New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Jackson Chen

Manhattan Express East 90th Street Pier Is UES’ Latest Park by Jackson Chen

East 90th Street Pier Is UES’ Latest Park

In terms of funding for these waterfront projects, $35 million has been secured from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $10 million from Rockefeller University, $6 million from the City Council, and an additional $2 million from Councilmember Ben Kallos.

“We are dedicated to getting every single square inch of park space that we can,” Kallos said. “Because even with this addition, this district is still going to rank amongst the bottom according to New Yorkers for Parks in terms of the Open Space Index.”

Manhattan Express Pols Rally to Cause of Returning Queensboro Oval to the People by Jackson Chen

Pols Rally to Cause of Returning Queensboro Oval to the People

And Maloney isn’t the only outspoken ally of the park, as Borough President Gale Brewer, City Councilmember Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright have also joined the call for de-privatization.

For Kallos, it was his first time in the Queensboro Oval because, he said, Sutton East’s tennis bubbles made the space inaccessible for a majority of the year.

In crunching the numbers, the councilmember compared the $80 to $225 per hour costs of playing at Sutton East Tennis Club to the city permits that have tennis fees of just $200 a year (though the Parks Department has noted the availability of free and reduced programming at the facility).

“This space is on an order of magnitude more expensive by 15 times than a comparable space run by the Parks Department,” Kallos said. “Worse yet, this is what the space looks like when they gave it back… an empty lot with dirt.”

Manhattan Express Keeping Manhattan’s Construction Boom Safe for New Yorkers by Jackson Chen

Keeping Manhattan’s Construction Boom Safe for New Yorkers

Councilmember Ben Kallos said the city is currently experiencing a construction boom, similar he said to the pre-recession one he witnessed while working as chief of staff to former East Side State Assemblymember Jonathan Bing.

In 2008, two crane collapses on the Upper East Side happened less than three months apart. According to Department of Buildings accident records, an incident on March 15 of that year left seven people dead and 22 injured after a tower crane collapsed at 303 East 51st Street. Shortly afterwards, on May 30, another crane collapsed at 335 East 91st Street, leaving two dead and one injured.

Manhattan Express CB8’s Last-Ditch Effort to “De-Privatize” UES’ Queensboro Oval by JACKSON CHEN

CB8’s Last-Ditch Effort to “De-Privatize” UES’ Queensboro Oval

“We don’t have enough parks in the district,” Kallos said. “We have some of the lowest numbers of parks space per capita. Any place we have park land, we need to be using it as park land for the entire community.”

According to a study done by a parks advocacy organization in 2013, Kallos’ District 5 ranked the fifth worst in the ratio of land area to parks space out of all 51 Council districts.

In the New Yorkers for Parks’ study, the district falls far short of the standards set out by the group, which call for 2.5 acres of total open space per 1,000 residents. Kallos’ district scored only 0.47 acres of open space per 1,000 residents.

The group’s study also noted that the balance between public use as a ball field and private use as tennis courts shifted in 2012 to the advantage of the courts’ operator, when it secured an additional six weeks of time that keeps the bubble in the park into June.

To combat what they deem a slow creep of private use, Kallos said he would be working with the community board by reviewing the current contract with Sutton East, making sure the contract isn’t renewed, and trying to secure city funds to revert the park into public space year-round.

“In order for this to work, we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention between now and 2017 and make sure this contract doesn’t get renewed,” Kallos said.

Manhattan Express Free Wi-Fi Comes to MTA’s Lexington Avenue Stations by JACKSON CHEN

Free Wi-Fi Comes to MTA’s Lexington Avenue Stations

"Subway delays, making you late to a meeting with no way to tell anyone, was a part of being a subway rider,” he said. “But now you’ll be able to get in touch and get work done.”

According to the councilmember’s office, Kallos has been advocating for expanded Wi-Fi service for his district since last year’s City Council’s budget hearings.

Manhattan Express Push For an East 86th Street BID Steps Up This Week by JACKSON CHEN

Push For an East 86th Street BID Steps Up This Week

“86th Street is one of the busiest commercial corridors in the city,” Kallos said, noting that the 86th Street stop on the Lexington Avenue line is among the subway system’s top 10 in commuter usage. “Many other locations have BIDs, and this one was long overdue.”

The effort to create the district will step up this week as a survey is sent out to take the neighborhood’s temperature on having a BID. The survey includes basic information about BIDs and a questionnaire regarding neighborhood conditions, quality of life problems, and desired services.

“Rather than trying to deal with the problems on a case-by-case basis, it would be better to deal with it in the long term by creating a BID for that part of the neighborhood,” Kallos said.