood's street homeless residents who are already visible in places like subway stations.

"There's one person on 86th Street on the downtown entrance, there's one person on the northbound entrance ... we all know who they are, we know what they look like," he said.

State Sen. Liz Krueger, whose East Side district includes two other Safe Havens, said neighbors have welcomed the facilities.

"The communities are very glad that they opened and they're actually seeing a difference in people on their streets or not on their streets," Krueger said.

Some residents said the apparent support for the shelter contrasted with the Upper East Side's reputation as a less-than-welcoming neighborhood for the homeless. Resident Ben Wetzler said he hoped the shelter's move-in would be conflict-free, unlike the recent battles on the Upper West Side.

"I'm really hopeful that our neighborhood will be more welcoming and do a better job of working with you," he said.

No one at Wednesday's meeting said they opposed the shelter, although two neighbors expressed concerns about safety. In response, representatives from Goddard Riverside said the shelter would have 24/7 security, as well as psychiatry services for any seriously mentally ill people admitted there.

Among the shelter's supporters were two students at East Side Middle School, located down the block from the future facility.

"I feel that it is very important to help people feel welcome so that they can accept these services," said seventh-grader Ahana. "It's also important to empathize with others to try to understand how you would feel if you were in their situation."

The shelter, and the supporting resolution passed on Wednesday, will be discussed again at CB8's full board meeting on Jan. 20.

 

Upper East Side Patch New Supermarket-Style Food Pantry Open On Upper East Side by Gillian Smith

New Supermarket-Style Food Pantry Open On Upper East Side

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY – A new Urban Outreach Center location opened in the Upper East Side Thursday, offering food and assistance to those in need.

The new site includes a supermarket-style food pantry that allows visitors the comfort of being able to choose from available foods, adding dignity and a sense of normalcy for people receiving fresh produce and healthy staples from the pantry.

The location also includes community dinners on Tuesday evenings, offering hot, restaurant-quality meals to food-insecure families senior citizens and low-income New Yorkers.

There are also clothing rooms, mail distribution services and a job center.

"The Urban Outreach Center is committed to ending the hunger gap in East Harlem and the Upper East Side – providing our low-income neighbors with the healthy food they need, with the dignity they deserve," said The Rev. Jordan Tarwater, Executive Director of the Urban Outreach Center of NYC, in a prepared statement. "We are so grateful for the warm reception from the neighborhood and the outpouring of support from those who share our vision that no parent, child, or senior citizen in NYC should struggle because they lack access to food or other basic resources."

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The Urban Outreach Center is a new nonprofit created from the historic homeless services mission of Avenue Church NY

TAPinto UES Residents Voice Opposition to Proposed New York Blood Center Campus by Marc Bussanich

UES Residents Voice Opposition to Proposed New York Blood Center Campus

New York, NY—The New York Blood Center has big ambitions to build a brand-new campus with a 16-story building to replace its current home on East 67th Street. But some long-time residents are opposed to the project, with one of them saying that the massive redevelopment poses an existential threat to the quality of life on the Upper East Side.

The residents had a chance to weigh in on the issue during a recent Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who represents the district. The Councilman heard from approximately 10 residents, who each expressed different reasons why they are opposed to the proposed 600,000-square foot campus.

For example, Adam Kaye lives at 301 East 66th Street on the 14th Floor facing east, and he expressed astonishment that his open-air views will be compromised.

“I’m an owner, this is something that we extensively looked into what the zoning was, what the maximum height was in the area before we bought, and never in a million years did we think that someone would build such an egregious monstrosity on a block on the Upper East Side,” said Kaye.

He also expressed concern about the obstruction of sunlight to nearby St. Catherine’s Park, saying that part of the reason why he and his wife purchased their property was so that his two children could have access to an open-air park with plenty of sunlight.

“I can’t understand how any council member or any zoning person will allow something like that to happen in a playground that is so vital to the neighborhood; it’s the only open-air park space that we have. The core question is, what can be done to stop it,” Kaye said.

Paul Graziano was just hired by the co-op board at 301 East 66th Street to be its planning, zoning and land use consultant in response to the Blood Center’s proposal. He noted that there has never been a violation or a request for a rezoning within any R8B zone (a high-density residential zoning district found mostly in Manhattan on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side) since the adoption of the R8B zone on the UES in 1985.

In fact, he said, the adoption of additional R8B zones in Manhattan seemed to indicate that it was a long-standing position by the city and elected officials to protect mid-block areas. 

“This precedent would open the door not just for creating a disaster on this block, which is clear from the proposal, but I think it opens the door to this happening everywhere else. And, unlike the statement [by the city] that this is an exception, that this is the only site where this could happen, that is not true,” said Graziano.

Perhaps the most vociferous opposition came from Marty Bell, who lives at 315 East 68th Street. While saying that the project represents an existential crisis to the quality of life on the UES, he channeled his frustration towards Councilman Ben Kallos, whom Bell said isn’t doing enough to stop the project.

“The way all you ever talked about was sort of wishy-washy about St. Catherine’s [Park]…this building, you should be screaming from the ramparts to stop this building,” said Bell.

Bell continued by saying that he felt that the Blood Center wouldn’t be going ahead with the project unless “they felt they had you in their pocket.”

That prompted Kallos to calmly reply that he appreciated Bell’s remarks, but they weren’t accurate.

“I understand why you could come to the conclusions you have come to, but I will say that nothing could be further from the truth,” said Kallos.

Kallos then noted that the New York Blood Center isn’t even seeking input from elected leaders.

“This is not something that I can just simply come out and say I am against and the project [stops]. They are choosing to move forward without support from any local elected officials,” said Kallos.

“At this point, whether you support or oppose, or you have changes to the proposal, it’s going to be something that you are going to have to fight for.”

The city is in favor of the project because, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration views public health and the life-science industry as the cornerstone of the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

In addition, the New York Blood Center says it needs the new campus to add more space for its research and to expand the number of companies it incubates in its offices.

New York County Politics Brewer Appoints Five New Manhattan CB Members by New York County Politics

Brewer Appoints Five New Manhattan CB Members

Five new neighborhood leaders have joined Manhattan’s Community Boards, after being nominated by Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) and appointed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D).

Manhattan’s Community Boards serve the role of being the independent voices of the communities they represent. As Community Board members, the five appointees will play a pivotal role in shaping their communities and preserving the character of their unique neighborhoods.

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“I am proud to nominate residents that have different areas of focus and expertise and that come from different walks of life to serve on our Community Boards,” said Kallos, a former member of Community Board 8. “There are a myriad of complex issues before the board that we will need help with. Thank you to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for an open process that has encouraged hundreds to apply with an impressive group interview process as well as all the applicants and appointees for their service to the community.”