New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

“The report proves there is a giant need in one of the wealthiest cities in the world for food pantries that rely on donations,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos. “New York City should be doing more to fight hunger to protect our kids and our seniors as they are most vulnerable and more likely to face hunger and food insecurity.”    

 

Cleanup efforts are underway across the Big Apple after the first snowfall of the season downed trees and brought the Thursday evening commute to an icy halt.

It was the biggest snow storm in November, a record for the most snow for the day.

All five boroughs were hit hard with some areas seeing as much as six inches of snow.

 

 

“Gale is 100 percent an honest broker. There’s no b.s. with her,” Banks said. “She tells you what’s on her mind, and she’s open to your ideas and suggestions and points of view.”

Brewer’s straight talk could easily come off as brusque, but people in politics who are used to hedging and circuitous language are quick to describe it as one of her best assets.

“People actually really appreciate somebody who just gives it to them straight and is honest and thoughtful about it,” Powers said.

“Gale Brewer gives me courage to be as honest as I am,” Kallos said. “She is one of the most honest people in politics, and I hope to be a close second.” Kallos emulates Brewer – “I want to be Gale Brewer when I grow up. I say it all the time” – and he means that in another way, too. He’s mulling a run to succeed her as borough president when she reaches the office’s term limit in 2021.

 

Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos attended an anti-Amazon rally in Long Island City last week, but told The Post, “You have me dead to rights,” when asked about his own Amazon Wish List.

“I’m a dad. Tech companies make my life easier,” he said, adding that doesn’t mean Amazon should get its own private helipad.

“Even a billionaire like Mike Bloomberg rode the subway,” Kallos said.

 

“We left pre-kindergarten students in special education on a bus for ten hours, without a bathroom, without food, without their parents," Kallos said.

He explained he was horrified and immediately called Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

“They reached out to the police. We got the kid rescued. We got the kid in the hands of his mother by midnight," Kallos said.

The weather was one thing, but Kallos said the bus route was also so convoluted that it would have taken three hours to get this student home on a good day.

 

“We actually spent from 2014 until 2017 working with the Office of Pupil Transportation to do it,” City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5th) said. “Last year they said they were going to do it and last year they said it was going to be in the contracts and they were going to do it, and it was going to be on every single bus in the city.”

Kallos introduced legislation in September to require GPS devices be installed on all school buses contracted with the Department of Education. It would also require the city to provide real-time GPS location data to parents and school administrators.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about tracking the city’s school buses on Friday.

“We need anything that’s not working with GPS and every conceivable form of communication and then linked back to a center that parents can call and get updated information,” the mayor said.

Kallos says that just won’t cut it.

“I’m really concerned about the idea of a call center,” he said. “This is 2018. I want to be able to see it on my phone. I can see where my Uber is on my phone, I can see where a bus is and the MTA is not one of the better agencies in our city, why can’t I still see where a yellow bus is?”

It’s a concern echoed by schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who said this week the DOE is working on having tracking system on all their buses.

“During our hearing in October we had Chancellor Carranza at the City Council,” Kallos said. “He refused to answer questions about the GPS system.”

Kallos’ proposal will come up for a vote later this month. If it passes, the city must institute the program in the next 180 days. Meantime, the DOE says there is GPS tracking on all special education buses, and they’re currently assessing a small pilot program that’s in place which allows parents to see their bus’ arrival time through an app.

 

“We are very concerned about the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods we represent — Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Astoria and Roosevelt Island — and on the already overburdened housing markets in these areas,” wrote Ben Kallos, member of the New York City Council representing Roosevelt Island, in a joint statement issued via Twitter with three other council members. “Our offices are constantly working with constituents who are losing their homes due to rapidly escalating rents.”

 

In New York City, several buses serving special-needs students struggled to get through the city’s traffic-snarled roads. Five children spent more than 10 hours without a bathroom break or meal because their school bus got stuck in Manhattan and the Bronx on Thursday, according to New York City Council member Ben Kallos.

 

The New York City Council this week passed a bill adding the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics to the city charter. The move represents perhaps the first such move to add a data analytics office to a major city’s foundational document. It also prompted some data advocates to say it could encourage other cities to follow suit.

 

 "Bad luck" was to blame for the city descending into travel chaos as the first snow of the winter hit Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday. The storm blanketed Central Park in more than six inches of snow, the most for that day in more than a century.

 

On May 16, 1979, shortly after completing her freshman year at Barnard College, Grace Gold was walking near the corner of Broadway and 115th Street when a chunk of masonry worked loose from the eighth-floor facade of a building owned by Columbia University. The masonry plunged to the sidewalk, killing Gold. She was 17. 

 

Thousands of commuters were stranded outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, the busiest bus station in the country, after more than 1,100 scheduled buses were canceled. The line of people stretched a full city block.

 

Citywide Council on Special Education Co-Chair Gloria Corsino said she was flooded with calls from parents whose kids with disabilities suffered on buses that were stuck on the roads for hours.

“These drivers don’t allow kids to eat on the bus or use the bathroom,” Corsino said. “Imagine the trauma. This is just poor emergency management.”

Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos said the storm exposed serious weaknesses in the city’s beleaguered, $1.2 billion yellow bus system, which is already undergoing an overhaul amid widespread service problems, allegations of corruption and a federal investigation.

“All of this could have been prevented,” said Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side and intervened with the NYPD to help other kids with disabilities get home from the same stricken bus as Reynoso’s son.

“When you already have a bus route that’s three hours long, and then there’s a storm, it’s going to double or triple,” Kallos said. “We’re setting up these drivers and kids for failure.”

The city will investigate busing problems encountered in the storm, said Mayor de Blasio spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg.

 

Numerous speakers also blasted the inclusion of a helipad in the construction of the campus, which was held up as a totem of what they saw as Bezos’ elite attitude, refusal to ride the subway, or spend a second longer in Queens than he might have to. City Council Member Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side went as far as comparing Bezos to a Bond villain.

Kallos was also the only speaker of the bunch to bring up a letter that he and many other lawmakers (including rally leader Van Bramer and Queens state Senator Mike Gianaris) signed last year asking Amazon to explore moving to New York City, an awkward juxtaposition with the day’s anti-Amazon sentiment. “A lot of us did sign a letter saying we wanted to have a conversation with Amazon, and I’ll be the first to say talking to tech companies is a good thing,” Kallos explained. “But we didn’t sign on the dotted line that we were signing away our tax dollars. They’re taking $3 billion out of your pockets and none of us get a say in that.

 

The city also agreed to facilitate construction of a new helipad on the site for Amazon executives. The Manhattan city councilman Ben Kallos said the arrangement made Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, look like a “Bond villain”.

“The governor and the mayor have decided to throw Jeff Bezos almost $3bn in subsidies and tax breaks – and throw in a helipad so he doesn’t have to take the damn 7 train,” said city councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City. “He wants this helipad so he doesn’t actually really have to spend any time in Queens.”

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Addressed to Bezos — whom one of its signatories, Councilman Ben Kallos, compared to a "Bond villain" on Wednesday — the letter stated officials' belief that "Amazon will be a strong contributor to our civic and commercial life."

Gianaris, who signed the letter, said the officials thought the jobs stemming from the project would be good, but "never contemplated that public dollars would be secretly given to Amazon to get them here."

 

Another popular grievance among the speakers at the rally was the state-funded helipad in Queens that New York has promised Bezos. "He's going to have a helicopter pad. It's like a Bond villain," Councilmember Ben Kallos said. Kallos' district includes Roosevelt Island, which sits adjacent to Long Island City, just one subway stop away. "Residents on Roosevelt Island are scared to death about what Amazon will bring," he said.

 

On a bitterly cold day last winter, Sumaya’s mother placed her on her school bus in Brooklyn. Later that morning, her mother received a frantic call. Sumaya, a nonverbal 13-year-old with autism, had been found at a school far from the one she attended. The bus driver had left her, unsupervised, outside the wrong school. Luckily, instead of wandering off to the park across the street, Sumaya had walked into the school building, where she covered her ears and screamed repeatedly, until a staff member found her. A search of Sumaya's backpack turned up a notebook with her mother's phone number. Her mother still has nightmares about how differently the day could have ended.

 

Council Member Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The 168,000 residents in his district, the second largest in the city, mostly live in high rises. Mr. Kallos has proposed a measure that would mandate the mayor’s Zero Waste initiative to include targets and updates. The measure failed, and the effort to bring residential composting to his district has been frustrating, he said.

“We’ve worked with a number of residents and buildings to get composting,” Mr. Kallos said. “But I’ve yet to hear of any successes. I’ve never seen any brown bins in my district and I’d be surprised if there are any.”

 

NEW YORK -- Rosa Rodriguez from Brooklyn says her 65-year-old mother Anna Rivera survived so much this past year. Her husband passed away. She survived cancer. Then Hurricane Maria destroyed her home in Puerto Rico. Rivera fled to NYC for a better life.

But Rodriguez doesn’t have the resources right now to help her mother find her own home here in NYC.

“She cries everyday. She’s losing hope,” Rodriguez said.

Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, says one of the biggest battles in NYC is preserving affordable housing.

“The population keeps growing and growing and it’s a crisis," Kallos said. "We can’t build our way out of it but what we can do is make sure people who are building new housing build affordable mandatory affordable housing."

Darma Diaz, with a grassroots organization called YNCCA, an organization that says it's helped place dozens of Hurricane Maria evacuees, saw PIX11’s story and sprung into action for Maria.

More on YNCCA can be found here.

A spokesperson for Human Resources Administration says, “We have assisted over 2,500 evacuees from Puerto Rico who registered with the Service Center the City created immediately after Hurricane Maria by connecting them to benefits such a SNAP and Cash Assistance, health insurance, mental health counseling, and assistance for displaced students, among other services. In addition, we made 945 referrals to Homebase, the City’s homelessness prevention program which provides a variety of prevention services to assist families and individuals experiencing housing crisis and are at imminent risk of entering shelter.”

If you can help Rivera, email Monica Morales direct at monica@pix11.com

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