New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

City Councilman Ben Kallos — who says he's been in talks with the city Department of Education and School Construction Authority to get more physical education spaces in district since he's been elected — helped students facilitate their petition and included it in his monthly newsletter for constituents.

"It's amazing that Eleanor Roosevelt High School has championed athletics given that they don't actually have a gym. Hopefully this can help their sports program grow to the next level," Kallos told Patch.

Kallos noted that while of the Upper East Side's private schools are building or already have field houses for athletics, public schools are left without adequate space.

 

But the conversation around the prevailing wage and the New York City construction industry is far from over. Last month, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos proposed legislation that would require construction companies to pay their workers the prevailing wage on many projects subsidized by the city, even if those companies do not have a direct contract with the city. If they don't pay the prevailing wage, they would risk the loss of financial assistance for the project and fines of $10,000 a day for noncompliance. The new regulation would apply to projects that receive subsidies of at least $1 million, are 100,000 square feet or more in size or, for residential developments, have more than 50 units per building.

 

Council Member Ben Kallos introduced both bills, with Council Member Chaim Deutsch co-sponsoring Intro. 1148-2018 B. Kallos said he saw a need for the STOP Program after the recurring transportation problems that arose at the start of every new school year.

“Drivers would get lost and/or not know the routes,” explained Josh Jamieson, communications director for Kallos.

Another reason for the bill was a “freak snowstorm” in November, when special needs students were stuck on buses for over 10 hours, Jamieson added.

 

City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, responded by saying that he was "horrified" that DOB's interpretation appeared to be at odds with that of City Planning. In the past he has asked City Planning to consider adding more height restrictions in certain residential neighborhoods.

Citing 180 East 88th Street and 200 Amsterdam, two other projects that opponents say have used loopholes to add building height, Kallos said, "It's DOB that has been willfully refusing to follow zoning regulations."

Similarly, Rachel Levy, the executive director of Friends, expressed disbelief and frustration at the DOB’s position.

 

Board members also questioned whether NYCHA could have gotten more than $25 million for the land. When asked by the board, Charney said a NYCHA appraisal put the value of the land closer to $60 million. City Councilman Ben Kallos, who pressed Fetner and NYCHA a number of times throughout the meeting, asked if NYCHA could have made more money by just selling air rights at the development to other sites within the neighborhood.

A NYCHA spokesperson did not immediately respond to Patch's request for comment.

In May 2017, the New York City Housing Authority announced that real estate developer Fetner Properties was selected to develop a plot of land currently occupied by a playground between the two Holmes Towers buildings on East 92nd Street between First and York avenues. Fetner bid on the project through a request for proposals launched by NYCHA as part of its NextGen NYCHA initiative to allow private development on public lands to fund capital repairs.

 

Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, and City Councilmember Ben Kallos both attended the hearing to oppose the project, and suggested that the issue may ultimately wind up in court. "I don't want to be specific but we're very serious about this project," Brewer added.

After the hearing, Gregory Morris, president and executive director of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, a nonprofit at the housing complex whose services includes a community center, after-school programs and daycare, issued the following statement:

"NYCHA residents of Holmes Towers/Isaacs Houses and Members of Manhattan Community Board 8 made clear last night that they were uninformed about the Fetner project, as well as deeply concerned about its legality and potential environmental hazards. As the primary provider of social services in the development for more than 50 years, the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center will continue to amplify the voices of public housing residents who have long been ignored and isolated. We will continue to stand with all stakeholders to ensure that this project is subject to the City's Uniform Land Use Review Process, as the preservation of public housing through private investment should never conflict with the preservation of human dignity."

On Wednesday night, after four hours of public testimony, NYCHA officials, who appeared both worn and frustrated by the outpouring of anger, stopped trying to sell the project and conceded the reality of the situation.

 

The city is cracking down on that scourge of New York City: unsafe sidewalk sheds.

While sidewalk sheds are meant to protect pedestrians from falling debris at construction sites, a spate of accidents in which sidewalk sheds have done more harm than good, Council member Ben Kallos has introduced a bill to tighten safety regulations. Kallos’ told Gothamist that his office has found seven sidewalk shed incidents in which pedestrians were injured since 2017.

 

There are over 300 miles of scaffolding in this city. Those damp, dimly-lit plywood tunnels installed alongside construction sites are meant to keep construction materials from falling on pedestrians below. But sidewalk sheds can also be dangerous. Earlier this month, construction workers in Williamsburg were injured when a sidewalk shed gave way beneath them. Last summer, scaffolding in Brooklyn Heights fell outside a Starbucks, injuring three people below. And in 2017, a young woman suffered major spinal damage when scaffolding collapsed on her in SoHo.

 

NEW YORK, NY — Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is taking steps to cut down on the development trend of building large mechanical voids in high-rise towers after neighborhood preservation groups and elected officials sounded the alarm on the practice.

 

After pushback from the Upper West Side community and elected officials, the City Planning Commission announced Monday it will be reviewing a text amendment to limit voids: non-residential spaces in residential buildings created to augment the height of a building.

 

MANHATTAN -- With temperatures plummeting, the city is turning its attention to the homeless population.

On Monday night, hundreds of volunteers will try to get a sense of how many people are on the streets and what their needs are through the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate or HOPE count.

 

Kallos cited seven scaffolding collapses dating back to February 2017 that resulted in either property damage or injury. In addition, the council members say companies often put up the scaffolding and then drag their feet on the actual work, leaving the metal structure in place sometimes for years.

“It’s bad enough that we regularly see scaffolding staying up for years, apparently unused. But when it is used, we can’t even be sure it will serve its purpose and keep us safe,” State Senator Liz Krueger said.”Clearly, the self-certification process is not sufficient.”

Added New York City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel: “The unprecedented development around New York City is at a rapid pace. Longstanding scaffolding has created public safety issues.”

Council Member Margaret Chin said there needs to be an incentive to reduce how long scaffolding remains in place. “This will lead to a vast improvement of quality of life across our city, as repairs will be done in a timely manner leading to fewer shadows on our streets and other issues associated with perpetual scaffolding,” she said.

 

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Since the collapse of a sidewalk shed in SoHo in November of 2017 nearly killed a young model, the construction of these sheds over New York City sidewalks has jumped more than 17 percent.

At the time of the SoHo incident, there were 7,000 sidewalk sheds. Through the Department of Buildings, 7 On Your Side Investigates has confirmed there are now 8,197 sheds adding another 30 miles of scaffolding hanging over the heads of New Yorkers.

 

The de Blasio administration is accelerating plans to tighten a loophole that allows developers to boost the height of luxury apartment buildings, according to multiple sources. A tower on the Upper East Side proposed by Extell Development Co. is directly in regulators' cross-hairs.

 

“Paying construction workers minimum wage on affordable housing projects is only making our City’s housing crisis worse,” Kallos said.

“Moreover, no one should die in a construction accident that could have been prevented with proper training. New York City’s construction workers need to have the right to say no to a dangerous work situation.”

The bill applies to any city project receiving at least $1 million, is 100,000 s/f or more, or is a residential building with more than 50 units. Currently, companies that are working on direct city contracts are expected to pay prevailing wages for its workers..

Kallos’ bill would extend this to projects that are receiving any type of government funding.

His bill also calls for the disclosure of the government subsidies, the number of jobs created, and fines of $10,000 per day for thos companies that fail to comply.

“Anyone who believes construction workers can support their families, send their kids to college, do all the things we associate with stable middle-class lives, on $20.00 per hour is kidding themselves,” said John O’Hare, managing director of the Building Contractors Association.

“New York City has the right to make prevailing wage and apprenticeship training a condition to any financial incentive package it offers the private sector. You want the benefits, pay the wages.”

Kallos’ bill draws some similarities to the new 421-a program, now called Affordable New York.

 

Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, had introduced legislation with his colleague Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) to establish a “retirement security for all” system in the city. He lauded de Blasio for taking initiative on the issue.

“Too few Americans lack the means or direction to adequately plan for their retirement,” the lawmaker said in a prepared statement. “We all recognized this deficiency several years ago, and dared to act boldly to provide the infrastructure necessary to help nearly half of our City’s private workforce members lay a foundation for a more stable future.”

 

MANHATTAN – It was a packed room yesterday on the 16th floor of 250 Broadway when the Committee on Civil and Human Rights unanimously voted for a bill to officially recognize Holocaust Remembrance Day in NYC on January 27 and declare the week after as Holocaust Education Week.

 

“Parents should be able to track buses just like an Uber or an MTA bus, see when it’s coming, come downstairs with their kids, see it get their kids to school safely and know when it’s coming to drop off their child at home,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, who sits on the City Council’s Education Committee.

Now, parents will be able to locate their children’s school buses in real-time.

 

"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.