Bus riders in certain parts of the city might have an easier commute soon as more than 100 new countdown clocks are scheduled for installation citywide.
The clocks, which tick down how long riders have to wait for a bus to approach their stop, will be spread throughout 11 City Council districts where representatives allocated almost $2.8 million between them.
Twenty-one City Council members made a final push for a rent freeze before Monday night’s vote of the Rent Guidelines Board.
“This year, striking a fair balance means voting for a rent freeze,” wrote City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and colleagues from all five boroughs in a letter to the board.
The New York City Council called on the New York State Public Service Commission to expand access to affordable broadband and close the digital divide. In testimony on the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, the Council also spoke of the critical need to protect Net Neutrality.
“We in New York City stand in solidarity with the people of Israel and the world in demanding the safe return of Eyal Yifrcah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel. Our global community can and must be a safe one for girls and boys from every corner of the planet, including right here in New York City. Bring back our girls and our boys,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Vice Chair of the City Council Jewish Caucus.
Also not doing so well: Second Avenue businesses. Those that have not already closed are just barely limping along with subway construction on its umpteenth year and Councilman Ben Kallos thinks that the city should provide grants to keep the survivors alive, according to DNAinfo. “Small businesses located within 150 feet of municipal construction sites would be eligible to apply for grants if they could show a 10 percent reduction in taxable income compared to the year before construction began.”
City Councilman Ben Kallos is hoping to secure funds to help business owners like Pecora by creating grants for small businesses that have been negatively affected by municipal construction projects like the Second Avenue subway project.
Since construction started, Second Avenue businesses have struggled with decreased foot traffic, high noise levels and excess dust and debris.
“Anyone who lives in the district knows that stores have closed,” Kallos said. “Some have seen losses of 25 percent or more. Even businesses like the Beach Café, which has been here for almost 50 years, are struggling.”
According to Kallos's proposal, small businesses located within 150 feet of municipal construction sites would be eligible to apply for grants if they could show a 10 percent reduction in taxable income compared to the year before construction began. Businesses could seek funds for both physical improvements, like soundproof windows and improved ventilation systems, and for marketing and advertising efforts to reach more customers. In some cases, businesses would also be able to seek funds for payroll and rental assistance.
More than half a dozen City Council members will speak out Monday afternoon in favor of freezing rents for the nearly one million New Yorkers who live in rent-regulated housing, Capital has learned.
The council members are expected to speak at a public hearing being held by the Rent Guidelines Board, which is set to vote on possible rent increases on June 23. This is the first time the 45-year-old board has considered a zero-percent increase.
Council members Margaret Chin, Dan Garodnick, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez and Helen Rosenthal are scheduled to testify at the hearing, which is starting this hour, according to a draft press release obtained by Capital. City Comptroller Scott Stringer is also scheduled to testify at 5:30 p.m.
The council members will argue that the board, for years now, has favored the interests of landlords over the interests of tenants and that it is time residents get some relief.
If the City Hall FOIL tracker was unveiled as a way to quell the call for legislation, it didn't work. Gotham Gazette reached out to the stakeholders behind the bill and found unanimous support for the legislation and an unfettered desire to continue to push for it.
"This legislation is here to stay," Council Member Ben Kallos, who is one of three lead sponsors on the bill, said following the hearing June 9. "It is here to be passed. It is here to become law. It is just a matter of time."
"The mayor's office has a good start, as far as their tracker, but I still support our legislation," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, another lead sponsor, said June 11 at City Hall. She added she is open to meeting with the mayor's office to discuss their concerns and changes needed to get the bill passed. Kallos expressed a similar desire to work with City Hall on the bill.
Currently, it is not possible for New Yorkers to easily sign up to track updates on City Council meetings and legislative activities. But in fact, there could be an easy fix for the problem that could help transform how members of the public engage with their government. That is what emerged from a #PDF14 workshop that illustrated how the realization of visions for open government in New York often comes down to wonky nuts and bolts issues related to government web platforms, procurement and access to open data.
City Council member Ben Kallos, chair of the Government Operations Committee, hosted the session together with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in the spirit of "bringing government to the people." Also in the name of transparency, he arranged for a recording of the session.
They're among the busiest bus routes in Manhattan, shuttling more than 70,000 riders across town every weekday.
But riders at 15 stops along the westbound M66, M79, M86 and M96 will soon have one more way of finding out just where that next bus is.
The real-time bus signs are thanks to a city-funded measure pushed by an Upper East Side councilman in the city's latest round of Participatory Budgeting.
They're also coming to the southbound M31 on York Avenue.
"People from all over the district voted for bus clocks. It was something that they wanted and there was a need for,” said Councilman Ben Kallos.
Having a municipality’s laws online and easily available would seem to be a common first step for cities concerned with improving transparency. But Kallos said the issue of laws being inaccessible is more common in the U.S. than most people realize.
Kallos felt it has taken a long time for cities to address the issue, perhaps due to the revenue generated from selling publication of the laws to private companies.
“In my few months so far in office, I’ve stumbled across numerous places where the laws aren’t necessarily there to protect or serve the public, but a subset of the public,” Kallos said. “Often a special or corporate interest. And the legal publishing industry is huge.”
Looking ahead, Kallos noted that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Administration was “incredibly friendly” to what Int. 149 was trying to achieve, and was confident that the ideals in the legislation will at some point get codified and serve as a model for the country.
Residents as young as 16 would be able to take seats on the city’s 59 community boards if a movement in the State Legislature to lower the age of eligibility is successful.
This week, the City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution introduced by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) at the suggestion of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer that calls on the full council to support a bill in the State Legislature that would amend the state’s Public Officers Law and would allow for a change in the City Charter to allow young people to serve.
The City Council passed a resolution Wednesday urging the state legislature to allow 16 and 17-year-old New Yorkers to serve on community boards.
"Twenty percent of our city is under 18, and our youth deserve a voice on their local community boards," Councilman Ben Kallos, lead sponsor of the resolution, said.
While the resolution passed, it doesn't actually allow the youngsters to be able to serve as appointed members of community boards yet - it simply urges the state Assembly and Senate to pass legislation.
The issue has bi-partisan support in Albany, Kallos noted, where a bill in the senate is sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island).
Aspiring policy wonks as young as 16 could serve on their local community boards under a resolution passed Wednesday by the City Council.
The Council is asking Albany to let 16- and 17-year-old serve on the local boards, which weigh in on zoning changes, liquor licenses, and sidewalk cafes in their neighborhoods.
Currently, the minimum age for the 51 local panels representing neighborhoods across the city is 18.
“Youth deserve a voice on their local community boards. These boards deal with issues that affect their daily lives and the neighborhoods that they live in,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor of the resolution.
El Concejo Municipal también evalúa una propuesta de ley del Concejal Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), que busca centralizar el proceso.
Actualmente las solicitudes FOIL son dirigidas por escrito a cada agencia municipal.
La iniciativa de Kallos está inspirada en un portal central, conocido como RecordTrac, que actualmente usa la ciudad de Oakland en California para procesar pedidos FOIL de todas sus agencias.
“Cuando los neoyorquinos no pueden acceder a los documentos comúnmente solicitados a través de una búsqueda simple, eso es un problema”, expresó Kallos en un comunicado.
New York City spends $20 million a year on responding to Freedom of Information Law requests from the public, but it can save up to $13 million by centralizing all of the requests on a single website, according to a report released on June 6 by Reinvent Albany, a non-profit promoting government openness and transparency. The report was released in advance of a City Council hearing on a bill that would create a centralized FOIL website for New York City...
Kaehny was involved in drafting the bill, which is sponsored and by Council members Ben Kallos and James Vacca, and supported by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
A bill that would centralize all of the city’s Freedom of Information Law requests on one website was lauded by several City Council members and good government groups on Monday, but received surprise opposition, in its current form, from the mayor’s office. Two members of the media also testified expressing concern that such a website could compromise their competitive advantages.
The council heard public testimony Monday on a bill that would mandate the creation of a website which would list all Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests filed with the city, display the status of each request, and make the government’s responses public, among other features. New York State’s FOI law states that all government records are the property of the public and should be provided in a timely manner upon request...
Council member Ben Kallos, one of the bill’s sponsors, defended the government’s right to publish all FOIL requests. He pointed out that if such requests aren’t published in a timely manner, it would be impossible for the public and the media to tell if requests are being filled on time or filled at all.
The Council bill, as introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos, would require all city agencies to be on an Open FOIL portal within one year. The bill would require much more robust reporting from the City. As proposed, the bill would not show the name of the requester, but would have a status, date submitted and filled, as well as the data from the request.
While borough president, Stringer appointed 16-year-old Ehrlich to serve on the Upper East Side's Community Board 8 — where the teen served with Councilman Ben Kallos, who is now the chairman of the committee on governmental operations and co-sponsor of the resolution to open the doors to younger members.
Kallos was himself a comparatively young community board member, joining in his 20s.
“Sixteen- and 17-year-olds bring much-needed perspective, energy and commitment to their local Community Boards,” Kallos said in a statement. “I have been deeply impressed by the dynamism of the teenagers who have expressed interest in public service through Community Boards, and they should be empowered to assist their neighbors instead of prevented from participating in public life.”