New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus Updates

New York Times Public Spaces Weren’t Designed for Pandemics. N.Y.C. Is Trying to Adapt. by Matthew Haag

Public Spaces Weren’t Designed for Pandemics. N.Y.C. Is Trying to Adapt.

Some Upper East Side residents have called for one-way sidewalks. “The stressful part of going anywhere is getting there, because the sidewalks are so narrow,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents parts of the neighborhood and Roosevelt Island. “There’s no room for distancing, especially when people are walking toward you.”

Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio proposing $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet

Monday, June 15, 2020

As we face unprecedented times and a budget that must-see painful cuts, we should look for possible waste and opportunities for revenues and savings. I have proposed $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue for our city’s budget in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet that will reduce costs and generate revenues. 

Our Town Outdoor Cafes for Social Distancing by Jason Cohen

Outdoor Cafes for Social Distancing

After numerous people on the Upper East Side disobeyed social distancing last weekend and converged in front of bars, elected officials are trying to come up with a solution.

On May 18, Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking to grant temporary permission before Memorial Day weekend for bars and restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to serve patrons safely for everyone’s benefit.

The elected officials were quite angry with the recent behavior on the UES and hope that if the city approves these plans, it will prevent those actions.

“Rather than rely on enforcement or fine individuals and small businesses that may already be hurting financially from the pandemic, we should adapt our city’s streets to allow for and encourage safe practices,” the letter states. “Without granting businesses a better option, we are afraid restaurants and bars may just take the risk and pay whatever violations may be issued as a cost of doing business rather than shutter their doors permanently.”

6sqft NYC politicians call for outdoor restaurant seating on sidewalks, streets, and parking spots by DANA SCHULZ

NYC politicians call for outdoor restaurant seating on sidewalks, streets, and parking spots

 

Today, NYC Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in addressing a letter to Mayor de Blasio requesting that “the city immediately grant temporary permission before Memorial Day Weekend for bars and restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to serve patrons safely for everyone’s benefit.” Despite warnings from the NYPD, the letter says that residents on the Upper East Side were “congregating outside the establishments without face coverings or respecting social distancing, putting essential workers, themselves, and those passing by at risk.”

Therefore, the letter asks the mayor to open certain stretches of parking spaces and streets for outdoor service and seating. Due to the scene in the neighborhood this past weekend, the officials are asking that the following Upper East Side locations be rolled out prior to this weekend:

  • Second Avenue from 49th to 53rd Street, 55th to 58th Street, 66th to 70th Street, 73rd to 79th Street, and 81st to 92nd Street.
  • First Avenue from 49th to East 64th Street, 68th Street to 69th Street, 73rd to 78th Street, 81st to 84th Street, and 87th to 89th Street.
  • York Avenue from 75th to 79th Street and 84th to 86th Street.

Courthouse News Service Warren Joins NYC Workers on Virus Front Lines to Strengthen Protections by Amanda Ottaway

Warren Joins NYC Workers on Virus Front Lines to Strengthen Protections

Councilman Ben Kallos co-sponsored a bill in the package with Lander and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson that calls for just-cause firing protection for workers. He referenced the city’s tradition of applauding essential workers at 7 p.m. every evening. 

“The reality is, we need to do more than clap,” he said. 

Gotham Gazette City Council Questions De Blasio's Priorities at First Executive Budget Hearing by Samar Khurshid

City Council Questions De Blasio's Priorities at First Executive Budget Hearing

With the city facing a severe budget crunch because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget proposal released last month cut $6 billion in planned spending, tapped $4 billion from reserves and delayed major capital investments to future years when another mayor will be in office. On Wednesday, about eight weeks before a deal must be reached between the two sides, the City Council held a virtual hearing on the mayor’s spending plan. Council members questioned de Blasio administration budget officials on the mayor’s decisions, why he chose to prioritize certain city agencies and programs over others, and whether they have any contingencies now that the city’s reserves have been all but depleted and tax revenue projections continue to slide. 

The mayor’s $89.3 billion executive budget proposal was crafted with much uncertainty. The city has received far less than it has asked for in federal stimulus funds. The state shifted as much as $800 million in costs onto the city. Cash flows have been interrupted as the annual tax deadline was postponed. It could be months before the economy can be rebooted, with no certainty around what that reboot will look like given the contraction taking place. And the city continues its daily struggle against the coronavirus, with the administration spending $950 million by April 21 on its pandemic response, according to the mayor's office, with those costs only increasing by the day. 

New York Post NYC leaders slam de Blasio plan to cut frontline workers, suggest slashing ThriveNYC instead by Julia Marsh

NYC leaders slam de Blasio plan to cut frontline workers, suggest slashing ThriveNYC instead

 

“We’re very concerned even more so now about mental health especially regarding our students who have been through a sort of traumatic once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Deputy Budget Director Kenneth Godiner replied.

“Can we cut our bloated contracts?” Manhattan Democrat Ben Kallos asked Godiner.

Godiner promised to look at the issue.

De Blasio defended ThriveNYC during his press briefing, saying he disagreed with Stringer’s assessment that it wasn’t making an impact.

“Anything that’s about health and safety is a priority whether it’s about physical health or mental health,” he said.
A mayoral spokeswoman defended ThriveNYC’s annual budget of about $250 million a year for four years, and instead detailed planned cuts to mental health consultants in schools as well as delays to mobile treatment teams and crisis response teams.

Upper East Side Patch Advocates, Pols Back Essential Workers' 'Bill Of Rights' by Matt Troutman

Advocates, Pols Back Essential Workers' 'Bill Of Rights'

Lander alongside Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and Councilman Ben Kallos co-sponsored a four-bill package which aims to provide protections for essential workers. This so-called "Essential Workers' Bill of Rights" will be the subject of Council hearings starting Wednesday.

The bills call for premiums of up to $75 a shift for essential workers for large employers, prohibiting firing without just cause, paid sick leave for gig workers and to reclassify certain types of independent contractors as employees.

AM New York Tuesday hearing eyes combat pay for New York’s essential workers during pandemic by BEN VERDE

Tuesday hearing eyes combat pay for New York’s essential workers during pandemic

“If I had to go out to work, I would have to pay for childcare that I normally would not have to pay for because my child would be at school,” she said. “That is an essential cost.” 

Also included in the package is a bill sponsored by Lander, with Councilman Ben Kallos and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, that would require businesses to provide just cause when firing essential workers, in the hopes that workers do not feel intimidated to speak up against workplace conditions or organize with other employees. 

The trio’s legislation comes after Staten Island Amazon warehouse worker Chris Smalls was fired by the e-commerce giant after organizing a protest of conditions at his facility. 

Upper East Side Patch Volunteers Deliver Meals To UES Public Housing Senior Center by Brenden Krisel

Volunteers Deliver Meals To UES Public Housing Senior Center

Community Corner

Volunteers Deliver Meals To UES Public Housing Senior Center

Local City Councilman Ben Kallos and workers with Wildcat helped deliver food to seniors at the Stanley Isaacs Center.

By Brendan Krisel, Patch Staff 

May 1, 2020 2:56 pm ET

 Reply (1)

 

Volunteers led by City Councilmember Ben Kallos handed out 200 meals to seniors at the Upper East Side's Isaacs Center.

Volunteers led by City Councilmember Ben Kallos handed out 200 meals to seniors at the Upper East Side's Isaacs Center. (Google Maps)

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A team of volunteers led by Upper East Side City Councilmember Ben Kallos handed out meals to neighborhood seniors on Thursday.

Kallos and workers with Wildcat Services — which partnered with the councilmember for 2018 on a street cleaning pilot program — distributed 200 meals at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center. The center, located on the campus of the New York City Housing Authority's Stanley Isaacs Houses on First Avenue and East 93rd Street, had previously expressed a need for healthy volunteers to deliver meals to its seniors forced to stay inside during the coronavirus pandemic.

"In this moment of extraordinary crisis, and in alignment with all appropriate health and safety guidelines, we are proud to maintain critical operations to provide meals to isolated, homebound, and medically fragile older adults," Isaacs Center President and Executive Director Gregory J. Morris said in a statement.

Wildcat Services agreed to divert some of its workers from street cleaning to meal deliver after being approached by Kallos, who noted that a reduction in foot traffic due to social distancing measures reduced the need for street cleaning. Wildcat workers went door-to-door at the Stanley Isaacs Houses to drop meals at seniors' homes. Seniors, who are especially vulnerable to severe cases of the coronavirus, are being urged to avoid meal pickup locations due to the risk of infection.

In March, the Isaacs Center suspended all of its services except for meal delivery and case management to reduce the potential for exposure for the seniors who rely on the center. Before the coronavirus outbreak, the center served as a place for neighborhood seniors and children to socialize.

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Wildcat Services employs New Yorkers experiencing homeless, chronically underemployment and other hardships in an effort to provide people with the means to economic well being, according to the organization.

"Our neighborhood facilities that feed our seniors and house NYCHA residents needed help with getting meals to the community," Kallos said in a statement. "I knew I could not do it all myself so I called in reinforcements. My friends over at Wildcat pounced at the chance to help, today is a win for everybody involved."

NYC.gov Office of the Mayor Open Streets: Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson Name First Streets to be Used for Social Distancing Among Pedestrians and Cyclists by The Press Office of the Mayor

Open Streets: Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson Name First Streets to be Used for Social Distancing Among Pedestrians and Cyclists

NEW YORK—In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson today announced the first group of streets that would be opened to pedestrians and cyclists every day starting next week, when spring temperatures are forecasted to arrive. The streets, spanning over seven miles and reaching all five boroughs, are part of the Open Streets initiative designed to provide greater social distancing among New Yorkers.

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"As the weather gets warmer, we need to make sure New Yorkers can go outside safely. East End Avenue is a perfect street to open exclusively to pedestrians. Making East End from 83rd to 89th Street one continuous pedestrian plaza will expand our open space to make it much easier for New Yorkers to get fresh air without risking infection. Once the street is open to pedestrians, this will relieve the pressure off our local parks and give everyone the space they need to the practice social distancing outdoors correctly," said Council Member Ben Kallos.

Our Town On the Front Line of Testing by Emily Higginbotham

On the Front Line of Testing

Connecting to Health Care Providers

In making that possible, Mason has been working with Council Member Ben Kallos to identify ways to distribute the test throughout the city. Kallos said he’s been connecting Mason to health care service providers throughout the New York, including City Med.

“They have something like 200 locations all over the city of New York as well as the metropolitan area,” said Kallos. “So we were working with them on having a situation where City Med could be a place to go and get rapid testing while [patients] waited, and that we could take one of the exam rooms and turn it into a lab processing room where we could be testing several hundred people an hour.”

Kallos said he’s been disappointed by how much time the United States lost by not having testing ready by the time the outbreak was declared a pandemic.

“I think the key thing here is when the President was saying we don't need testing, when my colleagues in this government were saying we don't need testing, I knew that the only way we were gonna get out of this crisis is with access to testing to everyone,” said Kallos, who is running to replace the term-limited Gale Brewer as Manhattan Borough President in 2021. Notably, Kallos’ opponent in the race, fellow Council Member Mark Levine, who chairs the health committee, had been calling on New Yorkers who were not extremely ill to stay home and not get tested for the virus to avoid overwhelming the city’s health care resources. “But that being said, we have the brightest minds on the planet here in my district, and in the city, and I'm certain that between Dr. Mason and others in our city and in our country that will be able to shore up the kind of testing that you need to get back to work and back to normal as soon as possible.”

New York Post DOE’s $269M iPad deal for remote learning is a ‘waste of money,’ says lawmaker by Susan Edelman

DOE’s $269M iPad deal for remote learning is a ‘waste of money,’ says lawmaker

 

The total cost: $269,187,271, the DOE said. The department will seek federal reimbursement, it added.

At least one lawmaker, City Councilman Ben Kallos, said the DOE “got a bad deal,” because laptops are not only much cheaper than iPads but better for schoolwork.

Enlarge Image“This is such a waste of money,” he told the Post.

DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot called it a “cost effective long-term investment in our kids that will be used as an educational tool long after the COVID crisis passes.”

The iPads are being “loaned” to kids, not given for free. A tracking device is installed in case kids do not return them.

Barbot said the DOE chose iPads because Apple could commit to producing devices on a large scale in a short time frame and give students connectivity without WiFi.

New York County Politics City Council Introduces New Relief Package at First Ever Virtual Hearing by William Engel

City Council Introduces New Relief Package at First Ever Virtual Hearing

On Apr. 22, the City Council conducted the first virtual hearing in its 52-year history. The meeting saw the introduction of several new COVID-19 relief bills, courtesy of Laurie Cumbo, Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen), and Council Members Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park), Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), Adrienne Adams (D-Queens), Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) and Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill), among others.

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The four bills in this category were as follows:

  • Int. 1918, sponsored by Speaker Johnson and Majority Leader Cumbo, would require large employers to pay premiums to non-salaried essential workers, until New York lifts its state of emergency.
  • Int. 1923, sponsored by Councilmembers Kallos, Johnson and Lander, would ban all employers from firing essential workers without just cause.
  • Int. 1926, sponsored by Councilmember Lander, would expand the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act to include freelancers and gig economy workers.
  • Res. 1285, sponsored by Councilmembers Lander and Kallos, would prevent businesses from misclassifying their employees as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits.

“As we continue to thank and praise all these workers, including cheering for them nightly, we must protect them from facing retaliation for speaking out against unsafe conditions and demanding protective equipment,” said Kallos, explaining the rationale behind Int. 1923.

PIX11 City Council reconvenes to plot COVID-19 response by Ayana Harry

City Council reconvenes to plot COVID-19 response

MANHATTAN — After responding to the city’s COVID-19 crisis for weeks, members of the City Council are back together thanks to technology.

On Wednesday, the council held its first virtual stated meeting.

“It was a little unreal. I never thought we'd actually be doing it,” Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos told PIX11 News.

“We have an essential workers’ bill of rights that I'm hoping we can get passed in the next two weeks in time to have a real impact during this pandemic,” Kallos said.

The bill of rights proposes paid sick leave for independent contractors and businesses with more than 100 essential employees would have to provide hazard pay ranging from $30 to $75 per shift.

“We have legislation that would put protections in place for those essential workers, so that they speak out and say, 'I need protective equipment,' they can't get fired for that,” Kallos explained.

Job Protections for Essential Workers Including Whistleblowers Proposed by Council Members Ben Kallos, Brad Lander and Speaker Johnson

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

“Just Cause” Legislation Would Provide Protections for Essential Workers During the Pandemic

New York, NY—Today, New York City Council Members Ben Kallos, Brad Lander, and Speaker Corey Johnson introduced legislation to protect essential workers from termination without “Just Cause.” Essential workers include healthcare workers, first responders, utility workers, and those on the frontline including those at supermarkets, making deliveries, and anyone working at an essential business as defined by Executive Order. Heroic health care and warehouse workers have faced retaliation for speaking out against unsafe conditions where they work. Essential businesses would be required to provide progressive discipline and a “just cause” within a week of termination subject to arbitration, a private right of action, with essential employees able to recover back pay and employers subject to fines of up to $2,500 per violation.

“No one should lose their job simply for asking for protective equipment during a pandemic. Our city’s essential workers are heroes and deserve to be treated that way complete with job protections for putting their lives on the line,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Brad Lander, and our brothers and sisters in labor for joining us in our fight to protect essential workers.”

“At a time when the very lives of our hospital and health care workers are on the line, it is unconscionable that they would be fired for ringing the alarm bell about health and safety issues,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “It is imperative that we stand up for these doctors, nurses, and health care workers, listen to and lift up their concerns, and ensure that they cannot be unjustly fired for telling the truth about the conditions they face.”

Over the last month, private hospitals have issued guidance to their workers about what public communications is deemed acceptable. Some of the guidance threatened workers with termination if the communication is not first approved by executive-level staff. New York City’s 11 public hospitals have not issued such warnings and the Council Members urge the private hospital network and all healthcare institutions to follow the lead of New York City’s Health + Hospitals and allow their frontline workers to speak out without fear of an unfair firing. 

New York Daily News Protect health-care whistleblowers: Shield doctors and nurses who report problems from retaliation by Brad Lander

Protect health-care whistleblowers: Shield doctors and nurses who report problems from retaliation

At Mount Sinai, nurses blew the whistle on PPE shortages by posting pictures of themselves in garbage bags. Afterwards, along with protective gowns, they received warning notices about their jobs as well.

Health-care workers are already risking their health to save lives. They should not also have to risk their jobs when they tell the truth.

Together with my colleagues Mark Levine, Carlina Rivera, Ben Kallos and Adrienne Adams in the City Council, and a wide coalition of health-care unions and worker advocates, we are proposing legislation to protect health-care workers from being fired for speaking out.

At a time when the very lives of our hospital and health-care workers are on the line, it is unconscionable that they would be fired for ringing the alarm bell about health and safety issues. Our bill would prevent doctors and nurses from losing their jobs if they speak publicly about conditions in their hospitals.

Letter to Mayor de Blasio Concerning the Effect of COVID-19 on Nonprofit Businesses

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing Non-profit organizations, specifically human service providers, to operate under heavy financial burdens. Many are providing vital services under serious challenges, while others face mandated closures. One of the biggest challenges being faced, include not being able to meet contracted service requirements. While non-profits face these increasing challenges, they continue to have fiscal obligations such as rent, payroll, and other overhead costs that are primarily paid for by City provided funds. These funds are typically tied to unit of service requirements established in their City contracts.

Many providers are reporting that clients are not able to participate in person for safety reasons and many have started utilizing phone and video conferencing as opposed to in-person meetings. Although, these organizations are being innovative in delivering services, most are not currently equipped to do so and all have incurred increased costs creating cash flow concerns.

Providers are also communicating other issues affecting staff. Some have staff who are unable to work onsite safely due to social distancing guidelines but could work remotely. However for various reasons, including contractual language, providers cannot allow for telecommuting as an option for staff.  Still other providers have workers who cannot practically work from home, such as food servers, who they must send home without a guarantee of being able to pay these workers to stay home. The City must provide relief for these affected providers.

Statement in Support of Expanding Beds at Coler Public Hospital for Coronavirus Treatment

Monday, March 16, 2020

We need every bed we can find to care for those who may come down with coronavirus. These 350 beds at Coler public hospital can really help provide the critical care that our family, friends, and neighbors may need to recover. I am proud to represent so many hospitals, including public hospitals like Coler, that can play a pivotal role in treating our most vulnerable.

Once we are through this crisis, we must reverse the damage done by the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century in 2006 that recommended closure of 9 facilities, affected 57 hospitals and 81 acute care and long-term care facilities removing as many as 4,200 inpatient beds from our healthcare system. We must rebuild a resilient medical system that can run at a fraction of built capacity, ready to take on the next major medical emergency or pandemic.

STATEMENT: Council Member Kallos on New York City Schools Remaining Open During COVID-19 Outbreak

Friday, March 13, 2020

Many parents have expressed concern that New York City public schools have so far remained open during this COVID-19 outbreak. As a parent myself, I too share those same concerns regarding the safety of our children.

The decision to close schools rests with Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education. I have personally communicated your concerns to City Hall and have joined Speaker Corey Johnson and UFT President Michael Mulgrew in urging the Mayor to take aggressive actions such as an official policy allowing students the option to learn from home or even full school closure, in order to keep our teachers and children safe.

Moving towards temporarily online instruction will be difficult without Universal Broadband. In the past, we've worked with Charter Communications to help bridge the digital divide with Internet Assist for students on free and reduced lunch or seniors receiving supplemental social security. 

After I worked with Silicon Harlem to recommend free broadband during this outbreak, Charter announced free broadband and Wi-Fi for every student K-12 to college who does not already have broadband for the next 60 days starting this Monday.

Free and low-cost broadband for all students is the key element we needed to allow our children to continue their learning in the safety and security of their homes.

My office and I remain in close communication with state officials and the Mayor's office as this situation develops.

Kallos and Silicon Harlem Applaud Free Broadband for Students from Charter and Call on All Other Providers to Do the Same

Friday, March 13, 2020

Statement from Council Member Ben Kallos:

Technology is going to be a major tool in fighting the spread of novel coronavirus, but only for those who aren't trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide.

We've worked with Charter to bridge the digital divide with Internet Assist for students on free and reduced lunch or seniors receiving supplemental social security. Today, Charter announced free broadband and Wi-Fi for every student K-12 to college who does not already have broadband for the next 60 days.

Free and low-cost broadband for all students is the key element we needed to allow our children to continue their learning in the safety and security of their homes.

Thank you to Silicon Harlem for their leadership and partnership. Thank you to Charter for leading by example and I call on every other phone and cable internet provider to take similar steps to save us all.

 

Statement from Clayton Banks Co-Founder and CEO of Silicon Harlem:

The 2020 pandemic sheds light on the need for connectivity, devices, and digital literacy for our workforce, students, and underserved communities. I stand with Ben Kallos, and commend the effort of Charter to be a part of the solution.

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