New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

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Gothamist Vacant Storefronts Proliferate in NYC, And It’s No Easier To Identify Owners by Beth Fertig

Vacant Storefronts Proliferate in NYC, And It’s No Easier To Identify Owners

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.

West Side Spirit A Plan for Open Streets by Jason Cohen

A Plan for Open Streets

Positive Feedback

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.

New York Times Am I in Manhattan? Or Another Sequel to ‘Blade Runner’ by Ben Ryder Howe

Am I in Manhattan? Or Another Sequel to ‘Blade Runner’

“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).

AM New York Yang looks to put an end to perennial scaffolding over city sidewalks by Mark Hallum

Yang looks to put an end to perennial scaffolding over city sidewalks

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 Patch Submissions Open For Upper East Side Participatory Budgeting by Nick Garber

Submissions Open For Upper East Side Participatory Budgeting

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.)

City and State SoHo rezoning not a safe bet with Manhattan BP candidates by Rebecca Lewis

SoHo rezoning not a safe bet with Manhattan BP candidates

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.

Wall Street Journal U.N. Gathering Will Be Virtual, Hampering Informal Diplomacy by William Maudin

U.N. Gathering Will Be Virtual, Hampering Informal Diplomacy

The pared-down event schedule also may affect climate-change demonstrations and other gatherings meant to catch the attention of top officials from around the world and the media.

The lack of a surge of diplomats will hurt New York economically in September, especially when the U.S. Open has no fans and New York Fashion Week will be reduced in size.

“A lot of restaurants, hotels and other venues are going to go unbooked, losing millions of dollars for the city,” said New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents an area of Manhattan north of the U.N. “The only group of people I know who won’t be complaining is anyone who drives a car in Manhattan. That is the only silver lining.”

New York Times De Blasio and Council, Facing Fiscal Crisis Over Virus, Agree on Budget With Big Cuts by Dana Rubinstein, Jeffery C. Mays

De Blasio and Council, Facing Fiscal Crisis Over Virus, Agree on Budget With Big Cuts

The budget is expected to be passed on Tuesday by the full 51-member City Council, although it is expected to garner more than a dozen “no” votes, split between council members who oppose cutting police funding at a time when crime is rising and those who think the police cuts do not go far enough.

Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, said he planned to vote no on the budget, in part because he said the police cuts were insufficient.

“It is worse than it was before,” Mr. Kallos said in an interview.

“We are not seeing a meaningful reduction in head count and the changes that people are literally marching in the streets for,” he said. “I don’t think anyone marching for Black Lives Matter is doing it to see school safety agents moved from the N.Y.P.D. budget to the schools budget.”

Upper East Side Patch Planters Installed At Upper East Side Intersections: Council Rep by Brendan Krisel

Planters Installed At Upper East Side Intersections: Council Rep

Kallos' office partnered with the Horticultural Society of New York to install planters on "bike islands" at the intersections of Second Avenue and East 91st, 92nd, 93rd and 95th streets, the local lawmaker announced this week. The $50,000 public-private partnership was approved by the city Department of Transportation.

"We're greening bike islands that were previously empty with planters to beautify our streets," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Thank you to the Horticulture Society of New York for their partnership and help beautifying our streets.

New York Post More scaffolds won’t make NYC safer — we must fix Department of Buildings by Steve Cuozzo

More scaffolds won’t make NYC safer — we must fix Department of Buildings

Moreover, it is by no means clear that “sidewalk bridges” — which are really sidewalk tunnels — don’t cause more deaths and injuries than they prevent. Council Member Ben Kallos last January cited seven instances of people in the city injured by scaffold collapses since 2017.

In one case, Katherine Lefavre, then 34, was nearly killed when a “shed” collapsed at 568 Broadway in Soho in November 2018. The accident fractured the top model’s spine and required her to learn how to walk again.