New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Editorial Board

REAL ESTATE WEEKLY Drones could soon be used for inspecting NYC buildings by Editorial Board

Drones could soon be used for inspecting NYC buildings

council members Robert Cornegy and Ben Kallos sponsored the bill to conduct a study into the use of drones after lamenting on the 303 miles of scaffolding that crowds NYC streets.

According to Kallos, “If laid out side to side, city scaffolding would stretch from Central Park to the Canadian border. The average age of a sidewalk shed is 308 days. One is old enough to have its bar mitzvah, which is 13, and some are old enough to vote.”

New York Post How NYC could make remote learning into a winner for many kids by Editorial Board

How NYC could make remote learning into a winner for many kids

Remote learning has been a near-disaster for city school kids, but City Councilmen Ben Kallos and Robert Cornegy hope it can bring at least one plus.

The lawmakers want the city to expand its Gifted & Talented program online, letting more kids take advantage of the higher-speed, more intense instruction.

Limited funds and space have long left the city unable to offer G&T classes to all who can benefit. But online learning doesn’t require more classroom space, and may be cheaper per student than in-person teaching.

City and State The Best & Worst New York City Lawmakers by Editorial Board

The Best & Worst New York City Lawmakers

Over the next two years, dozens of New York City Council members will be hitting the campaign trail. A number of them will try to keep their seats in 2021. Many more will reach the term limit of the office, and they may want to continue serving as an elected official elsewhere. Some are running this year for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives or for Queens borough president. Others are eyeing posts that will open up next year, like the rest of the borough president offices or the more powerful city positions of mayor or comptroller.

As voters consider their options leading up to the elections, what better way to evaluate these sitting lawmakers than to scrutinize their current records? That’s one reason why we’re bringing back our ranking of New York City Council members.

 

The criteria

We used five criteria to assess each member: the number of bills introduced, the number of bills signed into law, attendance, and responsiveness to questions from constituents and from the media. We selected these criteria because they are reasonable – and because they are measurable.

1

To determine how good each lawmaker is at lawmaking, we first tallied all of the bills signed into law last year. We then ranked each council member based on the number of new laws for which they were the prime sponsor, from most to least. We counted bill introductions but left out resolutions, which have little impact. We included any bills signed in 2019, regardless of when they were introduced. 

While bill signings signal effectiveness, we also wanted to reward effort – so we conducted the same analysis for bills introduced by lawmakers in 2019, regardless of where those measures ended up.

3

A prerequisite for any job is actually showing up, so our third measure is attendance. We counted all the meetings that each council member attended, including committee meetings, and how many he or she missed. While some absences were explained – for medical reasons, funerals or family leave – they were all included in our analysis.

4

Some council members would protest that there’s more to the job than showing up and passing laws – and they’d be right. Many of them pride themselves on providing stellar constituent services. While we can’t realistically stand outside every district office to survey local residents who swing by – or check to see if the offices are actually open – we took another approach. To assess responsiveness to constituents, we sent an anonymous email late last year to every office with a simple question: “Hi – do you have any information about how to be counted in the 2020 census? Thanks!” Some lawmakers responded within minutes, often with helpful information. We set a low bar, counting any response – even requests for an address for verification, or suggestions that we contact our congressman, or autoreplies with a phone number to call – as long as it came in within seven days. Still, fewer than half responded. 

5

Similarly, we came up with a test to see how quickly each member would respond to a press inquiry: a request to submit the officeholder’s latest headshot. We were lenient in grading this test too, with any reply at all within seven days qualifying as a response, even if we never got a photo. However, 19 members didn’t even write back.

The totals

Finally, we took the rankings for each measure and calculated an average score, weighting each factor equally. For example, if a single council member was theoretically No. 1 on all five measures, he or she would get a score of 1. The overall scores, ordered from lowest to highest, gave us our final ranking.

 

 

Some caveats

Unlike our 2017 rankings, we dropped the number of Google search results of each member’s name from this year’s analysis, in part because it leaves out online mentions in languages other than English – including Chinese and Spanish language media in immigrant-heavy districts. We also dropped Twitter followers as a measure, since it could penalize older lawmakers who are less adept with social media – and because less than a quarter of American adults even use Twitter.

We omitted Jumaane Williams, who only served a few months in 2019 before becoming public advocate, and we also left out his successor, Farah Louis, since she didn’t serve a full year either. 

By design, this list leaves out certain factors, such as the significance of legislation. Considerations such as whether a bill becomes a landmark law or makes a technical fix, or whether it’s widely acclaimed or highly controversial, would inject subjective judgments into the analysis. Critics of a libertarian bent might argue that more legislation is not better. While it’s a fair point, the productiveness of a lawmaker still tells us something useful about their proactiveness. We also declined to draw a line on various types of absences, to avoid judging which ones are acceptable and which ones aren’t. City Councilman Alan Maisel missed 21 meetings for medical reasons, for example, while City Councilman Stephen Levin missed 44 days on paternity leave – although neither one landed at the bottom of our list. 

One troubling result that can’t be ignored is that four of the five worst lawmakers are racial minorities, while all five of the best lawmakers are white. This is a worrisome outcome. We reflected on how to eliminate any potential sources of bias – which is partly why we removed Google results and Twitter followers. After thinking long and hard, we felt that the criteria are still the best available. Public servants who are paid by taxpayers ought to show up, listen to their constituents, identify issues that should be addressed, craft policy responses, and be transparent with the press.

Here are the complete rankings. And for those who want more details, here’s our methodology.

  1. Helen Rosenthal
  2. Robert Holden
  3. Corey Johnson
  4. Mark Treyger
  5. Daniel Dromm
  6. Ben Kallos
  7. Keith Powers
  8. Mark Levine
  9. Steven Matteo
  10. Chaim Deutsch
  11. Antonio Reynoso
  12. Joe Borelli
  13. Alicka Ampry-Samuel
  14. Peter Koo
  15. Donovan Richards
  16. Robert Cornegy
  17. Adrienne Adams
  18. Carlina Rivera
  19. Diana Ayala
  20. Justin Brannan
  21. Margaret Chin
  22. Costa Constantinides
  23. Barry Grodenchik
  24. Stephen Levin
  25. Ydanis Rodriguez
  26. Rafael Salamanca
  27. Paul Vallone
  28. Fernando Cabrera
  29. Ritchie Torres
  30. Brad Lander
  31. Karen Koslowitz
  32. Laurie Cumbo
  33. Andrew Cohen
  34. Francisco Moya
  35. Rafael Espinal
  36. Vanessa Gibson
  37. Mathieu Eugene
  38. Jimmy Van Bramer
  39. Rory Lancman
  40. Carlos Menchaca
  41. Kalman Yeger
  42. Deborah Rose
  43. Eric Ulrich
  44. Alan Maisel
  45. I. Daneek Miller
  46. Inez Barron
  47. Mark Gjonaj
  48. Ruben Diaz Sr.
  49. Andy King
  50. Bill Perkins

Crain's New York New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules by Editorial Board

New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules

Loophole closing

An amendment filed by the planning department at de Blasio’s request would limit mechanical spaces to a height of 25 feet, and require multiple mechanical floors to be at least 75 feet apart. Otherwise, they would count toward the building’s floor area as set by zoning rules, which determine how tall a building can be.

Kallos worries that without intervention, the mechanical voids will just keep growing—to 300 or 400 or 500 vertical feet of dead space. The practice is especially noticeable on Billionaire’s Row—a strip of super-luxury condo buildings just south of Central Park. Mechanical voids make up about a quarter of 432 Park Ave., Manhattan’s tallest completed condominium tower, according to Kallos. The building’s minimalist boxy design can be seen from every borough.

REAL ESTATE WEEKLY Sutton Place supertall gets go-ahead by Editorial Board

Sutton Place supertall gets go-ahead

“The fight to preserve our residential communities against super-tall buildings will likely have to continue in court before a judiciary less likely to be tainted by the political process after today’s irresponsible decision by the Board of Standards and Appeals,” Kallos said in a statement. “The Board ruled in favor of a bad acting developer against a lawful rezoning that was the result of a grassroots effort by the local community and elected officials.”

Gamma Real Estate bought the site out of foreclosure after the Bauhouse Group defaulted on loans for the assemblage it created along three contiguous lots form 428-432 East 58th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place

The Real Deal Pols and community groups sue DDG to block UES project by Editorial Board

Pols and community groups sue DDG to block UES project

Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District, City Council member Ben Kallos and State Sen. Liz Krueger filed the lawsuit. The courts will allow construction to continue while the case proceeds.

Work on the project, currently at the 16th story, is expected to be finished by early next year. [Crain’s] – Eddie Small

Queens Gazette Responding To City’s Top Complaint, Noise, In Time To Fix It by Editorial Board

Responding To City’s Top Complaint, Noise, In Time To Fix It

Noise is the number one complaint in New York City, but to NYC Councilman Ben Kallos and NYC Council Environmental Chair Costa Constantinides it doesn’t need to be a fact of life in the Big Apple. Kallos and Constantinides introduced legislation in June to be heard in the fall that would require the city to respond to noise complaints for nightlife and construction within two hours or on a subsequent day within an hour of the time of the complaint. The bill aims to increase the likelihood that inspectors will identify the source of the noise, issue a violation, and restore quiet.

“Noise is such a big problem that it might be better to call us ‘Noise’ York City. If 311 is any indication, residents are tired of all the noise, and it is time we did something about it,” said Councilman Kallos. “It is hard to imagine a government of the people for the people ignoring the people’s top complaint and expecting them to be happy living here. I am disappointed by recent reports that the city is actually doing less to quiet noise as complaints rise. We as a city need to take this problem seriously, take it head on without excuses, and give every New Yorker the peace and quiet they need.”

“The nuisance that bothers New Yorkers most is loud noises, however, it could take days for agencies to respond to noise complaints. By that time, a violation would unlikely be issued.  That's why we're introducing this legislation that would require the city to respond to noise complaints within two hours. New Yorkers deserve a responsive government and noise-free neighborhoods. Thank you to my colleague Council Member Ben Kallos for leading the way on this quality-of-life issue,” said Environmental Committee Chair Constantinides.

City and State Ranking The New York City Council Based on Bills Introduced and Enacted by Editorial Board

Ranking The New York City Council Based on Bills Introduced and Enacted

There’s a reason they’re called lawmakers.

As we continue our breakdown of the best and worst New York City Council members, one of the most obvious factors in assessing each lawmaker’s performance is the number of bills they’ve had signed into law.

To measure this, we tallied bill introductions but left out resolutions, which have little real weight. Only a lawmaker who was the prime sponsor of a bill qualified in this analysis. To reward effort, one criterion was the number of bills introduced. And to reward effectiveness, the other legislative criterion was the number of bills signed into law. For these criteria, we used data from calendar year 2016.

Habitat Co-ops and Condos Join Fight to Block New Supertall by Editorial Board

Co-ops and Condos Join Fight to Block New Supertall

“New Yorkers are exhausted by overdevelopment,” city councilman Ben Kallos, a leading opponent of the tall tower, tells the New York Times. “This is about standing up and showing the city that there’s another way to do things.”

Jon Kalikow, the president of Gamma Real Estate, says it would be a “disastrous outcome” if the city were to adopt the rezoning proposal.

“This building could dramatically change the character of our neighborhood,” says Alan Kersh, founding president of the East River Fifties Alliance, which opposes Gamma’s proposed tower and has more than 2,000 supporters, including 45 nearby co-ops and condominiums. Kersh lives across the street from the construction site in a 47-story building called the Sovereign.

New York Times New York, a City Encased in Scaffolding by Editorial Board

New York, a City Encased in Scaffolding

While responsible apartment managers adhere promptly to the spirit of the building safety law, recalcitrant owners leave the sheds up for years as a cheap way to avoid making building repairs. There are no deadlines set to force the work to be done or the sheds to come down.

The pole-and-metal roofed structures, designed to catch debris, attract it instead, along with idlers and loners, according to the complaints of nearby residents who are urging the city to take action. City Councilman Ben Kallos has proposed legislation to force a timetable of three to six months on building owners, but some insist that they don’t have the money to finish jobs. Thus sheds stay perpetually, as much a protection for scofflaw owners as pedestrians.