New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Last month the City Council voted to strengthen restrictions on excessive mechanical spaces used to beef up building heights. Now, a pair of council members are throwing their weight behind state efforts to make it even harder for developers to exploit those spaces.

Manhattan Council members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers have introduced a resolution backing state legislation that would place aggressive limits on ceiling heights to curb cavernous mechanical voids. It’s a necessary step to discourage overdevelopment in some of the city’s densest areas where there’s no shortage of luxury skyscrapers, says Kallos.

“We don’t need more buildings for billionaires, we need new affordable homes for everyday New Yorkers,” Kallos said. “We are fighting overdevelopment at every level of government, whether through city zoning, the city’s building code, or state legislation.”

 

On May 24, activists gathered in New York City for the Global Climate Strike, joining over a million people in more than 1,600 cities across the world in demanding that politicians take decisive actions against climate change. Hundreds of protesters, including elementary-school students and their parents, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students marched down Broadway Avenue in midtown Manhattan holding signs advocating for the Green New Deal and depicting the earth on fire.

 

A City Council bill could drive a wooden stake through the heart of “zombie” campaign committees and redistribute unused war chests to taxpayers.

“Let’s kill all the zombies, give war chests back to the tax payers, so incumbents are forced to do their jobs, and elections get more competitive,” Kallos (D-Manhattan) said. “Incumbents shouldn’t need a war chest, the best protection comes from working hard and doing your job.”

 

A City Council committee is expected on Tuesday to pass a bill aimed at reducing the influence of large donors on New York City candidates and elections by creating the possibility for candidates to essentially raise all smaller donations and earn enough public matching funds to fully reach the spending limit imposed by the city’s campaign finance program.

If adopted, the bill, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would lift the cap on the amount of public money a campaign can receive as a percentage of the spending limits on candidates who choose to participate in the matching funds system. If passed as expected on Tuesday by the Council’s governmental operations committee, the bill would then move to a Thursday vote of the full Council, where it would be overwhelmingly likely to pass.

 

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – When his calls to 311 about extreme noise didn’t get any results, a Manhattan resident decided to take his case to court.

Honking, construction noise, trucks and crews banging.

Most New Yorkers simply put up with living in a noisy city, Upper East Side resident Mike Edison is fed up with it.

 

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new bike lane that snakes across the busy entrance to the 59th Street Bridge on Second Avenue is a safety concern for some people.

But others say once everyone gets used to it, the area will actually become safer for cyclists, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported Wednesday.

 

Parks are New Yorkers’ oasis. They’re where we escape the crowds, the din of traffic, and our often tiny apartments; where we play with our children, walk our pets, and relax in the sun. Parks should be a place where New Yorkers can relax and play without being exposed to dangerous chemicals. So why is a herbicide believed to cause cancer being sprayed in our parks?

The New York City parks department is a prolific user of Roundup, a popular weedkiller sold by Monsanto. Yet research by the World Health Organization has linked the active chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, to cancer – a finding buttressed by several major civil suits recently brought against Monsanto.

You may not hear about the dangers of Roundup from the Trump administration or the various agencies that are supposed to protect the American public from dangerous toxins. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that there is no risk to public health from glyphosate if it is used in accordance with label instructions. The EPA even went a step further, adding that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.

The problem with this assertion by the EPA – now helmed by a former coal industry lobbyist – is that the evidence Roundup may be unsafe is rapidly mounting. Three recent lawsuits brought against Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, have resulted in the company paying nearly $3bn to people who have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after years of using Roundup.

The EPA, ostensibly tasked with “reducing environmental risks based on the best available scientific information”, is at odds with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization. The IARC identified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen” in 2015, leading to the chemical being banned in some cities in the United States and many countries around the world.

New York City has 1,700 parks spanning 30,000 acres, most of which are dedicated for public use and the enjoyment of residents, tourists and most importantly children. There are currently no restrictions on the use of glyphosate, and according to the city government’s own data, the Department of Parks & Recreation continues to generously deploy Roundup. In 2017, city workers sprayed over 500 gallons of glyphosate, including in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which receives 8 million visitors a year. And we don’t even know how much glyphosate is used in parks like Central Park, which are managed by private conservancies that haven’t shared the data.

 

 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — An Upper East Side community center will be better served to provide meals to thousands of neighborhood youths and seniors following a $2.1 million kitchen renovation.

 

Mr. Edison asked that the exact amount not be disclosed because he had signed a confidentiality agreement.

Mr. Edison said he gave half the money to a local soup kitchen and several nonprofit groups. “I don’t think you should make money on the suffering of other people — a lot of people around here were upset by the noise,” he said.

Mr. Mihalis declined to comment and Mr. Cohen and lawyers who handled the settlement did not respond to requests for comment.

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and is also a lawyer, said Mr. Edison was pursuing an unusual legal route.

Small claims court is typically the last resort for settling disputes over specific monetary damages — not a venue for fighting quality-of-life issues.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that he was able to win some small victory,” he said.

Jack Grant, a longtime friend of Mr. Edison’s, said Mr. Edison does not back down. “When he believes in something, Mike will stick to it until it gets done,” he said.

 

The City Council voted to close a zoning loophole that has allowed developers to boost building heights with excessive mechanical spaces—but it’s only the first step in addressing the issue, say lawmakers.

 

SUTTON PLACE, NY — The planned skyscraper that played a central role in the resident-led rezoning of the small Sutton Place neighborhood on the East River has begun its rise, according to new reports.

 

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some New Yorkers out enjoying the warm weather on Sunday had some trouble getting on city ferries.

Many waited in long lines for over an hour for a ferry boat. John Kim waited more than 90 minutes.

When asked by CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez if he expected the wait to be that long, Kim said, “Oh definitely not. I thought it was going to be 1, 2, 3, really. And after this I was saying never again.”

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City Councilman Ben Kallos took to Twitter saying he and his family had to wait for about 40 minutes at the Upper East Side dock for a ferry.

Once the ferry came, the councilman said there wasn’t enough room for everyone in line to get on the boat. That means those people had to wait another 30 minutes for the next ferry.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened,” Kallos said. “Any time the weather is nice out there, people will tell me about the fact that they’ve been left behind. This time it happened to me and my family and I’ll tell you that with a small child, that’s not easy and I really wish I knew ahead of time.”

 

City Councilman Ben Kallos said he planned to enjoy Sunday’s sunny weather with his family aboard a NYC Ferry boat. He arrived at the ferry system’s East 90th Street stop in Manhattan just before 11 a.m. When a ferry pulled up, only 50 people, about half of the waiting line, were able to board, he said. The councilman and his family waited 30 minutes more for another boat. By that time the line had grown by an additional 40 people, who then had to wait for the boat after his.

“This is supposed to be a form of public transportation,” Mr. Kallos, a Democrat, said in an interview Monday. “We can’t live in a reality where you have to wait for a ferry and then not have enough room on that ferry. Or wait an hour or half an hour for the next ferry. That’s just not acceptable.”

 

Kallos said the boats were filling up at the Soundview stop, leaving no room for riders at the Upper East Side dock, where downtown-bound ferries stop every 30 minutes on weekends.

“This isn’t the first weekend that this has happened,” griped Kallos. “There is no one on each dock trying to manage the lines. People are pushing to the front in a panic trying to get a spot.”

 

City Councilman Ben Kallos helped promote the students' petition and has been calling on the city to build more gym facilities on the Upper East Side since the 2017 launch of Mayor Bill de Blasio's "Universal Physical Education Initiative." 

"Eleanor Roosevelt High School students have not only won championships but now they've won a gym," Kallos said in a statement. "Every child must have a real gym for physical education and athletic competition. As New York City battles with childhood obesity, we need to give children every opportunity to burn off calories throughout the day."

 

The Hudson River Park Trust has announced an effort to dramatically reduce the use of disposable plastics by the park's vendors, restaurants, and other tenants, with the intent of becoming what the trust says will be the first public park in New York City to gradually move toward a “plastic free” environment.

 

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping want the City Council to “cast out” Monsanto’s demonic spawn by passing Councilmember Ben Kallos’s bill banning chemical pesticides and herbicides in the city.

 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Extell Development's Gary Barnett revealed few details Tuesday night during a Community Board meeting to discuss his firm's planned full-block developments on First Avenue between East 79th and 80th streets and East 85th and 86th streets.

 

In 2012, Dewayne Anthony Lee Johnson took a job as groundskeeper for a California county school district. “I did everything,” he said in an interview with Time magazine. “Caught skunks, mice, and raccoons, patched holes in walls, worked on irrigation issues.”

He also treated the school grounds with Roundup weed killer, about twenty to thirty times a year and sometimes for several hours a day. On one occasion, the pesticide sprayer broke, drenching Johnson in the herbicide. Afterward, a rash broke out and skin lesions spread across his body.

 

“The point of city planning is to have predictability and we have a zoning text that has been under attack by people looking for loopholes, and the newest is these gerrymandered lots,” says Upper East Side City Council member Ben Kallos, who requested the study and has staunchly advocated for the city to crack down on the practice. “The point is to restore the predictability.”

In a May 13 letter to Marisa Lago, the director of the DCP, Kallos suggested applying lot restrictions already in place for residential properties to all zoning districts, with a certification process for instances where carving out a tiny lot is legitimate. In low-density neighborhoods zoned for single-family, detached homes, for instance, the minimum lot area is 9,500 square feet and the minimum lot width is 100 feet. Another solution could be creating a “Minimum Distance Between Lot Lines” restriction, Kallos suggested.