Over the past five and a half years we have been transparent and honest about the issues we face. Whether facing a small challenge or taking on seemingly insurmountable odds, together we've fought, sometimes we've lost, but more often we've won. We are stronger for it with so much more we can accomplish together.
Together we have opened more than 1,100 Pre-K seats on the Upper East Side, secured $92 million for 640 new school seats, a $6.3 million gym for Eleanor Roosevelt High School, invested $5.3 million in STEM education and $5.9 million in green roofs, and took on youth hunger with free breakfast, free salad bars, and free lunch.
When I got elected our waterfront was literally crumbling into the river. As Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney we have secured public-private partnerships resulting in $15 million from Rockefeller University, $1 million from HSS, and $1 million from Brearley. We've secured $100 million for a new greenway and $75 million for repairs for a grand total of $275 million.
I refused to take big money from real estate and won campaign finance reforms to get big money out of politics. This has allowed me to lead the fight against overdevelopment in Manhattan winning a first of its kind rezoning to stop a supertall tower and a citywide rezoning to stop buildings with empty voids created just to give billionaires better views.
We've increased transportation options since I was elected with the opening of the Second Avenue Subway, Select Bus Service on the M79 and M86, closing the Second Avenue bike gap or new NYC Ferry stops on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, it is getting easier to get around on the Upper East Side.
Please take a moment to compare the goals we've set with our actions over the past five years by taking a look at my 2013 Policy Book, Inauguration and four States of the District. I am proud of our achievements, but I know there is a lot more we can do together. I am looking forward to all we can accomplish in the remainder of my final term as your Council Member.
BY THE NUMBERS
Constituent Service Cases: 13,369 and counting
Introductions Authored: 126
Introductions Enacted into Law: 39 (31%)
Resolutions Authored: 23
Resolutions Adopted: 8 (34.7%)
City Council Attendance: 99%
Land Use Matters Adopted: 11
Rezonings to Stop Overdevelopment: 2
Lawsuits Against Overdevelopment: 2
Governmental Operations Committee Hearings Chaired: 67
Planning Disposition and Concession Committee Hearings: 23
Contracts Committee Hearings Chaired: 2
Legislation Passed by Governmental Operations Committee: 45
Legislation Sponsored: 1,454
Legislation Sponsored Adopted or Enacted: 1,021 (70%)
Ben in Your Building: 55+
First Fridays & Brainstorm with Ben: 60+
Mobile Hours: Hundreds
Free Legal Clinics: Hundreds
Community Meetings: Hundreds
People Registered for Events: 2,375
Petitions Signed: 6,315
Reusable Bags Distributed: 4,500
Participatory Budgeting Investments in Community: $8.9 Million
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INVESTING IN EDUCATION
- $92 Million for 640 New East Side School Seats
- Secured 900 Pre-K Seats for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
- New Gym for Eleanor Roosevelt High School
- Ending School Hunger with Free Breakfast and Lunch after the Bell
- Advancing Arts Education with Annual Student Show at Sotheby's
- Investing in STEM Education
- Breaking Ground on Green Roofs
- Supporting Excelsior City and State University Scholarship
- Gender Sexuality Alliance in Public Schools Law
- GPS Monitors for New York City School Buses
- Opening and Collaborating with Cornell Tech
- Opening Rockefeller University Campus
- Wage Parity for Pre-K Teachers
IMPROVING AND CREATING NEW PARKS
- Additional $75 Million Secured for the East River Esplanade, Totaling $275 Million
- $100 million for East River Greenway Construction on Esplanade for 53rd through 61st Streets
- Ribbon Cutting on $15 Million Esplanade Investment by Rockefeller University
- $336,000 for New Security Cameras in Hard to Patrol Parks
- Completed $16 Million Pedestrian Bridge at 81st Street
- Opened a New Park on East 90th Street Pier
- Completed: $1 Million in Renovations of the East River Esplanade Along HSS’ Sections
- James Cagney Place Recognized as Official Pedestrian Plaza
- Secured One Million Dollar Public-Private Partnership with Brearley to Repair Overhang Above the Esplanade
- Opening the Oval for Free Tennis
- Conservancies and Funding for Local Parks
- Revitalizing the Waterfront Management Advisory Board
- Play in Our Parks
FIGHTING OVERDEVELOPMENT AND FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
- Closing the Voids Loophole and Starting a Study of “Gerrymandered” Lots
- Sutton Super-Tall Fight to Uphold Zoning in Court
- Thousands of Subsidized Units will Return to Affordable Housing Under Law I Authored
- Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise in New York City
- Successfully Created and Protected Thousands of Units of Affordable Housing
- Won Two Rent Freezes and Three Historic Lows
- Safer Construction with Law to Count Every Life
- Freezing Rents for Seniors and Disabled New Yorkers
- Ending Downsizing of Seniors into Studio Apartments
- Protected Quiet Side Streets on the Mid-Block from Overdevelopment
- Mandatory Affordable Housing for New Neighborhood Plans
- Protected Landmarks Citywide; Recognized for Leading Preservation
- Opening New Free and Affordable Art Spaces with ChaShaMa
- Opening Up Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS)
- Passed Tenant Safety Legislation
- Reformed the Board of Standards and Appeals
- Opened New Affordable Housing on East 60th Street
- Opened New Affordable Housing on East 93rd Street
GOOD GOVERNMENT REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY
- We are Getting Big Money Out of New York City Politics
- Appointed to Bring Oversight to City Contracts
- Charter Revision: Won Term Limits for Community Boards and Urban Planners
- Eliminated Outside Income and Legal Bribery
- Online Voter Registration Becomes Law In New York City
- Opened the City Budget to the Public
- Weakening the Influence of Specials Interest Money in Politics
- Voter Information Portal Law Enacted
- Won Affordable High-Speed Internet for Low-Income New Yorkers
- Millions for the Community Voted for by Residents in Participatory Budgeting
- Demanded Answers on the Rivington Nursing Home Scandal
- Focusing on Better Management
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
- Healthy Happy Meals Becomes Law
- Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention Law Passes
- Fresh Food Box
- Composting on the Upper East Side
- City Council Passes Automatic Benefits Study
QUALITY OF LIFE
- Cleaning up the Neighborhood with Wildcat Service
- Inspect All Scaffolding to Keep Pedestrians Safe and Planning to Take Down Unnecessary Scaffolding
- A New Trash Can on Every Corner
- Improved Quality of Life Enforcement
- Supporting the Homeless with ETHOS
- Welcoming Supportive Housing for Women and Children to the UES
- Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
- Ferry Service for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
- Opening the Second Avenue Subway
- New Buses Improve Service on the Upper East Side
- Improving Bus Service with Off-Board Fare Payment for the M79, M86, and Advocating for the M96
- Roosevelt Island Tram Approved for Another 50 Years
- Bringing Safety to Our Most Dangerous Streets; Giving Pedestrians Time to Cross York Avenue
- New Citi Bike Stations; Incentivized Safety Classes and Expanding Bike Safety Program to Midtown East
- Bike Infrastructure Added to the Upper East Side
HONORING THE BEST AMONG US
INVESTING IN EDUCATION
$92 Million for 640 New East Side School Seats
After years of working with and pushing the School Construction Authority (SCA), in 2019 we announced that an estimated $92.85 million has been allocated for 640 new school seats right here on the Upper East Side. The new seats will come as part of the SCA capital plan for 2020-2024. That brings us up to 1,400 new public school pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade seats that have been planned, funded or built on the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island and Midtown East since I was elected.
For five years I have been advocating for the Department of Education (DOE) and the SCA to add more school seats on the Upper East Side. As the New York Times reported back in 2017, I even introduced two pieces of legislation requiring the DOE be more transparent with the Council on the methodology they use to determine school seat needs and to share how many children apply and get denied entrance at their school of choice (Local Law 167 of 2018 and Local Law 72 of 2018). Thank you to the parents and community leaders who helped my office along with fight, and thank you to the DOE, SCA and the Mayor for making this commitment. Now it's our job to make sure the promise is kept and we see a school being built soon. For more information read the coverage in Our Town and the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Secured 900 Pre-K Seats for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
When I took office there were 124 Pre-K slots on the Upper East Side. Since then with the collaboration of community leaders and parents, we have been able to raise that to 1,100 seats for families on the Upper East Side.
The Wall Street Journal reported on 400 new Pre-K seats coming to the Upper East Side. After years of fighting and pushing the Department of Education (DOE) for new facilities in this neighborhood, we are finally getting them. In late 2018 I cut the ribbon on a new 144 seat Pre-K facility located at 252 East 57th Street. I also cut the ribbon at a new Pre-K facility located at 1683 3rd Avenue and East 94th Street. The new 11,492 square foot site was constructed in partnership with Extell.
Back in May of 2018, the New York City School Construction Authority broke ground on construction of a new Pre-K facility located at 355 East 76th Street. That location, which is almost finished, will play a big role in meeting our neighborhood’s demand for seats needed in 2019.
With 900 new seats opening in total, we are taking big strides in fulfilling the need for Pre-K seats on the Upper East Side. Building by building we are working with the City to open up more Pre-K seats so that every four-year-old in my district can get the benefits of Pre-K without having to commute an hour away.
For more information, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases and coverage from The Wall Street Journal.
New Gym for Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Eleanor Roosevelt High School (ElRo) is getting a $6.5 million double-height gym for its students. The announcement, covered by Patch and Our Town, was attended by State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. The new gym will be the result of advocacy by ElRo students who worked with my office to start a petition on our website, which received over 5,000 signatures. The new gym will occupy the 6th floor of a new Pre-K center located at 355 East 76th Street. I commend Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to universal physical education. We are committed to working with him and the SCA to find gym space for all of our public school students on the Upper East Side. ElRo is now the third Upper East Side public school to get a gym. As reported by Our Town, I have also successfully worked to arrange a deal with the Spence School so it will open with a 54,000-square-foot athletics complex on East 90th Street, which will also allow physical education classes for P.S. 151, the Yorkville Community School, and P.S. 527, the East Side School for Social Action. For more information on the new gym, watch the announcement, read the release, or coverage in the Patch and Our Town.
Ending School Hunger with Free Breakfast and Lunch after the Bell
The New York Times covered how after years of advocacy with organizations like Lunch4Learning and Community Food Advocates, as of September 2017, all 1.1 million children who attend New York City public schools now have access to universal free lunch. No child enrolled in a New York City public school should go hungry in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. That is why I authored and passed Local Law 215 requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to set a goal of ending public student hunger and report on all school meals. We continue to ensure every one of our kids has the food they need, and recently won funding in this year’s budget for Breakfast After the Bell. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or coverage in The New York Times or an interview I did for CNBC.
Advancing Arts Education with Fifth Annual Student Show at Sotheby's
As a lover of the arts, I am proud to have sponsored and hosted annual Public School Art Shows at Sotheby's, where students see their work hanging in halls that have also hung works of art by famous artists such as Picasso and Rembrandt.
Thank you to the hundreds of parents, students, and teachers who make Sotheby’s public school Art Show a huge success. We are treated to hundreds of pieces of art by student artists from nearly a dozen public schools in the Upper East Side, with participants ranging from grade school kids to high school seniors. By working with Sotheby’s to give students this unique opportunity to display their artwork in a hall we hope to inspire them.
Thank you to P.S. 183 Principal Martin Woodard, University Council for Art Education Vice President Wan Ling Fahrer, and PTA President Patricia Correge for making this event such a special night. To see photos of the artwork, visit Facebook.com/BenKallos/photos
Investing in STEM Education
I’ve invested over $5.3 million in discretionary funding from my office to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education in our local public schools with new computers, smart boards and science labs. Technology is where tomorrow’s jobs are being created. For our kids to be ready for the future we have to invest in STEM courses that train them from an early age. Schools that have received or are set to receive these STEM upgrades include:
- P.S. 77 Lower Lab - $476,000 for mobile STEM carts, technology, laptops, and A/C.
- P.S. 151 Yorkville Community School - $143,000 for technology and laptops.
- P.S. 158 Bayard Taylor - $324,000 for technology and laptops.
- P.S. 183 Robert Stevenson - $1,467, 000 for technology upgrades, laptops, AC, New Science Lab
- P.S. 198 Isador Ida Straus - $425,500 for classrooms, technology, laptops, and A/C
- P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island - $330,000 for technology and laptops.
- P.S. 225 Ella Baker - $140,000 for laptops.
- P.S. 290 Manhattan New School - $110,000 for laptops.
- P.S. 527 East Side School for Social Action - $190,000 for theater and technology.
- M.S. 114 East Side Middle School - $247,000 for laptops, technology upgrades.
- M.S. 177 Yorkville East Middle School - $143,000 for technology and laptops.
- Eleanor Roosevelt High School - $234,000 for classrooms, technology, and laptops.
- Manhattan International High School - $305,000 for technology upgrades and laptops.
- Urban Academy High School - $248,000 for technology and laptops.
- Vanguard High School - $140,000 for technology and laptops.
- Talent Unlimited High School - $195,000 for auditorium and technology.
- Life Sciences Secondary and High School - $140,000 for technology and laptops.
Over the past four years, through participatory budgeting and other discretionary funding, I have provided over $5.9 million to build greens roofs at schools all over the District 5 including:
- P.S. 151 Yorkville Community School - $750,000 ($500,000 Participatory Budgeting)
- P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island – $1 million ($500,000 from Participatory Budgeting)
- P.S. 290 Manhattan New School - $1.52 Million ($500,000 from Participatory Budgeting)
- M.S. 114 East Side Middle School - $800,000
- Yorkville Community School $1,870,000 ($500,000 from Participatory Budgeting)
This will provide students an opportunity to be exposed to the future of energy and inspire them to look to careers of the future, as well as understand environmental protection.
Supporting Excelsior City and State University Scholarship
I am proud to have supported Governor Cuomo’s first in the nation Excelsior Scholarship for students whose families make $125,000 per year or less, who now qualify for free college tuition at all City (CUNY) and State (SUNY) two- and four-year colleges in New York State as long as they live in state. When I ran for office in 2013, one of the "fresh ideas" for which the New York Times endorsed me was providing a debt-free higher education for CUNY students where the City would forgive student debt for every year the student remained in New York City after graduation, so that the taxes from their increased income would pay for their education and more. The new program began in the fall of 2017 and will be phased in over three years. For details visit ny.gov/programs/tuition-free-degree-program-excelsior-scholarship.
Gender Sexuality Alliance in Public Schools Law Passed By Middle School Students
The New York Daily News covered legislation authored by students from Eastside Middle School and the Manhattan Leadership Council that I introduced and passed. This new law is aimed at helping LGBTQ students in New York City schools that may be victims of bullying. The law now forces reporting on which middle and high schools have a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, the number of teachers, principals, and administrators at each school who have received lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and gender non-conforming (LGBTQGNC) training. Thank you to East Side Middle School and the Manhattan Leadership Council whose student testimony and stories were crucial in getting the Council to support the legislation. For more information on the law read the BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opening and Collaborating with Cornell Tech
It was a historic occasion for Roosevelt Island as I joined City leaders and residents, including former and present mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, as well as Governor Cuomo, at the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of Cornell Tech’s energy efficient campus on Roosevelt Island. The state of the art facility was made possible in part by a generous donation on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg’s charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies. The campus will not only take part in critical technological advancements, but it will also create hundreds of new jobs on Roosevelt Island. By diligently working with community organizers and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, my office ensured that the construction project was done by barge and stayed on track without harming the Island. Cornell Tech will grow jobs and educate the next tech leaders right on Roosevelt Island, making sure that big thing is “Made In New York”. Cornell Tech is now in the process of attracting millions in investment on Roosevelt Island and in New York City. Since the Cornell Tech opened they have collaborated with my office on a number of events, including the "Ignite My future Initiative" and the Launching of TCS $50 Million Investment in Cornell Tech to Advance K-12 Digital Literacy in New York City Schools. For more information, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opening the Rockefeller University Campus
I joined Rockefeller University in opening the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Rockefeller River Campus in the spring of 2019 and cut the ribbon with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and Rockefeller University Executive Vice President Timothy O'Connor.
The $500 million research facility contains 160,000 square feet of both bio-medical and bioscience laboratories, which fits sleekly along the river-edge of the campus, rather than towering over the community. This will help New York City compete with cities like Boston and states like California for jobs in this field. Rockefeller University boasts 25 Nobel Laureates in the fields of medicine and science which I must finally admit is more than my alma mater the Bronx High School of Science which has 8 (the most for any high school in America). It has been exciting to see this project advance from coming before me at the City Council for a vote to the groundbreaking in 2015 to joining university officials in 2017 as they lowered large sections of the building on to the FDR from a barge in the East River overnight.
I am proud of this public-private partnership created between my office and the University showing that the city's land use process can work to the benefit of institutions and the community that also included a $15 million investment in the East River Esplanade from 63rd Street to 68th Street. We cut the ribbon last month and Rockefeller University has agreed as part of our partnership to maintain it in perpetuity.
I consider this world-class institution a true asset to the Upper East Side, the city, state, country and world at large. For more information on the new building, read the release or read the commitment letter from the University at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases.
Won Wage Parity for Pre-K Teachers
After years of fighting and advocating for wage parity in order to help New York City Pre-K teachers, in the spring of 2019, the mayor finally agreed to include funding to make equal pay a reality for the fiscal year 2020 budget. For five years now, many Pre-K teachers hired as a result of the new Universal Pre-K program received significantly lower salaries than their colleagues. Many of these teachers that were being paid less are women and people of color. Our years of advocacy with fellow council members will finally mean there is a wage parity between sexes and races. It is time that there should be equal pay for equal work for the rising costs of childcare in my district. Without equal pay, CBOs are having difficulty to keep their teachers. Learn more about this issue at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
GPS Monitors for New York City School Buses
As New York 1 reported, the state legislature passed a law that will allow New York City to pass my law to mount cameras on city school buses to automatically enforce stop arms. A study by the New York State Association of School Pupil Transportation estimated that 30,252 drivers statewide illegally passed a school bus on any given day. Of those, 280 drivers passed on the passenger side of the bus where students board and exit putting hundreds of children at risk. For example, so far in 2019, the NYPD reported writing over 700 citations for this same offense. In my recent op-ed in AmNY, I explained that the camera and GPS technology must be implemented as soon as possible to prevent a tragedy from happening. With these stop-arm cameras, authorities can not only automatically fine drivers but also access video files necessary for investigations. For more information on the stop arm bill read the release or my op-ed in AmNY or watch New York 1.
IMPROVING AND CREATING NEW PARKS
Additional $75 Million Secured for the East River Esplanade, Totaling $275 Million
As Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, I was proud to join Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver in announcing an additional $75 million in funding to repair the East River Esplanade. At the announcement we were joined by Community Boards 8, 11 and staff from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez and Council Member Diana Ayala. As Upper East Side Patch reported, the new money will be used to get repairs and improvements at three East River Esplanade projects:
- East Harlem: E. 114th to E. 117th streets - $25 million
- Upper East Side: E. 90th to E. 94th streets - $35.5 million
- Midtown East: E. 62nd to E. 63rd streets - $22.3 million
- Esplanade-wide Site Inspections: E. 60th to E. 125th streets - $21 million
We now have a total of $275 million dollars for the East River Esplanade:
- $1 million from my office in 2017 for irrigation from 96th to 90th Streets.
- Opened the 90th Street Pier in 2016 to the Public.
- $35 million for renovations from 90th to 88th Streets funded in 2014 with work started in 2017 for 2018 completion.
- $1.8 million from Council District 5 funding to modernize Carl Schurz Park Playground on 84th Street.
- $500,000 from my office in 2016 to renovate John Finley Walk following recommendations of CIVITAS from 84th to 81st.
- $1 million secured from Brearley to renovate the overhang above John Finley Walk following recommendations from CIVITAS from 83rd to 82nd.
- $15 million to rebuild the crumbling stairwell from 81st to 78th opened in 2017.
- $1 million secured from Hospital for Special Surgery for a master plan from 78th with irrigation, planters, and noise barriers from 72nd to 70th with maintenance in perpetuity.
- $1.25 million from my office in 2016 for irrigation and planters from 70th to 68th
- $10 million secured from Rockefeller University in 2014 for 68th to 62nd with work started in 2016 on a seawall, new design, irrigation, noise barriers, and maintenance in perpetuity.
- $29 million in public-private funding secured as a community benefit from Memorial Sloan Kettering to build Andrew Haswell Green Phase 2B from 61st to 60th.
- $4.6 million to rebuild Andrew Haswell Green under the Alice Aycock sculpture with accessibility, game tables, seating, and a new lawn opened in 2017.
- $100 million in funding in 2016 from the Mayor with completion slated for 2022 to connect the esplanade from 61st to 53rd.
Read more in Upper East Side Patch, read the release at BenKallos.com/press-release, or watch the press conference at BenKallos.com/video
Ribbon Cutting on $15 Million Esplanade Investment by Rockefeller University
As Co-Chairs of the East River Esplanade Taskforce, Congress Member Maloney and I cut the ribbon on a $15 million public/private partnership that repaired and refurbished, a crumbling seawall and dilapidated stretch of the East River Esplanade from East 63rd Street to East 68th. We were joined by Manhattan Parks Borough Commissioner William Castro as a well as Rockefeller University Executive Vice President Timothy O’Connor.
As Upper East Side Patch reported, the $15 million project to improve the East River Esplanade emerged with my conversations with Rockefeller and Mayor Bill de Blasio during conversations around city approval for Rockefeller’s $500 million laboratory building, a construction project that is adding 160,000 square feet of modern, modular lab space to replacing aging facilities. The University spent approximately $15 million on seawall repairs and esplanade improvements and committed to maintaining the landscaping of this section of the Esplanade in perpetuity. At my request, the investment by Rockefeller University was then matched by Mayor de Blasio with an initial $35 million investment in 2014.
The Rockefeller University also made a $150,000 gift to Friends of the East River Esplanade, a grass-roots conservancy dedicated to the restoration and renovation of the Esplanade from 60th to 120th Streets. Watch coverage of the ribbon cutting at BenKallos.com/Videos or from New York 1.
$100 million for East River Greenway Construction on Esplanade for 53rd through 61st Streets
In 2017 the final design plans for the East River Greenway construction were announced. The $100 Million project is in the process of connecting the gap on the East River Esplanade between 53rd and 61st streets. We made the formal announcement alongside the Mayor, other Eastside elected. This extension to the greenway puts Manhattan a little closer to having a 32-mile contiguous walkway and bicycle path around the island. For more information watch the press conference or visit BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
$336,000 for New Security Cameras in Hard to Patrol Parks
Location of new NYPD security cameras:
Hard-to-Patrol Parks - $160,000
- 64th Street and FDR Drive to cover pedestrian bridge and Andrew Haswell Green - $35,000
- FDR Drive at 65th Street and 68th Street to cover East River Esplanade - $90,000
- 70th Street to cover the East River Esplanade - $35,000
Transit Hub - $141,000
- 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue to cover Q subway station
- 86th Street at 2nd Avenue to cover Q subway station
- 86th Street at 3rd Avenue to cover 4/5/6 and Q subway stations
- 86th Street and Lexington Avenue to cover 4/5/6 station
Quality of Life Hotspots - $35,000
- 75th Street and 1st Avenue to cover local quality of life hotspot
The cameras are linked directly to the 19th Precinct using fiber optics and the innovative ARGUS system with the intention to provide immediate police responses to criminal activity. NYPD officers are inconvenienced in patrols at the location due to it being only accessible via the pedestrian bridge on 63rd or 70th Street.
For more details on the new cameras along the East River Esplanade and on East 86th Street be sure to read Patch’s coverage or watch the press conference at BenKallos.com/videos.
Completed $16 million Pedestrian Bridge at 81st Street
Our efforts to improve the East River Esplanade and make it accessible to all residents reached an important milestone in late 2017. Joined by New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and officials from the New York City Department of Design and Construction, we cut the ribbon on the East 81st Street Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge connects the East River Esplanade’s lower level to the upper promenade, known as the John Finley Walk, with an ADA-accessible ramp. The $16 million construction, replaced the old, deteriorated bridge, which had been there since 1942. The new bridge features several design improvements suggested by City agencies, my office, CIVITAS, Community Board 8, and the East 79th St Neighborhood Association. The new pedestrian bridge features glass walls to preserve beautiful views of the East River, stainless steel railings and fencing, fresh concrete and new bridge bearings. For more information on the project, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opened a New Park on East 90th Street Pier
In late 2016, alongside Congress Member Carolyn Maloney and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, I inaugurated the 90th Street Pier Park. Now there are an additional 2,000 square feet of new parkland on the Upper East Side. Thank you to Friends of the East River Esplanade chair Jennifer Ratner for helping make this park a reality for the community. Since 2014, I have been advocating for the Department of Transportation and the New York City Parks Department to work together with local leaders to turn this unused space into a much-needed park. Read more about the new 90th Street Pier Park in the Upper East Side Patch and Manhattan Express.
Completed: $1 Million in Renovations of the East River Esplanade Along HSS’ Sections
Since I was elected, I've been working to establish public-private partnerships to renovate and care for the East River Esplanade in perpetuity. In 2015, as part of a approval for a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for new construction, I asked Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) to renovate the esplanade from 70th to 72nd street and create a master plan from from 70th to 78th street for future construction and care for that stretch of land in perpetuity. In October of 2017, I had the pleasure of breaking ground on this new partnership with the President and CEO for HHS, Louis A. Shapiro, Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Parks Manhattan Commissioner Bill Castro, and Friends of the East River Esplanade President Jennifer Ratner. In working with my office, HSS agreed to:
- Master Plan – Work with key community stakeholders to develop a Master Plan for the East River Esplanade from 62nd Street to 78th Street, in partnership with Rockefeller University, led by the Council Member.
- Noise Barriers – Noise barriers eight-feet in height under its East Wing Building between East 70th and East 71st Street.
- Water Fountain and Irrigation – Water for the Esplanade at 71st Street for a water fountain and irrigation to keep plants alive.
- Greening the Esplanade – Key esplanade improvements between 70th and 72nd include:
- New planting beds and landscaping,
- Improved lighting through repair and replacement of light fixtures,
- Repair and repainting of railings as well as new seating and paving.
- Maintenance in Perpetuity – Maintenance in perpetuity provided by HSS from 70th street to 72nd street for the landscaping, seating, lighting, water fountain, and water source.
For more information read coverage on Patch, the release, or watch the press conference at BenKallos.com/videos.
James Cagney Place Recognized as Official Pedestrian Plaza
When I got elected over five years ago I promised I would protect as much open space as possible on the Upper East Side. This is why I was proud officially designate James Cagney Place, which has been closed off from traffic since I was a boy, as an official Pedestrian Plaza!
Thank you to Community Board 8 Members Rita Popper and David Rosenstein, R-Y Management, as well as the Department of Transportation for their partnership in making this happen. The Plaza now holds great events including a New Year’s Eve Fun Run. You can even watch the tree lighting and sing-along that I attended with Assembly Member Dan Quart. For more information on the work that went into getting accomplished read the release or read the coverage in Our Town and Patch.
Secured One Million Dollar Public-Private Partnership with Brearley to Repair Overhang Above the Esplanade
As reported by Our Town the overhang or pier structure located between 82nd and 83rd Streets on the East River Esplanade’s John Finley Walk will be getting a million dollar makeover, thanks to a public-private between my office, the Brearley School, CIVITAS and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. The structure, which has been on the Esplanade for decades, has for a long time been in need of repair and maintenance. When I realized the Brearley School’s lease was up for renewal with the City, I began talks with the school and the City on a plan that would benefit the community as a whole. We partnered with CIVITAS and conducted a survey in the neighborhood about what residents wanted to do with the pier, and we brought the suggestions and feedback we received back to the school.
Some of the work Brearley will undertake includes:
- Million Dollars to Rehabilitate the Pier: Repair Leaks, Removing Netting, Remove Chain Link Fence, New Fencing, and Ongoing Maintenance.
- Contemporary Lighting for Public Safety. Contemporary lighting will be installed in strips along the building wall to provide sleek lighting for public safety without impacting neighbors. The groundwork for additional lighting will be included for installation if necessary.
- Green Wall. Privacy barriers will be green, with planters and climbing plants to create a living wall visible to pedestrians below, with a south wall of six to eight feet and a north wall of four feet to reduce shadows cast to the Esplanade below.
- Planters, Water, and Conservancy. Planters will be provided to the south at the entrances to John Finley Walk at 81st, 82nd, 83rd and 84th Streets, with seasonal plantings fed with water from the school and cared for through a partnership with the city and community.
- Colorful Public Design. Brearley and Council Member Ben Kallos will work with CIVITAS to seek public feedback on colors and patterns from the community for structural surfaces.
For more information on the million dollar investment Brearley will make to the pier see read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or coverage in Patch.
Opening the Oval for Free Tennis
The Queensboro Oval will be opened to the public with an expanded summer session, more affordable drop-in hours, and new programming on Father’s Day 2019 to mark the beginning of a more accessible Oval for all New Yorkers. The change comes after years of our advocacy alongside my fellow elected officials and Community Board 8. The Parks Department listened to our concerns that the prices at the tennis club were expensive and that public access should be the top priority when awarding the next contract. Some of the victories we won for the community include:
- An expansion of the summer public access season from 10 weeks under the old contract to 22 weeks of FREE tennis for anyone with a tennis permit from the Parks Department for $10 for youth, $20 for seniors, or $100.
- $10 walk-in rate hours for six hours a day during the Winter Season
- Free and $10 per person programs for Youth and Seniors during the Winter Season
My advocacy to fix this issue involved supporting a rally at the space in 2016 organized by Community Board 8 members Susan Evans and Peggy Price. Last year I also wrote a letter to the Parks Department in which I raised several concerns and this past month I testified before the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) and the Parks Department. Now that Parks has awarded the new contract I and listened to many of my request on behalf of residents I am looking forward to seeing the community be able to enjoy this land. For more info visit nycgovparks.org/parks/queensboro-oval/facilities/tennis
Conservancies and Funding for Local Parks
There is less park space per resident on the Upper East Side than almost anywhere else in the City, which means we need to invest and care for every inch. I’ve been proud to help fund or support numerous conservancies including for Sutton Place Parks ($52,500 since 2015), East River Esplanade ($41,000 since 2014), St. Catherine’s Park ($47,000 since 2014), John Jay Park ($37,500 since 2016), and Upper Green Side ($25,000 since 2015). Capital funding from my office amounted to:
- Carl Schurz Playground - $2.5 million
- Sutton Place Park Play Water Fountain (to Replace the Sand Pit) - $675,000 ($500,000 from the Speaker)
- John Jay Park Senior Space - $350,000
As sea levels rise, and New York City continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy, we need to do as much as we can to protect our City from the dangers of climate change. In 2016, legislation I introduced to revive the Waterfront Management Advisory Board (WMAB) became law. This legislation reconstituted the role of the City’s Waterfront Management Advisory Board, ensuring it plays an important part in advising New York City on how to best revitalize and protect our 520 miles of shoreline. Under the new law, membership to the board is expanded to include more diverse voices as well as every level of government. Read the law and release with the full list of benefits, and from coverage on SiLive.com.
Play in Our Parks
FIGHTING OVERDEVELOPMENT AND FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Closing the Voids Loophole and Starting a Study of “Gerrymandered” Lots
Following my election in 2014, I've held numerous public meetings on over-development and invested member item funding into community-based non-profits focused on preservation and planning to address the issue.
Advances in construction technology combined with a real estate market incentivizing apartments for billionaires led to buildings like 432 Park, which got 25% of its super tall height by exploiting the mechanical voids loophole. Voids are large spaces in a building meant to house mechanicals, but when abused are mostly empty and used to add height to the building because they currently do not count as zoning floor area.
We won another victory against supertalls by strengthening and passing a zoning text amendment addressing empty spaces in buildings that are used to prop up apartments to give billionaires better views. In May of 2019, the City Planning Commission also committed to exploring minimum lot size for non-residential projects.
As reported by Curbed, this commitment comes in response to my advocacy with Borough President Brewer, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, and Carnegie Hill Neighbors. We have called on City Planning to ban “gerrymandered” lots that enable developers from slicing off tiny slivers of land to abuse loopholes that otherwise would trigger zoning and height caps. One example is 180 East 88th Street, where the developer created an unbuildable zoning lot to exempt the building from the residential height restrictions it would otherwise have to follow. Read my full statement on at BenKallos.com/press-releases or read coverage from Curbed.
Sutton Super-Tall Fight to Uphold Community Rezoning in Court
Since late 2017 when together we accomplished what many described as impossible, winning the first of its kind grass-roots community rezoning in this City for the Sutton Area, I have been in court alongside attorney Michael Hiller before Judge Debra A. James trying to force the proposed tower at 428-432 East 58th Street adhere to tower on base standards, which require 45 to 55 percent of the building to be built below 150 feet, thus limiting the height of the building.
After years of out-of-control out-of-scale over-development, I wanted to put residents over real estate, and we did.
With the invaluable help of the committed members of the East River Fifties Alliance, we stopped the march of super-tall buildings for billionaires from 57th Street into the Sutton Area. The rezoning removed the grandfather clause and will protect the Sutton Area East of First Avenue from 52nd to 59th st from supertall towers by limiting zoning lot mergers, limiting the width of towers, and forcing most of the air rights to be used in the base of a building.
We were able to accomplish this thanks to the support of residents like you. Heroes like Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez stood up to buyouts and threats from billionaires. Leaders like Dieter Seelig, former President of the Sutton Area Community got us started and Alan Kersh, Robert Shepler, Jessica Osborn, and Lisa Mercurio put countless volunteer hours into ERFA. R
Read the local coverage on historic rezoning and if you have not already joined the fight against overdevelopment at BenKallos.com/petition/StopSuperScrapers
Thousands of Subsidized Units will Return to Affordable Housing Under Legislation I Authored
The Wall Street Journal reported on the thousands of units of affordable housing that will now be registered and available to the public after Introduction 1015-A which I authored, aged into law in January of 2018. The new law requires landlords who receive tax breaks for building affordable housing to register thousands of previously unaccounted for units or face steep fines. The law also seeks to solve problems that have long plagued New York City’s decentralized network of affordable housing by requiring upgrades of Housing Connect to include existing affordable housing with notification for eligible units so residents can apply all in one place. This legislation which was introduced with the support of Manhattan Borough President Brewer came about in response to a ProPublica report estimating that New York City has paid developers $100 million for 50,000 affordable units that might not be offered for affordable rates. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or coverage in the Wall Street Journal.
Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise in New York City
As Fox 5 reported, noise has been New York City’s top 311 complaint for years. Construction at all hours of the day and morning and sometimes night is something too many New Yorkers are familiar with. In 2017 The New York Times covered a bill authored that went on to become law which requires the city to respond to noise complaints about nightlife and construction within two hours or on a subsequent day within an hour of the time of the complaint. The law is designed to increase the likelihood that inspectors will identify the source of the noise, issue a violation, and restore quiet. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or coverage in the New York Daily News.
Successfully Created and Protected Thousands of Units of Affordable Housing
More than six thousand units of affordable housing were created or preserved under my tenure as chair of the Land Use Subcommittee on Planning Dispositions and Concessions. My favorite part of the committee was asking developers to share where residents watching at home could get jobs as part of their local hire requirements.
During my time there I:
- Exposed high subsidies on affordable housing properties that almost had to pay the Mansion Tax
- Took on the homeless crisis by sponsoring legislation to mandate a 15% homeless set aside for all subsidized affordable housing
- Questioned whether low wages on city-subsidized projects was making the affordable housing crisis worse and introduced legislation to pay construction workers better
- Stood up for small businesses and secured affordable storefronts to support mom and pop shops
- Pushed for real affordability for local residents by consistently raising concerns that developers were receiving government subsidies to build housing set for incomes that would gentrify low-income communities of color
- Introduced legislation to force affordable housing developers to disclose their relationships with politicians
The Wall Street Journal has even reported that the numbers support our cause. Join our fight BenKallos.com/petition/RentRollBack
Safer Construction with Law to Count Every Life
From 2015 through 2017, a record 33 construction workers have been killed on the job in New York City, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Buildings (DOB) does not count all of them, especially non-workers who are injured. The New York Daily News reported on the Constructions Safety legislation that introduced and recently became law. Under Local Law 78 of 2017 construction companies will be forced to report on all details surrounding injuries and deaths at constructions sites or face fines up to $25,000. We must count every injury and every life, so that we will know the who, what, where and why around every injury or death to help make construction in our city safer. For more information read coverage in the New York Daily News or watch NY1.
Freezing Rents for Seniors and Disabled New Yorkers
I was proud to cosponsor and vote for an expansion of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). The legislation expanded income eligibility for those receiving SCRIE and DRIE benefits to $50,000 from $29,000 – which will help many more seniors and disabled residents live at ease in New York City. Learn more at NYC.gov/RentFreeze
Ending Downsizing of Seniors into Studio Apartments
We rallied together with tenants to demand a moratorium on Section 8 Downsizing, a policy that was pushing seniors and disabled New Yorkers into smaller homes. Since then, we have won a huge victory as HPD has ceased downsizing of elderly couples and families from one bedroom to studio apartments. Learn more at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Protected Quiet Side Streets on the Mid-Block from Overdevelopment
When the Mayor’s housing plan called for adding height to the contextual height caps that protect the East Side’s quiet side streets, I opposed the measure with Borough President Gale Brewer and Senator Liz Krueger, so developers wouldn’t tear down rent-stabilized buildings to get more height. The Department of City Planning heard us and agreed to protect the midblock.
Mandatory Affordable Housing for New Neighborhood Plans
As amended and passed by the City Council, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (MIH/ZQA) requires new affordable housing to be built whenever developers are given additional height or density to build in Manhattan.
In ZQA I fought for and won:
- No height increases in R8B districts protecting the quiet midblock with a 75-foot height cap on the East Side.
- Reduced height increases, bringing the maximum R10A increase from 50 feet to 25 feet with different heights for narrow and wide streets of 210 feet and 235 feet.
- Protected seniors from being squeezed into 275 square foot micro units.
- Protected the Sliver Law which prevents towers narrower than 40 feet wide.
In MIH I fought for and won:
- Housing for lower-income New Yorkers at 40 percent of Area Median Income (AMI): $31,000 for a family of three.
- An additional option for 20 percent at 40 percent of AMI.
- Required HPD to track, register, and monitor new affordable housing as would be required by Introduction 1015, legislation I authored. Learn more at BenKallos.com/MIH-ZQA
After marking the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law during my first term, the law came under attack, first with a proposal to remove hundreds of buildings from protection without review, and then with legislation that would have created a five-year moratorium incentivizing historic communities to be razed. In response and in opposition we forced the Landmarks Preservation Commission to review each and every site in the backlog and a version of the legislation did pass in 2016, after my advocacy it was amended to remove the moratorium and added more time. Read my statement at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
As a result of the work I have done in order to preserve buildings in our City, I honored to receive a Grassroots Preservation Award from the Historic Districts Council (HDC). I have great respect for HDC because of the work they do to keep New York quintessentially New York. HDC has been a valuable partner while I have been in office, contributing to my fight against over-development. In the over five years since I took office, I have worked with HDC on more issues than we ever could have expected, including:
- Protecting the First Avenue Estates’ landmark status from appeal;
- Stopping the Landmarks Mass De-calendaring;
- Fighting Introduction 775, the bill that would shorten the landmarking timeline and institute five-year landmarking moratorium;
- Protecting the Sliver Law, Mid-Block, and Historic Districts from MIH/ZQA;
- Landmarking the Wooden House at 412 East 85th Street;
- Authored and passed into law reforms to Board of Standards and Appeals that will make it harder to have laws that protect landmarks waived for developers;
- Landmarking First Hungarian Reformed Church of New York
- Landmarking The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York Headquarters
For more information on the latest landmarks visit BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opening New Free and Affordable Art Spaces with ChaShaMa
With a blight of empty storefronts I have partnered with the non-profit arts organization ChaShaMa to turn empty storefronts throughout the city into art spaces. We cut the ribbon on a new art space at 340 East 64th Street in the spring of 2019 featuring work by young immigrant artists.
Read more on the gallery’s opening at BenKallos.com/Press-release
Opening Up Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS)
PIX 11 covered how over 538 publicly owned spaces or (POPS) that are attached to 329 buildings now have the provide the amenities they promised or face steep fines for bad landlords who do not follow the rules, thanks to legislation passed by the council which I helped author. The law I authored requires additional signage of all POPS detailing amenities, hours of operation, along with a website for the public to find out more information where complaints can be registered. For more information read the coverage by Wall Street Journal or the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Passed Tenant Safety Legislation
A package of legislation totaling 12 bills some of which I authored aimed at stopping landlord-tenant harassment in New York City became law in 2017. Whether it is unreasonable construction noise or safety violations by landlords putting tenants at risk this is a pressing issue in our City that needs to be stopped. My legislation, Int. 931 would force landlords and property owners to actually respond to the violations and summonses they are given by the City for failing to make repairs, or else face the threat of foreclosure on their properties. For far too long some landlords and building owners have neither fixed recurring problems on their properties nor paid the fines that go along with those violations, putting tenants in unsafe conditions sometimes for years on end. If my bill becomes law, that would stop. For more information on my bill and the rest of the package of legislation read the Stand for Tenant Safety release and coverage in City Land.
Reformed the Board of Standards and Appeals
Legislation I authored designed to reform and improve the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) became law in 2017. In the past developers have been able to circumvent city zoning laws restricting building forms, use, height, density by using the BSA as a rubber stamp. The changes and variances have been approved by the BSA despite objections from local Community Boards and elected officials. This legislation which I am proud of how it changed how applications, decisions, notifications and staffing is done. The legislation has also improved transparency at the BSA.
The BSA is a five-member body tasked with reviewing requests for variances and special permits related to affordable housing and city planning in the zoning law. The legislative package included nine bills and featured bipartisan support from sponsors from myself, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Minority Leader Steven Matteo, Council Members Karen Koslowitz (D-29) and Donovan Richards (D-31). For more information on the laws read the coverage in Commercial Observer, Queens Chronicle, Sunny Side Post and the Staten Island Advance.
Opened New Affordable Housing on East 60th Street
In early 2018, I was proud to cut the ribbon on 100% affordable housing for middle-income New Yorkers in our district. We worked with the New York City Housing and Preservation Department and Azimuth Development through the City Council to provide a decades longs tax exemption for the developer to build and keep this housing permanently affordable. For more information read the release or watch the press conference.
Extell Development CEO Gary Barnett and I cut the ribbon on 28 units of affordable housing on the corner of 92nd Street and 2nd Avenue. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was preceded by songs from a class of three-year-olds from Alef-Bet Preschool that will relocate to the building’s ground floor. Applications on City’s Housing Connect lottery system for the 28 units of affordable housing closed in April 2019.
In total, 68,000 New Yorkers applied for the two to three bedroom units that are perfect for new families that will have childcare right in their building. Thank you, Gary Barnett, for building a model of affordable housing investing $14 million to build affordable housing on the Upper East Side using as of right benefits without any discretionary city subsidies. Read the release, watch the video, or learn more from Patch.
GOOD GOVERNMENT REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY
We Are Getting Big Money Out of New York City Politics
For more than a decade, I have been fighting to get big money out of New York City politics. Finally, in the spring of 2019, the City Council passed Int. 732-B, which I authored. This legislation expands the new campaign finance laws overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters on November 6, 2018 from only matching 75% of contributions to matching them at 89.89%.
The legislation follows Local Law 1 of 2019, which I also authored. That law applied Ballot Question #1 from the 2018 election to the Public Advocates election. The results of the election demonstrated that the new system works. by flipping how campaigns are finance upside down. Big money no longer made up the three-quarters of campaign cash and was replaced by small dollars that now make up almost two-thirds of campaign cash. For the first time, a candidate won citywide office with a pledge not to take real estate money.
The evidence shows that increasing to a full match of every small dollar will decrease big money and increase small dollars in elections. In addition, in a system where every small dollar is matched, big money, such as PAC money and lobbyist money, that is not matched is far less valuable.
During my first term in 2016, I worked to pass Introduction 1130-A which gained 34 sponsors but did not come to a vote. Now, in my second term, my full public matching Introduction 732-B did pass and will be taking even more big money out of New York City politics By passing this legislation, City government is taking a big step in the fight against corruption and even the appearance of it. For more information on this legislation read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Join the fight to get big money out of New York City politics at BenKallos.com/BIGMONEYOUT
Appointed to Bring Oversight to City Contracts
As Chair of the Committee on Contracts, I oversee $15 billion in citywide spending and procurement policies and procedures, government and collection agency contracts, as well as the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and the Procurement Policy Board. I am bringing the same scrutiny to this role that I applied in my former role as chair of the subcommittee on Planning Dispositions and Concessions. I plan to carry on the legacy of Congress Member Carolyn Maloney who founded the committee when she was a Council Member and used it to fight corruption and waste. If you are aware of any instance where New York City is wasting money through its contracts, blow the whistle by emailing my office at BKallos@BenKallos.com.
Charter Revision: Won Term Limits for Community Boards and Urban Planners
In 2018, I supported and advocated for the passage of all three ballot initiatives posed before New Yorkers; I am proud to have helped push them through.
Ballot Question 3 imposed term limits on Community Board Members and gave community boards the ability and resources to hire Urban planners and planning professionals to strengthen their voice and input with the expertise they need to stand up to developers. Term limits are crucial for democracy. I am glad we have them on the federal level for president and I know on the local level they will help get more New Yorkers involved. My advocacy for this measure goes back to before I was in office when I was a member of Community Board 8. In the City Council, I introduced Int. 585 of 2014 with Council Member Daniel Dromm to establish term limits for the boards, and I am pleased that New Yorkers have supported this measure on the ballot. For more information read the release at BenKallos.Com/Press-Releases
Eliminated Outside Income and Legal “Grease”
When I ran for office, I promised to work for you full time without taking money on the side from private employment as a lawyer. I also promised to work for you, not the Speaker of the City Council, foregoing the common practice of receiving tens of thousands in personal income called a “lulu” for being a Committee Chair, which the Daily News long called “legal grease.” 47 Council Members were offered a stipend of between $5,000 and $25,000 for serving as committee chairs or leadership. 34 council members made a pledge to Citizens Union as council candidates in 2013 to limit stipends to the Speaker and Minority Leader. Despite their pledges, only 10 members refused the money in 2014 and for their entire terms with two more joining in 2015. I kept my pledge, and the Daily News saluted my integrity calling me a “Hero” and I wrote the law that made outside income and lulus illegal so that all city elected officials would work exclusively for their constituents.
Online Voter Registration Becomes Law In New York City
In the 21st Century, democracy should be just one click away. CBS 2 and New York 1 covered my law allowing residents of New York City to register to vote entirely online. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia offer different forms of online voter registration and soon New York City will be one of them. For more information on the law read the release or coverage by WNYC and the New York Dailey News or watch the bill signing at BenKallos.com/videos
Opened the City Budget to the Public
In late 2017, how New York City spends its budget got a lot more transparent as legislation I introduced which requires all documents that pertain to New York City’s budget be released to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and posted onto their website. Since I was elected I advocated that every New Yorker should be able to see how every penny of their tax dollars was being spent. In May of 2016 I introduced the Open Budget bill. Intro 1776 requires budget documents that previously were excluded from being published online to be published. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Weakened the Influence of Specials Interest Money in Politics
New York City’s model campaign finance system was protected and improved by a package of legislation the Council passed into law in December of 2016, as reported by the New York Daily News and the Gotham Gazette.
We passed the following key laws:
- Closing Campaign for One New York Loophole (Law 181 of ’16, co-prime sponsor) – by limiting contributions to non-profits controlled by elected officials and disclosing donors.
- Quelling Special Interests Dollars (Law 167 of ‘16) – by ending the practice of matching funds bundled by lobbyists and special interests with public dollars.
- Early Public Fund Payments (Law 168 of ‘16) – to help campaigns that take public dollars get on the ballot and reach voters.
- Better Debates (Law 169 of ‘16) – by only including campaigns that are spending money to win.
- Save Paper and Money on Voter Guide (Law 170 of ’16) – by allowing voters to opt-out of receiving mailers.
- Same Day and Online Registration Advocacy (Res. 1061 of ’16) – to pass state constitutional amendment.
Following problems at the Board of Elections in the presidential primary, the City Council passed my Voter Information Portal legislation into law. Nearly ten years after I launched VoterSearch.org, the portal will allow any voter to look up their voter registration status, poll site location, and voting history. It allows voters to track the status of an absentee ballot from request to submission, ensuring that even if someone can't physically vote at a poll site, they can still ensure their ballot gets counted. Had this voter portal been in place for April's primary election, hundreds of thousands of voters would not have had to find out they could not vote at their poll sites, when, for many, it was too late to do anything to fix it.
Won Affordable High-Speed Internet for Low-Income New Yorkers
In 2013, I promised to secure affordable broadband for low-income New Yorkers from our Internet franchisers. In 2015, when Charter Communications sought to merge with Time Warner Cable, I joined Public Advocate James testifying at hearings and advocating for the Public Service Commission to require any company acquiring Time Warner Cable help bridge the digital divide by providing low-income residents with low-cost, high-speed broadband Internet.
In March of 2017, I fulfilled my promise by announcing Spectrum Internet Assist, a new low-cost, high-speed broadband program, alongside Public Advocate Letitia James and Charter Communications. It is my hope that this initiative will help close the digital divide by providing nearly one million people with affordable high-speed Internet access for the first time.
Spectrum Internet Assist
$14.99 per month for 30 Mbps downloads and 4 Mbps uploads, email and more
No contract, no cost for modem and no activation fees
Eligibility: Families with children in public schools who receive free or reduced-cost lunch &
Seniors (over 65) who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
For more information read the release, see the coverage on NBC 4, NY1, DNAinfo or West Side Spirit, or visit www.SpectrumInternetAssist.com.
Millions for the Community Voted for by Residents in Participatory Budgeting
Since taking office I have taken part in the Council’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) initiative. PB is a hyper-local process in which residents directly decide how to spend part of their Council Member’s discretionary funds. In other words, you get to decide how your tax dollars get spent. PB is grassroots democracy at its best. It helps make budget decisions clear and accessible. It gives real power to people who have never before been involved in the political process. And it results in better budget decisions - because who better knows the needs of our community than the people who live there? Learn more at BenKallos.com/PB
Demanded Answers on the Rivington Nursing Home Scandal
As the former chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, I held a series of oversight hearings, covered in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, where we have investigated and got many answers about what really happened at the Rivington nursing home. After deed restrictions were lifted, the property was sold becoming luxury condos. By questioning City Hall officials under oath and in public, we got a detailed account of what went wrong and passed a law to prevent it from happening again. Now, as covered by the Daily News, the City is putting new deed restriction modification applications through a new review process that includes greater community input.
Focusing on Better Management
Since I took office, I have argued that the city needs to use the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) effectively and transparently so that New Yorkers can judge for themselves how well our city is being managed. As the Wall Street Journal reported, I warned that the “bar was being set too low” in the MMR on important issues like public safety, public health, or helping homeless off the streets. After three years of work on this issue as chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, we have made significant progress. In late 2016, the Mayor’s Office of Operations announced that agency rulemaking and agency spending would now be more transparent and accurate in its reporting. The Citizens Budget Commission supports my assertion that New Yorkers should have details on how their tax dollars are being invested in improving our city. The Mayor’s administration had made a commitment to continue to work together on getting our management reporting and the city back on track. HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Healthy Happy Meals Becomes Law
Kids’ meals are in for a change thanks to a new law I authored that was featured on NBC 4. From the iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal to a kids’ meal at your local diner, water, low-fat milk, and 100% fruit juice will be the “new normal” instead of sodas that are high in sugar. Thanks to the support of Speaker Corey Johnson who secured the endorsement of the American Beverage Association clearing the way for passage by the New York City Council.
Obesity is an epidemic in New York City. More than half of adults are overweight or obese, according to NYC Health. Obesity is starting early in life: with 1 in 5 kindergarten students entering school already obese. The American Heart Association recommends that children limit consumption to one or fewer 8-oz sugar-sweetened beverage per week.
My legislation requires that all 24,000 restaurants in New York City with kids meals on their menu make water, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice the default beverage instead of soda. Under Introduction 1064-B parents could still choose soda or any other beverage, however, the healthy options would be displayed in menus and advertisements. Scientific research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a typical kid’s meal soda can contain more than nine teaspoons of sugar. Changing the default meal option would have a positive impact on reducing caloric intake and obesity in children. Industry giant McDonald’s has already been compliant with this legislation as they removed soda from Happy Meal menu boards in 2013. Empirical evidence demonstrates that changing the default beverages has produced positive results. As of 2017 more than half of Happy Meals served in the U.S. included water, milk or juice as the beverage of choice rather than soda. For more information on the legislation read coverage in the New York Post or check out the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention Law Passes
In 2017 an elderly woman died and six others were sickened as a result of a Legionnaires Disease cluster in my district. Thanks to a law I co-sponsored in 2015 we knew where the cooling towers were in order to test over 100 and clean them to prevent anyone else from getting sick.
In 2018, WNYC found that 20% of the cooling towers—over 1,000—in the city were not being inspected every 90-days as required. To correct the problem which I later found to be even more widespread at 44% of the cooling towers, I authored and passed Introduction 1149 which will require buildings to notify the city after every 90-day inspection and if they fail to do so, the Department of Health can immediately issue a violation and send out an inspector to keep us safe and prevent the spread of this deadly disease.
For more information read the release or press coverage from WNYC
Fresh Food Box
Fresh Food Box which began as a pilot program between my office and Grow NYC back in the spring of 2016 is now a fan favorite for residents. In just two years the program has served hundreds of residents looking to get locally grown farm fresh vegetables at an affordable price.
Fresh Food Box is at my district office on Thursdays between 3:30pm and 6:30pm. The program allows you to place your order and pay just $14 (cash, credit/debit, SNAP/food stamps, greenmarket bucks) and pick up a bag of farm fresh produce the following week.
GrowNYC's Fresh Food Box Program lets customers benefit from fresh farm to table produce from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, with the flexibility of week-to-week purchasing.
Sign-ups begin every year in June and the season runs through November. Learn more visit grownyc.org/greenmarketco/foodbox
Composting on the Upper East Side
Compost On-the-Go is a new program from GrowNYC’s zero waste initiatives funded by the NYC Department of Sanitation. Compost On–the-Go increases access to food waste composting for New Yorkers in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. Conveniently located near transit, drop-off sites are staffed by friendly compost coordinators ready to accept fruit and vegetable scraps as residents head out to start the day.
As the New York Times reported getting residents to compost can be tough, so to support the effort and the program I joined a team of GrowNYC volunteers and employees at the 96th Street & Lexington Ave (6 Train) station on Thursday, July 20th at 10am. Residents who wish to participate in composting are encouraged to drop off acceptable items every Wednesday from 7:15 am to 10:30am. DSNY will transport collected scraps to a regional facility to be transformed into compost. For more information on the program read the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
City Council Passes Automatic Benefits Study
No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in New York City, one of the wealthiest cities in the world. We are a City with hundreds of programs designed to help those in need. Over the past four years, I worked with experts in the Federal government, academia, non-profits, and the private sector to advance legislation and research the regulatory framework to legally provide benefits automatically, so New Yorkers get the benefits they qualify for. In our work, we have secured millions in funding to research Automatic Benefits policies and even helped make the software necessary freely available to the public. In December of 2017, the City Council passed a measure to study the feasibility and possible effectiveness of implementing my Automatic Benefits legislation. The city’s study is now well underway and it will save taxpayer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city and this plan. Later this year, we’ll have the information we need to eliminate the bureaucracy, and unnecessary hurdles that prevent our poorest from accessing and keeping the assistance they need to be lifted from poverty. For more information read the BenKallos.com/press-releases
QUALITY OF LIFE
Cleaning Up the Neighborhood with Wildcat Services
In January of 2018, Our Town reported on a pilot program that is still going on with Wildcat Services to clean the neighborhood with three-person crews who focus four-days a week on sweeping sidewalks and bike islands, cleaning gutters, drains of blockages, and removing litter from tree pits.
I paid for this new effort with $85,000 I allocated from the NYC Cleanup initiative. Bringing Wildcat to the neighborhood is part of my office’s ongoing work to improve cleanliness in the district and something I know we needed. The services come highly recommended as more than half of Council Districts have contracted their services and seen improvements.
ABC 7 reported on new legislation I have introduced to regulate how our City is using scaffolding and to make sure that the nearly 350 miles of scaffolding covering New York City' sidewalks are safe.
Under the current laws, scaffolding is self-certified for safety by the contractors who install it, without any independent inspection by the city’s Department of Buildings. Under my legislation, scaffolding would be required to undergo safety inspections by the Buildings Department every six months at the expense of the building owner with fees escalating to incentivize the scaffolding to go down.
Scaffolding is there to protect us from falling buildings, but what’s going to protect us from falling scaffolding? With scaffolding falling throughout our city, scaffolding companies have proven that they can’t be trusted to self-certify anymore. For more information read coverage in the New York Daily News and Gothamist.
In 2017 the City Council held a public hearing on my scaffolding bill (Int 1389). This hearing was a pivotal step in getting the City to reform the laws governing the use of scaffolding. Under my bill which is still undergoing changes and updates, Landlords would have up to 90 days to fix dangerous facade conditions and an additional 90 days for owners to fix dangerous conditions upon extension. After the 180 days, the city would step in do the work to correct the dangerous condition and bill the owner for all the costs.
Under the current version of this legislation, new construction would need to continue without more than seven days of interruption until the new development is safely capped off or completed. Exemptions in the legislation provide for weather, stop work orders, time awaiting permit renewals or in cases of safety risks. For more information on the bill see coverage in The New York Times, PIX11, FOX 5, New York 1.
A New Trash Can on Every Corner
We have cleaned up the Upper East Side with 284 new large trash cans covering 104 intersections, which I purchased with $154,780 in initiative funding from my office back in 2017. These new cans supplement the 38 I purchased in 2016 with $20,710 in initial funding as part of a successful pilot with the East 72nd and East 86th Street Neighborhood Associations. The East Sixties Neighborhood Association (ESNA) joined prior participants in requesting an expansion. The large cans feature a smaller opening designed to keep trash from spilling over onto the street with reports from the pilot of a decrease in litter and rodents. In addition to these efforts alongside DSNY, I continue to work to get a Business Improvement District (BID) organized that will help keep the streets clean in perpetuity. Learn more about the cleanup efforts by reading the most recent press releases on the 284 trash cans, watching the press conference or WNBC or reading coverage in the Patch and DNAinfo. I promised to replace every small wire trash can with a new large trash can on every corner that needs one and add another on those corners that need it, so please email me at BKallos@BenKallos.com to request your new large trash can if you still see the wire cans in your part of the neighborhood.
Improved Quality of Life Enforcement
As reported by the Daily News more than $1.6 billion in quality of life violations are in the process of being collected by the City after legislation I introduced became law and went into effect. Environmental Control Board (ECB) or quality of live violations are issued to owners who do not clean or shoveling sidewalks, leave out excessive trash, or engage in noisy construction before or after hours. Prior to this package of legislation becoming law, many of the fines would go unpaid or paid as a “cost of doing business.” Prior to my law going into effect, we offered an amnesty program through the Department of Finance to pay any outstanding violations without penalties or interest. This new law ensures that bad actors change their behavior or face the consequence of losing their license. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Supporting the Homeless with ETHOS
Homelessness continues to rise with 21,692 children, 12,258 family members, 4,210 single women, and 11,096 single men in our shelters, and more than 2,794 people on the streets. In 2016, I launched the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS) with Borough President Brewer, Senator Krueger, Council Member Garodnick, Department of Social Services (DSS), community and faith leaders and service organizations. We hope to get every unsheltered person living on the street the help they need. If you see one of our City’s most vulnerable on the street, please call 311 or use the NYC 311 App (Android/iPhone) to ask them to dispatch a “homeless outreach team.” They will ask where you saw the person, what they looked like, and offer report on whether the person accepts our city’s offer of shelter, three meals a day, health care, rehabilitation, and job training. By connecting our dedicated nonprofits and religious institutions with city services, ETHOS is really making a difference. Learn more about the coalition and our members at BenKallos.com/homeless
Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
Over the past five years, we have stood our ground against the Mayor and his MTS, and we have won several concessions for our community.
The administration has promised that zoned trash pickup will not be tied to dumping at the MTS, we won funding for guardrails on every truck and even won a commitment to zero waste, which will make Marine Transfer-to-landfill obsolete by 2030. I co-sponsored and passed a Waste Equity law that will protect our neighborhood from receiving more than 10% of the city's waste. The initial version of the bill exempted districts with Marine Transfer Stations from the cap, but after the changes I negotiated, I am confident it will protect the Upper East Side.
A new ramp will be constructed one block north at the request of Pledge2Protect and Asphalt Green to protect children playing on their soccer fields.
Most recently, as Our Town reported, the Department of Sanitation has now agreed to an “average of 40 to 50 trucks per day” instead of the over 200 trucks a day that were once feared. Our neighborhood saw such a dramatic reduction because we are producing 25% less landfill than a decade ago through reduction and diversion. My opposition to this facility remains steadfast because a garbage dump does not belong in a residential neighborhood. Join the fight at BenKallos.com/MTS
Welcoming Supportive Housing for Women and Children to the UES
As mentioned back in spring of 2017 Women in Need, a nonprofit aimed at helping homeless women is bringing 17 affordable apartments to the Upper East Side. The facility is scheduled to open by later this year 2019. Back in 2017, we welcome Women in Need President and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to the district to formally welcome them to the neighborhood. Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Community Board 8 Chair Jim Clynes and members, local school principals, parents, and children joined us in welcoming them. Women in Need has served over 10,000 homeless people, including 6,000 children. This project will offer much-needed help to the most vulnerable in our community and will give supportive housing to the women and children who need it. For more information watch the press conference and read the release or the coverage in Patch.
Ferry Service for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
At the end of 2018, Upper East Siders got a new way to get downtown without using the subway. NYC Ferry opened a new route that starts in the Soundview section of the Bronx but has a stops at the new East 90th Street landing, East 34th Street landing and ends at Pier 11/Wall Street.
The new route, which takes approximately 45 minutes from start to finish, connects residents and workers in the Bronx with multiple points on the East Side of Manhattan, shortening commutes for thousands of New Yorkers.
Following years of advocacy dating back to my first campaign, I am proud that we now have NYC Ferry service Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side. The ferry service is perfect for visiting the City’s parks and attractions and commute to and from work. For more information on the launch see the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opening the Second Avenue Subway
I was pleased to join Governor Cuomo, MTA Chair Prendergast, MTA Capital Construction President Horodniceanu, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, and Building Trades President LaBarbera to cut the ribbon on the 86th Street Second Avenue Subway Station. As reported by WABC 7, I also had the privilege of welcoming the New Year with an inaugural ride with Governor Cuomo, other elected officials, and residents who had to live through the construction. After so many years of construction and constant press conferences led by Congress Member Maloney to keep the construction on track, I am proud to finally have it open.
New Buses Improve Service on the Upper East Side
In 2017 Upper East Side received 79 new buses serving the M15, M101, M102, and M103 routes, as reported in Our Town. After years of advocacy and analysis of BusTime data, I identified the issue of “missing buses” with the help of BetaNYC, BusTurnaround.nyc, and TWU Local 100. I brought the issue of “missing buses” to the attention of the MTA at a meeting convened by Senator Liz Krueger. The MTA shared that bus lines based out of the Tuskegee Depot in my district were among the oldest in the system, leading to more frequent than usual breakdowns, and they agreed to prioritize these buses for replacement. The new buses are equipped with WiFi, USB charging, next stop screens, and pedestrian safety measures. For more information read our press release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or read coverage in Our Town, Upper East Side Patch or DNAinfo
Improving Bus Service with Off-Board Fare Payment for the M79, M86, and Advocating for the M96
The M79 is an award-winning bus line, having the dubious honor of winning the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Pokey Award in 2014 for the slowest speed with a 3.2 mile per hour crawl, slower than Hawaiian Lava flow. According to BusTurnaround.NYC the M79 now goes 4.3 miles per hour, slower than most people walk. That is why in 2016, following great results from Select Bus Service implementation for the M86, I requested it for the remaining crosstown routes in my district: the M66, M96 and of course the M79. In May 2017, the Department of Transportation released its progress report on the M86 SBS route, illustrating the success of the new route. In addition to a 96% customer satisfaction rating, the report notes that since the M86 SBS was established in July of 2015, ridership on the M86 route has grown by 7% and travel times have decreased by as much as 11%. If the M86 is any indicator I hope to see similar improvements in satisfaction for the M79 with the implementation of Select Bus Service. Watch the launch or read the press release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Roosevelt Island Tram Approved for Another 50 Years
After more than 20 years of operating on interim agreements, the City Council approved a 50-year franchise agreement between the City of New York and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). The agreement was approved for two 25-year terms, granting the City the authority to negotiate with RIOC to continue operating the unique aerial tramway from Tramway Plaza on Second Avenue in Manhattan over the East River onto Roosevelt Island. As the Village Voice and Roosevelt Islander blog reported: “The Tram” has been managed by the State through RIOC since 1995 despite a bureaucratic quirk. The new agreement settles past issues that forced interim agreements to become the norm by allowing for the continuation of advertising on the interior of the cars and stations but prohibiting advertisements on the exteriors of the stations and tram cars. It is clear now that the Roosevelt Island Tram is here to stay and after 20 years of needless bureaucracy, we’ve protected it. To find out more about this deal read the coverage in the Village Voice and Roosevelt Islander blog and read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Bringing Safety to Our Most Dangerous Streets; Giving Pedestrians Time to Cross York Avenue
Soon after taking office, we launched a "Livable Streets" program to promote safety for drivers, pedestrians, and bikers alike. We asked 60,000 families in my district to identify dangerous intersections and streetscape improvements and compiled your responses into two reports on Livable Streets, highlighting our Dangerous Intersections and proposing Street Improvements as covered by the Daily News. Following the report, the DOT and NYPD also released a Vision Zero Borough Pedestrian Safety Plan for Manhattan. They included included priority corridors on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ave as well as intersections from my report: Lexington Avenue and East 86th Street, 2nd Avenue and East 79th Street, East 75th Street and 1st Avenue, East 62nd Street and 1st Avenue, 3rd Avenue and 57th Street, and 2nd Avenue and East 53rd Street.
To make our streets even more accessible for everyone, after hearing from seniors and disabled members of the community who couldn't cross the streets because sidewalk ramps were inaccessible for walkers and wheelchairs, I introduced legislation that would require landlords to fix crumbling curb cuts to ensure the 889,219 New Yorkers with disabilities and nearly one million residents 65 or older can cross the street safely.
To make the district even safer my office worked with the MTS Community Advisory Group (CAG), fellow elected officials and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to make safety improvements to the intersections surrounding the Marine Transfer Station site; agreeing to adjust signal timing on the intersections on York Avenue. Leading Pedestrian Interval Signals (LPIS), where the walk sign shows before cars get a green light, have been installed at 19 of the intersections. This will allow pedestrians on these corners the opportunity to enter the crosswalk before cars begin to turn. Leading Pedestrian Interval Signals (LPIS) were installed along York Avenue at the following streets: 65th, 68th, 70th, 71st, 74th, 75th, 76th, 78th, 80th, 81st, 82nd, 83rd, 84th, 85th, 86th, 87th, 88th, 89th, and 90th. You can help improve our streets at BenKallos.com/livable-streets
The Upper East Side now has 28 Citi Bike Stations located at:
- 3 Ave & E 100 St
- 3 Ave & E 95 St
- 2 Ave & E 96 St
- 1 Ave & E 94 St
- E 93 St & 2 Ave
- E 91 St & 2 Ave
- E 89 St & York Ave
- E 89 St & 3 Ave
- E 88 St & 1 Ave
- East End Ave & E 86 St
- E 85 St & York Ave
- E 84 St & 1 Ave
- E 84 St & 3 Ave
- E 82 St & East End Ave
- E 81 St & York Ave
- E 81 St & 2 Ave
- E 81 St & 3 Ave
- E 82 St & East End Ave
- E 81 St & York Ave
- 1 Ave & E 78 St
- E 74 St & 1 Ave
- 2 Ave & E 72 St
- E 72 St & York Ave
- 1 Ave & E 68 St
- 1 Ave & E 62 St
- E 60 St & York Ave
- E 58 St & 1 Ave (NE Corner)
- E 58 St & 1 Ave (NW Corner)
Since drivers, riders, bikers, and pedestrians all expressed concerns about their safety, in my first term we expanded our Bike Safety Program with former Council Member Garodnick to cover the Upper East Side and Midtown East within the 17th and 19th precincts stretching from East 30th Street all the way to East 96th Street. Injuries are down for motorists and pedestrians. When I launched the Bike Safety Program, Pix11, CBS2, WNBC, and amNY, reported on its goal of making our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to share with Education, Equipment, and Enforcement.
FREE Equipment with Education: Vests, Lights, Bells, and Helmets for delivery bikes following training class:
- A 90-minute training class in English, Spanish, and Chinese for delivery bikes,
- Lights and Bells for recreational and commuting cyclists coupled with education,
- Free Helmets,
- Bikes for NYPD Bike Patrol,
- Grading restaurants on use of safety equipment and e-bikes with East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association.
Learn more at BenKallos.com/BikeSafety
Bike Infrastructure Added to the Upper East Side
When the Second Avenue Subway was completed, we were excited to get our protected bike lane going downtown along the newly resurfaced street, but cyclists have had to navigate the dangerous "Second Avenue Gap", north of the Queensboro Bridge. In September of 2018, I co-authored an Op-Ed in Our Town alongside Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White in favor of adopting the Department of Transportation’s current plan for closing the gap. As I wrote in Our Town,
We can't wait another 10 years for a safer design of Second Avenue at street level.
Any pedestrian who has tried to cross under the Queensboro Bridge on Second Avenue knows it is not safe, and while the new subway runs in both directions, residents of the Upper East Side who travel above ground via bicycle have no safe route downtown.
But we can work with the city to change this. Second Avenue needs a road diet, and the Department of Transportation is proposing just that.
In 2019, the Second Avenue Bike Gap is finally being closed. We’ve instituted a new set of NYPD enforced bike lane islands that give a clear amount of space to bike riders along 59th through 57th and 1st Avenue. For information on closing the Second Avenue Bike gap visit BenKallos.com/videos to see coverage from CBS 2
HONORING THE BEST AMONG US
Honoring Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
It was a pleasure and an honor meeting Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Justice Kagan was awarded an honorary degree by Hunter University in September. At this event, I had the opportunity to chat with her and have a short conversation about the inner workings of SCOTUS Congratulations to Justice Kagan, it was a privilege meeting her at such a prestigious event.
Honoring Madeleine Albright
It was a distinct honor to award the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association a proclamation on behalf of my office and the New York City Council. The award recognizes the organization for 125 years of cultural contributions to our city and for continuing to preserve Czech and Slovak culture in New York City. Since 1891 the BBLA has been dedicated to representing dozens of smaller organizations throughout the city that share its dedication for the Czech and Slovak people.
Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was the featured guest at the gala where the proclamation was given. Secretary Albright is of Czech and Slovak background and has made a difference all over the world, and it was a true honor to meet her.
Congratulations to the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association for 125 years and to the Czech and Slovak community here in New York City.
- Prohibiting Outside Income (Law 20 of ’16) – The City Council now works full time for the people without the influence of other sources of income.
- Eliminating “Legal Grease” (Res. 980 of ’16) – Former Speakers used to reward Council Member allies with payments in lieu of compensation, or “lulus,” a practice that the Daily News called “legal grease.” My resolution banned it from the City Council.
Campaign Finance Reform
- Getting Big Money Out of Politics (Law 1 of ’19) – making question 1 of the 2018 Charter Revision (8 to 1 match) effective for all special elections prior to 2021.
- Closing Campaign for One New York Loophole (Law 181 of ’16, co-sponsor) – by limiting contributions to nonprofits controlled by elected officials and disclosing donors.
- Quelling Special Interests Dollars (Law 167 of ‘16) – by ending the practice of matching funds bundled by lobbyists and special interests with public dollars.
- Early Public Fund Payments (Law 168 of ‘16) – to help campaigns that take public dollars get on the ballot and reach voters.
- Better Debates (Law 169 of ‘16) – by only including campaigns that are spending money to win.
Affordable Housing and Tenant Protection
- Affordable Housing Applications, Tracking, and Enforcement (Law 64 of '18) - centralized applications, wait lists, tracking, registration of units, and enforcement for all city subsidized affordable housing.
- Stand for Tenant Safety in Buildings in Large Buildings (Law 153 of '17) - tenant protections from slumlords in large buildings.
- Stand for Tenant Safety Quality of Life Protections (Law 152 of '17) - any quality of life violation may be counted towards establishing a distressed property for transfer from a slumlord to tenants or a responsible owner.
- Students Admissions Tracking (Law 72 of '18) - counting every child who applies, is rejected or accepted, enrolls, and attend for every school.
- School Seat Need Transparency (Law 167 of ’18) – the basis for school seat need must be disclosed in order to ensure proper planning.
- End School Hunger (Law 215 of '17) - set goals and report on participation in breakfast, breakfast-after-the-bell, lunch, snacks, and supper.
- LGBT training and GSA (Law 231 of '17) - LGBT training for teachers to support GSAs.
- GPS on School Buses (Law 32 of ’19) – GPS for parents and schools to track buses.
- School Transportation Transparency (Law 33 of ’19) – bus routes for parents ahead and test runs ahead of the school year to avoid bad routes.
- Happy Healthy Meals (Law 75 of ’19) – children's meals must offer water, 100% juice, or milk as the default options on the menu.
- Cooling Tower Inspection Reporting (Law 76 of ’19) – landlords must report every 90-days during cooling season in time to stop the spread of Legionnaires Disease.
- Water Tank Inspection Electronic Filing (Law 85 of ’19) – water tank inspection and cleaning filings must be done online.
Quality of Life
- Catching Scofflaws (Law 45 of ’16) – Information added to all quality of life violations will help identify who is responsible and collect fines.
- Stopping Repeat Offenders (Law 47 of ’16) – City agencies that issue quality of life violations are now required to deny, suspend, or revoke licenses and permits for unpaid fines or repeat offenders.
- Turning Down the Volume on Construction Noise (Law 53 of '18)
- Counting Every Life on the Construction Site (Law 78 of '17) - count every injury and every life, at construction sites or face fines up to $25,000.
- Crane Modernization (Law 3 of '18) - retire cranes after 25 years to prevent equipment failure and collapse.
Protecting Neighborhood Planning From Overdevelopment
- Application Requirements (Law 103 of '17) - for developers to show why zoning laws should not apply to them with fines of up to $15,000 for knowingly falsifying information.
- Financial Expertise (Law 102 of '17) - provided for the city with a state certified Real Estate Appraiser to review and analyze developers' financials.
- Protecting Neighborhood Plans (Law 101 of '17) - by designating a coordinator at City Planning Commission to defend the city's plan from unnecessary variances.
- Reporting on Variances (Law 104 of '17) - including the number of pre-application meeting requests, number of applications, number of variances approved or denied, and the average length of time for decisions.
- Map to Prevent Rezoning by Variance (Law 105 of '17) - with an interactive online map of all variances and special permits granted since 1998.
- Opening Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) (Law 250 of '17) - signage for POPS indicating amenities with 311 listed for complaints, a website listing POPS, and increased violation of up to $10,000 for repeat offenses.
- Online Voter Registration (Law 238 of '17) - register to vote online with a digital signature.
- Voter Information Portal (Law 65 of ’16) – Will empower voters to track an absentee ballot, find poll site location, view ballots, and verify registration status and that votes were counted.
- Pro-Voter Law Expansion (Law 63 of ’14) - requires 25 city agencies to provide voter registration forms and assist individuals with completing them, so everyone gets registered.
- Online Voter Guide (Law 43 of ‘14) - saving the environment and money, while increasing access to information in off-year uncontested elections.
- Save Paper and Money on Voter Guide (Law 170 of ’16) – by allowing voters to opt-out of receiving mailers.
- Same Day and Online Registration Advocacy (Res. 1061 of ’16) – to pass state constitutional amendment.
- Teens on Community Boards (Res. 115 of ‘14) – opens community boards to our best and brightest 16 and 17-year-olds
Transparency in Government
- Online Budget (Law 218 of '17) - place all city budget documents online.
- Open Legislation (Res. 184 of ’14, co-sponsor) – as part of the Council’s rules reform process, I provided language requiring posting legislation online and public engagement.
- Open Mapping (Law 108 of ’15) - standardizes address and geospatial information so Open Data has location information.
- Law Online (Law 37 of ‘14, co-prime sponsor) – puts our city’s law online for you to search, download, and read.
- City Record Online (Law 38 of ‘14) – public notices from the city, previously published in a daily newspaper, are now online and fully searchable so you can learn what is happening in your community.
Coastal Resiliency For Climate Change
- Reforming Waterfront Management (Law 96 of ’16) – resuscitates an advisory board for advocates, experts, and all levels of government to use and protect over 500 miles of shoreline.
- National Women’s History Museum (Res. 354 of ‘14) – supporting Congress Member Maloney’s successful passage.
As my first term wrapped up City and State created “a comprehensive ranking of the best – and worst – members of the New York City Council.” There are 51 Council Members that represent New Yorkers in the City Council who were rated on attendance, the number of bills introduced, the number of bills passed and even how responsive each office is to the press and to constituents. I am proud to report that whether it was best overall attendance, or bills introduced and passed into law, my office and I consistently ranked among the best as the top 5 Council Members for my first term. Read the complete list and story by City and State.