New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

The city provided no timeline for when work would begin, saying details would be determined during the design process. The Parks and Transportation departments will present the project Thursday night to Community Board 8.

"John Finley Walk is an incredible spot to take a stroll and enjoy the waterfront," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "These infrastructure improvements will ensure New Yorkers will be able to enjoy this beautiful promenade for generations to come."

News of the repairs was hailed by local officials, including City Councilmember Ben Kallos, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

 

WEST VILLAGE, NY — The day a sidewalk scaffolding shed first went up over part of a West 9th Street block, Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City, "Shakespeare In Love" had recently won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Britney Spears had just earned her first No. 1 hit.

It's still there.

The shed of wood and metal first went up outside 24-26 West 9th St. on Nov. 7, 1999. Though official records show it came down briefly in 2004 and again in 2007, it quickly returned both times, making it a 22-year blight, frustrated local residents said.

 

"Manhattanites are so sick of this nonsense: sidewalk sheds go up and decades later they are still up. It is frankly embarrassing for us as a City that we cannot get these repairs done and get the sheds down," Kallos told Patch.

"My legislation would force the building owner here to make the necessary repairs for the facade to be safe and then take the scaffolding down all within 90 days. If they don't want to, the city would get it done, and the landlord would have to deal with the bill. With over 300 miles of scaffolding crowding City sidewalks, hurting local businesses, and ruining quality of life, the time is now to enact this reform."

 

New York City Council member Ben Kallos is looking to crack down on illegal apartment listings on home-sharing sites such as Airbnb. The law he’s introduced would require homes rented on short-term rental platforms to register with the city.

The five boroughs lack enough affordable housing stock. At the same time it’s home to thousands of apartments listed on sites like Airbnb. By requiring listers to register their apartment with the city, Kallos said he hopes New Yorkers will not only understand what apartments can be legally rented out but will have more legal apartments to choose from — which, theoretically at least, could bring down rents.  

SEE ALSO: De Blasio, Eyeing Tourism Recovery, Eliminates Hotel Tax for Summer

The number of illegal listings in New York City is difficult to approximate, however. Anecdotes and estimates do peg the number in the thousands as do the city’s recent enforcement efforts. When New York sued Airbnb in 2019, it accused brokers with Metropolitan Property Group of illegally facilitating 13,691 rentals from 2015 to 2018, housing more than 75,000 guests, pocketing $21 million in revenue along the way, according to The New York Times. (The case was eventually settled.)

 

As Council member Ben Kallos has received complaints about outdated equipment at Ruppert Park, he stepped up to the plate and allocated $3 million to give it a much needed facelift.

Ruppert Park, located at Second Ave. between East 90th Street and East 91st Street, was built in 1979, yet it has been nearly 25 years since it was renovated.

“We haven’t done enough for Ruppert Park,” the Council member said. “It’s fallen into disrepair.”

According to Kallos, parents with young children will go to any park on the UES but Ruppert.

 

City Councilman Ben Kallos is pushing legislation that would waive application fees for city public school students hoping to enroll at CUNY colleges.

Roughly 75,000 Department of Education kids apply to the public schools each year and pay $65 to do so.

“It’s unacceptable that right now, a 17-year-old can be told by a high school guidance counselor their rent-burdened single mother isn’t poor enough to get a break on hundreds of dollars of fees to apply to colleges and compete for scholarships,” said Kallos, who co-sponsored the bill introduced last week.

Overall, the initiative would cost the city roughly $4.8 million.

Around 75,000 New York City public schools students apply to CUNY colleges every year.

Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

“This legislation is about bringing more access and equity to the families that struggle,” he said. “A $65 fee should not be what prevents a talented kid from getting into a CUNY.”

The largest urban university system in the country, CUNY currently runs 11 senior campuses along with seven community colleges across the boroughs.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is co-sponsoring Councilman Ben Kallos’ effort.

Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

The schools currently enroll roughly 275,000 students.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is co-sponsoring the legislation.

Mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also supports the effort.

Ron Adar / M10s / MEGA

“College application fees can be a financial burden for our public school students,” she said. “This legislation will make applying to CUNY more accessible for high schoolers and will help make their dreams of a college education possible.”

Mayoral candidate and current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is also backing the push.

 

While New York’s multiple dwelling law makes it illegal to rent an entire apartment for fewer than 30 days in a building with three or more units, that law is largely only enforced when neighbors complain, WSJ reported. Councilman Ben Kallos introduced the bill to reduce the number of illegal short-term rentals and increase the stock of permanent housing in the city.

 

City Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, said the bill would reduce the number of illegal short-term rentals and increase the stock of permanent housing in the city. Mr. Kallos said the legislation would also help the hotel industry, which saw occupancy rates decline because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, it is illegal to rent an entire apartment in a building with three or more units for fewer than 30 days. However, enforcement of the law is largely driven by complaints from neighbors. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement handles investigations into illegal rentals in the city.

 

While the mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement is charged with implementing the law, it has been “nearly impossible” to do so, Kallos says, due to legal challenges.

That’s where his bill comes in.

By requiring renters to register with the city before offerings are advertised online, the city would be able to reject them in advance. Failure to comply would result in steep fines.

Kallos expects thousands of units to go off the short-term-rental market as a result — paving the way for hotels to start recouping losses from the pandemic.

 

  • https://patch.com/img/cdn20/users/23562214/20210505/092803/styles/patch_image/public/upper-east-side-ruppert-park-renovations___05212735918.jpgThe one-acre park, on Second Avenue between East 90th and 91st streets, was built in 1979 by the city's Housing Preservation Department before being transferred to the Parks Department in the 1990s. (Nick Garber/Patch)

A grassless area repurposed as a dog run could be rehabilitated through Ruppert Park's renovations, Councilmember Ben Kallos said. (Nick Garber/Patch)

The one-acre park, on Second Avenue between East 90th and 91st streets, was built in 1979 by the city's Housing Preservation Department before being transferred to the Parks Department in the 1990s.A grassless area repurposed as a dog run could be rehabilitated through Ruppert Park's renovations, Councilmember Ben Kallos said.

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Ruppert Park, one of the Upper East Side's small but treasured green spaces, is set for a major overhaul thanks to an infusion of new funding, City Councilmember Ben Kallos told Patch.

The one-acre park, on Second Avenue between East 90th and 91st streets, was built in 1979 by the city's Housing Preservation Department before being transferred to the Parks Department in the 1990s.

In that time, it has served countless families and hosted many an afternoon playtime — but Ruppert remains "an acquired taste," Kallos said.

 

"The park has a very '70s design," he said. "Walking by the park as a child, all I saw was a giant six-foot fence and overgrowth that just doesn't seem welcoming."

A fountain in the center of the park is rarely functional, its "four-leaf clover" design has led to two quadrants being under-used, including a grassless stretch that has been repurposed as a dog run. Overly dense trees create a lack of sunlight and excessive moisture in the summertime, attracting bugs, Kallos said.

 

Critics say the machine illustrated the unnecessary militarization of the police

The New York Police Department has canceled its trial of a robot dog made by US firm Boston Dynamics after receiving fierce criticism regarding the “dystopian” technology.

“The contract has been terminated and the dog will be returned,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told the New York PostJohn Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times that the machine was “a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes.” Said Miller: “People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”

The NYPD began leasing the machine nicknamed Digidog last year. “This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” said the NYPD’s Frank Digiacomo in an interview with ABC7. The robot was deployed roughly half a dozen times during its tenure, mostly acting as a mobile camera in potentially hostile environments.

THE ROBOT DOG WAS DEPLOYED ROUGHLY HALF A DOZEN TIMES, MOSTLY AS MOBILE SURVEILLANCE

“The NYPD has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,” said the department in February. “This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”

Many, though, saw the robot as a symbol of both wasteful police spending and increasingly aggressive tactics being deployed by law enforcement. “Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” tweeted NYC Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February.

In response to outcry over the machine, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos proposed a law that would ban the police from owning or operating weaponized robots. “I don’t think anyone was anticipating that they’d actually be used by the NYPD right now,” Kallos told Wired earlier this year. ”I have no problem with using a robot to defuse a bomb, but it has to be the right use of a tool and the right type of circumstance.”

Kallos told the Times this week that deploying Digidog on the streets of New York City highlighted the ongoing “militarization of the police.” Said Kallos: “At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots.”

AROUND 500 SPOT UNITS ARE IN USE, MAINLY IN INDUSTRIAL SETTINGS

Spot, as the machine is called by creators Boston Dynamics, has never been weaponized, and doing so would break the company’s terms of service. But it is being deployed in increasingly controversial situations. Although the company has currently sold or leases around 500 Spot units, with most of the robots being used in commercial and industrial settings, such machines are of increasing interest to both law enforcement and military users.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the French military has been testing Spot in combat exercises. Boston Dynamics told The Verge at the time that while it knew the robot was being leased to the army, it was unaware it was being used in these exact scenarios. Spot was not weaponized in these exercises but used by soldiers for forward surveillance.

Speaking to The New York Times, a spokesperson for Boston Dynamics said, “We support local communities reviewing the allocation of public funds, and believe Spot is a cost-effective tool comparable to historical robotic devices used by public safety to inspect hazardous environments.”

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Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5) attended Tuesday’s meeting, citing the concerns of the community and noting, as he did in a statement to the Eastsiders for Responsible Zoning two weeks ago, that the Blood Center does very important work and can expand without a massive rezoning.

“This is why we insist that the Longfellow proposal, which would make the building as tall as a 33-story residential tower, is excessive and if allowed to go through unchecked will change our neighborhood forever. Every East Sider who could be affected by this proposal should be showing up to every Community Board and Department of City Planning meeting on the project,” said Kallos. 

 

Eligible New Yorkers can apply online before the June 29 deadline. Kallos's office will host informational sessions at 6 p.m. on May 19 and June 16. (More information below).

A deal with the city

This week's listing came nearly four months after the lottery was first announced by City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who initially said they would be open for applications by Christmas.

That delay was a result of pricing disagreements between the developer and the city's Housing Preservation Department, as well as fluctuations in the city's real estate market during the pandemic, according to a spokesperson for Kallos.

 

“Nearly half of New Yorkers who are retirement age have less than $10,000 saved up,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos.

The plan is sponsored by the city for private sector employers that have at least five workers and don’t already offer a retirement plan.

Employees will be automatically enrolled with 5% of their wages going into their retirement fund. They can adjust the amount or opt-out. Gig workers are allowed to opt-in.

“There will be no employer matching. No employer liability. All the employer is doing is facilitating the payroll deduction,” Kallos said.

 

Kallos, who has proposed legislation to ban NYPD from using any weaponized robots or drones, told the Times that the dog underscored what he called the “militarization of the police.”

“At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots,” the Manhattan rep said.

 

Also in attendance Tuesday was City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who said his chief concern remained the three to four hours of new afternoon shadows that the Blood Center tower would cast over St. Catherine's Park, which sits across the street.

Kallos, whose position could be influential once the City Council considers the proposal, has not taken a formal stance on the project but has strongly hinted that he opposes it.

Kallos said the Blood Center should move forward instead with an alternate proposal it has included in planning documents: a modest, five-story building that would achieve its stated goals of creating new lab space and replacing its current, 91-year-old home.

"It seems that the as-of-right development could accommodate the Blood Center's needs," Kallos said.

 

Kallos — who issued a subpoena to learn that the NYPD leased Digidog at $7,850 a month for 12 months, with a minimum payment of $94,200 — cheered the robot’s return to its maker.

“Our city needs more community policing, officers connecting to residents, not scary military-style gadgets that scare folks,” the Upper East Side Democrat said. “We did the work to find out how much was spent on this and we put pressure on the city to adjust priorities. I am glad the robot dog has been put down and we can use the money that would have gone to buying more of these to invest in communities and building better relationships with residents.”

 

Mr. Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, took a different position, saying the device’s presence in New York underscored what he called the “militarization of the police.” He said the robotic dogs resembled those featured in the 2017 “Metalhead” episode of the television show “Black Mirror.”

“At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots,” he said.

 

Another point of contention is the Blood Center’s plan to construct a larger lab which processes microbes that are “indigenous or exotic, and they can cause serious or potentially lethal disease through respiratory transmission,” according to the CDC.

The neighborhood group leading the opposition, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, claims the organization and Longfellow have not been transparent about bringing such a facility to the site, or how the lab will be used. (Council member Ben Kallos, who represents the area, told the Post, “I hate to think of what they’re cooking up in there.”) The Blood Center contends that it’s always had such a lab on site.

 

As a result, nonprofits were reimbursed for only 60% of their funding requests for the last fiscal year. They were expected to receive even less this year because more organizations sought funding through the initiative. 

“The baseline means that they’re not gonna have to worry about this happening again,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee on contracts. 

 

And Councilmember Ben Kallos, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, said raising the voucher value will help New Yorkers move from shelters and into “tens of thousands of vacant apartments in our city.” 

He said the city could go even further by moving families from shelters into empty condos. 

“If we took every single condo and put a homeless family in there, that would eliminate half the homeless in our shelters,” he said.