Since the city’s rollout of universal pre-k, Upper East Side pols have been critical of how few seats there are in the area. A WNYC report in 2014 found that just 123 pre-k seats were located in Yorkville, Lenox Hill, and Roosevelt Island, though some 2,118 four-year-olds lived in those neighborhoods.
The issue, in part, is due to how School District 2 stretches from the Upper East Side through the southern tip of Manhattan.
“That is obviously a problem,” said City Councilmember Ben Kallos, “if a seat in the Financial District is being counted toward a child in East Harlem.”
Councilmember Keith Powers said the boundaries of school districts should probably be revisited.
When your pre-k is three miles away, he said, “it creates false expectations for the school system when you have school seats available, but they’re so far for families.”
Since last September, hundreds of seats have been added at Third Ave. and E. 95th St., as well as on E. 57th St. and E. 82nd St. Next fall, a fourth pre-k is expected to open on E. 76th St. with another 180 seats — bringing the total of new seats to more than 450 in two years.
The new $7.8 million library will be fully ADA accessible and feature computer work stations, a reading area, a teen area, a children's room and a multi-use community room for events. The project will also result in exterior improvements such as new plantings, a book drop and a bench area that will double as a bus stop.
Funds for the project were allocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Ben Kallos and former City Council Member Jessica Lappin.
The sidewalk shed was one of nearly 8,000 around the city and was one of the city’s oldest. It was scaffolding like these that prompted City Councilman Ben Kallos to introduce a bill last November that aimed to require scaffolding to be taken down within six months of it having gone up. Kallos argued that some property owners opt to keep the sheds in place for extended periods of time to put off making costly facade repairs. In 2016, the Department of Buildings (DOB) found that the city was home to nearly 2,000 “dormant sheds” where repair work wasn’t being carried out on building facades that posed safety hazards. Even the DOB headquarters at 280 Broadway in Manhattan has had a sidewalk shed around it since 2008.
"We thought the problems in the building were dangerous, but the landlord ignored us and there is no mechanism to get them to fix the issues," Velkov said. "The city said that they couldn't do anything and the landlord could just revoke the lease – we just don't have any rights."
Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Book stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, said she is being forced out of her store in Manhattan and will have to relocate.
"We are being replaced by chains," McNally said. It would've helped to have the non-binding arbitration and mediation."
Councilman Ben Kallos, (D-Manhattan) a co-sponsor of the bill, decried the spread of chain stores.
"New York City doesn't need another Starbucks or a bank – it's the last thing we need," Kallos said. "Instead, we get empty storefronts and there are vacancies everywhere. We need to save small business in this city instead of having darkness."
"As the public media station for the New York metropolitan area, WNET is proud to partner with Council Members Kallos and Powers to provide this public service to the community" Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of WNET, said in a statement.
Funding will cover live streams for the community board's next 12 full board meetings. The full board makes the final vote on resolutions that have been passed by community board committees. Resolutions span a wide range of issues such as housing, public safety, business licenses and transportation.
WNET employees will attend the meetings and stream them using professional camera and sound equipment.
Kallos and Powers decided to fund the live streams at Community Board 8's request, a spokesman for Kallos said. The streams will be publicized by Kallos and Powers on social media, the spokesman said
Even before the hotly anticipated hearing even took place, protesters gathered on the steps of the city Education Department headquarters to call for improved service, and Council Member Ben Kallos (D-UES) led a press conference at City Hall in support of legislation to improve bus service.
Families said problems with bus service are ongoing, despite the city’s efforts.
"I still don't know what happened," Kaiser said, referring to the first day of school for her kids. "And I would have loved to have had GPS on our bus that day to have an answer to that question."
Soon she may get her wish. Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill that would require all school buses to have GPS and an app that would make that information available to parents.
"This is not an expensive problem to solve," Kallos said. "This is something that buses have solved, garbage trucks have solved, and Uber, Lyft, and every other ride hailing program in the country has solved."
Right now two-thirds of all school buses are equipped with GPS but schools and parents don't have access to that data.
"And so the big difference that this bill would make is ensuring that parents can follow that GPS real-time data and see where the bus is and where their children are," said Randy Levine of Advocates for Children of New York.
City council members are proposing a slew of new bills to address the long-standing problems. One bill co-sponsored by more than a dozen members would require all buses to use GPS tracking, another would create a bill of rights for riders, and another would require the education department to report average travel times for students. Tucked into a bill sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos is a call for the city to also consider the use of transportation to encourage school integration.
Kallos, who is also behind the legislation to require location trackers, said the city has already allocated funding for the devices in its budget.
“The city just needs to do it. It’s already paid for,” he said. “It is most important for parents and caretakers… so that no one has to worry where the bus is or their child is.”
He also proposed a new Office of Inspection independent of the Department of Buildings and the Housing and Preservation Department, which he said play conflicting roles since they both approve new construction and development and are also charged with enforcing housing and construction codes. In line with his role as the city’s chief fiscal officer, Stringer also pushed for reforms to the capital budget, which funds infrastructure projects in the city. He said it should be transparent enough so the public can identify the cost of specific projects and be informed when those costs change.
Several other City Council members also weighed in on proposed charter revisions.
Council Member Ben Kallos, also co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, proposed a citizen “Bill of Rights to free higher education, affordable health and mental health care, and, access to parks, libraries, public transit and affordable internet.” He stressed that any revisions to the charter brought about through a ballot referendum should go through further changes only after being presented to voters again. He pushed to give the Council and borough presidents the ability to make appointments to mayoral boards that have land use authority and said the charter should be amended to allow city residents to propose legislation and be heard before the Council. “Our City’s Charter is truly a living document,” he said in a statement, “but it is up to us to make sure it remains alive.”
In 2016, frustrated with the scaffolding mushrooming around the city, Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, proposed legislation that would put a timeline on how long scaffolding can stay up. He reintroduced the legislation in early 2018. Building owners say the legislation is unfair because sometimes building owners don’t have the money to make needed repairs.
During the City Canvas pilot, the city is hoping to get proposals for at least one location in the city. With 300 miles of the stuff, it shouldn’t be hard to find at least one space to enliven with art.
In 1935, Sanford Meisner, one of the greatest acting teachers of the 20th Century andone of the founding members of The Group Theatre, joined the acting faculty of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in 1935 and in 1940, he became head of the acting program. It was at The Neighborhood Playhouse where he developed and refined what is now known as the Meisner Technique, a step-by-step procedure of self-investigation for the actor now globally recognized and among the foremost of modern acting techniques.
"All of us at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre wish to warmly thank New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, along with the rest of the New York City Council, in recognizing the rich history of this dynamic school and its historic place in the cultural life of New York City theater. We are eternally grateful to the paramount contribution that Sanford Meisner made not only to The Neighborhood Playhouse, but to the entire professional acting world." Executive Director of The Neighborhood Playhouse, Pamela Moller Kareman
"Theater is a beautiful art form that has helped New York City become known for its culture. Organizations like the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and individuals like legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner have a lot to do with that," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "It is a true honor and distinct pleasure to be able to officially recognize the many contributions of this organization and Mr. Meisner with a Proclamation from the City of New York"
"Parents should not have to wonder where their child is or when their child is finally getting home from a school bus ride gone off track. With the measures required in this bill, parents picking up or dropping off their child could rest assured knowing when and where their school bus is, using an app on their phone," said Council Member Ben Kallos (D-UES), a new parent who proposed the GPS bill.
The city partnered with the Hospital for Special Surgery to conduct a $1.8 million renovation of the esplanade between East 70th and 72nd streets when the hospital requested permission to expand its Upper East Side campus, City Councilman Ben Kallos said Thursday.
"When HHS wanted to make a small expansion to one of its buildings they asked how they could best give back to the community," Kallos said. "In addition to the great work they do healing New Yorkers and their existing commitment to be part of the conservancy we asked if they could do even more and they obliged."
The newly-renovated portion of the esplanade features new railings, benches, planters and a new water station where runners and bikers can fill up their water bottles, city Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said. The renovations also brought sound-resistant walls to the esplanade to reduce noise coming from the FDR Drive.
Displacing single-use bottles is an issue that Mark Chambers, the City Hall official in charge of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, said was related to a fundamental question of urban life: “How do we change our relationship to waste?”
Obviously, it is a question that has come up often as the country has debated pollution and environmental consciousness has surged. In April, Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr., a Democrat from Brooklyn, and Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat from the Upper East Side, proposed a ban on selling disposable plastic bottles in city-run parks, golf courses and beaches. The measure would cover soft drinks and juices as well as water. Other proposals would ban plastic straws that can be used only once, or plastic bags.
Mr. Chambers sees Bring It and the S’well bottles as “a great opportunity for us to make a strong public statement around why this matters” — and it is a statement that can be made without having to wait for a City Council vote.
When asked if he wonders why it took the city so long to do it, parent Edward Finkil said, “Yeah, I thought they did it. I thought that was something you do with the job.”
“I think there’s a lot of those things that you take for granted. You assume that your children are in the care of background-checked people, but I think sometimes that’s a false assumption,” added Chelsea parent Corynne Razos.
The city is also moving the unit which investigates bus driver complaints into its Office of Special Investigations, CBS2’s Kramer reported.
This also comes as City Councilman Ben Kallos has introduced a bill to outfit all school buses with GPS systems to help track buses and pupils who don’t show up.
Kallos’ bill also requires OPT to provide real-time GPS data via an authorized app to parents and school administrators. An app-based program would eliminate having bus drivers and escorts fielding frantic and angry calls from parents and administrators — when they should be focused on getting the children to and from home safely.
Although all special-ed buses and two-thirds of contracted school buses have “Navman” GPS devices installed, the DOE lags behind other school districts that have deployed pupil-transport tracking technology for parents and administrators.
Meanwhile, like other parents who complained, Susie was told that adjusted routes would be forthcoming soon to make Max’s commute shorter. We’re still waiting.
“We are now taking big strides in fulfilling the need for Pre-K seats on the Upper East Side. Building by building we are working with the City to open up more pre-kindergarten seats so that every four-year-old in my district can get the benefits of Pre K without having to commute an hour away,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you the School Construction Authority for the work on the facility and to the Department of Education for helping us get this new facility open and serving the community.”
“From every indication, jointly operated parks are treated like parkland,” said City Council member Ben Kallos, who represents East Harlem, and the Upper East Side, among other neighborhoods. “In fact, the Marx Brothers Playground went through New York State authorization as if it was, in fact, parkland. Seems like everyone involved, including the City and State, believe this playground was, in fact, a park. Government must eliminate the baseless distinctions between parks in order to protect our playgrounds and green spaces from overdevelopment,”
UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A new universal pre-k facility has added 90 seats to the Upper East Side, which means 90 families no longer have to trek down to Lower Manhattan to send their children to school, city officials announced Wednesday.
The new 11,500-square-foot facility on the corner of Third Avenue and East 95th Street opened on time for the 2018-2019 school year and is part of a push to add pre-k seats to the Upper East Side neighborhood, city officials said.