New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

"Trying to get past 59th used to give me great pause. I didn't know if I was going to make it because, in all honesty, it's a death trap ... not quite so anymore, and I was able to get here with protected bike lanes the whole way," said Ben Kallos, a New York City Councilman.
 

 

Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos called the arrangement "funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life."

 

Councilman Ben Kallos, who made the film comparison, blasted Ni, saying: ‘It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life.’ Officials closed the property in 165 Henry Street following a raid last Wednesday and some of the tenants have temporarily been rehoused by American Red Cross.

 

 

 

“I’m concerned for the safety of the tenants, mostly an immigrant population, Ben Kallos, a NYC Council Member, told PIX11 News. “Part of me thinks this is like the movie 'Being John Malkovich,' back in the 1990s. Then there was this idea of creating a floor in between. But that was fiction and this is a horror story,” he added.

The Buildings Department issued a vacate order for apartment 601 and the apartment right above, 701. You can even see from the outside of the building the many air conditioners and boarded up windows in the two apartments.

 

The city Department of Transportation painted new lanes in June between East 68th and East 59th streets in June including the portion of the avenue that crosses the Queensboro Bridge. The avenue's bike lane now stretches from East 125th Street down to East 43rd Street, DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar announced.

The new lanes have turned an area previously considered a "deathtrap" into a safe passageway for cyclists, local City Councilmember Ben Kallos said Friday.

 

Bike lane advocates and local leaders gathered along 59th Street and 2nd Avenue Friday afternoon for a ribbon cutting and celebration.

The Department of Transportation has added a new protected bike lane along a new stretch of second avenue. That includes a lane by the entrance of the Queensboro bridge.

 

The real estate market in New York has never been this tight.

A Lower East Side condo owner turned his small apartment into a mini-village — by converting it into an illegal duplex with 11 sub-units that had ceilings as low as 4 ¹/₂ feet high, officials said Friday.

The illegal micro apartments at 165 Henry Street are so cramped that condo owner Xue Ping Ni even put up bubble wrap as protection to keep residents from hitting their heads on the many low-hanging pipes.

The bizarre arrangement in Ni’s apartment No. 601 — which was raided and shut down Wednesday night by the city Buildings Department — was compared to something out of a movie.

“This is like the room out of the movie ‘Being John Malkovich,’” said Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos — a nod to the “7th 1/2 floor” Manhattan office in the 1999 indie flick.

“It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life.”

It wasn’t clear how much rent Ni was charging for the tiny units. But the residents there were stacked like sardines, as the 11 windowless units were all carved out of the upper-areas of Ni’s single 634-square-foot condo on the building’s 4th floor.

The condo, where nine people were living, also had an illegal bathroom, inspectors said.

The tenants were relocated from the nightmarish fire hazard, when Buildings Department inspectors raided the place in response to a 311 complaint, according to residents and city officials.

A vacate sign on an apartment door in 165 Henry St. on the Lower East Side.William Miller

Inspectors hit Ni with more than $144,000 in fines for failing to have sprinklers, along with proper electrical, structural and plumbing permits.

When The Post visited the building Friday, a reporter observed apparent additional changes to the apartment above Ni’s.

In the second apartment, No. 701 — which Ni has listed in the past as his address — air conditioning units were set up on both the top and bottom of floor-to-ceiling windows in an arrangement that appeared similar to the unit below it.

By 10:30 p.m. on Friday, officials in blue Buildings Department uniforms were back at the property — as seven tenants from No. 701 left carrying luggage or bags.

That apartment, too, had been illegally converted — into 9 single room occupancy units, a DOB spokesman confirmed early Sunday.

Vacate orders were issued for those additional tenants, who were offered immediate relocation assistance by the American Red Cross, the spokesman said.

The units lacked light, ventilation, fire protection systems and proper egress, the spokesman said, declining to confirm whether Ni was the apartment owner.

One departing tenant who didn’t want to be named told The Post Friday night that he and the others had just been ordered to vacate their tiny units in No. 701.

He said the landlord — whom he would not name — had charged him $600 a month for his cramped space, where he’d lived  for the past two months.

He couldn’t say how many tenants shared apartment No. 701 with him. “I don’t know exactly how many,” he said, as he walked away carrying two large suitcases. “But there was a good amount.”

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NYC Department of Buildings

Kallos had called on DOB to investigate No. 701 too — and ASAP — with or without receiving a formal complaint.

“I’ve never seen air conditioners stacked atop one another like that — five air conditioners in three windows,” said Kallos, upon reviewing a photo of the building’s exterior.

“I can’t imagine needing that much air-conditioning in one apartment, so if someone sees this on the street, that should be more than sufficient for the Department of Buildings to also investigate that apartment.”

Another resident of the complex said short-term tenants were constantly coming and going.

“It was revolving door of people,” said a woman who pays $2,800 per month for her one bedroom apartment on the sixth floor. She has long suspected the building was dangerous.

“There use to be a lot of evacuation [vacate] notices. I just asked [management] if the building is safe because we’re paranoid and they said nothing about it,” the resident said. “The units are all set up real differently. This used to be a rabbinical school.”

Officials slammed the set-up as a life-threatening hazard.

“Every New Yorker deserves a safe and legal place to live, which is why we’re committed to routing out dangerous firetraps and ordering the landlords to make these apartments safe,” DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky said.

“Tenants living in truncated and windowless dwelling units like this poses an extreme hazard to their safety, as well as the safety of their neighbors, and first responders – a hazard that cannot be tolerated in our city.”

Catherine Keener and John Cusack in “Being John Malkovich”©USA Films/Courtesy Everett Col

He added, “We are holding this landlord accountable for their egregious failure to keep the building safe and livable for tenants.”

In city records, the complex is listed as a 5-story building with 27 legal apartments.

Ni couldn’t be reached at the building for comment Friday.

In the fantasy film “Being John Malkovich,” a failing puppeteer played by John Cusack discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich while interviewing for a job on the “7 1/2 floor” of an office on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN (WABC) -- The new bike lane through one of New York City's most dangerous intersections is now complete.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning celebrated the opening of the Second Avenue bike lane between 68th Street and 59th Street. This means the avenue now has an uninterrupted bike lane from 123rd Street down to 43rd Street.

Officials said finishing this segment of the bike lane at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge will dramatically improve the safety of thousands of cyclists every day. They hope to one day extend the bike lane down to 34th Street.

 

New York City is literally flushing millions down the toilet.

The city has spent at least $8.8 million on cheap toilet paper since June 2013 – and the costs are piling up under Mayor de Blasio.

Around $1.58 million was wasted on toilet paper last fiscal year, a 12% bump since 2014, according to records obtained by The Daily News. Last month alone, the city bought $126,000 worth of toilet paper rolls.

The city uses about four million rolls every year, buying only cheap, single-ply toilet paper, according to the Citywide Administrative Services. An average of $1.45 million was spent on potty paper annually over the last few years.

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The city is still working to install required GPS devices on every school bus by the first day of school on Thursday, Sept. 5, according to a recent report.

 

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It looks like the city’s Department of Education is going to miss the bus on a crucial deadline.

A new law CBS2 first told you about in January requires the city to install GPS devices on every school bus. But we’re less than a month away from the first day of school and parents say they’re still in the dark about bus safety, Lisa Rozner reported on Monday. 

Workers are prepping P.S. 77 on Third Avenue for the first day of school, but what isn’t getting an upgrade are the city’s school buses.

Back in January, legislation was passed that mandated the city equip its nearly 10,000 buses with GPS tracking for the 2019-20 school year, so parents can monitor their children’s whereabouts.

“I just can’t see another school year go by where parents don’t know where their kids are,” City Councilman Ben Kallos said.

Kallos first introduced the law back in 2014. It finally advanced this year after the freak November snowstorm that paralyzed city streets and had children sitting on school buses without food, water or a bathroom for hours on end.

Back then, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “I never want to see public school parents have to go through what they went through last night.”

So this spring, nine different vendors submitted proposals to the city to develop a bus tracking app for parents. In May, Kallos asked Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza if the city would meet this year’s deadline.

He said, “We’re not going to be late with our homework. We’re going to get it right.”

 

This story was originally published on Aug. 8 by THE CITY.

The Department of Education is running late on a legal mandate to equip every yellow bus with a GPS device by the first day of school, THE CITY has learned.

The City Council in January passed legislation requiring a GPS in all 9,500 yellow buses by the time the 2019-2020 school year starts, on Sept. 5.

The sponsor of the legislation, Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side), noted the DOE hasn’t awarded a contract yet to provide the devices on buses that serve 150,000 students.

 

ALBANY — City school districts will soon be allowed to attach camera technology to yellow buses aimed at capturing reckless drivers who whiz past stopped buses, according to a bill Gov. Cuomo signed Tuesday.

Right now only a cop can ticket offenders for $250 a pop, but the legislation grants law enforcement the ability to capture, record and transmit evidence of offenders from the bus itself.

 

You could practically hear the neighborhood’s sigh of relief. “I’ve lived near here all my life,” one woman exulted, at the unofficial opening of Sutton Place Park (SPP) overlooking the East River. “I was brought up here. And there were times I thought the construction would never end.”

 

What’s the best way to get rid of rats? According to Caroline Bragdon, director of neighborhood interventions and pest control services for the Department of Health, the answer isn’t brute force but firm persuasion.

“What we talk about in neighborhood rat management is controlling them at the places they need to survive,” said Bragdon. “Many times in New York, when we get complaints, people want us to spray them, they want us to bomb them, they want us to nuke the place. But they’re gonna keep coming back unless the conditions that attracted them are removed or addressed.”

 

New York City voters will have a lot to decide on this November, with five questions and 19 proposals in total to change the city charter. But even with that large number, there were still a number of proposals that did not make it onto the ballot in the end, including comprehensive city planning and democracy vouchers. With their omission this time around, it could fall to another revision commission or the New York City Council to make any additional changes. 

 

In response to an increase in domestic violence offenses in the city — despite a drop in most other crimes — a bill has been introduced to the City Council that aims to make government handling of these cases more transparent.

 

CITY HALL -- An Upper East Side councilman is calling for an investigation after a spokeswoman for the New York City Board of Elections sent an errant political text message to an Advance reporter inviting the reporter to a campaign fundraiser at her home for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for mayor.

“I know you are swamped but wanted to invite you. It’s a fundraiser for Ruben for mayor, BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez-Diaz wrote to the reporter via text. “He will be joining us for a meet and greet.”

 

“Everyone in the city who cares about the cultural identity of their neighborhood should be watching Yorkville as a warning sign,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, a grandson of Jewish Hungarian immigrants whose district includes Yorkville. “The last thing a residential neighborhood needs is more glass towers for billionaires.”

 

“A lot of what they mayor has announced are things happening throughout the city in a piecemeal approach,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).

“In my neighborhood (the Upper East Side), people are already getting bike safety education and bike safety enforcement," Kallos said. "But without a citywide approach, it won’t change behavior.”

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the new bike lanes will eliminate “thousands” of parking spaces. Opposition to elimination of parking spaces has stalled installation of new bike lanes for more than a decade.