New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A proposed shelter on the Upper East Side won the unanimous backing of a community board committee on Wednesday, as members expressed hope that the new facility could help the neighborhood's street homeless population find more permanent housing.

The 88-bed shelter is set to open in January 2022 on East 91st Street between First and York avenues. It will be run by Goddard Riverside, the housing-focused nonprofit that is headquartered on the Upper West Side and operates nearly two dozen locations around Manhattan.

An existing building at the current site will be torn down to make way for the new seven-story structure, which will be purpose-built as a shelter serving single adult men and women.

The facility will be a Safe Haven — a type of shelter with a low threshold for admission, whose primary goal is to get people off the streets and into a safe bed. The site will offer social and meal services, counseling, and a rooftop recreational area.

A number of elected officials joined Wednesday's Community Board 8 meeting to speak out in favor of the shelter. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose office had advocated for the facility, said it would serve the neighborhood's street homeless residents who are already visible in places like subway stations.

A number of elected officials joined Wednesday's Community Board 8 meeting to speak out in favor of the shelter. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose office had advocated for the facility, said it would serve the neighborhood's street homeless residents who are already visible in places like subway stations.

"There's one person on 86th Street on the downtown entrance, there's one person on the northbound entrance ... we all know who they are, we know what they look like," he said.

State Sen. Liz Krueger, whose East Side district includes two other Safe Havens, said neighbors have welcomed the facilities.

"The communities are very glad that they opened and they're actually seeing a difference in people on their streets or not on their streets," Krueger said.

Some residents said the apparent support for the shelter contrasted with the Upper East Side's reputation as a less-than-welcoming neighborhood for the homeless. Resident Ben Wetzler said he hoped the shelter's move-in would be conflict-free, unlike the recent battles on the Upper West Side.

"I'm really hopeful that our neighborhood will be more welcoming and do a better job of working with you," he said.

No one at Wednesday's meeting said they opposed the shelter, although two neighbors expressed concerns about safety. In response, representatives from Goddard Riverside said the shelter would have 24/7 security, as well as psychiatry services for any seriously mentally ill people admitted there.

Among the shelter's supporters were two students at East Side Middle School, located down the block from the future facility.

"I feel that it is very important to help people feel welcome so that they can accept these services," said seventh-grader Ahana. "It's also important to empathize with others to try to understand how you would feel if you were in their situation."

The shelter, and the supporting resolution passed on Wednesday, will be discussed again at CB8's full board meeting on Jan. 20.

 

 

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (D) and Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) joined advocates, providers, and students in a virtual rally Wednesday morning to call for full funding of New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Williams and Kallos also called for the passing of their joint legislation establishing a universal youth employment program. 

Joining Williams and Kallos were Youth Services Chair Debi Rose (D-Staten Island); Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D); Councilmember Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park); Councilmember Carlos Manchaca (D-Brooklyn); J.T. Falcone from United Neighborhood Housing; Chinese Planning Council (CPC) Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer Carlyn Cowen; Global Kids School Director Diamond Butler; University of Rochester student Jorge Morales; and CUNY student Joseph Cobourne. 

 

City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who condemned initial reports that TeeHands was based in the neighborhood, said he welcomed news that the address may have been fake.

"The Upper East Side is a welcoming and friendly place. We do not harbor White supremacists or their sympathizers, so of course, it makes sense that the address listed for this shady company selling racist T-shirts is not a real address in my district," he said in a statement.

 

The website listed an address at 85th Street and Second Avenue. Councilman Ben Kallos represents the district and believes it was run out of a resident’s apartment there.

“The Upper East Side is the neighborhood that welcomed my grandparents when they fled antisemitism in Europe. They welcomed my wife, who fled antisemitism in Russia,” Kallos said. “It’s enraging to think that Nazis were selling antisemitic propaganda, hiding in plain sight.”

 

 

Council Member Ben Kallos, who is a bike rider and one of the only elected officials without a car, spoke with Our Town about the need for more bike parking.

“Anyone would be amused or horrified to learn what New Yorkers do to fit their bikes in tiny studio apartments,” Kallos said. “I once had to put my bike vertically in a bathtub while visiting a friend for lack of bike parking or space in their apartment. I fully support every recommendation from Transportation Alternatives and will work to make them a reality. We’ve already partnered with residents to place bike racks throughout the district anytime they are requested. I am particularly interested in the climate protected and even pods to protect bikes from theft.”

He noted that even if someone is fortunate to live in a building with bike parking, it can take months or a year to get a spot.

According to Kallos, when he first ran for office there were several complaints about bikes being chained to trees and sides of buildings, both of which are illegal. So, when he got elected he asked his constituents how they wanted the streets to look and many wanted more bike parking.

 

A plan for internet access at school and home (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)

The coronavirus pandemic has shown all of us the importance of a reliable high-speed home internet connection, whether for remote learning and working from home or for gathering virtually with loved ones. There is a common cliché that “the virus doesn’t discriminate,” but the reality is that coronavirus disproportionately harms low-income communities of color impacted by systemic racism in government and the private sector.

With many households in these communities lacking high-speed internet, the shift to social distancing has been particularly challenging. As we prepare for a second wave, or for the next virus, we must rebuild our society with the guarantee of universal broadband—finally treating the internet as a utility like phone service or electricity. We must use all of New York City’s local regulatory power to deliver on the promise of universal broadband by establishing a Universal Internet Guarantee.

Mayor de Blasio recently took a step in the right direction when he announced $157 million in funding to expand broadband internet access to 600,000 underserved New Yorkers, including 200,000 public housing residents. But New York City’s public housing authority (NYCHA) has 173,762 public housing units, home to 381,159 authorized residents, and this plan could still leave half without internet. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers do not have broadband, and this plan would leave nearly 1 million of them on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide.’

To deliver truly universal broadband, we need several fixes at once. We could start with rezoning to require affordable Mandatory Inclusionary Internet, just like we required affordable housing with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. We could create incentives for 5G providers to offer affordable access. We can require cable providers to expand affordable internet offerings we already won to every single low-income New Yorker. And if the providers won’t do it, we can take over their networks and do it ourselves by establishing a municipal broadband network.

We can upgrade existing infrastructure by speeding along the conversion of old payphones into free internet kiosks and add WiFi to bus stops. We can even open up the city government’s wireless network to the public.

The pandemic has shown us the importance of giving every public school student who needs one a laptop and affordable broadband in the home to eliminate the ‘homework gap’ (that became a ‘schoolwork gap’ during the pandemic) and give a whole new generation a real chance at equity. Where all else fails, for those we still haven’t reached in low-income communities of color, we must invest the millions promised by the mayor in businesses owned and operated by women and people of color to spur innovation and connect every last New Yorker.

In partnership together, with an eye toward each of our roles in the city’s franchising, we have authored a report that focuses on some of the most important aspects of the digital divide and proposed solutions to help close it and bring us closer to the equitable New York City we need to move toward immediately.

Read the full report here.

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Eric Adams is the Brooklyn Borough President and has a vote on internet franchises through the FCRC. Ben Kallos is a New York City Council Member with a vote on internet franchise authorizations in the City Council. On Twitter @BKBoroHall & @BenKallos.

 

Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) agreed that the most effective way is to start planning proactively. 

Council Member Ben Kallos (Photo credit: council.nyc.gov)

Council Member Ben Kallos

“Whether it is increasing and improving coordination in all our city agencies or streamlining long-term planning processes for better efficiency, creating a new ten-year comprehensive planning will be crucial to making New York City the best city it can possibly be over for every resident over the next decade,” he said. 

 

Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) spoke after Tarwater. He mentioned the 17,000 children an 12,000 families currently in homeless shelters. Rep. Kallos outlined how the project at 1745 1st Ave. came to be, recounting support that was expressed by State Senator Elizabeth Krueger and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. 

“I want to wake up in a city where everyone has a home,” said Kallos.

Kallos has been vocal about wanting to fill the City’s thousands of vacant apartments with people experiencing homelessness. You can read Kallos’ AMNY op-ed on the current housing crisis here

“Even today, there are people in this city that would go to court to try to tell the homeless they can’t come here. What we’re here to say today is, ‘if you’re homeless, if you’re hungry, you are welcome here on the Upper East Side.’” The Councilmember referenced recent legal battles involving the homeless and emergency pandemic housing

 

Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents a neighboring district, said the original building plans being thrown out was a result of a job well done by community activists.

“The history of real estate in our city is developers getting away with things until somebody finally speaks out,” said Kallos. “The idea of just putting buildings on stilts to get better and better views, without actually building any housing in between, was just the most cynical thing I’ve ever seen. So if a new developer has come in who’s going to build real housing for real New Yorkers, I’ll support it.”

 

The city’s matching funds program has already been proven to work. In the 2019 Public Advocate special election, small-dollar contributions went from about 25% of all funds raised to more than 66%, according to data from City Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan. That race drew 17 candidates, a harbinger of what was to come for 2021. New York City’s matching funds program means more candidates, better campaigns, and greater choices for voters at the ballot box.

 

City Council Member Ben Kallos joined members of the East Side Task Force for Homeless Outreach in celebrating the Dec. 10 grand opening. This new location will help distribute locally grown produce and other healthy groceries, offering a community diner that serves restaurant quality meals, clothing rooms and even a transitional mailing address, in addition to the wide array of social service resources. 

“Our neighborhood is proud to welcome anyone in need, whether you are from midtown or downtown, Manhattan is sticking together to get through these tough times,” said  Kallos, a founder of the East Side Taskforce for Homeless Services. “I am proud to have partnered with our faith-based organizations and fellow elected officials to be able to open a much-needed community center like this one.”

 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY – A new Urban Outreach Center location opened in the Upper East Side Thursday, offering food and assistance to those in need.

The new site includes a supermarket-style food pantry that allows visitors the comfort of being able to choose from available foods, adding dignity and a sense of normalcy for people receiving fresh produce and healthy staples from the pantry.

The location also includes community dinners on Tuesday evenings, offering hot, restaurant-quality meals to food-insecure families senior citizens and low-income New Yorkers.

There are also clothing rooms, mail distribution services and a job center.

"The Urban Outreach Center is committed to ending the hunger gap in East Harlem and the Upper East Side – providing our low-income neighbors with the healthy food they need, with the dignity they deserve," said The Rev. Jordan Tarwater, Executive Director of the Urban Outreach Center of NYC, in a prepared statement. "We are so grateful for the warm reception from the neighborhood and the outpouring of support from those who share our vision that no parent, child, or senior citizen in NYC should struggle because they lack access to food or other basic resources."

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The Urban Outreach Center is a new nonprofit created from the historic homeless services mission of Avenue Church NY

 

New YorkNY—The opposition to the New York Blood Center’s proposal to build a massive 16-story, 600,000-square foot campus on the Upper East Side is growing, as the Zoning and Development Committee of Community Board 8 voted yesterday by a margin of 16-1 to oppose the project.

First the committee heard presentations from several speakers before they voted. First up was Marty Bell, who during a Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) last week made quite clear that he is opposed to the project. He believes that the Blood Center can easily build a new building within its existing footprint compared to building a new 16-story tower whereby it will only occupy the first five floors.

 

You can’t fight City Hall, but it’s good to know what they’re doing from time to time.

Under a forthcoming bill from Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the city would be required to do a better job sharing info about future meetings and city business.

The legislation, set to be introduced Thursday, would make the city create an app to publish timely information about every public meeting held by municipal government entities.

The bill also mandates a standard format for the presentation of the info on the app and on city government websites.

“I want to put government in people’s pockets in a good way with an app that will tell you what’s happening and when you need to make your voice heard, so you get the city you want,” Kallos told the Daily News on Tuesday.

NYC Council Member Ben Kallos (Alec Tabak for New York Daily News)

A task force would be convened to come up with a concept to display meeting info on the app and city websites, according to Kallos.

He said by using open-source software for the app, the city could produce the technology cost-free.

New Yorkers who want to get involved with their communities are often in the dark about things like monthly community council meetings at local precincts and how to register to testify at City Council hearings, Kallos said.

“Ever since this election, people keep stopping me in the street asking me how they can get more involved in government,” the councilman said. “That’s a feature, not a bug. I think government is deliberate in making it difficult for people to get involved.”

 

"They're just talking about moving the budget line for the school safety agents to the DOE," he said. "That’s not transformative that’s an accounting trick."

 

New York, NY—The New York Blood Center has big ambitions to build a brand-new campus with a 16-story building to replace its current home on East 67th Street. But some long-time residents are opposed to the project, with one of them saying that the massive redevelopment poses an existential threat to the quality of life on the Upper East Side.

The residents had a chance to weigh in on the issue during a recent Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who represents the district. The Councilman heard from approximately 10 residents, who each expressed different reasons why they are opposed to the proposed 600,000-square foot campus.

For example, Adam Kaye lives at 301 East 66th Street on the 14th Floor facing east, and he expressed astonishment that his open-air views will be compromised.

“I’m an owner, this is something that we extensively looked into what the zoning was, what the maximum height was in the area before we bought, and never in a million years did we think that someone would build such an egregious monstrosity on a block on the Upper East Side,” said Kaye.

He also expressed concern about the obstruction of sunlight to nearby St. Catherine’s Park, saying that part of the reason why he and his wife purchased their property was so that his two children could have access to an open-air park with plenty of sunlight.

“I can’t understand how any council member or any zoning person will allow something like that to happen in a playground that is so vital to the neighborhood; it’s the only open-air park space that we have. The core question is, what can be done to stop it,” Kaye said.

Paul Graziano was just hired by the co-op board at 301 East 66th Street to be its planning, zoning and land use consultant in response to the Blood Center’s proposal. He noted that there has never been a violation or a request for a rezoning within any R8B zone (a high-density residential zoning district found mostly in Manhattan on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side) since the adoption of the R8B zone on the UES in 1985.

In fact, he said, the adoption of additional R8B zones in Manhattan seemed to indicate that it was a long-standing position by the city and elected officials to protect mid-block areas. 

“This precedent would open the door not just for creating a disaster on this block, which is clear from the proposal, but I think it opens the door to this happening everywhere else. And, unlike the statement [by the city] that this is an exception, that this is the only site where this could happen, that is not true,” said Graziano.

Perhaps the most vociferous opposition came from Marty Bell, who lives at 315 East 68th Street. While saying that the project represents an existential crisis to the quality of life on the UES, he channeled his frustration towards Councilman Ben Kallos, whom Bell said isn’t doing enough to stop the project.

“The way all you ever talked about was sort of wishy-washy about St. Catherine’s [Park]…this building, you should be screaming from the ramparts to stop this building,” said Bell.

Bell continued by saying that he felt that the Blood Center wouldn’t be going ahead with the project unless “they felt they had you in their pocket.”

That prompted Kallos to calmly reply that he appreciated Bell’s remarks, but they weren’t accurate.

“I understand why you could come to the conclusions you have come to, but I will say that nothing could be further from the truth,” said Kallos.

Kallos then noted that the New York Blood Center isn’t even seeking input from elected leaders.

“This is not something that I can just simply come out and say I am against and the project [stops]. They are choosing to move forward without support from any local elected officials,” said Kallos.

“At this point, whether you support or oppose, or you have changes to the proposal, it’s going to be something that you are going to have to fight for.”

The city is in favor of the project because, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration views public health and the life-science industry as the cornerstone of the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

In addition, the New York Blood Center says it needs the new campus to add more space for its research and to expand the number of companies it incubates in its offices.

 

The pushback is already having an effect. Council member Ben Kallos, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, has taken his name off it, saying it has proven “too toxic.” And after the hearing, Zachary Steinberg, vice president of policy at the Real Estate Board of New York, wrote to industry colleagues: “It went very well from our perspective. Council heard lots of concerns, and (it) was clear the bill as written will not move forward.”

Which is a nice way of saying the city's sprinkler bill appears to be dead in the water.

 

Most Jewish New Yorkers celebrate the season by observing Chanukah, a minor eight-day festival commemorating the victory of the Maccabees, a group of Jewish rebels, over the Syrian Greek Seleucid Empire that tried to destroy their culture in the mid-second century BCE. After driving them out, they rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

“We make potato pancakes, play dreidel [top game] with my daughter, and light the Chanukiah [menorah] as a family,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side, Yorkville, Lenox Hill) of his family’s traditional Chanukah celebration.

 

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who’s outlined billions of dollars in budget savings, applauded many of IBO’s suggestions.

“If only the city would listen, we could save so much money,” he told the Daily News.

But some of this year’s proposals, like raising the fare for Access-A-Ride, the city service for disabled commuters, were non-starters, Kallos said.

“Raising fares on the disabled is just a bad idea,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) said that the Lucerne Hotel shelter shouldn’t have been a point of contention in the first place, calling the neighborhood backlash against the shelter unwarranted. Two weeks ago, he wrote an op-ed for amNY detailing how we can utilize the abundant housing space we have to accommodate our homeless, which is available here.

“I would like to see folks following the model we have on the Eastside, where we’ve opened hotels and beds for the homeless, and done so with little fanfare and without any community opposition,” said Kallos. “I co-founded the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS), with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D) and State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Upper East Side, Lenox Hill). And when we opened a hotel of the same size as Lucerne to the homeless, they found themselves welcomed. We had a dramatically different experience.”

Kallos also concurred with Levine’s point that, in light of the pandemic, now is not the time to move 240 men across the borough.