New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Working Up a Sweat

One school kitchen, at the Julia Richman Education Complex on the Upper East Side, recorded temperatures as high as 135 degrees during a recent heat wave, according to the union.

“Working in this heat is unhealthy. This is not an ask, this is a longtime need,” said Local 372 President Shaun Francois.

City Council Member Ben Kallos visited that school’s kitchen during a day when sandwiches were being prepared and no ovens were on—and still recorded a temperature that was 15 degrees hotter than it was outside. After he reported his findings to the DOE, an air-conditioning unit was installed in the kitchen.

“But that’s one school, and we have workers across the city who deserve the same recognition and respect,” said Local 372 Vice President Donald Nesbit. “This is not a new problem: when I started in the kitchens as a Cook in 1998, it [was] a problem then and every summer since.”

Several elected officials stated that convening a task force was the bare minimum and actually doing the work to install air- conditioning was what mattered.

 

A pair of City Council members is urging the de Blasio administration to use remote learning to better “desegregate” the district — including by offering more gifted and talented programs.

In a letter to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday, Councilmen Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn) said online instruction frees the district up from building space and cost restraints.

That means remote learning can be molded to suit individual student needs — and even offer G&T-level instruction for kids in areas that don’t have the coveted programs, the pols said.

“The virtual schools within this new district would be organized around learning style, enrichment, and even common interest,” the letter stated. “Enrichment programs like Gifted and Talented or those tailored to specific interests and remote-learning styles could finally be offered to every student who qualified.”

Cornegy and Kallos argued in their letter that educational opportunity is distributed unevenly across the city — often on racial and socio-economic lines — and that remote learning can help to address that imbalance.

 

Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents Yorkville, said his office has received “dozens” of complaints about the barricades.

“Families who didn’t abandon our city, families who stayed, feel frustrated they don’t have anywhere they can go because Gracie has barricaded off an acre of our limited parkland. Families stop me in the streets, people in my building complain to me, we get phone calls, we get emails. People just don’t understand why the mayor is doing this,” he said.

A map showing Gracie Mansion/Carl Schurz Park closed to the public.Benjamin Kallos

“Gracie Mansion is already fortified. They have already increased the height of the fences,” Kallos said, referring to the 4-foot addition his fellow Democrat erected in 2014 for “privacy” reasons

 

Thousands of New Yorkers were forced to go to the polls after not receiving their requested ballots, while thousands of more votes were discarded because the Post Office failed to postmark them or because voters failed to sign the correct portion of a confusingly-designed ballot envelope.

“It is the party chairs for the Democratic and Republican Parties that have filled the Board of Elections with patronage to the point where it can no longer function,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who sits on the committee that oversees the embattled state-sanctioned agency.

“The party hacks rule and it has to end,” Kallos said. “They think there’s nothing anyone can do about it and it has to end.”

The City Board of Elections claimed that it has an “excellent working relationship” with its state regulators and that the Kellner snub was nothing more than a scheduling conflict.

 

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New York City parents are raising alarms about the school nursing shortage as students prepare to return to classrooms in the fall — and the Department of Education still has no plan on how to fill the 400-nurse gap.

Nurses, parents and educators have complained for years that inadequate pay and increased medical needs of students are driving nurses away from DOE jobs. Last year, the shortage reached “crisis level” when dozens of school buildings were without a nurse on a typical day.

Now the issue is more urgent as parents and educators grapple with decisions on how to keep 1.1 million city students safe during a pandemic.

Parents at one Upper East Side school say the rotating nurses they had last year just won’t cut it now, and they’re demanding Chancellor Richard Carranza assign a designated, full-time staffer.

“The unique demands and challenges of re-opening during the global COVID-19 health crisis necessitate a different approach: we need a permanent nurse,” PS 290 parents insisted in a petition to Carranza that has drawn more than 500 signatures. 

On some days last year, “a temporary nurse was unavailable, which meant no nurse was present that day. The school was then forced to take extra steps in order to ensure the safety of the children with any health conditions,” the petition says.

The 82nd Street school is attended by about 500 K thru fifth-graders.

Mayor de Blasio announced a school reopening model Friday that was widely seen as light on details. He failed to mandate testing for teachers — and ignored the nursing issue altogether. 

Councilman Ben KallosStefan Jeremiah

“We’re really dealing with … imperfect solutions,’’ he told reporters in a conference call.

The DOE said Friday it was considering hiring more nurses and medical staff for the coming school year. 

“The health of our students and staff is our first priority for this upcoming school year, and nurses will play a critical role in supporting our schools. We understand where these parents are coming from, and are exploring several avenues to providing the necessary nursing

 

The city’s plan to reopen public schools this September does not provide enough specifics on how to keep students, teachers and staff safe, city and state elected officials said Friday.

“We need a plan for how to open schools, not more information on how to close them,” Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) said about the details laid out hours earlier by Mayor de Blasio and Dept. of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza.

De Blasio announced a “blended approach” of in-class and online teaching as long as the city’s daily positive-test rate for the coronavirus stays under 3 percent. It is currently at 1 percent.

The mayor and chancellor also explained protocols for the quarantine of students and temporary closures of individual buildings if someone at the school test positive for the virus.

But Kallos, a member of the council’s education committee, said that he and other public school parents are looking for something else.

 

The city Board of Elections, which launched a Herculean, last-minute effort to conduct the vote amid fears of spreading the virus, got mixed reviews for its handling of the ballot — and its outlook for the fall.

“I have no confidence in the November election,” NYC Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) told the Daily News. “There’s a possibility that the absentee ballot is restricted again because we have one of the most backward laws in the country.”

He faulted the BOE for failing to follow a 2016 law he authored requiring the board to track absentee ballots from request to receipt — one of the issues at the heart of discounted ballots in June.

“We can cut their funding,” Kallos said of the board’s intransigence. “But in this case, cutting funding to the Board of Elections would only result in worse elections.”

 

Mayor de Blasio’s plan to provide child-care for 100,000 public-school students falls far short of the need, two City Councilmen say.

At least four times as many seats are needed to help parents grapple with the Department of Education’s patchwork plans to mix in-school and remote learning, Councilmen Ben Kallos and Brad Lander say in a letter to de Blasio obtained by The Post.

The lawmakers first proposed a child-care program two weeks ago. The mayor took up the idea, but “is doing it wrong,” Kallos said.

“More than 800,000 children from 3-K through 8th grade attend New York City’s public schools,” says the letter, also addressed to Chancellor Richard Carranza.

 

The governor said that the combination of increased gun violencemore homeless on the streets, and the surge in graffiti are factors people consider in deciding whether to move back to New York City from the places where they’ve taken refuge from COVID-19.

“People need to see that progress. They certainly don’t need to see deterioration, and graffiti is something we can handle. We’re not talking about curing COVID,” Cuomo said.

As CBS2 showed you, graffiti is everywhere, and it comes as the city has zeroed out the budget for graffiti removal and stopped taking 311 graffiti complaints. It’s so bad that New York City Councilman Ben Kallos started cleaning the graffiti himself because he couldn’t get the city to spend the money to clean it up in his district.

 

The Upper East Side's elected officials have done a good job advocating for esplanade repairs, but Shimamura believes that the city needs to direct more resources to preserving the river walk given the limited green space available to Upper East Side residents. The city Parks Department should conduct inspections along the esplanade, including portions outside the Upper East Side, to identify sections that may be vulnerable, the community board member said.

City Councilman Ben Kallos told Patch that his East River Esplanade Taskforce — which he co-chairs with Congressmember Carolyn Maloney — has secured more than $278 million for esplanade repairs. The funds will help fast track repair efforts at the site of the East 76th Street collapse.

"Where previous repairs have taken years or months, the Parks Department will be using funds we've already secured to mobilize and promised to begin repairs in the coming weeks. Our task force will work to keep this repair on track and restore this vital park space," Kallos said in a statement.

 

If you’ve been wondering why the city has been a whole lot more colorful — and not in a good way — it’s because the budget for removing graffiti has disappeared, and not everyone is happy about it, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

“We’ve been getting a lot of complaints about graffiti,” said Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos. “We’re seeing more graffiti complaints now than ever before since I’ve been a council member.”

Kallos is not exaggerating. In a depressing sign of the times — a return to the bad old days of the ’70s and ’80s — graffiti has been popping up all over the city. On storefronts, buildings, construction barricades, the Fairway sign on the West Side Highway, and most visibly on the surrogates court and David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building near City Hall, painted by City Hall protesters who still occupy City Hall park.

And there’s a reason.

 

Ahead of the primary, voters complained for weeks that they hadn’t either received an absentee ballot application or the ballot itself after mailing the application to the BOE. Some even received the ballot after the primary election was over, while untold others may have their attempts at voting invalidated for various reasons.

City Council Member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, said these issues could have been avoided. He sponsored the 2016 law that required the city Board of Elections to create an online portal that would allow voters to track their absentee ballot application and their ballot, along with giving them access to their registration status, voting history, and other election-related resources. The city BOE never created the portal.

“The biggest impediment to free and fair elections and democracy in the City of New York is the Board of Elections, and it really shouldn’t be that way,” Kallos said in an interview. “They only had one job and all they had to do was send people their absentee ballots and they couldn't even get that right. And because of the Board of Elections, tens if not hundreds of thousands of voters were disenfranchised.”

 

CHELSEA, Manhattan (WABC) -- The latest in a rash of recent structural failures throughout New York City, a balcony partially collapsed in Chelsea Friday.

Firefighters were called to a five-story building on West 15th St. just after 7 p.m.

They determined that a partial collapse occurred from a third floor rear balcony.

The metal cladding underneath the balcony became dislodged, falling into a backyard.

No injuries were reported.

The Department of Buildings was investigating.

Thursday afternoon, one person was killed and at least three others were injured after scaffolding collapsed at a building on East 36th St.

Authorities say it appeared workers were doing facade restoration on the roof level of the 11-story building when a rigging platform gave way.

The incident sparked a call from City Councilman Ben Kallos to pass laws for stricter inspection of scaffolding and requiring building owners to maintain their buildings.

 

On July 14, a wall collapse at a Brooklyn home forced an evacuation of three buildings.

NYC Council Member Ben Kallos responded to the event in a statement on July 17, where he said, “We cannot keep watching bricks fall, scaffolding collapse, injuring and killing New Yorkers.

“These bricks should never have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they fell and the scaffolding should never have collapsed.

“We must pass a law forcing the inspection of every inch of scaffolding as soon as possible. We must pass a law to require building owners to maintain their buildings or step in as a city and do the work ourselves. My deepest sympathies to the families of those killed and injured in this latest collapse and they have my pledge to keep fighting so no one faces the same threat.”

 

In December, a woman walking near Times Square was killed when part of a building facade fell.

The City Council then considered legislation to allow the Department of Buildings to use drones to inspect building facades more quickly, but the bill stalled.

“It seems not a day goes by that another piece of a building falls on somebody,” said Manhattan City Council member Ben Kallos. 

Building owners often erect sidewalk sheds to protect passersby from debris that may fall from unsafe buildings, but some fail to quickly repair the unsafe condition. Kallos proposed legislation that would allow the city to impose tougher fines in such cases and charge the owners for repairs.

“There shouldn’t be a place where any part of a building is falling on anybody,“ said Kallos. 

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he's considering child care options for working parents this fall, but has provided no details. Councilman Ben Kallos has an idea.

"Any New Yorker can tell you, if they walk outside their door there’s an empty storefront. Can we turn some of those empty storefronts into distance learning centers and have a place where folks can drop off their kids from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.?” Kallos asked.

The education department says it has been discussing plans in focus groups with principals, teachers, parents and health experts, and will announce child care options in the coming days.

 

The city mandates maintenance of building facades to prevent catastrophe. But in this case, it was the work itself that was the danger.

No members of the public were hurt in the collapse.

Officials say the contractor is Edras Group Corporation of Belleville, New Jersey, which has no open violations, but has been cited 43 times for safety violations in the past 10 years.

Council member Ben Kallos released the following statement:

"We cannot keep watching bricks fall, scaffolding collapse, injuring and killing New Yorkers. These bricks should never have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they fell and the scaffolding should never have collapsed. We must pass a law forcing the inspection of every inch of scaffolding as soon as possible. We must pass a law to require building owners to maintain their buildings or step in as a city and do the work ourselves. My deepest sympathies to the families of those killed and injured in this latest collapse and they have my pledge to keep fighting so no one faces the same threat."

 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — New York City should explore utilizing storefronts and schools that have gone vacant during the coronavirus pandemic as emergency child care centers when public schools reopen in the fall, an Upper East Side City Councilman proposed this week.

Using vacant retail space and buildings of independent schools that have closed or won't offer in-person learning next year will help public school parents maintain their full-time jobs when schools reopen in the fall, City Councilmember Ben Kallos wrote in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and School Chancellor Richard Carranza. The New York Daily News first reported on Kallos' proposal.

 

Twenty Catholic schools across the five boroughs are closing. Now, some elected officials want the city to scoop up their space for public school students.

“When I became aware that a number of Catholic schools in New York City were closing due to financial issues, I immediately contacted senior DOE officials," said City Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee. "I am told that conversations are underway between the DOE and the Archdiocese about utilizing that space.”

The city’s public schools face a space crunch; coronavirus precautions mean maximum class sizes will be cut by more than half. Most students will have to learn in school and at home on alternate days. 

Students in the most overcrowded schools may see the inside of a classroom just once a week.

Treyger and Councilman Ben Kallos have called on the city to explore leasing the soon-to-be vacant Catholic school space to help.

“This is the time for government to be stepping in and reopening these sites, whether as public schools in their own right or a distance learning center, or even for childcare," Kallos said.

 

As city parents scramble for alternate childcare arrangements with the prospect of part-time school hours this fall, one city lawmaker says they could start by tapping hundreds of empty storefronts and shuttered Catholic schools.

City Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) wants to use spaces like vacant community centers, libraries and closed private schools as childcare centers where students can work on remote learning with adult supervision on days they’re not allowed in their schools.

“Families are looking for certainty,” Kallos said, “and the possibility of having to stay home several days each week to care for young kids “throws out any notion of stability in anyone’s life.”

“We may be able to address this crisis with an expanded version of the ‘emergency childcare centers’ that the City opened in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, by opening remote learning centers,” Kallos added in a letter to Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

City officials announced this week the majority of the 1.1 million public school students would spend between one and three days a week in their classrooms this year to keep numbers down and maintain social distance. The decision means headaches for working parents forced to find child care.

More than 300,000 families - close 50% of those with kids in Pre-K or elementary school said they’d need help with child care on days their kids are home from school, an Education Department survey revealed.

Kallos says the city could start the gargantuan task of erecting a shadow childcare system by identifying vacant spaces — including businesses that shuttered both before and during the pandemic.

“We should be leaving no stone unturned,” he said.

Kallos cites a spate of closed Duane Reades and Chase Bank, along with recently-shuttered Catholic schools, as possible examples, noting the Citywide Administrative Services Department surveyed empty properties during the pandemic to scout for medical space and should have a database of suitable locations.