'Tenant Blacklist' firms could be regulated under proposed City Council legislation.View Full CaptionDNAinfo/Dartunorro Clark
NEW YORK CITY — Companies that create so-called "tenant blacklists" — used by landlords to deny prospective renters from getting apartments — could become regulated under a new piece of City Council legislation.
The "blacklists" are created using housing court cases but the reason for the court case and its outcome are often not included in the reports, officials said. The lists are sold to landlords along with credit reports.
"We are rebuilding the East River Esplanade brick by brick and dollar by dollar to connect 60th street to 125th street in one seamless park," Kallos said in a statement on July 11. "John Finley Walk from 81st street to 84th will receive the attention it needs to go from roadway to greenway."
“The law hamstrings case law over and over again, and sometimes that law goes against what everyone wants,” Kallos added.
But he admitted that elected officials are restricted in what they can achieve in office. “Everyone from the city council member to the U.S. president” is faced with the same problem: “wherever you go, somehow you don’t have the power,” he said.
“We’ve got a democratic government, and it’s broken in a lot of different ways,” Kallos warned, adding that one pivotal challenge is that “a lot of people aren’t really engaging most of the time, and what ends up happening is we’re not included in the decision-making process. … Democracy actually requires, and in many places demands, public input.”
Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat who leads the council’s governmental operations committee, said the report “confirms some of our worst fears” about the role city officials played in the deal.
The report raised a number of questions about the administration’s timeline and account of the deed removal.
A group of gun violence survivors joined lawmakers in Manhattan Wednesday to call out Congress for laying down to the NRA.
The “sit-in” at Carl Schurz Park on E. 86th St. was led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) who demanded that House Speaker Paul Ryan hold a vote on legislation aimed at tightening background checks and preventing terror suspects from buying guns.
And Maloney isn’t the only outspoken ally of the park, as Borough President Gale Brewer, City Councilmember Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright have also joined the call for de-privatization.
For Kallos, it was his first time in the Queensboro Oval because, he said, Sutton East’s tennis bubbles made the space inaccessible for a majority of the year.
In crunching the numbers, the councilmember compared the $80 to $225 per hour costs of playing at Sutton East Tennis Club to the city permits that have tennis fees of just $200 a year (though the Parks Department has noted the availability of free and reduced programming at the facility).
“This space is on an order of magnitude more expensive by 15 times than a comparable space run by the Parks Department,” Kallos said. “Worse yet, this is what the space looks like when they gave it back… an empty lot with dirt.”
A bill introduced in the City Council on Tuesday seeks to expand on and codify the practice of optimizing city websites based on the analytics of their visitors.
Councilman Ben Kallos, chair of the Committee on Government Operations, introduced the legislation. It would require the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to ensure that all agencies use web analytics in maintaining and designing their websites.
A group of families celebrated Father’s Day last Sunday by participating in a union strike at 1735 York Avenue and E. 90th Street.
Members of 32BJ who work at the building — along with their children, some of the tenants, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Ben Kallos — were there to protest their treatment by Bonjour Capital, which bought the building from Glenwood Management. The strike started last Thursday and ended Monday morning
But city officials and local groups still took issue with the legislation and the timeline. Councilman Ben Kallos opposed the bill yesterday when the land use committee pushed it through to go for a full council vote. Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, rallied outside City Hall with preservation groups before Tuesday’s vote over the timeline and limited options in terms of getting that extended, as New York Yimby reported yesterday. By putting a deadline on the system, they argued, the community would have less input in the landmarking process.
Meanwhile, the real estate industry has supported the bill. At a Real Estate Board of New York event last night, the organization’s president, John Banks, said the legislation was a middle-of-the-road compromise.
Councilmber Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side wondered if throwing more money at the B.O.E. is the answer.
“Mayor de Blasio restored the B.O.E. budget to $123 million in 2016,” he noted. “Is that enough, not only to run an election, but to not run it poorly?”
Pointing to the high stakes this November, Kallos warned: “The presidential election is the Super Bowl of the elections. We can’t see the same problems as we’ve seen in the primary.”
Kallos is an I.T. geek who prior to being elected to the Council designed an online database called VoterSearch.org. He practically scoffed at Ryan for not being able to keep track of voting stats, and asked why B.O.E. staffers and poll workers can’t be hired through public job postings under a “merit-based” system, instead of the current patronage mill we have now.
During her testimony, Camilo said DCAS has put all pending deed change applications on hold while the investigations are conducted. There are 13 or 14 active requests, according to the commissioner. In its story, the Wall Street Journal highlighted the concerns of Council members, including committee chairman Ben Kallos:
Mr. Kallos said the Rivington deal was disturbing, in part because it allowed a building once designated for a nonprofit to be turned into condos when the city could have used the space for other needs. “We need schools like you wouldn’t believe. We also need homeless shelters. And affordable housing,” he said. Ms. Camilo said agency officials shared council members’ concerns about the Rivington deal. “No one was happy with the outcome,” she said.
DCAS is in the process of revamping the review process to include more public review. Right now, the main notification is a brief appearance in the City Record, which you can view here for some light reading.
A fix is necessary to stop those looking to make a killing on land, that most precious NYC quantity. Besides profits there are a few other things we need in NYC — truly plentiful and affordable housing, schools and homeless shelters, as Councilmember Ben Kallos noted at Friday’s hearing.
It would be a shame for none of those needs to be addressed on plots that were intended to be preserved.
But those are the current rules of the game.
The City Council voted Thursday to require the Board of Elections to send voters texts and e-mails telling them when their poll sites change and reminding them of upcoming elections.
Under another bill passed by the Council, BOE will have to set up a website and mobile app to let voters check their registration and party affiliation, and change information like their address.
During April’s presidential primary, many voters had no idea they had been dropped from the rolls or from their party until they arrived to vote. There’s currently no way to check online.
“Tens of thousands of voters showed up to vote thinking they were registered or registered with a political party, only to be told by election workers they were not in the poll books,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Mahattan). “Voters should be able to easily access information about elections at any time.”
Councilman Ben Kallos will introduce legislation today to make budget information accessible in a format that is searchable and accessible to third parties who want to build applications that could make the city's $82 billion in spending more transparent.
The preliminary vote to raise rents for one-year leases between 0 and 2 percent passed 5-4, with the members who represent tenants' and owners' interests all voting against it, the Board's executive director, Andrew McLaughlin, told DNAinfo.
Over the next several weeks, the nine-member board will also consider raising rents on two-year leases between 0.5 to 3.5 percent — following last year's first-ever freeze for rent-stabilized apartments.
The board based its proposal on an RGB study that showed that the price of operating for rent-stabilized apartments decreased 1.2 percent this year, mostly due to the fact that fuel costs decreased 41.2 percent. Another study found that the city's unemployment rate fell in 2015 by 1.5 percent.
The changes would take effect on all lease renewals after Oct. 1, 2016.
Board member Sheila Garcia, who represents tenant's interest, proposed a rent decrease instead of a freeze, which is why she voted against it.
"The data this year merits a [rent] rollback," said Garcia, referring to lowered fuel costs. "I didn't think [the rent freeze proposal] was radical enough. The board has over-compensated landlords over the years."
"We see that we are evicting less people but more people are homeless because they can't afford to live in NYC."
Upper East Side council member Ben Kallos joined advocates calling to lower rent for rent-stabilized apartments.
Parents at P.S. 183, who worked with Councilman Ben Kallos to increase the total seats on the Upper East Side from just over 123 to 515 since 2014, say they are relieved to have more pre-K seats because it can be tough getting a spot in the neighborhood.
"As an Upper East Side parent, I am concerned not only about the chances of my own child obtaining a pre-K spot in the neighborhood but also about the children of my friends and neighbors," resident Ariel Chesler said. "That is why I have been speaking out about the insufficient number of seats in the area."
For more than a year, members of the Roosevelt Island Parents' Network, which advocates for more than 500 families' needs, also worked to get more free pre-K seats on the island, according to member Eva Bosbach.
As Mayor Bill de Blasio is mired in controversy over his fundraising activities and proximity to lobbyists, the City Council is moving on bills to reduce the possibility of ‘pay-to-play’ campaign financing and make significant tweaks to strengthen an already-robust public-matching system.
The Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing on Monday to examine a package of eight bills that would reform campaign finance rules and improve the city’s public matching funds program, which, though it has some critics, is often held up as a national model.
The bills, introduced in November, aim to implement recommendations made by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB) after the 2013 city election cycle. Perhaps most notably, the bills would eliminate public matching funds for contributions bundled by people who do business with the city, provide earlier public matching funds to candidates, and improve disclosure requirements for companies or people that own entities that do business with the city.
A bill by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), discussed at a hearing Monday, would prohibit campaigns from accepting public matching funds off money raised by lobbyists who bundle unlimited contributions from other donors.
By law, lobbyists, contractors and others doing business with the city can give no more than $400 to a mayoral candidate. But a loophole allows those same individuals to bundle unlimited amounts from others to the same candidates.
“The city should not be providing public dollars to amplify the already strong voices of special interests,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor.
In the 2013 citywide election, 19% of all bundlers were doing business with the city - and they brought in 24% of all bundled funds, he said.
The city Campaign Finance Board backed the changes.
Allowing lobbyists and contractors to bundle unlimited gifts and get matching funds is “a loophole that undermines the intent of the law to prevent or limit the appearance of ‘pay to play’ corruption,” said executive director Amy Loprest.