"Every year, the start of the school year, starts with nightmares, of children who get stuck on buses for hours, leaving parents wondering where their children are," said NYC's Councilmember Ben Kallos, on the addition of GPS trackers. "We can do it with Uber, the MTA does it with buses. None of this is new."
"We now have legislation that takes lessons from cities like Boston, where parents get bus routes weeks ahead of the school year, in time to challenge routes as well as from the Chancellor's home city of Houston, where since 2015 parents have had access to GPS apps, so they know where the buses are," City Councilman Ben Kallos said.
In September, bus problems began before the first school bells rang, when many kids were not picked up for the first day of classes. Other children rode for hours, arriving late to school. By the end of the month, the city had received 130,000 complaints about the school buses, significantly up from previous years, when bus problems had also plagued the start of school.
- New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has proposed legislation that would require construction workers to be paid the prevailing wage for projects subsidized by the city.
- Construction contractors must already pay the prevailing wage when they have a direct contract with the city, but Kallos’ measure would expand this requirement to projects that receive government funds in the minimum amount of $1 million, are 100,000 square feet or more in size or, if residential in nature, have more than 50 units in a building. The new regulation would also provide for classroom and on-the-job training through apprenticeships and require developers to disclose information like the source of all subsidies, how many jobs they create, all the names of contractors and owners and proof of insurance for all parties.
- The proposal also includes monitoring and reporting by city agencies and the comptroller; fines of $10,000 per day for noncompliance; the potential for withdrawal of financial assistance to the developer; whistleblower protections and a right of private action for prevailing wages. “Any project that receives taxpayer dollars must pay a prevailing wage, invest in workers with training and apprenticeship and provide protection for workers' rights,” said Kallos, who is also an attorney for union labor. “Paying construction workers minimum wage on affordable housing projects is only making our city’s housing crisis worse. Moreover, no one should die in a construction accident that could have been prevented with proper training."
On Wednesday, the council approved legislation sponsored by Chaim Deutsch (D-Brighton Beach-Sheepshead Bay) and Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) to install GPS devices on school buses and to give parents the option of using the tracking devices via an app. Another bill would give parents the opportunity before the start of the school year to review and bus routes and request changes to those routes.
The bills have been sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his signature.
"It's pretty straightforward. We can do it for Uber. We can do it on MTA buses. We can do it even on subways, and listen, if the MTA can get this right, it's scary that the city hasn't been able to get it right with our yellow buses," said Ben Kallos, a Democratic City Council member.
The portion of legislation involving the GPS will cost about $3.6 million in the first year of implementation. There's an estimated $1.8 million cost in the years to follow.
Eliyanna Kaiser, a New York City mother, said she is ready to celebrate over this new legislative package.
“I’m so proud that the City Council voted to pass my legislation and the entire STOP package, the most comprehensive oversight and reform we’ve ever seen of our student transit system,” said Treyger. “This legislation is about dragging a $1.2 billion school bus and transport industry into the 21st century and building the accountability and transparency necessary to ensure that our city’s children and families are receiving the safe, efficient, and humane school transportation services they deserve.”
But Treyger was also quick to call himself the prime co-sponsor on Council Member Ben Kallos’ (D-Manhattan) legislation to put GPS devices on all school buses.
“Parents have enough to worry about. School bus rides to and from school should not be another cause for concern. I’m proud to join Council Members Kallos and Deutsch in sponsoring this legislation that will give parents peace of mind when it comes to their child’s daily commute,” he said.
Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side), a new parent who proposed the GPS bill, said that requiring city school buses to operate electronic tracking devices will provide worried parents with knowledge of their kids’ whereabouts.
“Parents have brought up concerns they don’t know when the bus is coming home,” Kallos said. “Now they’ll finally be in position to know where their kids are. I’m hoping it’ll have a big impact.”
Parents of public school children impacted by problems with the city’s long-struggling bus system were eager for relief promised by the proposed legislation, which would take affect by September.
“Right now it’s the Wild West and we don’t have proper oversight — that why the bus crisis was what it was,” said Rachel Ford, a Queens parent and member of the Parents to Improve School Transportation advocacy group, whose son was delayed on his school bus for nearly four hours at the start of the school year.
Developers who want to do business with the city would be required to publicly disclose previous relationships with government officials under a bill being introduced Wednesday at the City Council.
“Well-connected developers should not be getting sweetheart deals on the taxpayers’ dime,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the bill’s sponsor.
Under the bill, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development would be required to give the Council the “compliance package” submitted by prospective developers for mandatory background checks.
New York City Councilman Ben Kallos is reintroducing a stalled bill that would require all construction workers to get paid the prevailing wage on any projects getting city subsidies.
Under state law, any project built under a government contract must pay workers the prevailing wage. Kallos’ bill would cast a much wider net, mandating the prevailing wage for not just direct government contracts, but for any projects getting grants, bond financing, tax abatements or any other sort of support valued over $1 million from the New York City government.
Councilman Ben Kallos introduced legislation back in 2014 to get GPS tracking installed on every school bus, so parents can monitor when the bus is coming, or see why it’s late. Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the Education Committee, confirmed that the bill will advance out of the committee on Wednesday. Council Speaker Corey Johnson is expected to bring it up for a full vote in the afternoon.
“I’m confident we will pass this with a veto-proof majority tomorrow,” Kallos said.
The Department of Education will be required to implement it by September for the 2019-20 school year. The effort dates back almost 20 years, when former Councilman Michael Nelson introduced a bill to require two-way radio communication. Since then, GPS tracking has been been successfully implemented in major school districts like Denver, Boston and Houston, the district where Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza last worked.
Next month, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to cast a ballot for a new public advocate in the first-ever special election for a citywide office. The current vacancy was created when the most recent officeholder, Letitia James, was officially sworn in as the state’s attorney general, a position she won in the November general election.
El alcalde Bill de Blasio promulgó ayer la legislación que amplía las reformas de financiamiento de campañas, las mismas que fueran aprobadas por el 80% de los votantes neoyorquinos en los comicios del 6 de noviembre. La nueva norma legal se aplicará tan pronto como el martes 26 de febrero, en que se celebrará la elección especial para Defensor Público y en las posteriores elecciones municipales de 2021.
The city aims to add 640 new public school seats on the Upper East Side as part of its upcoming $17 billion five-year school capital plan.
Plans for expanding the neighborhood’s school capacity appear in the School Construction Authority and Department of Education’s proposed capital plan for fiscal years 2020-2024. The 640 Upper East Side seats are among the 2,794 new seats the plan calls for in School District 2, which includes the Upper East Side, Midtown, Chelsea and much of Lower Manhattan.
An SCA and DOE spokesperson did not comment on whether the city has identified potential sites for the 640 new seats. But Council Member Ben Kallos, who advocated for the agencies to expand school capacity in his Upper East Side district, said that the added seats will most likely be located in a new school.
“My preference is for one large school,” Kallos said, adding, “Based on the work I’ve been doing with the SCA to find a location for this school, I believe that there will be a site large enough to accommodate all 640 seats, if not more.”
The 640-seat Upper East Side project will cost an estimated $92.85 million, with an expected completion date of March 2025, according to the proposed capital plan. The city hopes to start design work by Sept. 2020 and begin construction by Dec. 2021.
The 10 scariest words in the English language, Ronald Reagan used to joke, are these: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”
Kathleen L. Steed embraces a very different world view. Officialdom, she believes, can offer comfort, company, support and holiday cheer.
And every once in a while, it can even rescue you from mortal peril.
“The word ‘miracle’ is overused and overworked,” said the 73-year-old Yorkville woman, a retired private investigator and hospital fundraiser.
“But this really is a story about a miracle,” she added.
It surfaced on Dec. 13 at the annual holiday party of Upper East Side City Council Member Ben Kallos as some 70-plus constituents mingled in his district office on East 93rd Street.
Over baked ziti from the Italian Village Pizza on First Avenue and gallons of apple cider and other nonalcoholic beverages, Steed buttonholed Josh Jamieson, the communications director for Council District 5.
“Your newsletter saved my life,” she said simply.
Jamieson said he was stunned.
Thus began a conversation between a pair of newsletter aficionados.
Jamieson has worked for Kallos for nearly three years, and his duties include writing, editing and curating most of the document, which reaches thousands of constituents online and in a hefty print edition that can range from 30 to 50 pages.
It’s so comprehensive and labor-intensive that he’s regularly on the receiving end of good-natured ribbing from Kallos and Jesse Towsen, his chief of staff, over both the newsletter’s length and its encyclopedic scope.
A recent issue, for instance, was chockablock full with listings for UES events, lectures, exhibits, book groups, support groups, writing circles, yoga workshops, dance rehearsals, ballet workshops, exercise classes, cooking classes, legal clinics, medical services and homeless services.
Not to mention the screenings of “Casablanca,” symposium about the 1830s, drag queen story hours and discussions of the U-boat attacks on allied shipping in the North Atlantic during World War II.
Steed, who has lived in the same rent-stabilized, walk-up apartment on Third Avenue since 1977, is every elected official’s dream: She’s a self-professed “information junkie” who actually reads all their newsletters. Voraciously.
As an active senior who lives alone and likes to keep busy, she can often be found at gatherings, parties and other activities for the elderly that she’s spotted in the newsletters of Kallos, state Senator Liz Krueger, state Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, as well as nonprofits like the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and Health Advocates for Older People.
Of those six community newsletters, Kallos’ is by far the longest, while Krueger’s is a close second, Steed said. “Sometimes,” she confessed, “I don’t read it all the way through ... I just scan it!”
Nonetheless, she made it to page 46 of the 49-page July newsletter and focused on an event listing: “In honor of World Head and Neck Cancer Day,” it said, “please join us for free head and neck cancer screenings offered through Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.”
It’s a “modern plantation.”
Ibrahim Sangare worked at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Staten Island and said the experience was grueling. Workers spent at least 10 hours a day on their feet while scanning items, lifting boxes, and going up and down stairs.
Jan Hus Presbyterian Church — a storied house of worship on the Upper East Side that once boasted thousands of Czech parishioners — is selling its 1888 building on East 74th Street, Straus News has learned.
Corey Johnson and Bill de Blasio are not friends.
And for Johnson, the New York City Council speaker whose friendliness is his defining trait, that’s saying something.
Johnson didn’t even wish the mayor a happy birthday, something the speaker admitted at a City Hall press conference on May 9, the day after de Blasio turned 57. “I meant to, and I forgot. And now you made me feel bad,” Johnson said, with the obvious disappointment of somebody who puts a high value on such social currencies.
Funcionarios electos como el contralor Scott Stringer, la expresidenta del Concejo Municipal y candidata a la Defensoría del Pueblo Melissa Mark Viverito, y los concejales Jimmy Van Bramer, Brad Lander, Ben Kallos y Jumaane Williams también se unieron al movimiento que se trasladó al interior de la edificación, donde visiblemente molesto, Corey Johnson, presidente del Concejo Municipal dio inició a la primera de tres audiencias públicas programadas.
By their very nature, press conferences regarding City Council expense funding allocations are generally rather staid affairs.
But a Dec. 5 announcement on public funding to tidy Upper East Side sidewalks turned into a raucous standoff between the cleanup crews of two nonprofits that each help formerly homeless and incarcerated individuals reenter the workforce through street cleaning jobs.
Next to a litter-strewn tree bed on the East 86th Street sidewalk, the workers of Wildcat Service Corporation — clad in neon green vests, pushing wheeled garbage cans and bearing implements of trash collection — had gathered to celebrate $85,000 in funding allocated to the organization by local Council Member Ben Kallos to clean a number of “problem areas” in the neighborhood.
Then, loudly approaching from the direction of Third Avenue, came the men of the Doe Fund’s street cleanup program in their signature blue uniforms, chanting, “Ready, Willing, Able — Doe Fund for life!”
The advancing Doe Fund lines were met with a retaliatory chorus as two sides met near the entrance to Shake Shack: “We are the Wildcats, the mighty, mighty Wildcats.”