New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Land Use

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

Upper East Side Patch Supportive Housing Facility Opens On Upper East Side by Brendan Krisel

Supportive Housing Facility Opens On Upper East Side

"I'm thrilled for message we are sending across this city," Quinn said Tuesday. "It's priceless for families to know they are welcome in this neighborhood and that they will be part of this neighborhood."

The seven-story facility will house 17 families made up of mothers and their children and will provide services such as to help place mothers in good jobs and children in a steady school environment, Quinn said.

"The opening of this facility is a critical step forward for 17 families in fight to find good quality, stable housing and it's a step forward for our city embracing supportive housing as an option that will prevent people from returning to shelter," Quinn said Tuesday.

PIX11 ‘It’s not fiction, it’s a horror story’: LES residents living in tiny apartment halfway between floors by Maggie Hickey

‘It’s not fiction, it’s a horror story’: LES residents living in tiny apartment halfway between floors

“I’m concerned for the safety of the tenants, mostly an immigrant population, Ben Kallos, a NYC Council Member, told PIX11 News. “Part of me thinks this is like the movie 'Being John Malkovich,' back in the 1990s. Then there was this idea of creating a floor in between. But that was fiction and this is a horror story,” he added.

The Buildings Department issued a vacate order for apartment 601 and the apartment right above, 701. You can even see from the outside of the building the many air conditioners and boarded up windows in the two apartments.

Metro Landlord split flat into 9 units with 4ft 6inch high ceilings by Jimmy Nsubuga

Landlord split flat into 9 units with 4ft 6inch high ceilings

Councilman Ben Kallos, who made the film comparison, blasted Ni, saying: ‘It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life.’ Officials closed the property in 165 Henry Street following a raid last Wednesday and some of the tenants have temporarily been rehoused by American Red Cross.

 

 

New York Post Condo owner busted for building ‘Being John Malkovich’-like 4th 1/2 floor by ernadette Hogan, Rich Calder and Elizabeth Rosner

Condo owner busted for building ‘Being John Malkovich’-like 4th 1/2 floor

The real estate market in New York has never been this tight.

A Lower East Side condo owner turned his small apartment into a mini-village — by converting it into an illegal duplex with 11 sub-units that had ceilings as low as 4 ¹/₂ feet high, officials said Friday.

The illegal micro apartments at 165 Henry Street are so cramped that condo owner Xue Ping Ni even put up bubble wrap as protection to keep residents from hitting their heads on the many low-hanging pipes.

The bizarre arrangement in Ni’s apartment No. 601 — which was raided and shut down Wednesday night by the city Buildings Department — was compared to something out of a movie.

“This is like the room out of the movie ‘Being John Malkovich,’” said Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos — a nod to the “7th 1/2 floor” Manhattan office in the 1999 indie flick.

“It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life.”

It wasn’t clear how much rent Ni was charging for the tiny units. But the residents there were stacked like sardines, as the 11 windowless units were all carved out of the upper-areas of Ni’s single 634-square-foot condo on the building’s 4th floor.

The condo, where nine people were living, also had an illegal bathroom, inspectors said.

The tenants were relocated from the nightmarish fire hazard, when Buildings Department inspectors raided the place in response to a 311 complaint, according to residents and city officials.

A vacate sign on an apartment door in 165 Henry St. on the Lower East Side.William Miller

Inspectors hit Ni with more than $144,000 in fines for failing to have sprinklers, along with proper electrical, structural and plumbing permits.

When The Post visited the building Friday, a reporter observed apparent additional changes to the apartment above Ni’s.

In the second apartment, No. 701 — which Ni has listed in the past as his address — air conditioning units were set up on both the top and bottom of floor-to-ceiling windows in an arrangement that appeared similar to the unit below it.

By 10:30 p.m. on Friday, officials in blue Buildings Department uniforms were back at the property — as seven tenants from No. 701 left carrying luggage or bags.

That apartment, too, had been illegally converted — into 9 single room occupancy units, a DOB spokesman confirmed early Sunday.

Vacate orders were issued for those additional tenants, who were offered immediate relocation assistance by the American Red Cross, the spokesman said.

The units lacked light, ventilation, fire protection systems and proper egress, the spokesman said, declining to confirm whether Ni was the apartment owner.

One departing tenant who didn’t want to be named told The Post Friday night that he and the others had just been ordered to vacate their tiny units in No. 701.

He said the landlord — whom he would not name — had charged him $600 a month for his cramped space, where he’d lived  for the past two months.

He couldn’t say how many tenants shared apartment No. 701 with him. “I don’t know exactly how many,” he said, as he walked away carrying two large suitcases. “But there was a good amount.”

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NYC Department of Buildings

Kallos had called on DOB to investigate No. 701 too — and ASAP — with or without receiving a formal complaint.

“I’ve never seen air conditioners stacked atop one another like that — five air conditioners in three windows,” said Kallos, upon reviewing a photo of the building’s exterior.

“I can’t imagine needing that much air-conditioning in one apartment, so if someone sees this on the street, that should be more than sufficient for the Department of Buildings to also investigate that apartment.”

Another resident of the complex said short-term tenants were constantly coming and going.

“It was revolving door of people,” said a woman who pays $2,800 per month for her one bedroom apartment on the sixth floor. She has long suspected the building was dangerous.

“There use to be a lot of evacuation [vacate] notices. I just asked [management] if the building is safe because we’re paranoid and they said nothing about it,” the resident said. “The units are all set up real differently. This used to be a rabbinical school.”

Officials slammed the set-up as a life-threatening hazard.

“Every New Yorker deserves a safe and legal place to live, which is why we’re committed to routing out dangerous firetraps and ordering the landlords to make these apartments safe,” DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky said.

“Tenants living in truncated and windowless dwelling units like this poses an extreme hazard to their safety, as well as the safety of their neighbors, and first responders – a hazard that cannot be tolerated in our city.”

Catherine Keener and John Cusack in “Being John Malkovich”©USA Films/Courtesy Everett Col

He added, “We are holding this landlord accountable for their egregious failure to keep the building safe and livable for tenants.”

In city records, the complex is listed as a 5-story building with 27 legal apartments.

Ni couldn’t be reached at the building for comment Friday.

In the fantasy film “Being John Malkovich,” a failing puppeteer played by John Cusack discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich while interviewing for a job on the “7 1/2 floor” of an office on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

 

 

 

 

 

New York County Politics Brewer Lets Borough Testify on Zoning Loopholes by William Engel

Brewer Lets Borough Testify on Zoning Loopholes

City Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) got a little emotional when he stood up to testify at a recent hearing on zoning loopholes. By his account, the jogs he takes with his infant daughter at Central Park are becoming less and less enjoyable, as the surrounding architecture casts a larger and larger shadow over the park.

“Objects to the south cast a shadow, at least in this hemisphere, to the north,” said Kallos. “I go running with my daughter; she’s in a jogging stroller. And when I take her jogging in the afternoon, when I finally get to do it, it’s dark in the southern part of the park, particularly in the winter months when it gets cold. And she gets cold, and so we have to stay away from the southern end of the park, because it’s starting to be very, very dark and very, very cold.”

Curbed Lawmakers say the city must crack down on ambiguities in the zoning code by Caroline Spivack

Lawmakers say the city must crack down on ambiguities in the zoning code

Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and who has been a champion of strengthening restriction on voids, called for the city to limit mechanical spaces to no more than 40 feet in these areas, broaden the scope of its review, and to narrow possible exemptions for mixed-use buildings. The issue is especially crucial because excessive voids fill buildings with empty space rather than housing, said Kallos.

City Land City Council Approves City Planning’s Mechanical Voids Text Amendment by Veronica Rose

City Council Approves City Planning’s Mechanical Voids Text Amendment

Developers were using excessive mechanical spaces to increase the height of their buildings. On May 29, 2019, the City Council voted to adopt the Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment with modifications. The Department of City Planning proposed the amendment in response to developers incorporating excessively tall mechanical floors – “mechanical voids” – in residential towers to increase their allowable height, as mechanical floors did not count toward the zoning floor area in the Zoning Resolution. This would result in towers with several floors of mostly empty space that would allow developers to build higher, increasing the values of the apartments on higher floors. In late 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the Department of City Planning (DCP) to investigate the mechanical voids problem and find a solution.

Curbed NYCHA backtracks on 50-story Upper East Side infill tower by Caroline Spivack

NYCHA backtracks on 50-story Upper East Side infill tower

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has scrapped a controversial private development on an Upper East Side public housing complex after fierce pushback and a lawsuit against the project.

NYCHA withdrew its application for a 50-story building on a playground at the Holmes Towers development it had planned with Fetner Properties. The building was intended to be the first of NYCHA’s 50/50 projects—rental towers built by private developers on public housing property—and was set to rise 530 feet above East 92nd Street with 339 apartments.