New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Mike Garofalo

Our Town UES tower dispute heads to appeal by Mike Garofalo

UES tower dispute heads to appeal

Ben Kallos, who represents the neighborhood in the City Council, has joined a pending lawsuit against the developer and the city alleging that the developer’s tactics represent “a deliberate attempt to circumvent and nullify” city zoning provisions. Kallos and others said the East 88th Street project speaks to a broader issue of developers finding and exploiting zoning loopholes to build ever-taller towers without regard for neighborhood context. Several speakers at the July 16 press conference referenced the proposed 668-foot condo tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side that is the subject of an ongoing zoning dispute over the project’s irregularly shaped lot.

“It’s kind of like playing a game of whack-a-mole, with an industry that has billions to devote to coming up with new ways to circumvent the rules,” Kallos said, citing tactics such as excessive floor-to-floor ceiling heights, so-called “gerrymandered” zoning lots, and the use of mechanical voids as tools that have been used by developers with increasing frequency in recent years to inflate building heights and property values.

Kallos and other members of the City Council have said that the legislative body needs more resources to expand its land use staff to review projects before they receive approval.

Our Town Stubborn sidewalk sheds of the UES by Mike Garofalo

Stubborn sidewalk sheds of the UES

While city law dictates when scaffolding must be erected, there are currently no regulations requiring sheds to be dismantled if no work is being done on the building. Legislation sponsored by Upper East Side Council Member Ben Kallos would change that.

The bill, first introduced by Kallos in 2016, would require all sheds erected due to dangerous building conditions to come down within six months — or sooner, if work is interrupted for more than seven consecutive days. If a building owner fails to complete the necessary repairs and remove scaffolding within that time frame, the legislation calls for the city to step in to complete the work, take down the scaffolding, and bill the landlord for all costs.

“Scaffolding goes up but doesn’t go down — for months, years, even decades — while no work is happening,” Kallos said in January when he reintroduced the bill for the current session. Real estate groups oppose the proposed reform on the grounds that it would unfairly burden building owners.

Our Town Measuring bike safety by Mike Garofalo

Measuring bike safety

On Manhattan’s East Side, the number of traffic collisions involving cyclists is on pace to continue on a downward trend: to date, there have been 228 collisions involving cyclists in 2017, down from 350 in 2016 and 373 in 2015, according to NYPD data. The number of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians injured in collisions on the East Side dropped over the same period.

Since 2012, 1,194 cyclists have been injured in collisions with motor vehicle on the East Side, but none have been killed, according to an analysis of NYPD data covering East Side zip codes from 26th to 96th Streets performed by the office of Council Member Ben Kallos. Thirty-nine pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles over the same period, along with 2,722 injured. Since 2012, no pedestrians have been killed in collisions with bicycles in the East Side zip codes covered in the analysis.

Police in the 17th and 19th precincts have issued 1,557 summonses to bicyclists so far this year, mostly for running red lights and failing to give pedestrians the right of way. Motor vehicle operators received nearly 16,000 summonses in the two precincts over the same period, including 1,541 to drivers for not giving the right of way to pedestrians.