New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Land Use

Crain's New York Facade safety crackdown could boost sidewalk-shed reform bill by Ryan Deffenbaugh

Facade safety crackdown could boost sidewalk-shed reform bill

Department of Buildings officials pledged to hold building-owners "feet to the fire" after designer Erica Tishman was killed by a falling chunk of debris in Times Square last month. 

Councilman Ben Kallos praised the department's actions but warned against reliance on scaffolding.

"Ultimately the solution isn't just to put sidewalk sheds everywhere," Kallos said. "We need to get to a place where folks are actually doing the work to maintain their buildings."


No ‘Silver Bullet’ In a statement to THE CITY, Abigail Kunitz, a DOB spokesperson said, “Building owners are on notice as we continue with proactive inspections, strong enforcement actions, and direct outreach, to ensure they are held accountable for keeping their buildings safe.” Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) called the increased inspections a step in the right direction, but expressed concern about even further proliferating the sidewalk sheds that blanket many blocks. Kallos has been trying to push reforms for years in the hope of reducing the number of sheds by mandating repairs be done more quickly. “If there is the potential for a piece of a facade from a building to fall on somebody, I would prefer it gets fixed as soon as possible. And while that’s happening, there should be something to protect people who are going by,” he said. “But this whole idea of let’s just get the sidewalk sheds up and everyone will be saved — it is far from a silver bullet.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle One homeless shelter provider in Brooklyn has racked up hundreds of violations by Noah Goldberg

One homeless shelter provider in Brooklyn has racked up hundreds of violations

A Brooklyn-based nonprofit has racked up nearly 300 open violations at five different homeless shelters across the borough — and it runs all five of the “cluster sites” with the most violations in Brooklyn, according to the most recent city-released statistics.

Core Services Group Inc. operates 40 “emergency or transitional housing settings,” providing “critical services” to at least 3,000 people, according to the organization’s website. The nonprofit runs at least 20 shelters and cluster sites in New York City and provides at least 800 beds of emergency, transitional and shelter-based housing, according to the city. It also operates shelters in Washington D.C.

Cluster sites are temporary apartments that house people experiencing homelessness in privately owned buildings. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced first in 2016 that he planned on getting rid of cluster sites as one of the options the city uses to house the homeless by 2019, partially due to the “bad conditions” of many of the sites. At the time there were 3,000 units of cluster site housing.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

“That number of violations in units is not acceptable,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin, who chairs the Committee on General Welfare, on Monday.

The City Council held an oversight hearing on Monday regarding the Department of Homeless Services and its contracts with nonprofit groups running some of the city’s shelters.

“In Brooklyn, it appears Core Services Group is running cluster sites that typically have more violations than shelters. Today, [the Department of Homeless Services] reiterated that these cluster sites will be phased out over the next two years at which point we hope to see fewer violations,” Councilmember Ben Kallos told the Brooklyn Eagle at the hearing. “DHS and the city need to stay on top of these providers making sure violations are handled and that conditions are suitable for New Yorkers.”

There were nearly 49,000 people staying in the city’s shelter system as of Sunday.

Molly Park, the first deputy commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, said at the hearing that the city plans on closing all cluster sites by 2021.

Core Services Group does not operate the cluster sites with the most open violations in the city — the 12 sites with the most violations are all in the Bronx, including one site, run by nonprofit group Aguila, that has racked up a whopping 197 open violations.

Core Services Group also operates homeless shelters in the city — and is slated to operate the shelter in Queens that has elicited anti-homeless rhetoric in the borough. It also operates a shelter in Washington Heights where a man’s decaying body was found weeks after his death.

Kallos, who chairs the Committee on Contracts, asked DHS brass Monday if the city is stuck with vendors who struggle to run sites without violations.

“Why do certain providers who consistently have violations … still see DHS continue to award or renew contracts? For example, Acacia currently has 1,184 open violations. Are we as a city stuck with specific vendors?” he asked. (Acacia Network Housing Inc., a Bronx-based nonprofit, is currently being probed by the Department of Investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

Park responded that most open violations occur in cluster sites and not in other types of homeless shelters, like commercial hotels where the city houses people experiencing homelessness.

While DHS plans on closing down all the cluster sites by 2021, Kallos hopes the city will focus on first shutting down the sites run by providers like Core Services Group with high numbers of open violations.

Core Services Group declined to comment and referred all questions about the cluster sites they operate back to DHS.

DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how much money the city contracts to Core Services Group.

New York Daily News Manhattan NYCHA tenants in court to push for overdue repairs by Michael Gartland

Manhattan NYCHA tenants in court to push for overdue repairs

“Every week, my office responds to calls from NYCHA tenants seeking assistance with repairs for broken elevators, vermin infestations, lack of heat and hot water and broken intercoms,” Maloney (D-Manhattan) said. “It is unacceptable that anyone is made to live in these conditions, and that residents often file multiple work order requests for the same issue without ever receiving a response from NYCHA.”

City Councilman Ben Kallos, a fellow Manhattan Democrat, said he fields similar calls, especially this time of year.

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“This is to make sure the repairs actually get done,” he said of the legal filings.

New York Post New York can end its insane scaffolding plague by New York Post Editorial

New York can end its insane scaffolding plague

City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-UES) has a couple of bills to force landlords to take scaffolding down more rapidly, but the real estate industry fights furiously to avoid the added costs.

What’s needed is leadership to forge some compromise to end a mess unique to New York. If cities can avoid eternal scaffolding everywhere else in the world, it can be done here, too.

Curbed Why does scaffolding cover some NYC buildings for more than a decade? by Valeria Ricciulli

Why does scaffolding cover some NYC buildings for more than a decade?

City Council member Ben Kallos has been trying to fight back since 2016, when he introduced legislation that would cap facade repair work at 90 days with the possibility to extend it for another 90, and require scaffolding to be removed if no work has taken place for seven days. Kallos also introduced legislation this year that would require scaffolding that’s been up for more than a year to be inspected at least once every six months by the DOB, at the building owner’s expense.

New York Post Some scaffolds in NYC have been up for more than 13 years by Georgett Roberts, Julia Marsh and Jorge Fitz-GibbonDecember

Some scaffolds in NYC have been up for more than 13 years

“It’s a quality of life problem for people who live in the buildings in the shadow of these sheds,” said city Councilman Ben Kallos, whose bill to put a timetable on sheds has lingered in committee for three years.

“There’s no reason we should have 300 miles of sidewalk sheds,” Kallos said. “We are the only city that does this. No one wants to walk under that scaffolding unless it’s raining.”

The scaffold scourge was raised Sunday by Post columnist Miranda Devine, who noted that the city has been “uglified” by the jungle of sidewalk sheds.

“It’s ugly,” agreed Crystal Gonzalez, manager at a supermarket across the street from the five-story building at 191 E. 115th St. that has been surrounded by scaffolding since December 2007.

New York Post Devine: How the scourge of scaffolding is ruining New York City by Miranda Devine

Devine: How the scourge of scaffolding is ruining New York City

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, has been trying for three years to fix the problem. But his two proposed bills have been languishing in the Committee on Housing and Buildings since Jan. 24.

He attributes the delay to “overwhelming opposition by the real-estate industry,” including the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents more than 13,000 building owners.

The worst offenders are rental buildings where landlords leave scaffolding in place indefinitely because the $1,200 a month it costs to rent the structure is cheaper than doing a $200,000 repair on the building.

Kallos says he can walk between his home on 92nd Street and Third Avenue and his office at 93rd and Second almost entirely under sidewalk sheds, one of which has been there since before he was elected in 2013.

“As a New Yorker, one of my pet peeves is sidewalk sheds everywhere when I don’t know what just dropped on my head and what they attract, whether people using them as a makeshift shelter or just having negative consequences on our quality of life,” he says.

It is politicians who have created this mess, piling regulation on top of regulation in a knee-jerk response to isolated incidents.

The problem began in 1980, as a well-meaning response to a tragedy on the Upper West Side. Grace Gold, 17, a Barnard College student, was killed by a falling piece of masonry that came loose from a building at Broadway and West 115th Street.

Upper East Side Patch NYC Invests $391 Million In Communities & Comprehensive Reforms To The Criminal Justice System by By Press Release Desk

NYC Invests $391 Million In Communities & Comprehensive Reforms To The Criminal Justice System

"Closing Rikers now is essential. The Progressive Caucus has won commitments in the communities being most affected for more transitional housing, healthcare support, and connection centers along with more programs to help local residents with mental health. Thank you to Speaker Johnson and Mayor de Blasio for working with the Progressive Caucus in making this commitment to these communities," said Council Member Ben Kallos.

Curbed New bill seeks to fight ‘overdevelopment’ by alerting communities to rights transfers by Caroline Spivack

New bill seeks to fight ‘overdevelopment’ by alerting communities to rights transfers

A Manhattan lawmaker wants to give communities a new tool in their fight against hulking towers: advance notice of when air rights transfers occur.

City Council member Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, introduced a bill Thursday that would mandate the Department of Finance notify and provide the local community board, councilmember, borough president, and City Council Speaker with the relevant documentation within five days of such a transfer occurring, according to Kallos. The legislation, he says, will give New Yorkers more time to prepare when a developer is cobbling together air rights or zoning lots to build towering buildings that loom over neighbors, and may give them pause before selling their unused development rights.

“My hope is that folks may say, ‘Not today. I’m not going to sell out and I’m not going to sell you my air rights,’” Kallos told Curbed. “When you’re racing the clock every second counts. The community needs as much notice as possible so that they can react and work with the developer to either get a responsible building or take necessary actions