New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Public Safety

We must work together to keep our neighborhood safe from crime and emergencies like construction accidents. In the wake of the two crane collapses on the Upper East Side last year that claimed 9 lives, we must increase financial support for emergency services, improve construction regulation and community notice, as well as expand our&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/get_prepared/cert.shtml&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>Community Emergency Response Teams</strong></a>.

FOX 5 WNYW New York City Council holds hearing on façade inspections by Fox 5

New York City Council holds hearing on façade inspections

NEW YORK - Leaders of the New York City Department of Buildings testified before the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Building on Monday in the aftermath of two recent deadly accidents where falling debris off building façades killed two pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. 

Calling the Department of Building’s current inspection system archaic, some city council members are calling on the DOB to begin using drones to inspect buildings.

"I think it could be a huge game-changer," said City Council Member Ben Kallos. 

However, the Department of Buildings is standing by what it calls its “tried and true” inspection system.

During the hearing, DOB Commissioner Melanie La Rocca said that there are currently almost 600 buildings in the city that are considered unsafe, and that the owners have a repair and maintenance plan. 

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New York Daily News NYC to seek replacement for current operator of more than two dozen homeless shelters: council member by Michael Gartland

NYC to seek replacement for current operator of more than two dozen homeless shelters: council member

The Department of Investigation on Monday executed search warrants at the Queens-based headquarters of Children’s Community Services, which has a contract with the city to operate 28 homeless shelters, said Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos.

Kallos said he was briefed on the probe by the Department of Social Services. The city will go to court to ask that another provider take over the locations, he said.

"No homeless services provider is too big to fail. If our homeless aren’t getting shelter beds that are safe and secure, the city can and will get a court order to bring in a provider that will do better,” Kallos told The News.

New York Post City forcing dozens of property owners to erect emergency scaffolding by Julia Marsh and Jorge Fitz-GibbonJanuary

City forcing dozens of property owners to erect emergency scaffolding

La Rocca said there are more than 9,500 sidewalk sheds up in the city and that they have remained in place for an average of 300 days.

Some officials said that’s too long.

“New York City has 344 miles of sidewalk sheds,” City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) said. “That’s enough to stretch from City Hall to Canada. We need to study using drone technology and innovative solutions to get sidewalk sheds down while keeping New Yorkers safe.”

One hurdle facing the proposed drone-inspection measure is a 1948 city law, initially intended for airplanes and helicopters, that would prohibit the use of drones within the city.

New York Times Why Workers Fear Moving 50 Criminally Insane Patients by Annie Correal

Why Workers Fear Moving 50 Criminally Insane Patients

Why Workers Fear Moving 50 Criminally Insane Patients

The state plans to relocate the patients of Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, but its new home was not built with prisoners in mind.

State officials plan to move 200 inmates from Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, on Wards Island, to a facility nearby. Many workers at Kirby are concerned about safety issues.

State officials plan to move 200 inmates from Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, on Wards Island, to a facility nearby. Many workers at Kirby are concerned about safety issues.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center in New York City has long been a place of mystery, with little known about what goes on behind the razor-wire fences.

As a result, the state-run facility for the dangerously mentally ill — located on Wards Island in Manhattan — has gone all but unnoticed for decades, despite having held some of the city’s most notorious criminals, including serial killers and cannibals like Daniel Rakowitz, the so-called Butcher of Tompkins Square Park.

But recently, employees have been speaking up, painting a picture of what goes on in Kirby’s wards. State officials are planning to close Kirby and move its entire population — a decision that has created something close to panic among some of the staff, who say the new quarters are not safe for patients or employees.

Kirby is a maximum-security facility that holds mentally-ill patients who have been charged with a crime. Some have been granted an insanity plea by a judge; others are pretrial detainees accused of felony crimes but found unfit to proceed to trial.

The move will transfer the facility’s more than 200 prisoners from a fortresslike building with bars on the windows and cement walls and ceilings into a unit of Manhattan Psychiatric Center, a civilian hospital close by on Wards Island.

Officials say the move, planned for January, is necessary because Kirby’s building has grown outdated. They say patients will be placed in a refurbished section of the hospital, securely separated from civilian patients. But staff members are arguing that the hospital was never designed to handle a population with a criminal background, and say it presents all manner of risks.

“These are not normal mental patients,” said Catherine Mortiere, a forensic psychologist at Kirby. “They are some of the most violent inmates in the state.”

The state Office of Mental Health called Kirby’s building “antiquated.” It said it is also for the same reason rebuilding Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center, which is north of New York, near Middletown.

“The safety and security of our staff and the people we serve are O.M.H.’s top priority,” a spokesman said in a statement. “When our facilities become outdated, we work to refurbish, rebuild and update them in order to utilize the best practices and state-of-the-art safety features to ensure the well-being of our patients and staff.”

The prospect of the move has caused upheaval at Kirby. The union representing its clinicians is filing a lawsuit in hopes of securing a temporary injunction from a judge; guards and former guards have created an online petition calling on the state’s mental health commissioner and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to “do the right thing and halt this move” to ensure their safety.

Stephen Harkavy, the deputy director of Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which represents the patients, said the new area will be inspected before patients are moved. “A lot of these concerns are premature, until that happens,” he said. “If they find changes need to be made, I would assume they will implement them.”

Mr. Harkavy, who said he worked at Kirby for about a decade, added: “I believe the fears about patients are overstated. I never felt unsafe.”

But several employees — who insisted that their names not be used because they said they feared reprisals — described Kirby as a singularly dangerous place to work, in the best of circumstances.

StreetsBlog Council Members: DOT Has ‘No Reason’ to Not Give Queensboro Bridge Lane to Pedestrians by Gersh Kuntzman

Council Members: DOT Has ‘No Reason’ to Not Give Queensboro Bridge Lane to Pedestrians

The city’s failure to give more space to the increasing number of pedestrians and cyclists on the Queensboro Bridge is a betrayal of Vision Zero — and that failure seems based on a fealty to car traffic on a span where bikes and walkers sometimes outnumber drivers.

East Side Council Member Ben Kallos and his Queens counterpart Jimmy Van Bramer blasted Department of Transportation officials for their continued claim that they cannot convert the south side of the bridge’s outermost lane, also known as the South Outer Roadway, into a pedestrian path so that walkers do not need to share the bridge’s narrow North Outer Roadway with cyclists, who are increasing by double-digit counts.

New York Daily News De Blasio announces citywide plan to improve bike safety, acknowledges streets are in crisis by Clayton Guse

De Blasio announces citywide plan to improve bike safety, acknowledges streets are in crisis

“A lot of what they mayor has announced are things happening throughout the city in a piecemeal approach,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).

“In my neighborhood (the Upper East Side), people are already getting bike safety education and bike safety enforcement," Kallos said. "But without a citywide approach, it won’t change behavior.”

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the new bike lanes will eliminate “thousands” of parking spaces. Opposition to elimination of parking spaces has stalled installation of new bike lanes for more than a decade.

Gotham Gazette Report Shows Nation-Leading Extent of New York's Nonprofit Sector by Noah Berman

Report Shows Nation-Leading Extent of New York's Nonprofit Sector

New York has the largest nonprofit sector in the country, according to a new report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

In 2017, New York nonprofits boasted over 1.4 million jobs and $78 billion in employee wages, both top marks across the United States, according to DiNapoli’s report released Tuesday. Between 2007 and 2017, the state added 175,000 jobs in the nonprofit sector, an increase of 14 percent. Nonprofit employment consisted of 17.8 percent of all of New York’s private sector employment in 2017. Nonprofit employment sits at about 10 percent nationwide.

“Nonprofits play an important role in every region of New York, delivering vital services to New Yorkers, from hospital care and education to legal services and environmental protection,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

New York Daily News Domestic violence legislation seeks to reveal how effective orders of protection are by Anna Saunders

Domestic violence legislation seeks to reveal how effective orders of protection are

The bill would also mandate district attorneys and NYPD report on recidivism of domestic violence, how many survivors are hurt or killed after they called law enforcement, the outcome of cases handled by DAs and what specifically police do when incidents are called in.

Kallos said he hopes to eliminate confusion in how domestic violence incidents are reported and give the public the data necessary to enact policies to improve the lives of survivors.

“Domestic violence is an underreported problem in New York City,” Kallos said. “However, underreporting of incidents by survivors is just the tip of the iceberg. The City also has a serious issue with the differing criteria for reporting domestic violence by the NYPD and District Attorneys’ offices which have to make decisions on who to charge and what to charge them with.”

Crain's New York Sidewalk shed surrounding 280 Broadway is coming down after 11 years by Aaron Elstein

Sidewalk shed surrounding 280 Broadway is coming down after 11 years

What goes up must come down. But when that happens is up in the air when it comes to sidewalk sheds, the ugly steel-and-wood structures that swallow up hundreds of miles of sidewalk space across the city.