New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Thousands of commuters were stranded outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, the busiest bus station in the country, after more than 1,100 scheduled buses were canceled. The line of people stretched a full city block.

 

Citywide Council on Special Education Co-Chair Gloria Corsino said she was flooded with calls from parents whose kids with disabilities suffered on buses that were stuck on the roads for hours.

“These drivers don’t allow kids to eat on the bus or use the bathroom,” Corsino said. “Imagine the trauma. This is just poor emergency management.”

Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos said the storm exposed serious weaknesses in the city’s beleaguered, $1.2 billion yellow bus system, which is already undergoing an overhaul amid widespread service problems, allegations of corruption and a federal investigation.

“All of this could have been prevented,” said Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side and intervened with the NYPD to help other kids with disabilities get home from the same stricken bus as Reynoso’s son.

“When you already have a bus route that’s three hours long, and then there’s a storm, it’s going to double or triple,” Kallos said. “We’re setting up these drivers and kids for failure.”

The city will investigate busing problems encountered in the storm, said Mayor de Blasio spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg.

 

Numerous speakers also blasted the inclusion of a helipad in the construction of the campus, which was held up as a totem of what they saw as Bezos’ elite attitude, refusal to ride the subway, or spend a second longer in Queens than he might have to. City Council Member Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side went as far as comparing Bezos to a Bond villain.

Kallos was also the only speaker of the bunch to bring up a letter that he and many other lawmakers (including rally leader Van Bramer and Queens state Senator Mike Gianaris) signed last year asking Amazon to explore moving to New York City, an awkward juxtaposition with the day’s anti-Amazon sentiment. “A lot of us did sign a letter saying we wanted to have a conversation with Amazon, and I’ll be the first to say talking to tech companies is a good thing,” Kallos explained. “But we didn’t sign on the dotted line that we were signing away our tax dollars. They’re taking $3 billion out of your pockets and none of us get a say in that.

 

The city also agreed to facilitate construction of a new helipad on the site for Amazon executives. The Manhattan city councilman Ben Kallos said the arrangement made Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, look like a “Bond villain”.

“The governor and the mayor have decided to throw Jeff Bezos almost $3bn in subsidies and tax breaks – and throw in a helipad so he doesn’t have to take the damn 7 train,” said city councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Long Island City. “He wants this helipad so he doesn’t actually really have to spend any time in Queens.”

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Addressed to Bezos — whom one of its signatories, Councilman Ben Kallos, compared to a "Bond villain" on Wednesday — the letter stated officials' belief that "Amazon will be a strong contributor to our civic and commercial life."

Gianaris, who signed the letter, said the officials thought the jobs stemming from the project would be good, but "never contemplated that public dollars would be secretly given to Amazon to get them here."

 

Another popular grievance among the speakers at the rally was the state-funded helipad in Queens that New York has promised Bezos. "He's going to have a helicopter pad. It's like a Bond villain," Councilmember Ben Kallos said. Kallos' district includes Roosevelt Island, which sits adjacent to Long Island City, just one subway stop away. "Residents on Roosevelt Island are scared to death about what Amazon will bring," he said.

 

On a bitterly cold day last winter, Sumaya’s mother placed her on her school bus in Brooklyn. Later that morning, her mother received a frantic call. Sumaya, a nonverbal 13-year-old with autism, had been found at a school far from the one she attended. The bus driver had left her, unsupervised, outside the wrong school. Luckily, instead of wandering off to the park across the street, Sumaya had walked into the school building, where she covered her ears and screamed repeatedly, until a staff member found her. A search of Sumaya's backpack turned up a notebook with her mother's phone number. Her mother still has nightmares about how differently the day could have ended.

 

Council Member Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The 168,000 residents in his district, the second largest in the city, mostly live in high rises. Mr. Kallos has proposed a measure that would mandate the mayor’s Zero Waste initiative to include targets and updates. The measure failed, and the effort to bring residential composting to his district has been frustrating, he said.

“We’ve worked with a number of residents and buildings to get composting,” Mr. Kallos said. “But I’ve yet to hear of any successes. I’ve never seen any brown bins in my district and I’d be surprised if there are any.”

 

NEW YORK -- Rosa Rodriguez from Brooklyn says her 65-year-old mother Anna Rivera survived so much this past year. Her husband passed away. She survived cancer. Then Hurricane Maria destroyed her home in Puerto Rico. Rivera fled to NYC for a better life.

But Rodriguez doesn’t have the resources right now to help her mother find her own home here in NYC.

“She cries everyday. She’s losing hope,” Rodriguez said.

Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, says one of the biggest battles in NYC is preserving affordable housing.

“The population keeps growing and growing and it’s a crisis," Kallos said. "We can’t build our way out of it but what we can do is make sure people who are building new housing build affordable mandatory affordable housing."

Darma Diaz, with a grassroots organization called YNCCA, an organization that says it's helped place dozens of Hurricane Maria evacuees, saw PIX11’s story and sprung into action for Maria.

More on YNCCA can be found here.

A spokesperson for Human Resources Administration says, “We have assisted over 2,500 evacuees from Puerto Rico who registered with the Service Center the City created immediately after Hurricane Maria by connecting them to benefits such a SNAP and Cash Assistance, health insurance, mental health counseling, and assistance for displaced students, among other services. In addition, we made 945 referrals to Homebase, the City’s homelessness prevention program which provides a variety of prevention services to assist families and individuals experiencing housing crisis and are at imminent risk of entering shelter.”

If you can help Rivera, email Monica Morales direct at monica@pix11.com

See this week's live Monica Makes It Happen Facebook show:

 

“Sadly it’s another case of Albany getting in the way of anyone having good elections in this state, or of Albany to fix the Board of Elections, give it back to the people and take it away from the party bosses.” – New York City Councilman Ben Kallos

“It’s interesting to see that the two people whose conduct was found culpable in Brooklyn lost their employment and yet the people involved in some of the other purges identified by the AG in Queens and Manhattan are still there. Why weren’t those people fired?” New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, a longtime critic of the city election board’s hiring system, asked rhetorically.

Not quite scapegoats, the two suspended Brooklyn clerks appeared to be more like settled-upon sacrificial lambs. A city Board of Elections spokeswoman recently described them both as “retired.” But in 2016, what they appear to have been doing was following orders.

 

To the relief of an Upper East Side community group, Gamma Real Estate’s tower won’t violate new zoning rules until at least next year. But there’s no guarantee that the developer won’t build beyond that.

 

An Upper East Side community group is claiming a small victory in its legal battle against a tower under construction on E. 58th St. But that victory, the developer counters, is nothing more than a mere coincidence due to the project’s construction timeline.

 

As The KCP Investigation continues into the city’s taking of fully paid off properties through the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), Third Party Transfer (TPT) program, KCP has been busy chasing down a number of of leads in trying to unravel the complex role of the government’s involvement. What follows is a few of these odds, ends and false leads with a brief explanation:

FALSE LEAD: 2017 CITY LEGISLATION PROMPTED THE FORECLOSURES

In 2017, the coalition Stand For Tenant Safety (STS) along with the City Council’s Progressive Caucus put together a legislative package of 11 bills, which passed the Council in August of that year.

Among these bills was City Council Member Ben Kallos‘ (D-Manhattan) bill, Intro. 0930, which expands HPD’s (TPT) program, allowing the city to foreclose and sell distressed residential buildings to pre-qualified third parties, and to include buildings whose owners have incurred large amounts of unsatisfied building violations.

The bill, although expanding the definition of “distressed” property, had nothing to do the seizure of more than 60 properties across Central Brooklyn in a single foreclosure judgement last September. The  legislation does not go into effect until 2019, and even if it was in effect, would unlikely  include the properties featured in KCP’s investigative series as these properties do not have the type of building violations detailed in the bill.

 

But others see an opportunity for reform at every level if the provisions pass.

City Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan, has pushed for campaign-finance reform since he ran for office in 2013.

“I really think that the system has too much big money into it,” he said. He hopes the changes will increase participation, particularly with first-time candidates.

“It is not humanly possible for someone to run for mayor on small dollars,” he said. “And with this change, it is.”

 

The book provides historical research and photographs from various institutional archives in the City, which are placed alongside contemporary photographs of the neighborhood to show the progression throughout the years.  Council Member Ben Kallos and the Department of Cultural Affairs provided funding for the project.

 

On Nov. 6, New York City voters will have the chance to limit the corrupting influence of large political contributions by voting “yes” on Ballot Question 1, a proposal from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission to lower donation limits and increase public matching funds.

New York is already one of the few cities that matches campaign contributions up to $175, a system that empowers normal citizens – who do not have thousands of dollars to spare – to financially support their preferred candidates. By doing so, it reins in the influence of big money in politics, and most candidates in New York City participate.

 

Manhattan Council Member Ben Kallos, also a Democrat, is backing all the proposals as well. Kallos has been a staunch campaign finance reform advocate and the first question would partially achieve what he has in the past tried to do through legislation, to expand the amount of public funds given to candidates running for office. “Democracy in New York City will finally get better,” he said in a September 6 statement, if the first question is passed, “reducing contribution limits and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier.”

 

City Councilman Ben Kallos said the 8 Argus cameras will cost $336,000.

Kallos said he has always had concerns about cameras and how they might impact on a person’s privacy as well as how law enforcement uses them.

But said his constituents want them.

“No one objected during participatory budgeting,” Kallos said, referring to the process by which citizens have a say in how city money is spent. “People want them.”

He also recalled speaking with a police commander at an FDR pedestrian bridge earlier this year and witnessing the deterrence of cameras.

“Two people walked past us,’’ Kallos explained. “They said, ‘There’s security cameras there — let’s not go there.”

The cameras will link to the NYPD’s Domain Awareness System, the surveillance network of more than 18,000 inter-connected cameras — including those in the private sector — as well as law enforcement databases.

 

Council Member Ben Kallos, NYPD 19th Precinct Commander Kathleen Walsh, and representatives from the community gathered this breezy, but gorgeous morning alongside the East River at 63rd Street to announce the installation of high tech "ARGUS" security cameras on the East River Esplanade, and along East 86th Street. The cameras, which cost $35,000 each, utilize several cameras usually housed in a white metal box generally attached to light poles, are high definition, can see 360 degrees, and can be accessed by the NYPD on any type of device real-time. The installation of the ARGUS cameras is intended to deter crime, and to provide more far reaching and clearer imaging to help identify perps when a crime has been committed.

 

Owners of cooling towers are currently required to have them inspected quarterly and immediately have them cleaned if they show a certain amount of the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' Disease. Cooling tower owners then must submit an annual report documenting the inspections and cleanings.

The new law would require inspection results to be submitted to the city almost immediately after they're received. It would also require the city to send electronic reminders to cooling tower owners of upcoming dates.

"As the Health Department issues violations to bring towers into compliance, many buildings with cooling towers are still failing to report the results of their inspections, leaving us to wonder if inspections are occurring at all," bill sponsor Councilman Ben Kallos said.