New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Upgrading Our Parks

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New Yorkers for Parks rates district 5 among the last for its amount of park space for the number people living here. That is why I during my time in office I have made it a top priority activate and improve our current parks while at the same time working to find new park space wherever we can. The East River Esplanade was literally falling into the river in 2013. After I was elected I joined Congress Member Carolyn Maloney as co-chair of the East River Esplanade Task Force to get repairs in our District's largest park underway as quickly as possible. In four short years, we’ve secured and overseen the spending of $190 million in public and private dollars with more funds coming for our parks. 


Groundbreaking for East River Greenway on the East River Esplanade

greenway The East Side is getting eight new blocks of parkland. As the New York Daily News reported, construction to fill the gap between East 53rd and 61st streets on the East River Esplanade has begun. This project will connect a combined 1,000 acres of open space in both directions on the East River Esplanade and create a new greenway by adding additional acres of park space. The groundbreaking included East River Esplanade Taskforce Co-chair Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett, Parks Deputy Commissioner Alyssa Cobb Konon, and NYC DOT and Manhattan Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Sta. Ines.
Once completed, the new greenway will serve as a vital connection for all New Yorkers, especially runners and cyclists. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio, for the $100 million allocated for construction. Soon my constituents and I will finally be able to run, bike or walk the entire length of my district from Midtown East to East Harlem.

$3.3 Million Playground Reconstruction for Dilapidated Carl Schurz Park Playground


Carl S. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and I, who together provided $3,270,000 in funding, joined NYC Parks to breakground on Carl Schurz Park Playground.

At the request of parents, construction was postponed until the end of the summer. Construction completion is anticipated for September 2020, with Catbird Playground at the north end of the playground expected to remain open throughout.
 The new playground upgrades will include:

  • A reconstructed spray shower,
  • New play equipment for children ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12,
  • Swings for children of all ages,
  • New accessible ramps that connect to Catbird Playground,
  • New game tables, benches, plantings and pavers.






Upper East Side Dad Secures New Basketball Courts in Four-Year Civics Lesson for Sons

bball Upper East Side dad, Greg Davis, whose two sons play basketball in John Jay Park, wouldn’t take no for an answer as he persisted for four-years alongside Council Member Ben Kallos for the city Parks Department to improve dilapidated courts. The courts were nothing more than cracked asphalt, rusted metal backboards, and badly angled net-less hoops. Greg succeeded in getting improvements done by the Parks Department, with newly painted playing lines, a smooth playing surface, and three new polycarbonate backboards with shooting square and nets. 


Greg had nearly perfect attendance at more than 40 First Friday meeting over four years, sharing his work through my staff, 311 requests, and direct advocacy with Community Board 8, and with the Park Department.


Last summer, Parks Department offered to replace the backboards in exchange for $7,500 from my office, which was immediately approved in July, funded in mid-August, with the work completed in one day on Wednesday, August 23, 2019.






New Park Opened for Sutton Place by Conservancy, Community and Elected Officials at Ribbon Cutting

Sutton South

Midtown East, NY –  Between, 57th and 56th Streets, I joined Elected Officials, Sutton Place Parks Conservancy, and Sutton Area Community for a ribbon

cutting and celebration that included music, games, and magic. The new park was the result of a collaboration between the Parks Department and 1 Sutton Place South who subdivided their private garden in order to provide more park space for the community.  

In 1939 when the F.D.R. Drive was originally being built, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Robert Moses, and Paul Hammond, a racing yachtsman who lived at 1 Sutton Place South negotiated a permanent easement in a friendly condemnation proceeding, where the city agreed to provide the decking and pour soil over the roof to protect against the noise and odor of passing cars, leasing it back to the coop for $1 a year for 50 years.
Mr predecessor Council Member Jessica Lappin secured a 2011 agreement between the city and 1 Sutton Place South with $1 million from the cooperating and $1 million secured from the city by her office while my Office brought in an additional $875,000 in 2017, bringing total funding for this public-private partnership to $2,875,000. 

I'm glad to see that block by block we are adding more parks space and opening new parks all over the district to give the most crowded neighborhood in the city the green space they need to escape the din of the city. For more info visit

Opening the Oval

Opening the OvalAfter years of our advocacy alongside my fellow elected officials and Community Board 8. The Queensboro Oval is now open to the public with an expanded summer session, more affordable drop-in hours, and new programming to mark the beginning of a more accessible Oval for all New Yorkers. The change comes The Parks Department listened to our concerns that prices at the tennis club were expensive and public access should be the top priority when awarding the next contract.

Some of the victories we won for the community include:

  • Expansion of the summer public access season from 10 weeks to 22 weeks of FREE tennis for anyone with a tennis permit from the Parks Department. $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. I also wrote a letter to the Parks Department in which I raised several concerns as well as testifying 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

A Conservancy for Every Park

We supported the launch and funding for conservancies for Sutton Parks and Ruppert Park in partnership with Muslim Volunteers of New York. These new groups join the long-standing and invaluable conservancies we work with at Carl Schurz, St. Catherine’s, John Jay and the East River Esplanade. Conservancies are invaluable in protecting our all-too-limited park space. I hope we can launch a conservancy for Stanley Isaacs and Twenty Four Sycamores Park thereby achieving my goal of having a conservancy for each and every park in my district.

$198 Million to Rebuild the East River Esplanade

When I came into office, the East River Esplanade was literally falling into the river. Working with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney as co-chair of the East River Esplanade Task Force, I have secured and overseen $190 million in spending from the city budget to rebuild infrastructure from 60th to 125th Streets:

  • $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.


East River Esplanade Improvements

Groundbreaking on Phase I of East River Esplanade Sea Wall Reconstruction

phase 1 In July 2017 ground was broken on the East River Esplanade sea wall Phase I reconstruction project in Carl Schurz Park. The event was attended by New York City Parks Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro joined then City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Ben Kallos, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Community Board 8 Chair Jim Clynes and many community members. This groundbreaking initiates part of a $41 million, multi-phase project to preserve and restore the East River Esplanade as a major recreational asset for the East Side community and its visitors from around the city and the world, this $15 million phase is funded by Mayor de Blasio with $12 million and $3 million from the City Council. For more Information read the release.



East River Esplanade Renovations by Hospital for Special Surgery from 70th to 72nd Streets, Secured by Council Member Kallos as Co-Chair of Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Maloney

hss In October 2017 the official groundbreaking for renovations to the East River Esplanade from 70th to 72nd Streets by HSS was held. The revitalization and improvements by HSS to the East River Esplanade in this section were negotiated by Council Member Ben Kallos as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for new construction that was voted on and passed the City Council on July 23, 2015. The event was attended by Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) President and CEO Louis A. Shapiro, Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and New York City Parks Manhattan Commissioner Bill Castro.  

In working with Council Member Ben Kallos and the East River Esplanade Taskforce Hospital for Special Surgery 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 to 72nd street for the landscaping, seating, lighting, water fountain, and water source.

New Section of Andrew Haswell Green Park Opens NYC Parks Completes Phase 2A Construction on an East River Open Space


In November 2017, the completion of Andrew Haswell Green Park Phase 2A construction was celebrated by New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Community Board 8 197A Task Force Co-Chair Barry Schneider, Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione, and many community members. 

This multi-phase project brings closer the master plan for the site closer to completion. Phase 2A, is a $4,664,073 multi-source funded project. The site is a former heliport that sits underneath the “East River Roundabout” sculpture which was installed in 1995 and now is a fully constructed park space. The project transformed the site into a riverside destination with amazing views.

The update work included extensive structural reconstruction; making the site accessible to more residents. It now includes decorative pavements, chairs, game tables and plantings. Funders for the project include New York City Council; Council Member Kallos; State Senator Krueger; former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, now New York City Comptroller; Mayor de Blasio; former Assembly Member Jonathan Bing; N.Y. State Department of State and the N.Y. State Dormitory Authority.


Ribbon Cut on New East 81st Street Pedestrian Bridge with NYC Parks Dept and Dept of Design and Construction

Pedestrian Bridge

In December 2017 the ribbon was cut and the opening of the East 81st Street pedestrian bridge, connecting the East River Esplanade at the lower level to the promenade at the upper level, known as the John Finley Walk was celebrated.

Representatives from the City’s Department of Design and Construction and New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined City Councilmember Ben Kallos to cut the ribbon and welcome residents who waited just to cross it on that morning.

DDC worked with Primer Construction Corporation and STV on the $16 Million project replacing the old pedestrian bridge originally built in 1942. The new bridge is  ADA accessible unlike the old one. Workers installed an ADA-compliant ramp measuring 452 feet long and 9 ½ feet wide. The ramp connects the new pedestrian bridge to the East River Esplanade, making it accessible to everyone. Additionally, the new pedestrian bridge features stainless steel railings and fencing, fresh concrete and new bridge bearings. The esplanade below the structure was also beautified with plantings, boulders, and shrubs as part of the project.

The East River Esplanade is beloved by Upper East Siders, and this new bridge provides the ADA accessible link that was missing. Opening this bridge will help so many of our neighbors in their daily routines, and create a beautiful vantage point to view the East River.

The new bridge is both practical and great to look at, the work done by The Department of Parks and The Department of Design and Construction's resulted in a great structure


Agreement by Council Member Ben Kallos City and the Brearley School leads to Million Dollar Investment in Pier Redesign and Renovation by the Brearley School

The Brearley School, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and Council Member Ben Kallos have formed a public-private partnership to rebuild and maintain a platform known as “The Pier” that had fallen into severe disrepair with rain leaking through onto John Finley Walk on the East River Esplanade.


The Pier over John Finley Walk

The Brearley School Overhang Above Esplanade Renovation and Design Presentation

As part of a new lease agreement and in response to concerns raised by Council Member Ben Kallos, the Brearley School and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services agreed to invest over $1 million to rehabilitate the Pier. CIVITAS. The plan will incorporate colorful new designs, contemporary lighting, green walls, and new planters with seasonal plantings maintained through a partnership with a local conservancy. The new Brearley lease will run for the next 20 years, with two 10-year renewals.

The Brearley School and the Department of Citywide Administrative services CIVITAS and the office of Council Member Ben Kallos worked on this deal for over two years. The improvements aim to address community concerns.  For more information read the release, watch the presentation or download the proposal.


Fighting to Open the Queensboro Oval


I led an effort alongside Community Board 8 Parks Committee co-chairs Evans and Price to open the Queensboro Oval to the public. For generations, this 1.25-acre park under the 59th Street Bridge off York Avenue has had a private tennis bubble for most of the year at rates of $180/hr. After organizing a protest and launching a petition with support from Congress Member Maloney, Borough President Brewer, Senator Krueger, Assembly Members Quart and Seawright. Despite the Parks Department's recent decision to keep the area privatized, my office continues to support opening up as much of it to the public as possible. Add your name in support at

UPDATE: The Queensboro Oval is now open to the public with affordable rates! Read about it in my 5 Year Report

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