New York, NY – Today at noon, more than seven hundred community leaders and guests joined United States Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia "Tish" James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Dan Garodonick, Former Public Advocate Mark Green, Former Council Member Jessica Lappin, Former Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, and Bill Samuels to celebrate the inauguration of Council Member Benjamin J. Kallos. Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, who is on an international trip, provided remarks by video message.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman swore in Benjamin Kallos on Mr. Kallos’ bar-mitzvah chumash as it was held by his sister.
The ceremony at the 92nd Street Y featured invocations from all three major religions as well as performances by renowned concert pianist and district resident Roy Eaton under slides of landmarks and community groups in the district, the national anthem by Talent Unlimited High School Men’s Ensemble, a ballet performance of Snow Pas de Deux from the Yorkville Nutcracker by Dances Patrelle, gymnastics performances by the 92ndStreet Y GymStars and the Asphalt Green Wave Gymnastics Team, as well as readings of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s “First They Came…” and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” by members of the community.
The holocaust, survival, and standing up for those without a voice were prominent themes throughout the program, as were Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.
Themes of unity and equality ran through the Council Member Kallos' remarks, which touched on good government reform, his agenda for the Government Operations Committee, which he will chair, and his planned work in the district for the next four years. The following is excerpted from his remarks:
"I will heed the lessons of the 'greatest generation.' I will speak for those for whom there is no one else to speak, regardless of whether I am one of them. Four essential human freedoms that we heard about from Jim remain a generation overdue. But like FDR, I believe them to be 'attainable in our own time and generation.' And I believe that they start at the local level, in the community. I will focus on 'freedom from want' to ensure 'a healthy peace time life for inhabitants,' a living wage for all so that we may eliminate the ever-growing gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' in hopes of unifying our great city.
"I started this journey out of love for the neighborhood where I grew up and the conviction that government could be better. After thousands of conversations, hundreds of volunteers, dozens of special interest checks turned away, and your solutions for a better city submitted on my website and shared with me in person, I have been overwhelmed by the support for my vision: A government that is open, transparent, and accountable to you."
Kallos continued with his vision for the Government Operations Committee of the City Council: “Our mandate will be to make our city’s operations more efficient at seamlessly serving you.” Kallos highlighted reform of community boards, campaign finance, the Board of Elections and the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Kallos invited members of the community to join him in-person for “First Fridays” in his district office (starting February 7), offered his website and phone number, and promised to bring his office to the community with mobile hours at community centers and senior homes.
In stating his policy priorities, Kallos focused on education by proposing more schools by incentivizing their inclusion in new buildings and identifying new spaces. He also reaffirmed his support for universal pre-K, after school and summer programs, and loan forgiveness for CUNY students who graduate and stay in the City.
Kallos continued with a commitment to seniors, affordable housing, women’s issues and his opposition to the Marine Transfer Station in Yorkville.
The community slideshow featured images from Asphalt Green, Bike NYC, CIVITAS, Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Historic Districts Council, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, The Municipal Art Society of New York and New York Junior Tennis League.
Invocations were given by Reverend Dr. Peter Heltzel a Minister from the Park Avenue Christian Church who is also the Director of the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary, Imam Shamsi Ali the Imam and Director for Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Rabbi Harold Einsidler a Talmud Instructor at Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School and Rabbi at Park East Synagogue.
The Talent Unlimited High School Men’s Ensemble were directed by Jevaughn Greenaway and included performers Anthony Buchanan, Quint Burke, Isaiah Bycinthe, Andreas Coca, Brendon George, Earnie Grant, Jerry Lancaster, Jr., Hakeem Miller, Michael Stewart, and Ngyasi Whitaker.
The gymnastics performance from the 92nd Street Y GymStars featured Sarah Bondy, Madeleine Berkowitz, Emilia Benenati, Allie Bobrow, Isabella Buonomo, Myeh Medina, Abigail O’Connell, Elizabeth O’Connell, Hana Prokop, and Lauren Reifowitz with Asphalt Green Wave Gymnastics Team featuring Kate Kaplin, Nadiya Khan, Solene Lezec, Karen Murai, Carolina Stocchi, Kiyoka Tokumasu, Saylor Vaught, and Anna Zweck-Bronner.
Poetry readings were given by community leaders Elsbeth Raymond and "Uncle" Jim Bates.
The event was produced by Andrew Wagner of Wide Angle Productions.