New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed suit against a Boston-based contractor, alleging that the company took retaliatory measures against one of its employees — facilitating his U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest — after he reported a workplace injury, an event that kicked off an OSHA investigation. 

  • According to the lawsuit, José Martin Paz Flores (Paz) was working as a drywall taper for Tara Construction when he fell from a ladder and broke his leg. Based on Paz's report to a foreman and a referral from the local fire department that day, OSHA began an investigation into safety conditions at the jobsite.

  • The DOL alleges that Tara CEO Pedro Pirez subsequently contacted law enforcement with concerns about Paz’s identity and facilitated Paz’s arrest outside of Tara’s offices, which resulted in his detention by ICE for days. 

 

Dive Insight:

The DOL is seeking back pay and damages from Tara on behalf of Paz, as well as other relief such as a neutral letter of recommendation for Paz, who has since been cleared to work, to present to prospective future employers. Reporting an injury and causing an OSHA investigation to be initiated are protected acts under federal whistleblower laws, which blanket all workers, regardless of immigration status. 

 

“Until they have been demonstrated to be safe, novel designs such as vast void areas must be evaluated by the FDNY,” the letter reads. “Due to the nature of such different design elements and any review processes surrounding aspects of this size, we feel it is critical to involve the FDNY prior to the approval of such building plans.”

Kallos said he is pleased with the “starting point” zoning amendment the city has brought forward, but is “very disappointed that the Department of Buildings has been engaging behind closed doors to close one loophole while it opens another” in terms of open air voids. He said it ultimately boils down to ensuring that first responders can access those living above excessive voids in case of an emergency.

“Tragedies happen, fires happens, and it’s going to be up to our first responders to rescue whomever is in this building. I don’t think it’s right to ask a first responder to climb 150 feet or more of steps just to get where people might be who need saving,” said Kallos.

Levy echoed the Council member’s concern and said the city has a duty to give these structures extra safety scrutiny.

 

On February 15th, state Senator Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer, Council members Keith Powers and Ben Kallos, wrote a letter to the DOB citing its actions on the Upper West Side project. “Regardless of whether the void in the building proposed at 249 East 62nd Street is enclosed or open air as described to the press, we believe you must also refer this building to the FDNY.”

On Thursday, Kallos said the letter was intended to "call attention to the disparate treatment by the DOB between East Side and West Side." He said he was glad that the matter had been referred to the FDNY, noting that the measure "will ultimately keep residents safe."

 

Kallos’s district includes the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and East Harlem. For his first three years on the council, he was the chair of the council’s Government Operations Committee, where he tackled more than the campaign finance issue. He also focused on using technology to aid access to government and took aim at patronage. He helped get rid of outside income for council members, and to end the practice wherein the council speaker had the discretion to give “lulus,” or specific financial disbursements.

What has he not done? He hasn’t stopped the city’s plan for a marine transfer station in the area. “Doesn’t mean I have given up yet,” he says.

One big surprise when he got to the council: the corruption. He remembers being told that he needed to “go along to get along” and hearing advice against making any waves. “These are all the things that you might read about in a book,” he says.

 

The buses are also a priority for New York City Transit President Andy Byford. His transit overhaul plan released last year called for redesigning the city's bus route network and rolling out 2,800 new buses within five years. His agency also wants to speed up boarding by using all doors.

But officials should move faster to make changes that can help commuters, said City Councilman Ben Kallos, whose Upper East Side district got a failing grade.

"What do we say to all the commuters who had a rough commute this morning, who didn't get to work on time, who lost money or may have lost their jobs because of the bus that never showed up, the bus that showed up bunched or the bus that got caught in traffic because there was no bus lane?" Kallos, a Democrat, said.

The MTA says its redesign of Staten Island's express bus network has made average bus speeds 12 percent faster, and a redesign is now underway for The Bronx. But Max Young, the agency's chief external affairs officer, acknowledged that there is still "an enormous amount of work to do on this issue" despite recent progress.

 

East Side Council Member Ben Kallos says his answer is “cheesy.”

The 38-year-old rising star in Manhattan politics has been asked about his greatest accomplishment. He points first to the little girl that he and his wife welcomed last year.

“My daughter is the end-all and be-all of my life. And to the extent that’s an accomplishment, it starts and ends there—just to have the privilege of being a father. But I think that’s just a personal milestone,” he says, speaking at his desk in his East 93rd Street office. Snow falls on the other side of the window. He’s wearing a blue suit, white shirt and no tie, talking easily and without the requisite staff members that so often sit in on a politician’s interview.

“I take paternity leave pretty seriously and family leave pretty seriously,” he adds, “and I admit I’ve been a little bit of a bully with any men that I know who aren’t taking leave because I think both partners regardless of gender should be taking an equal and active role in the child-rearing process.”

 

The New York City Council’s Democratic conference held on Thursday what officials said was its first ever public vote to appoint three new commissioners to the New York City Board of Elections.

 

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The debate around congestion pricing in New York City is often focused on bustling areas such as Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District, but neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side stand to benefit from the policy as well, safe streets advocates said during a Thursday morning rally in the neighborhood.

 

"I would love to see New York City and New York State catch up to other jurisdictions to keep children and parents safe, but I would also like us to become a leader," Kallos told the Post.

School buses are currently equipped with stop arm devices that display a stop sign when the bus is stopped for pickups and dropoffs. Drivers are supposed to yield so that kids can get to the curb safely, but nearly 50,000 drivers ignore the signals each year in New York State, the Post reported.

 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- After two separate incidents in which vehicles in Brooklyn drove on a sidewalk near a school within the last week -- almost mowing down school children and pedestrians -- a New York City councilman is calling for a new law that would add cameras to the stop sign of a school bus.

 

A New York City Council member is calling for cameras on the sides of school buses that can record drivers so impatient they drive dangerously, following two such incidents recently in Brooklyn.

 

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One New York City lawmaker wants to make it easier to fine drivers who don’t hit the brakes around stopped school buses.

 

NEW YORK - A Manhattan councilman is pushing a bill that would add cameras to all school buses in the city.

 

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Police are looking for at least two drivers in Brooklyn who were caught on camera driving on a sidewalk to get around school traffic... coming dangerously close to kids.

City Councilman Ben Kallos is proposing drastic measures to deal with impatient drivers, according to reports published in the NY Post.

 

The de Blasio administration is sour on legislation that would require chain restaurants to list products with added sugar because it could be difficult to enforce, a city official said Monday.

 

A pair of bills introduced today in the City Council of New York would help consumers—including kids—eat and drink more healthfully at restaurants.

 

Cameras are just about everywhere and now a Manhattan legislator wants to add them on school buses

Motorists are supposed to hit the brakes when confronted by a stopped school bus.

But an estimated 50,000 a year statewide ignore the safety regulation.

 

MANHATTAN, NY — New York City is dedicating an addition $75 million to complete and repair sections of the East River Esplanade in Harlem, the Upper East Side and Midtown, parks officials announced Thursday.