New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

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.

MORECity Councilman Says Proposed GPS Tracking Systems For School Buses Could Have Prevented Snowstorm Nightmare

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 felt like slavery,” said Amazon worker Ibrahim Sangare.

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.


Amazon responde

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.”


The new campaign finance rules approved by voters at the polls last month don’t take effect until 2021 -- but City Councilman Ben Kallos has introduced legislation that would allow candidates in the upcoming special election for public advocate to opt into the new system.

“Almost every single candidate running for public advocate is already an elected official, and only one can win. And I just don’t want that many existing elected officials taking that much money,” Kallos told the News.

An architect of the new system passed as Question 1 on the ballot last November -- which set up a new campaign finance system that slashes contribution limits while increasing the amount of public matching funds a candidate can receive -- Kallos is looking to create similar changes for candidates running in special elections and other races that will crop up between now an


Wildcat Services will cover two-miles of "problem areas" on the Upper East Side on Second Avenue between East 57th and 72nd streets and East 79th, 86th and 96th streets between East End and Lexington Avenues, Kallos announced. The Bronx-based nonprofit was one of two organizations that bid for the NYC Clean Up contract and currently work with 25 other members of the City Council in every borough except Staten Island through the initiative, Kallos said.

"We're cleaning up the neighborhood block by block, from a new covered trashcan on every corner, to launching and supporting community groups, to partnering with Wildcat to dedicating a crew to keep the Upper East Side clean four days a week," Kallos said in a statement.

A four-person team from Wildcat is expected to begin servicing the new routes as soon as next week, the organization's Manager of Operations Mario La Rosa said.

Kallos balked at The Doe Fund's claim that the organization was unaware of the pilot program funding, telling Patch that the organization's founder George McDonald helped create the NYC Clean Up initiative.



It was quite the scene on East 86th Street early this afternoon as Council Member Ben Kallos hosted a press conference with supportive local community organizations to announce an $85,000 pilot program to fund street cleaners for areas of the Upper East Side not covered by the Doe Fund.


“Albany should look to all the things we’ve gotten done in the City Council over the past five years,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, who previously chaired the governmental operations committee and helped lead the reform effort, “and it starts with no outside income, no more lulus, campaign finance reform...I believe that those three things would help clean up a lot of the corruption in Albany.”

To the dismay of good government groups and activists, however, the governor and Legislature have repeatedly wrestled over ethics reform with little to show for it. Cuomo infamously came to power promising that he would clean up Albany but later shut down the Moreland Commission that he had set up to fulfil that very pledge in the face of a resistant Legislature that kept seeing its members hauled off to jail. The compromise Cuomo struck with the Legislature created the state-run Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which many have criticized for being an inefficient agency with too-close ties to the governor and legislative leaders, who appoint its members.


City Council Member Ben Kallos, who unsuccessfully attempted to increase the public funds cap to 85 percent through legislation, was glad to see voters pass the improvements to the system. In a phone interview, he implied that concerns about the cost of the new system were overblown, and said that enhancing the system is key to eliminating real and perceived conflicts of interest.



East Side pedestrians and cyclists are making strides in street safety, according to an analysis of NYPD collision data covering East Side zip codes from 26th to 96th Streets performed by the offices of East Side City Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers.


The idea of establishing a “ride sharing” (or “e-hail”) standard isn’t new. It has been discussed and proposed by a number of people in New York City’s tech community for years, including Ben Kallos, a tech-aware City Council member who proposed it in a 2014 bill, and by Chris Whong, now the lead developer of NYC Planning Labs, who proposed it in a 2013 blog post.



Fears are that legislators will get a no strings attached raise without the outside income restrictions Kallos wrote into the City Council package. That's a huge risk in a State where corruption is so rampant that leaders from both major parties are now serving time in jail, joined by intimates of the Governor who were also caught misusing public positions for personal gain.

"The public would be better served if any pay raises that may come were tied to banning outside income and lulus for state lawmakers." Kallos concluded.

The Times agreed, "Good government demands fair compensation for lawmakers, but only when they earn and keep the public’s trust.


“The report proves there is a giant need in one of the wealthiest cities in the world for food pantries that rely on donations,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos. “New York City should be doing more to fight hunger to protect our kids and our seniors as they are most vulnerable and more likely to face hunger and food insecurity.”