Last week, I celebrated 100 days representing you in the New York City Council. In just this short time, I have already been able to achieve many of the promises made before I took office. With a few well on their way, it seems that they weren't promises but plans.
You can see for yourself by reading my policy book, but here are a few items from the book that we've been able to accomplish by working together:
- I was front and center in the movement that won $300 million in pre-kindergarten funding for New York City with to make us a nationwide leader by giving every child a fair start;
- I am committing millions in funding to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in our schools;
- Stop and frisk reform has become a reality; and
- I co-sponsored the bill to expand paid sick leave to half a million New Yorkers so we can all be healthier.
There is still much more to do. I am more committed than ever to taking on the challenges and seizing on the opportunities that face our neighborhood and city. As your Council Member, I am taking on the tough fights on your behalf:
- I am fighting the marine transfer station on 91st Street every day, reorienting the debate to focusing on increasing recycling and reducing waste citywide;
- I am protecting residents from unsafe construction and being kicked out of their affordable housing;
- I am bringing accountability to city agencies, from the Board of Elections to community boards;
- I am advocating for ferry service for Roosevelt Island; and
- I am working to provide educational support outside the classroom by supporting community learning schools.
And I am proud to maintain an attendance record of 100% -- because you deserve a representative that shows up!
Thank you for granting me the honor and responsibility of representing you in City Hall. I hope that these first 100 days will give you a sense of how I plan to govern.
- Marine Transfer Station
- Universal Pre-Kindergarten
- Paid Sick Leave
- Livable Streets
- Community Board Reform
- Reforming the Board of Elections
- Protecting Your Tax Dollars
- Open Office
- Eating Well
- Community Events
- Transportation Forums
Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
In January, I attended a rally against the Marine Transfer Station at City Hall, urging the Mayor to hit the pause button on the project after community group Pledge 2 Protect released a report entitled “Talking Trash,” revealing the harm the city’s approach to waste management has done.
Most recently, the outgoing Sanitation Commissioner admitted under forceful questioning on the ballooning costs and poor policy of the of the Marine Transfer Station that it would be "more expensive." You can watch that exchange on YouTube or read about it in the Epoch Times.
Still, the city has failed to hit the pause button on this senseless project. So I have demanded that the city independently review the skyrocketing costs of the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station. I sent a letter to the Independent Budget Office to seek an updated review of the costs and effects of the Upper Manhattan Marine Transfer Station, which you can read about in AMNY. The last review done by the city showed the price of disposing of a ton of trash skyrocketing from $90/ton to $238/ton. With new information, such as FEMA designating the area the highest-risk flood zone, we need a new review.
I am taking on this fight every day because residential communities – particularly near parks and public housing – should not be subject to waste transfer stations. I am so grateful for the community support I’ve received, and I will need your continued support as I keep up our fight. For more frequent updates just about the Marine Transfer Station please visit BenKallos.com/MTS.
Advocating for Universal Pre-K
I was proud to be part of the movement to provide pre-k and afterschool programs to all New York City children, advocacy which was featured in the New York Times. I especially enjoyed Field Fridays, where I got to discuss with you the importance of pre-k for children later in life. Then, I helped organize a joint hearing between the Women’s Issues Committee and the Education Committee, where we discussed the positive impact public pre-k would have on New York City’s working families.
All of our efforts met with success! The state budget allocated $300 million for pre-k across New York State, with most of it for New York City. Our city will now have one of the most expansive pre-k programs in the country, and we will have more seats in schools for our children. There's still work to be done to ensure we get the pre-k seats we need in our neighborhood -- and rest assured that this is a top priority for me.
Paid Sick Leave
I have been fighting for paid sick leave for two years and was proud to cast a vote in the City Council to expand the paid sick leave act so it covers 1 million residents. It took effect on April 1st, and will make it easier for working New Yorkers to earn the money they need and still stay healthy. I took to the streets to share information on the new law the day it took effect. My office is here to assist if you need any information on the program.
I was pleased to launch a “livable streets” initiative for a neighborhood where residents can walk, bike, drive or take public transportation safely. A series of tragic traffic collisions in our neighborhood have reinforced the importance of Vision Zero, a city proposal, whose launch I participated in, to eliminate traffic fatalities — because no one should die from a preventable accident.
Residents have reported:
- Unsafe intersections;
- Bus stops that need a shelter;
- Sidewalks where you would like to see benches or bike racks;
- Corners that should be wheelchair and walker accessible;
- Potholes to fix;
- And any other concerns they have.
We are compiling the data to report to the relevant agencies, because our streets need to be livable for everyone. Please call my office at 212-860-1950 or email email@example.com with as much detail as possible or visit BenKallos.com/Livable-Streets if you have something to add.
As part of this initiative, I am also be hosting three transportation forums. The details are listed under “Upcoming Events” below.
Reforming and Transforming Community Boards
Community boards are the most local form of government, but too often, they feel disconnected from the community.
I held a hearing on best practices in appointment and recruitment to community boards, where we heard testimony from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, as well as community board chairs and district managers from all five boroughs, good government groups and youth advocacy organizations.
Then, my office released a report entitled, "Improving Community Boards in New York City: Best Practices in Recruitment and Appointment to New York City’s 59 Community Boards," containing dozens of recommendations for reform to New York City's community boards. My recommendations include creating standardized online applications for those who wish to join boards. My goal is to keep them a vital center for independent voices who speak for the community.
Finally, I introduced resolutions that will, if adopted, make our community boards more inclusive, transparent and representative. The first lowers the minimum age of participation on boards to 16, so engaged teens can become more involved in their communities. You can read an editorial in support in amNY or you can watch on Pix 11. The second resolution seeks adoption of voluntary reforms by the Council and Borough Presidents based on recommendations in the report.
I've already adopted the recommendations from my report and look forward to seeing their adoption citywide. Our city deserves boards that are open, inclusive and truly representative.
Reforming the Board of Elections
As Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations, I have responsibility for overseeing the Board of Elections whose culture of patronage, nepotism and inefficiency is unacceptable. I held a hearing on the Department of Investigation report that opened the City's eyes to the degree of patronage and inertia at the NYC Board of Elections. You can watch footage from the first hearing on NY1. During preliminary budget hearings, I took on the Board of Elections again, this time for a pricey plan to convert old lever machines into voter kiosks. It's clear that the same goals can be accomplished at much lower cost to taxpayers. Read more about it in the Daily News or watch on NY1.
Protecting your tax dollars
During budgeting season, it's crucial that we spend city money the right way. I identified $4 billion in potential contract overruns by the city of New York and am closely monitoring them to ensure we don’t waste taxpayer dollars. That money could better go to schools, senior centers and parks. I am Co-Chairing the East River Esplanade Task Force with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and I have demanded that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation set aside $115 million to make necessary repairs in order to save $315 million in costs to rebuild the Esplanade from scratch. I also allocated a million dollars to participatory budgeting, so you can vote on how a million dollars get spent in the neighborhood. Hundreds of residents chose from projects such as improvements to local parks, public housing playgrounds in our district and much more. See a sample ballot here. This was just one step in creating a more active, engaged neighborhood.
I've always thought being called "transparent" was the best compliment, and I've had the honor of receiving it from many of you. I have made my office transparent, accountable and open to the public. My office-warming party was a wonderful community event with guests from all over the district. We were also treated to remarks by special surprise guests, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. I have also launched "First Fridays" on the first Friday of every month from 8AM - 10AM, when residents can come in and have a conversation about whatever is important to them. I've also launched "Policy Night" on the second Tuesday of each month, which are a chance for active and engaged residents to make their voices heard and effect real change. You can RSVP at BenKallos.com/Events, call 212-860-1950 or email RSVP@BenKallos.com.
Finally, I am bringing my office to you. Should you need assistance for any reason, whether you’d like to know your rights as a tenant or need help applying for city services, you can stop by my office or attend mobile district hours:
- Roosevelt Island (RISA, 546 Main Street): First Wednesday of the month , 4-7PM
- Lexington Houses (1536 Lexington Avenue): Second Wednesday of the month, 4-7PM
- Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center (415 E. 93rd Street): Fourth Tuesday of the month, 4-7PM
I care very deeply about the safety of our food and that everyone should have all the knowledge possible to make informed decisions about what they are putting in their bodies. I support the GMO-labeling legislation in Albany and have co-sponsored a resolution supporting that legislation. My staff has also been looking into other potentially harmful food additives and researching legislative approaches to food safety. It has been my pleasure to be working with Council Member Brad Lander, the New York City Food Forum and my colleagues on legislation to create a Food Policy Council, which would bring the food advocacy community together as a formal, inclusive mechanism for New Yorkers to inform City on food policies during the coming session. I’ve also signed onto the Lunch 4 Learning Campaign, because the city should provide universal free and healthy lunches for all of our school children. All of these initiatives were discussed at the Just Food conference and Hunter College food conference, where I met passionate food advocates and discussed how to make our city healthier.
I have been keeping up a tireless schedule, attending evening meeting to report before Community Boards 6, 8, and 11, the 19th and 23rd Precinct Community Councils, East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, East Sixties Neighborhood Association, Sutton Area Community, Roosevelt Island Residents Association and tenant meetings at Stanley Isaacs, Holmes Towers and Lexington Houses, among many others. I have enjoyed wonderful tours of schools such as PS/IS 217 and PS 290. If you would like your event included in a newsletter, or If you would like me to attend your event to speak or present an award, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-860-1950.
Upcoming Transportation Forums
Safety Along the 2nd Avenue Subway: April 24th, 6:30-8:30PM
1763 Second Avenue (between 91st and 92nd)
Join us on a forum and walk with Department of Transportation, community leaders and (pending confirmation) the MTA, to identify locations that can have improved lighting along the Second Avenue Subway. RSVP today.
Adopt-A-Planter: May 15th, 6:30-7:30PM
Memorial Sloan Kettering Auditorium
430 East 67th Street (between York and 1st Avenues)
Learn more about the program that allows you to adopt street plantings, helping your neighborhood become more beautiful. RSVP today.
Bike Lanes Forum: June 25th, 6:30-7:30PM
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
331 East 70th Street (between York and 1st Avenues)
Let’s discuss bike lanes in our neighborhood, and how we can implement them so they improve safety and transportation for everyone. RSVP today.
Thank you for being part of this community, which makes possible all of my advocacy on your behalf. I'm proud of what has been achieved in my first 100 days in office, but I am much more focused on the promise of the time ahead, and the community we can build together.
Sincerely, Ben Kallos
New York City Council Member
District Five: Upper East Side, Midtown East, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island