Other lawmakers have seized on drag racing and noise to push other solutions: State Senator Brad Hoylman wants speed cameras to be on at night in areas with illegal street racing (his co-sponsored bill is called the, yes, FURIOUS Act) and Council Member Ben Kallos has proposed putting noise-detecting technology around the city to pinpoint offending vehicles.
The bill would provide the laureate — to be named before Jan. 30 every year — with a stipend and “in-kind resources” to cover the costs of the duties associated, though no dollar amount is specified in the legislation.
“The drag laureate would serve to champion and highlight the contributions of the drag community in New York City’s business, arts and cultural spaces,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), the chief sponsor of the measure, which is also backed by Councilmen Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) and Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).
Bxtimes.com Elected officials warn New York City not ready for effects of climate change after Hurricane Ida triggers flash floods by Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech & Robert Pozarycki
“Experiencing all this flooding in NYC right now and thinking about all the politicians who told me that pursuing a Green New Deal to adapt our nat’l infrastructure to climate change is ‘unrealistic’ & ‘too expensive,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “As if doing too little is the responsible thing to do?”
Similar themes were repeated Thursday morning at a press conference in Queens in which various elected officials — including Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — all spoke of the urgent need to reinvest in infrastructure and “build back better.”
They specifically pointed to the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion proposed budget, both of which are before the Senate, as urgent needs to upgrade New York’s resiliency in the face of future, more severe weather events.
Other members of the New York City Council on Thursday echoed earlier calls to address climate change and for rapid investments in resiliency including Manhattan Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera.
“Climate change is not merely a problem for the future — it’s here now. We must redouble our efforts toward resiliency in order to address the real and prescient threats of the climate crisis in New York City,” said Rivera. “How we do that is multifold: we need to invest in Local Law 97, pass critical climate resiliency legislation such as Intro 2317, and develop solutions to current weaknesses in our weather emergency response.”
"It smells putrid. It smells like trash here," said Kallos, whose district office is a few blocks away.
Kallos speculated that the trucks were heading to the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station. But a spokesperson for the Department of Sanitation said this was not the case, and that the trucks were congregating for a different reason.
Gothamist Vacant Storefronts Proliferate in NYC, And It’s No Easier To Identify Owners by Beth Fertig
Taking a walk along Third Avenue in the 80s and 90s near his home, City Councilman Ben Kallos points to one empty storefront after another and recalls some of his favorite Upper East Side shops and restaurants.
“This was an amazing steakhouse,” said the Manhattan native, referring to a place on the west side of the avenue. Across the street was a Modell’s Sporting Goods; he also sees a former taco place and a storefront with a red awning that used to be Pesce Pasta. “It was a great place for an Italian lunch and it's been vacant for a number of years,” he said.
Empty storefronts were a blight on the city long before the coronavirus pandemic forced so many restaurants and other businesses to close. Now, with thousands more businesses shuttered for good, including big chains, Kallos has introduced new legislation aimed at pressuring anonymous building owners to accept new tenants by naming them. His bill would also enable the city to collect tens of millions of dollars in unpaid fines.
According to Kallos, only 20 percent of NYC residents own cars, so he questions why the public space is geared towards them. He noted when the Open Streets Program launched last year due to the pandemic, his office was flooded with positive feedback.
Kallos recalled this was one of the first times he has seen parking spots taken away without a fight.
However, he understands that for those who do have a vehicle, parking is limited. Kallos hopes that in the future the council will examine mandating that new construction have parking garages. Prior to the 1980s, they were required with new buildings, but legislation deemed it an accessory.
“Having a car is a luxury more than anything else,” he said.
“There is advertising everywhere, and it’s a bit of sensory overload,” said Ben Kallos, a City Council member who represents Manhattan’s East Side. Mr. Kallos said LinkNYC, the network of 1,800 sidewalk kiosks around the city providing free Wi-Fi as well as block after block of eye-level digital content, “is pushing the boundary” when it comes to “the amount of advertising people are willing to take.”
That said, for all its complexity and clutter, New York’s visual environment is carefully calibrated by zoning codes and the desire of advertisers not to trigger associations with images such as the “Blade Runner” signature motif of a geisha’s face beaming down from a hovering blimp, let alone the monolithic Big Brother figure in Apple’s infamous “1984” commercial (also directed by Mr. Scott).
Kallos, however, has directed legislative efforts against scaffolding through Int. 1353, which will require the DOB inspect scaffolding that has been up for more than a year at least every six months from that milestone at the owner’s expense. This also has not made it further than the Committee on Housing and Buildings.
“Our city is literally crumbling with scaffolding to catch the falling bricks, only they aren’t working, and people are still dying,” Kallos said. “The only solution is for building owners to actually have to make repairs in days not years under legislation I’ve proposed. If we can’t pass scaffolding legislation now, our next Mayor will have to finally chase the blight of scaffolding from our city.”
UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — It is once again time for Upper East Siders to weigh in on how to spend more than $1 million to improve their neighborhood through the city's participatory budgeting process.
The process — which has residents brainstorm, pitch and vote on ideas for local funding — opened this month in District 5, which includes the eastern stretch of the Upper East Side as well as Roosevelt Island.
Councilmember Ben Kallos has $1 million for capital projects — brick-and-mortar, physical infrastructure work — to allot to his constituents. (City Councilmember Keith Powers, who also represents part of the Upper East Side, has not yet announced a budgeting program for this year.)
When it comes to controversial issues politicians are looking to avoid, upzonings are probably high on the list. One needs to look no further than the proposed neighborhood rezonings in Inwood, Bushwick and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx during New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, and the intense backlash they elicited.
But recently mayoral contenders including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams have come out in favor of changing the zoning in SoHo to allow more housing development. White, wealthy neighborhoods should help address the city’s shortage of affordable housing, they say. Some progressive tenants groups are getting behind the push as well, and de Blasio himself, after initial reticence, announced his intention to propose a rezoning that his administration said could create 800 units of affordable housing.