New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Michael Garofalo

Our Town Panel Eyes Changes to Community Boards by Michael Garofalo

Panel Eyes Changes to Community Boards

As part of the city’s ongoing charter revision process, New Yorkers could be asked to vote this year on major changes to rules governing community board membership, including instituting term limits and a uniform citywide appointment process.

Ben Kallos, who represents much of the Upper East Side in the City Council, said in recent public testimony that term limits “are necessary to ensure that these bodies reflect their communities and create a culture of getting things done and foster mentoring and the passing on of institutional memory.”

Our Town UES votes to fund tech, school infrastructure by Michael Garofalo

UES votes to fund tech, school infrastructure

“Education and the well-being of our neighborhood children have always been a top priority for me,” Kallos said in a statement. “I am proud and happy that the residents who voted and participated in the process share that feeling and made it known with their vote.”

Our Town School crossing guards in short supply by Michael Garofalo

School crossing guards in short supply

“This city has a commitment to Vision Zero, and having crossing guards at dangerous intersections could be helpful to more than just our public school students.”

City Council Member Ben Kallos

Despite increased funding as part of a citywide push to hire enough crossing guards to cover every school crossing post in New York City, as many as half of budgeted crossing guard positions in some Manhattan neighborhoods have gone unfilled.

Five out of nine budgeted crossing guard positions were unfilled in the Upper West Side’s 20th Precinct as of January 2017, the most recent period for which data is available. (Rosenthal said it is her understanding that the number of positions filled has not since changed. The NYPD is required to report updated data on crossing guard vacancies to the City Council by Sept. 30, 2018.)

Our Town Schools could find rec relief from Spence by Michael Garofalo

Schools could find rec relief from Spence

In addition to serving the Spence School’s athletics programs, the new facility would provide gym space for physical education classes from P.S. 151 and P.S. 527 under the terms of a proposed, but yet-to-be-finalized agreement between the schools. The two schools are each located near the proposed site of the new Spence facility and have limited space for physical activities. Students at P.S. 151, located at 421 East 88th St., use two converted classrooms for recreational space, while those at P.S. 527, located at 323 East 91st St., use an auditorium with a sloped floor and low ceiling, said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who described the gym-sharing proposal last week at a public hearing on the project at the Board of Standards and Appeals.

According to Kallos, by the time the new building opens for the 2019-2020 school year, Spence and the Department of Education will enter into an agreement allowing the public schools to use the Spence gymnasium for physical education classes during school hours, at no cost to the schools.

Our Town Online voter registration gets OK by Michael Garofalo

Online voter registration gets OK

Council Member Ben Kallos, the bill’s author, hopes that the legislation will make it easier for the city’s residents to access the ballot. “Only about 25 percent of Manhattan households own cars,” Kallos said, citing the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “Driver licenses and other state identification cards are not as common among people of color or low-income communities, so having an online voter registration system that anyone can use is incredibly important.”

Seth Stein, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that the mayor’s office is reviewing the final legislation. “The Administration worked closely with the City Council in crafting this legislation,” he said. “We support online registration and making voting more accessible to New Yorkers.”

The legislation that has an 18-month timeline for implementation, but Kallos said he hopes the online registration system will be up and running “in a matter days or weeks rather than months and months,” noting that a working demonstration of the system is available on his website.

Our Town Community rallies against bus cuts by Michael Garofalo

Community rallies against bus cuts

The cuts also caught the attention of a coalition of local, state and federal elected officials representing the impacted areas, which sent a letter to the MTA New York City Transit's acting president, Darryl Irick, objecting to the cuts and expressing concern that increased wait times “will leave our residents feeling abandoned by our buses.” The letter was signed by City Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Members Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright, state Senators Liz Kruger, Brad Hoylman and José Serrano, and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler. And last week, Community Board 8 unanimously approved a resolution requesting that the MTA reconsider the proposed service reductions.

One source of frustration for elected officials and community members is that the MTA has thus far declined requests to release the underlying data used to evaluate service and ridership, such as farebox data. The elected officials asserted in their letter that the MTA's research and evaluation is “not done in a transparent manner that is subject to public review.”

“They have to show us the data that supports why they need to make these changes,” Kallos told Straus News after the cuts were announced.

Seawright echoed Kallos' call for the transit authority to release the data. “The MTA basically is refusing to share it, saying that it's not in a format that they're willing to distribute,” she said. “I think it's totally unacceptable.” Seawright said she planned to raise the issue of transparency at the MTA's next budget hearing in Albany

Our Town M57 bus dodges service cuts by Michael Garofalo

M57 bus dodges service cuts

At a July 7 meeting with elected representatives, MTA officials agreed to maintain current service levels on the M57 line, going back on an earlier proposal that would have increased headways on the route from 10 to 12 minutes during AM peak hours and from 12 to 15 minutes during PM peak hours. “The M57 was going to have the most cuts, and they’ve agreed to make no service changes to the M57,” Kallos said.

The proposed changes, scheduled to take effect in September, were first announced by MTA New York City Transit in a June 16 letter to elected officials and community boards. The letter also proposed reductions in service frequency on the M31, M66 and M72 bus lines that would increase scheduled wait times by 11 to 33 percent. Despite opposition from elected officials at the July 7 meeting, the MTA has not altered its proposal to cut service on the three lines, Kallos said.