New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Before opening day, Department of Education and City Hall flacks assured The Post that the city didn’t face a driver shortage. Oops. Nor has the DOE rolled out its long-promised bus-tracking app.

“Parents are worried enough about the Delta variant; they shouldn’t have worry about where their children are” aboard a city school bus, says Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, who wrote the law mandating the GPS-tracking system. He also says the tech for the app is stuck sitting on a shelf at the DOE’s HQ.

Meanwhile, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the mayor is leaving a ticking DOE fiscal time bomb for his successor: New initiatives launched with federal assistance will impose costs of $1 billion a year by 2025, as the grants run out.

 

When Patch stopped by on Tuesday, four gas-powered cars were occupying the spots, joined by a single electric car: a Tesla SUV. But that Tesla, the neighbor said, has hogged one of the power cords for at least two straight days — far longer than its necessary charging time, and raising its own enforcement issues.

Reached for comment, City Councilmember Ben Kallos suggested that the NYPD may need to begin issuing fines to drivers who disobey the rules.

"As a City, we need to ingrain the concept that charging stations must be respected and that they are not just parking spots for any car," Kallos said in a statement. "I plan to work with the NYPD and the Department of Transportation to get this fixed asap."

 

“I’ve been a tenant for most of my life and I’m tired of having to compete with tourists for housing in this city, housing should be for New Yorkers, hotels, should be for tourists. It’s as simple as that,” Kallos said Monday, standing alongside advocates in the shadow of City Hall. 

“Every renter had to pay an extra $384 more in increased rent due to the expansion of Airbnb from 2015 to 2017, he added. “Now this spike in rent actually forced me and my wife to move during a high risk pregnancy and I didn’t know until today where the spike came from. There were 37,000 units on Airbnb in February, and half of them listed entire homes, which is not allowed in buildings with three or more units under state law, short-term rentals are restricted to less than 30 days where the resident is home at the time.”

“This legislation, by requiring hosts to apply for and obtain a registration number in order to operate a short-term rental business in New York, is essential to preserve our affordable housing,” Vivian Abuelo of the Coalition Against Illegal Hotels said.

During the hearing, Kyle Ishmael represented Airbnb and gave a testimony on the Int. 2309, underscoring that the company supports the concept behind the bill; however, they are calling for amendments to be implemented so that it does not place undue burden onto New Yorkers trying to responsibly seek out ways to earn extra money throughout the year, such as imposing expensive or redundant requirements.

Ishmael stated that the company believes New Yorkers have the right to share their space with tourists, which has faced an economic impact during the pandemic.

Councilmember Ben Kallos at the hearing on Monday September 13.Photo by Dean Moses

“With the introduction of 2309, we are hopeful that New York City could be on the verge of clarifying the law and protecting the rights and abilities of residents to earn additional income that will allow them to remain in their homes, afford taxes, make infrastructure repairs, and meet other financial burdens. However, the bill would require some fundamental amendments to achieve this,” Ishmael testified. “As currently constructed, this bill places undue burdens on New Yorkers that would not only impede current hosts from utilizing their space for short-term rentals, but would also have a chilling effect on new, responsible residents who are seeking ways to earn extra money throughout the year. While we fully support a registration system for short term rentals in New York City, the bill would also require that hosts hire an engineer, architect or inspector to certify the premises.”

Joy Williams owns a townhouse in Harlem and shares her home through Airbnb in order to maintain it. She cautioned the council against passing legislation that would “handcuff” property owners looking to maintain affordability of their own homes.

“I own my townhouse in Harlem and share my home in order to afford to maintain it. Airbnb hosts are afraid of the City’s inconsistent, confusing and intimidating policies around home-sharing and this bill would only make it worse. Home sharing brings needed income to families and businesses in New York—that’s something that should be celebrated, not handcuffed, particularly as we try to recover from the pandemic,” Williams said in her testimony.

 

The hearing begins.

 

But that doesn’t guarantee drivers will know their routes: In past years, that’s taken days and even weeks to sort out. The bus-tracking app, which DOE promised after a paralyzing snowstorm in November 2018 trapped kids for hours aboard school-buses, has yet to show. City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) says the technology is just sitting on a shelf at Tweed.

 

A City Council bill that would require the host of short-term rentals on websites such as Airbnb’s to register their homes with the city and get them inspected by engineers pits the short-term rental company against a hotel industry hobbled by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The legislation aims to curtail the thousands of apartments that are being illegally used as hotels, said the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Ben Kallos.

Hotels argue that the rental schemes are hurting their business by offering less expensive, more flexible alternatives to tourists. The schemes also reduce the city’s stock of affordable housing by letting apartments be used for short-term stays rather than for full-time residents, the hotels point out.

 

“Experiencing all this flooding in NYC right now and thinking about all the politicians who told me that pursuing a Green New Deal to adapt our nat’l infrastructure to climate change is ‘unrealistic’ & ‘too expensive,’” Ocasio-Cortez said. “As if doing too little is the responsible thing to do?”

Similar themes were repeated Thursday morning at a press conference in Queens in which various elected officials — including Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — all spoke of the urgent need to reinvest in infrastructure and “build back better.”

They specifically pointed to the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion proposed budget, both of which are before the Senate, as urgent needs to upgrade New York’s resiliency in the face of future, more severe weather events.

Other members of the New York City Council on Thursday echoed earlier calls to address climate change and for rapid investments in resiliency including Manhattan Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera.

“Climate change is not merely a problem for the future — it’s here now. We must redouble our efforts toward resiliency in order to address the real and prescient threats of the climate crisis in New York City,” said Rivera. “How we do that is multifold: we need to invest in Local Law 97, pass critical climate resiliency legislation such as Intro 2317, and develop solutions to current weaknesses in our weather emergency response.”

 

A New York City legislator has introduced a bill that would let the police department use radar and artificial intelligence to surveil noise levels related to traffic in the city. If you got caught making a ruckus in violation of city code under the new law, the NYPD could use the tech to identify your car and send you a nice, fat $500 fine.

The bill, which was introduced by City Councilor Ben Kallos, would allow the government to deploy sound recording and analysis devices at various points throughout the city, the likes of which would be paired with cameras. Together, the surveillance gear would be used to help police identify and fine vehicles that violate city noise ordinances.

Kallos recently told Gothamist that the surveillance would only be targeted at “vehicles” and that it wouldn’t stop “a person from walking down the street in the classic ‘80s way of having a boombox over their shoulder.”

He further stressed just how disastrous a loud person in a car can be, telling the outlet that the surveillance would be aimed at “everything from somebody leaning into a car horn in anger, as people all over the world might be aware of, to something more unique like people driving down a city street with their windows open, blasting music so loud that your windows start shaking.”

The bill text doesn’t designate a specific device that would be utilized for the program. Instead, the NYPD would be allowed to try out a number of different sound detection technologies, including acoustic monitoring (which, historically, has been used to study wildlife) and “beamforming,” a form of sensor-based sound analysis, as well as other AI-driven tech options. The device—whatever it ends up being—would undergo an annual “calibration check,” ostensibly to make sure it’s working properly.

 

In response to The News’ story, the NYPD, the Department of Homeless Services and local pols zeroed in. Councilman Ben Kallos said Monday that DHS would be sending an outreach team to try to persuade the man to accept additional services.

 

Ben Kallos attends a ribbon-cutting on the East River Esplanade in April 2019. His monthly First Friday event will be held in-person this week for the first time since the pandemic began. (Jeffrey WZ Reed/New York City Council)

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — For the first time since the pandemic began, a local lawmaker's popular monthly forum will be held in-person again.

City Councilmember Ben Kallos's "First Friday" discussion — held, as the name suggests, at the start of each month — will return 8 a.m. Friday.

Rather than over Zoom, it will be held at Ruppert Park. (In case of rain, it will go virtual, but forecasts currently call for clear skies.)

To participate, residents must RSVP online. Questions can also be submitted in advance on the RSVP form, or by email to questions@benkallos.com.

Kallos has held the forums each month since he took office in 2014. Speaking to Patch earlier this winter, Kallos said he hoped whoever succeeds him — now likely to be Julie Menin — would continue the tradition.

 

 

The homeless man menaces a woman trying to make her way past him on the sidewalk. (Andrew Fine)

Sanitation Department officials, meanwhile, declined to answer questions about how they are handling the man’s antics, and twice referred the News to city Department of Homeless Services.

Homeless Services did not respond to inquiries.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) is frustrated and noted that he successfully pushed the city to spend $250,000 for 250 heavy duty trash in the neighborhood.

“It’s a little infuriating to have someone running around knocking them over,” he said. “There is a problem with the city when someone is being allowed to go out there and destroy property worth thousands of dollars. We are failing our taxpayers.”

 

A New York City Council member has introduced a bill this week to combat excessively noisy motor vehicles across the five boroughs. Central to his plan would be the use of noise-detecting technology that captures the intensity of loud sounds from a vehicle and identifies the responsible party so the NYPD can fine them.

Manhattan Councilmember Ben Kallos, representing the 5th Council District that covers the Upper East Side, introduced the measure at a Council meeting on Thursday. The bill bears similarities to the 2013 law introducing speed cameras, which snap photos of delinquent drivers going above the legal speed limit and sending a fine via mail. Kallos’s bill would require the use of sound devices installed on city property accompanied with a camera to capture sounds above a certain threshold. An image of the vehicle will be sent to the NYPD, which will then issue a summons, according to the bill. Kallos's bill was first reported by WABC-TV.

 

ATVs and dirt bikes have been spreading loud noise throughout communities as they weave between NYC traffic.

As a result, compounding the problem, raging motorists lean into their horn.

Some residents say it disrupts their sleep and it's like having a nightmare when you're woken up abruptly.

The nightmare is a reality for residents on the Upper East Side and across the city, but relief could be coming soon.

"Whether it's people blasting music, New Yorkers have had it," NYC Councilman Ben Kallos said.

Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with Kallos who introduced a bill Thursday that would bring acoustic monitoring systems to the city if approved.

 

The ear-splitting noise from dirt bikes, ATVs and unmuffled cars with giant speakers is back with a vengeance this summer, and one city councilman has a plan to deal with it.

City Council member Ben Kallos will introduce a bill Thursday that would create a network of video cameras and high-tech microphones to catch the miscreants and then fine them up to $1,575 for a third offense.

The lead motorcycle of approximately 50 ATV's and motorcycles on 8th Ave. and W. 54th St. in Manhattan on July 15.

The lead motorcycle of approximately 50 ATV's and motorcycles on 8th Ave. and W. 54th St. in Manhattan on July 15. (Sam Costanza/for New York Daily News)

Kallos, who represents parts of the Upper East Side, Midtown and East Harlem, says the bill was born out of his frustration at the inability of the police or other city agencies to deal with the problem.

“I get these complaints all the time and I have my own panic response of picking up my daughter when I hear them,” he said. “Every New Yorker knows how bad this is. So I said, f--- it, let’s put in a bill.”

 

"It smells putrid. It smells like trash here," said Kallos, whose district office is a few blocks away.

Kallos speculated that the trucks were heading to the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station. But a spokesperson for the Department of Sanitation said this was not the case, and that the trucks were congregating for a different reason.

 

City Council Members Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Finance Chair Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) are introducing legislation tomorrow, July 29 at the stated City Council meeting that will make the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate (OTA) permanent through City law.

The office was established in 2015 as an advocacy and service arm of the New York City Department of Finance (DOF) by Director Jacques Jiha and has assisted New Yorkers in the six years since.

Passage of this legislation would make New York the second city in the country to codify such an office, joining a number of states and a federal office. 

“It’s a no-brainer that we need this office to be permanent in our City. Too many New Yorkers are often spread thin financially due to the high cost of living in our City. The office of the Taxpayer Advocate is literally saving homeowners from getting into debt or falling behind on taxes by advocating for them successfully, “said Kallos. “New York City residents cannot afford for a future mayor to do away with this office on a whim to save money. So the best way to prevent that is to put it in the law.”

The OTA provides New Yorkers seeking tax relief a venue to seek assistance. The office employs advocates that listen to the taxpayer’s position which could lead to investigation or advisement. 

 

New York City Council member is trying to give the city a heads-up on vacant building sales.

Councilman Ben Kallos plans to introduce legislation on Thursday that would require real estate brokers, realtors and listing agents to notify the city 30 days before a vacant property — including empty lots and unoccupied buildings — of 20,000 square feet or more goes up for sale, Commercial Observer has learned.

Kallos said the bill will bring the city in the loop on transactions, giving it the first right of refusal on vacant properties to allow it to build more schools, firehouses and other municipal buildings. 

“In my district, which is the Upper East Side, we have three gigantic vacant spaces,” Kallos told CO. “I’m trying to build more pre-K sites, and more schools [and] firehouses … It’s clear to me that it is a bad thing that real estate isn’t getting into the hands of the government [and] public-private partnerships aren’t happening frequently.”

 

City Councilmember Ben Kallos called out the shed at 1772 Second Ave. on Twitter this week, part of a weeklong series in which he plans to draw attention to sidewalk sheds across the city that have overstayed their welcome.

It is a signature issue for Kallos, who since 2016 has been pushing for legislation that would require building owners to make repairs within 180 days of reporting an unsafe condition. The bill has stalled in the City Council, amid opposition from real estate groups.

"New Yorkers need to demand it at this point," Kallos said of his bill. "Landlords don't want to do the work, they don't want to take care of their buildings."

Kallos said he has tried to persuade the city to offer decent, temporary apartments to the residents of 1772 Second Ave., where they could stay while much-needed repairs are carried out.

 

New York, NY—A coterie of elected officials, community groups and advocates gathered on Monday at Ruppert Park during a press conference led by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5), who announced nearly $9 million to renovate Ruppert Park on the Upper East Side.

The location of Ruppert Park at East 91st Street and 2nd Avenue has a storied past. It used to be home to the Jacob Brewing Company, which started in 1866. It remained in operation for nearly a century, and then in 1969 the 35 buildings between 90th and 94th Streets and 2nd and 3rd Avenues were levelled to make way for the eventual construction of apartment buildings that housed 1,500 affordable housing units.

 

As CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reports, September will be a big month for Lily, 5, and her mom Jennifer Rescalvo. Lily starts kindergarten and says she can’t wait for the playground.

Jennifer says she’s ready for full time in-person learning.

“She needs that interaction with other kids,” she said.

“The plan is to get them back in action. I don’t want to go through what I go through already last year,” said parent Rafet Olian.

Olian needs a break, and 6-year-old Sami is excited to go back.

COVID VACCINE

“I can see all my friends and read,” Sami said.

“Our health care leadership has been very, very clear; our kids suffer when they are not in school,” Mayor Bill de Blasio saidTuesday.

De Blasio said in-person learning will get students back on track with their education, offer support to heal post-pandemic, and provide the food so many New York City School students rely on. The mayor says there’s enough room for all students to safely return to in-person learning.

“That three-foot rule is there now; we will make it work,” he said. “We proved that our gold standard of health and safety measures works.”

De Blasio added safety standards won’t change, but circumstances have.

“A huge number of people have now been vaccinated. A much, much better environment than what we had to deal with last year,” he said.

Despite the positive outlook projected by the mayor, the City Council education committee wants the DOE to “offer a fall remote option.”

Council member and public school dad Ben Kallos says parents are asking for it.

 

The pavement on East 89th Street between York and East End avenues caved in around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Initially measuring about 20 feet deep and 8 by 8 feet in diameter, workers later widened it by about 7 feet to perform repairs, City Councilmember Ben Kallos said on Monday.

"They went all the way to the sidewalk because that's how compromised it was," he said.

An investigation into the cause is ongoing and no conclusions have been reached yet, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection said Monday.

Kallos, though, said investigators told him that the five-foot-wide sewer line had likely been leaking, triggering the collapse.

Within 24 hours of Thursday's collapse, workers had rerouted a sewer line that had been affected by the sinkhole and covered up the site with dirt. Over the weekend, crews expanded the hole to expose more utilities nearby, the DEP spokesperson said.

Monday and Tuesday, the city planned to bring in materials from out of state to continue cleaning out and replacing the damaged sewer line, Kallos said.

Two buildings that lost running water for a few hours had it restored later on Thursday.

Sinkholes often appear after heavy rainfall, like the storms that swept the city in recent weeks, and are not necessarily a sign of infrastructure problems, a city official told the New York Times on Friday.

Still, it triggered fears that the city is unprepared for extreme weather triggered by climate change, having come on the heels of another sinkhole on the Upper West Side and a thunderstorm that flooded subway stations. Kallos told Patch last week that "I don't want to see a Miami building collapse happen in New York City."