New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Ben Kallos

New York Daily News How to set up a fair congestion pricing program by Ben Kallos

How to set up a fair congestion pricing program

New York City desperately needs relief from congestion, but the current “congestion pricing” plan was never intended to do that. It was a thinly veiled tax on low-income workers who must still show up in person to raise funds for a mass transit system crumbling under the weight of its own corruption and bureaucracy. Now is the time for a better plan that will actually reduce congestion.

New York Daily News This debate is not about blood: An Upper East Side councilman explains his opposition to the Blood Center rezoning by Ben Kallos

This debate is not about blood: An Upper East Side councilman explains his opposition to the Blood Center rezoning

The fight over the new Blood Center building was never about blood. It has been about two other issues: How high should the center’s for-profit partner Longfellow Development’s commercial offices tower over a residential neighborhood, and how should the City Council handle development deals in the years to come?

AM New York Op-Ed | New Yorkers can’t wait for pedestrian paths on Queensboro Bridge to open any longer by Ben Kallos, Jimmy Van Bramer

Op-Ed | New Yorkers can’t wait for pedestrian paths on Queensboro Bridge to open any longer

Thousands of New Yorkers bike, walk, and run over the Queensboro Bridge each day. The bridge has nine lanes for car traffic, yet only a narrow path along the northern edge of the bridge is open to cyclists and pedestrians, causing conflicts, congestion, and in the age of COVID, dangerous crowding. As the Queens and Manhattan council members whose districts border the bridge, and whose constituents depend on this critical inter-borough connection, we are calling on the city to open the South Outer Roadway to pedestrians.  

New York Times Make the Queensboro Bridge Car-Free by Ben Kallos, Danny Harris, Ken Podziba

Make the Queensboro Bridge Car-Free

To the Editor:

Re “A Proposed Link for Manhattan and Queens, for Bikes and Pedestrians Only” (news article, June 25):

As much as we appreciate big-picture thinking about bike infrastructure, we favor more immediate action to make the Queens-Manhattan bike trip safer and less crowded.

The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge’s south roadway should be made into a walkway, with the north roadway converted to a two-way, bicycle-only path. This approach is supported by Manhattan and Queens elected officials and community boards and could be executed with minimal cost and put into effect immediately.

In the best circumstances, a new bridge could take more than a decade to build. It would face input from parties ranging from the U.S. Coast Guard and state environmental regulators to Roosevelt Island residents rightly concerned about being passed over by yet another structure.

LaborPress Thanking All Of New York City’s Workers For Their Sacrifices During COVID-19 Outbreak by Ben Kallos

Thanking All Of New York City’s Workers For Their Sacrifices During COVID-19 Outbreak

New York is currently facing a pandemic that is challenging many of the systems we take for granted. Millions of us must now work, learn, and live — exclusively at home. We are able to do this because of the countless heroes who are keeping this City’s essential infrastructure running.

While many of us are safe in our homes, there are workers, some making as little as $15 an hour some without benefits, who are putting their health and their families’ health at risk to keep New York City safe. These workers, who do so much, also receive little recognition for their efforts, as much of their work is done out of sight. Maintenance workers, cleaners, transit workers, healthcare workers, grocers, all have been affected by this pandemic in unseen ways. Join us in showing our appreciation. Ask yourself these questions:

Crain's New York Make Retirement Savings Plans Accessible to All New Yorkers by Ben Kallos, I. Daneek Miller, Beth Finkle

Make Retirement Savings Plans Accessible to All New Yorkers

At 73 years old, Kitty Ruderman enjoys being retired. She volunteers with a number of nonprofits, including AARP, advocating on behalf of folks like herself. She’s grateful to have no major health issues draining her energy or her bank account. But with her rent higher than her Social Security income, she’s worried. If her cost of living doesn’t go up – if she doesn’t get sick, if her rent doesn’t increase, if she has no new expenses – she estimates that she can maintain her current lifestyle for another 10 years. After that, she doesn’t know.

Middle- and low-income New Yorkers increasingly struggle to pay the bills and even seniors like Kitty, who worked for decades saving for retirement, are among those hit hardest by the City’s affordability crisis.

The most recent data show that more than one third of New Yorkers between the ages of 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. Most of these folks are disproportionately people of color.  White 50-plus New Yorkers’ retirement incomes are almost double that of black, Asian and Latino New Yorkers, and the majority of 50-plus New Yorkers of color are likely to retire with incomes near the poverty threshold.

The Guardian The unseen carcinogenic danger lurking in New York City's public parks by Ben Kallos

The unseen carcinogenic danger lurking in New York City's public parks

Parks are New Yorkers’ oasis. They’re where we escape the crowds, the din of traffic, and our often tiny apartments; where we play with our children, walk our pets, and relax in the sun. Parks should be a place where New Yorkers can relax and play without being exposed to dangerous chemicals. So why is a herbicide believed to cause cancer being sprayed in our parks?

The New York City parks department is a prolific user of Roundup, a popular weedkiller sold by Monsanto. Yet research by the World Health Organization has linked the active chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, to cancer – a finding buttressed by several major civil suits recently brought against Monsanto.

You may not hear about the dangers of Roundup from the Trump administration or the various agencies that are supposed to protect the American public from dangerous toxins. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that there is no risk to public health from glyphosate if it is used in accordance with label instructions. The EPA even went a step further, adding that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

The problem with this assertion by the EPA – now helmed by a former coal industry lobbyist – is that the evidence Roundup may be unsafe is rapidly mounting. Three recent lawsuits brought against Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, have resulted in the company paying nearly $3bn to people who have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after years of using Roundup.

The EPA, ostensibly tasked with “reducing environmental risks based on the best available scientific information”, is at odds with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization. The IARC identified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” in 2015, leading to the chemical being banned in some cities in the United States and many countries around the world.

New York City has 1,700 parks spanning 30,000 acres, most of which are dedicated for public use and the enjoyment of residents, tourists and most importantly children. There are currently no restrictions on the use of glyphosate, and according to the city government’s own data, the Department of Parks & Recreation continues to generously deploy Roundup. In 2017, city workers sprayed over 500 gallons of glyphosate, including in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which receives 8 million visitors a year. And we don’t even know how much glyphosate is used in parks like Central Park, which are managed by private conservancies that haven’t shared the data.


New York Daily News Why not charge cars to enter all New York City streets? A bigger congestion pricing idea by Ben Kallos

Why not charge cars to enter all New York City streets? A bigger congestion pricing idea

The discussion around congestion pricing has evolved from earlier goals of transforming our streets and fighting climate change to today’s single-minded focus on raising money for a failing transit system. There is an understandable urge among some transit advocates to focus only on the plan at hand as a practical way to stop the bleeding at the MTA. Certainly the Manhattan-centric plan is an improvement to the status quo, but it hasn’t changed much in more than a decade, and with minor variations it has been defeated repeatedly.

Now may be the time to try something different. With a fresh look at the evidence we can devise a plan that would more dramatically reduce congestion. Such a plan would:

Toll all entry points to New York City for all vehicles. All 4.4 million drivers — not just 717,000 — would pay a price to enter and drive around on New York City streets, likely getting hundreds of thousands if not over a million vehicles off the city’s crowded streets.

New development must fund public infrastructure. Projects that would bring hundreds or thousands of new residents to a neighborhood should be required to set aside funds at the outset so the transit system can add capacity in time for the project’s completion.

Expand and improve existing transit infrastructure throughout New York City as well as counties on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley to make it easier for commuters to choose public transportation.

High-speed automated tolling. Institute a universal system using now-ubiquitous license plate readers for tolls at all entry points to New York City.

Dynamic pricing could take advantage of electronic tolling to charge vehicles more during rush hours in the mornings and afternoons, while reducing or eliminating charges in the evening to allow residents to come home and to encourage deliveries overnight.

Real accountability is necessary to end the tug-of-war and blame games between state and city officials. New York City Speaker Corey Johnson’s idea for municipal control is a welcome answer here.

A lock box would be created by securing capital against new revenue, as suggested by former Lieutenant Gov. Dick Ravitch. We should borrow to build a transit infrastructure today that is ready for tomorrow when millions of commuters would transition from vehicles to a new and improved public transit system.

The time is now for New York to finally implement congestion pricing. We should take an honest look at our traffic and address the whole problem by expanding the congestion zone to all of New York City. The revenues from such a plan could build a true 21st-century public transit system, so that everyone can actually have a decent commute to and from working in the big city.

City and State New campaign finance reform would return power to the people by Ben Kallos, Morris Pearl

New campaign finance reform would return power to the people

On Nov. 6, New York City voters will have the chance to limit the corrupting influence of large political contributions by voting “yes” on Ballot Question 1, a proposal from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission to lower donation limits and increase public matching funds.

New York is already one of the few cities that matches campaign contributions up to $175, a system that empowers normal citizens – who do not have thousands of dollars to spare – to financially support their preferred candidates. By doing so, it reins in the influence of big money in politics, and most candidates in New York City participate.