New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Letter Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza, and President Grillo on NYC Remote Learning Plan

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Dear Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza, and President Grillo,

 

Following your announcement that New York City would plan to reopen its schools in the fall with a mix of in-person teaching and remote learning, we both raised concerns about the need for childcare as parents go back to work. On July 10, Council Member Kallos wrote a letter to you urging you to address what United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has called the impending “Childcare Crisis” by exploring opening “remote learning centers” for children who cannot stay at home, and suggested that you look at existing public spaces such as libraries or youth, senior and community centers where available, as well as vacant storefronts to establish these centers. On July 11, Council Member Lander published a plan calling for wraparound enrichment services for children, employer accommodations for parents, and support for existing child care providers.

We were pleased to see your announcement on July 16 that the City will “provide quality, safe, free childcare options for 100,000 children this fall” by utilizing “schools, community centers, libraries, cultural organizations, and more.” We are concerned, however, that 100,000 childcare seats will not cover the children in need of a place to learn remotely. According to your plan one-half to two-thirds of those students will be out of school on any given day. New state social distancing guidelines for schools will greatly restrict the number of students able to be at school at any time, as we prioritize preventing the spread of Covid-19 and keeping our teachers and students safe.

Thank you for providing a portal for submitting property sites to be considered for this program. We ask you to continue to include elected officials and parents in your search for space to accommodate 100,000 socially distanced students and report on your progress regularly. We are eager to be of assistance and to learn about your progress in securing now-closed private and parochial schools, including 26 closed by the Archdiocese, existing public spaces such as libraries and community centers, as well as existing businesses and empty storefronts. First and foremost, we must find sites than can accommodate the social distancing guidelines, and ensure that whether in schools or remote learning centers, our teachers and students are safe.

More than 800,000 children from 3K through 8th grade attend New York City’s public schools. If in-person learning is divided into two or three shifts, then approximately 400,000 – 533,000 of these students will be learning remotely at any given time. We are concerned that the planned 100,000 childcare seats will be inadequate.

As the New York State economy continues to move forward with re-opening Phase 4, it is our responsibility in government to provide parents and children with the safest possible plan for re-opening schools with sufficient capacity. We join countless parents in demanding more information, including how placements will be determined if there is more demand than seats and in particular that the city plan for and guarantee a seat for every family and student who needs one even if that number is closer to 533,000. Parents continue to reach out to me to share their anxiety regarding the upcoming school year, and any additional information we can provide will help New York City’s families plan for this uncertain time.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Ben Kallos

Council Member

5th District

Brad Lander

Council Member

39th District

Statement on Esplanade Collapse at East 76th Street

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

When I got elected the Esplanade was falling into the East River and now it has not once but twice. No sooner than we finished repairs on the collapse between 88th and 90th did we see a new sinkhole collapse at 76th Street. As Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney we’ve secured more $278 million to repair this Esplanade with the hope of getting ahead of these collapses. Where previous repairs have taken years or months, the Parks Department will be using funds we’ve already secured to mobilize and promised to begin repairs in the coming weeks. Our taskforce will work to keep this repair on track and restore this vital park space.

Letter to Mayor and Transportation Commissioner Proposing One-Way Sidewalks for Social Distancing

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dear Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg,

In recent weeks residents in my district have expressed concern about how difficult it can be to simply walk down the sidewalk in a safe, socially distant manner, proposing a suggestion that I support of designating different sides of each street for pedestrians to walk in a particular direction.

For senior citizens and immunocompromised New Yorkers, simple but essential errands can become a daunting task when narrow sidewalks are filled with pedestrians walking and running – many without masks – both ways to get to the pharmacy or grocery store. Similarly, parents with small babies and children who are too young to wear masks that we now know are susceptible to coronavirus in the form of multisystem inflammatory syndrome are fearful of putting their children in danger walking down a narrow street to get to a park with some semblance of social distancing. I personally share both of these concerns.

I propose that we create space for social distancing on our sidewalks by facilitating opposite flows of foot traffic in high-density areas of our city. Similar to ‘one-way’ streets for vehicles, pedestrians would be encouraged to use sidewalks in one direction so that they do not have to cross pedestrians coming the opposite direction. On streets running east to west, the north side would be designated for westbound pedestrians and the south side would be designated for eastbound pedestrians. On avenues or streets running north to south, the east side would be designated for northbound pedestrians, the west side would be designated for southbound pedestrians.

Statement on Fatal Façade and Scaffolding Collapse on East Side by Council Member Ben Kallos

Friday, July 17, 2020

“We cannot keep watching bricks fall, scaffolding collapse, injuring and killing New Yorkers. These bricks should never have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that they fell and the scaffolding should never have collapsed. We must pass a law forcing the inspection of every inch of scaffolding as soon as possible. We must pass a law to require building owners to maintain their buildings or step in as a city and do the work ourselves. My deepest sympathies to the families of those killed and injured in this latest collapse and they have my pledge to keep fighting so no one faces the same threat.”

New York Council Member Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan and has introduced a package of legislation to require the city to inspect scaffolding when installed and over time as well as to require building owners make repairs or face steep fines with the city stepping in to do the work.

Letter to Mayor and Schools Chancellor Proposing Remote Learning Centers

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dear Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza, and President Grillo,

As you prepare to open New York City public schools in September offering parents the option of staggered schedules or remote learning, I urge you to explore bolstering this blended learning model with remote learning centers for children who cannot stay at home.

Remote learning centers could be temporarily established by utilizing closed private and parochial schools or finding a new use for existing public spaces such as libraries or youth, senior and community centers. In neighborhoods where these existing schools or public spaces are already in use or provide insufficient space, we can look to the countless empty storefronts, houses of worship, or other temporarily closed or partially closed businesses. Remote learning centers established in these spaces would be supervised, required to follow social distancing measures, and would provide a safe space with a computer and an internet connection. Most importantly, they would provide a space for students whose parents cannot watch them at home to do remote learning, on days when they are not scheduled for in-person instruction at their school, or even full time if attending school requires a dangerous commute.

 

Council Member Ben Kallos' Floor Statement Voting NO on City Budget

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 21,000 New Yorkers, magnified systemic racism, and blown a 9 billion dollar hole in our city’s budget.

The Mayor’s proposed budget left the NYPD budget largely intact while zeroing out services for youth, families and seniors, a budget that would rather invest in policing our children then caring for them.

Our budget has grown by $24 billion under this administration and we’ve missed an opportunity to trim more than $15 billion in fat. Before eliminating jobs and essential services, we should cut billions in corporate welfare that goes to a handful of our nation’s wealthiest corporations.

When we heard George Floyd plead “I can’t breathe” as he was murdered by police, it opened the unhealed wounds left in our city from the murder of Eric Garner.

New Yorkers took to the streets in the name of Black Lives Matter to demand that we Defund NYPD by $1 billion to invest in communities harmed by over-policing.

Since then, we have received over 125,000 emails and thousands of calls. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it.

As a person benefiting from white privilege, it is my responsibility to use that privilege to empower New Yorkers from all communities, particularly voices of color, black voices, and listen when they demand that we Defund NYPD.

As a member of a Council that made the mistake of adding 1,300 police officers and increasing the NYPD budget by a billion dollars, it is our responsibility to right that wrong.

When the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus Members led our body in a bold statement with Speaker Johnson supporting cuts of at least 1 billion dollars this year, the Progressive Caucus, which I co-chair, stood in solidarity.

The cuts we are voting on today depend on a half-billion-dollar transfer of school safety agents from the NYPD to the Public Schools budget that seems like an accounting trick.

I join the Speaker and so many of my colleagues on the Budget Negotiating Team who fought so hard -- in their disappointment in a budget that fails to achieve our initial proposal.

This is not the transformative change of the NYPD that New Yorkers are demanding.

I vote no on the budget and vote yes on all other matters.

NYC HEALTH + HOSPITALS ANNOUNCES COVID-19 TESTING POP-UP SITE ON ROOSEVELT ISLAND

Monday, June 29, 2020

NYC HEALTH + HOSPITALS ANNOUNCES COVID-19

TESTING POP-UP SITE ON ROOSEVELT ISLAND

Watch the Press Conference

All New Yorkers should get a Covid-19 swab test; mobile testing site will be available at Motorgate Helix Field from Monday, June 29 to Friday, July 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Site was made possible with the support and advocacy of Council Member Kallos,

Roosevelt Island elected officials, and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation

Roosevelt Island, NY (June 25, 2020) – NYC Health + Hospitals today announced the first Covid-19 testing pop-up site on Roosevelt Island. The site will be available at Motorgate Helix Field from Monday, June 29 to Friday July 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a capacity to do 80 Covid-19 diagnostic nasal swab tests per day. This is the first testing site on Roosevelt Island, an island in the East River with more than 12,000 residents. The site was made possible with the support and advocacy of Council Member Kallos, Roosevelt Island elected officials, and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. All New Yorkers should get a Covid-19 nasal swab test. The test is free and there are no out-of-pocket fees or copays; however, patients with insurance will be asked for their insurance information.

“NYC Health + Hospitals is grateful to have such passionate advocates in every corner of this city that will support the access to important health care needs,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Accessible, comprehensive care for all New Yorkers is foundational to the City’s public health system, and universal Covid-19 testing is a critical tool to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus and keep the City on track to re-open.”

“The key to beating Covid-19 is testing, testing, testing; I cannot stress that enough. We need to get as many New Yorkers tested as possible and that certainly includes the 12,000 or so residents living on Roosevelt Island,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to NYC Health + Hospitals for working to bring this mobile facility into the island. It is our goal to get as many residents tested during these seven days, so please spread the word and make sure all your neighbors get tested if they have not done so already.”

More Than 300 Units of Affordable Housing Open on Roosevelt Island with 50% Community Preference

Thursday, June 25, 2020

More Than 300 Units of Affordable Housing Open on Roosevelt Island with 50% Community Preference

More than 1,000 Affordable Units Built or Preserved During Council Member Kallos’ Tenure

Roosevelt Island, NY- 313 units of mixed-income apartments have opened up on Roosevelt Island as part of the City’s affordable housing lottery program for applications due on July 6th. The Riverwalk Park complex is a 21-story permanently affordable building. Preference for 50 percent of the units will be given to residents of Manhattan Community Board 8 on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. This comes just days after a law authored by Council Member Ben Kallos helped the City’s Housing and Preservation Department (HPD) identify an unprecedented 2,500 affordable housing units that will be re-rented on the new Housing Connect website for New Yorkers to apply for this July.

Council Member Kallos and Hudson Related will host an announcement and information session on Tuesday, June 30th at 6 pm to educate the public on how to apply in time for the deadline on July 6th. The Riverwalk Park units are available for qualifying New Yorkers earning 40, 50, 80, 130, and 165 percent of the area median income corresponding to incomes as low as $20,298 for a one-person household to as high as $187,605 for a family of four. Rent for these apartments ranges from $506/month for a studio to $3,432/month for a three-bedroom apartment.

“We are facing an affordable housing crisis and every unit counts. Opportunities to build hundreds of units like this are few and far between and we couldn’t be prouder to bring this affordability to the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.  “The units that have opened up on Roosevelt Island will go a long way in helping rent-burdened families that apply and win. Thank you to David Kramer at Hudson Related for building this affordable housing and Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation for their partnership. I encourage anyone who qualifies living on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island along with the rest of the city to apply the right way.”

Over the years Council Member Ben Kallos has been instrumental in opening or preserving countless affordable housing units throughout the Upper East Side.

In July of 2019, L+M Developments announced it would be purchasing a portfolio of 2,800 New York rental apartments that were set to age out of affordability requirements. Thanks to a deal brokered with the support of Council Member and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, two-thirds or 1,800 of these apartments, including more than 600 on Roosevelt Island were preserved as affordable in exchange for tax breaks for L+M and Invesco the two companies that made the buy. These apartments had been developed under New York State’s Mitchell-Lama affordable-housing program but many had left the program and were no longer subject to rent restrictions. 

In May of 2019 Kallos worked with Extell Development and HPD to build 28-units of affordable housing starting with incomes of $36,858 for individuals to $96,800 for a family of six (at 70% to 80% of the area median income. The properties are located on 1768 Second Avenue at 91st Street across the street from his district office. The new buildings also offer private childcare on the ground floor operated by Alef Bet Preschool.

In August of 2018 Council Member, Kallos collaborated with supportive housing organization Win and construction companies RiverOak & Azimuth Development to open up a seven-story building located at 316 East 91st Street, which contains 17 one- and two-bedroom apartments dedicated for homeless women and children. That same year in May, Council Member Kallos also partnered with Urban Pathways to open the Howard Amron House, an 11-unit building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. That facility houses formerly homeless individuals and offers residents supportive services like case management to encourage independence and wellness.

In February of 2018, Kallos worked with Azimuth Development and HPD to open a 21-unit residential building located at 321 East 60th Street in the Lenox Hill section of Manhattan. All of the units in the building are 100% permanently affordable to low-income households earning at or below $53,440 annually.

Citi Bike Stations Arrive on Roosevelt Island Just in Time for Summer 2020

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Citi Bike Stations Arrive on Roosevelt Island Just in Time for Summer 2020

The Pilot Program is a Result of Years of Collaboration between Council Member Kallos, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, and Lyft.

Watch the Announcement

 

Roosevelt Island, NY- Citi Bike is coming to Roosevelt Island with brand new stations. The first stations are being installed today and throughout the week and will be home to 74 bikes as the bike share program expands to Roosevelt Island to serve its residents for the first time. In 2014 there were more requests for CitiBike in Roosevelt Island’s zip code than anywhere else in New York City, with a bikeshare pilot dating back to 2010. This was a campaign promise of Council Member Ben Kallos who has spent years working with Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and Citi Bike now operated by Lyft to finally get wheels down.

This pilot program by Lyft, which operates Citi Bike, is part of an expansion bringing a $100 million investment to improve, strengthen and expand Citi Bike over the coming years -- doubling its current service area by thirty-five square miles and more than tripling its number of bikes to nearly 40,000. As Lyft expands its physical footprint, it is also expanding its programming to ensure Citi Bike is equitable and accessible to the communities it serves.

“Citi Bike for Roosevelt Island was one of my first campaign promises,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, whose Fifth District includes Roosevelt Island. “Now, the years of work to make this happen are paying off. I am looking forward to riding a Citi Bike on Roosevelt Island after years of working with RIOC, RIRA, and residents, through multiple owners of Citi Bike, in pursuit of this expansion. None of this would have been possible without the power of the press and a commitment to covering this and every issue by the Roosevelt Islander. From Four Freedoms to Lighthouse Park and destinations in between, Citi Bike is going to make getting around Roosevelt Island more convenient and more fun.”

This has been a multiple year long collaborative effort. Through it all, Council Member Kallos has worked with all the key figures in private industry and government to bring Citi Bike to the 12,000 residents who live on the island.

“We are so excited to bring the first Citi Bike stations to Roosevelt Island as we double the Citi Bike network in the coming years,” said Laura Fox, Lyft's General Manager of Citi Bike. “Now more than ever, Citi Bike is meeting the needs of this moment, offering New Yorkers a reliable, affordable, sustainable, fun, and socially distant way to get around. We are grateful to RIOC and Council Member Kallos for their partnership through this process and look forward to Roosevelt Island residents incorporating bikeshare into their daily lives.”
“ RIOC is proud to support this pilot program that gives our residents and visitors a convenient, environmentally responsible way to experience Roosevelt Island,” said Shelton J. Haynes, RIOC’s Acting President and CEO.

“Delighted to see that Citi Bike is finally coming to Roosevelt island! Access to various transit options is always important, but is especially welcome now as our city grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank Council Member Ben Kallos for his dedication to bringing Citi Bike to the residents of Roosevelt Island and delivering this highly requested bike sharing program to our constituents,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

“Access to bike sharing will not only provide a green transportation option for Roosevelt Island residents, but will enhance opportunities for safe exercise and recreation during the current health emergency and in the long term. A truly successful bike share program must link together the entire city, and Citi Bike's expansion into Roosevelt Island is an important step toward ensuring equity across all neighborhoods. Thank you to Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Lyft, Councilmember Ben Kallos and my other colleagues in government for their leadership on this issue,” said State Senator Jose Serrano.

"It is exciting to once again to have Citi Bike further its footprint on New York City by expanding into new territory," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "With residents looking for new means of travel amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Citi Bike will be a welcome addition to an island that already has unique transportation needs."

“I commend Council Member Ben Kallos for his cyclist advocacy and commitment to closing gaps in transportation and to the expansion of transportation alternatives. Roosevelt Islanders have awaited the expansion of Citi Bike to come to their part of the Manhattan Borough.  Now, more than ever, we need to help people get around outside of the confines of our buses, subways and tram cars,” said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. 

Kallos previously worked with Roosevelt Island Residents Association and Manhattan Community Board 8 to pass resolutions in 2012 in favor of bringing CitiBike to Roosevelt Island.

About RIOC
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) was created in 1984 by the State of New York as a public benefit corporation with a mission to plan, design, develop, operate, and maintain Roosevelt Island. With a focus on innovative and environmentally friendly solutions, RIOC is committed to providing services that enhance the island's residential community. RIOC manages the two-mile-long island's roads, parks, buildings, a sports facility, and public transportation, including the iconic aerial tramway. Additionally, RIOC operates a Public Safety Department that helps maintain a safe and secure environment for residents, employees, business owners, and visitors.

About Citi Bike
Citi Bike is New York City's bike-share system, and the largest and most popular in the nation with more than 90 million rides taken to date across more than 13,000 bikes at nearly 900 stations. Over the coming years, Citi Bike will greatly expand into new neighborhoods as Citi Bike doubles its service area by 35 square miles and triples the number of bikes in the fleet to 40,000. Annual memberships are $169 for 365 days of unlimited 45-minute rides, and New Yorkers who live in NYCHA developments or receive SNAP benefits can access Citi Bike for only $5 a month through Reduced Fare Bike Share, presented by Healthfirst. Citi Bike is now available in the Lyft app, where customers can find real-time station information and unlock bikes. Learn more at https://www.citibikenyc.com/.

Watch the Announcement

OPEN RESTAURANTS: AS NEW YORK CITY PREPARES FOR PHASE 2 OF REOPENING, MAYOR DE BLASIO ANNOUNCES OUTDOOR DINING GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS

Friday, June 19, 2020

OPEN RESTAURANTS: AS NEW YORK CITY PREPARES FOR PHASE 2 OF REOPENING, MAYOR DE BLASIO ANNOUNCES OUTDOOR DINING GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS

Qualifying restaurants can use sidewalk, roadways and other outdoor space to allow for social distance among customers; Mayoral Executive Order creates a new and streamlined application process to allow restaurants to expand capacity outdoors

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced guidance for the City’s Open Restaurants program, which allows qualifying restaurants and bars to expand outdoor seating on sidewalks, curb lanes, backyards, patios, plazas, and Open Streets as New York City begins Phase 2 of reopening. The City has established an expedited approval processes by allowing restaurants and bars to self-certify their eligibility for curb lane and sidewalk seating using a new, streamlined application process at NYC.Gov, which will be available starting Friday, June 19th. The mayor codified the guidance by signing Executive Order 126.

“Restaurants are the backbone of New York City’s neighborhood culture, and they’ve done their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It’s our City’s turn to help them reopen safely and responsibly,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “These commonsense guidelines will help local businesses get back on their feet – and let New Yorkers safely enjoy the meal they’ve earned.”

"Cautious step by cautious step, New York City restaurants will come back and thrive again," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "The City allowing for restaurant seating on sidewalks, patios, plazas, and open streets is a smart move that will help our small businesses recover faster and push our local economy in the right direction. While ultimately the responsibility is on individuals to socially distance, get tested, wear masks, and wash our hands often, this plan will give mom and pop shops a fighting chance to come back. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg for listening to suggestions and making this plan a reality in the coming days."

 

Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio proposing $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet

Monday, June 15, 2020

As we face unprecedented times and a budget that must-see painful cuts, we should look for possible waste and opportunities for revenues and savings. I have proposed $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue for our city’s budget in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet that will reduce costs and generate revenues. 

Testimony before the New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020
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New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB)

Public Hearing and Comment on Proposed Rules

June 10, 2020

 

I am Council Member Ben Kallos, representing the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and East Harlem.

Good afternoon to the Rent Guidelines Board Chair David Reiss, Public Members Joza, Schwartz, Gonzalez-Rivera, and DeRose, Owner Members Stone and Walsh, and Tenant Members Garcia and Goodridge.

To New Yorkers following online today, and especially tenants, thank you for participating in this hearing. I am proud to stand with you today.

This year, I am calling on the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a rent rollback or -2% for one-year leases and -1% for two-year leases. If the Board does not support a rent rollback, I urge you to at least vote for a rent freeze.

While I understand that in your preliminary vote, you voted for a rent freeze for one-year leases, I urge you to consider voting for a rent rollback given the extended pain caused to tenants by the Covid-19 pandemic.

If there’s one thing we can learn from this crisis, it’s that we are all in this together. We cannot continue with a mentality that every person must fend for themselves.

Based on March and April 2020 numbers, New York State is currently seeing higher unemployment than at any time since the Great Depression, and job losses are most serious in New York City.

With a City unemployment rate of 14.2%, many New Yorkers simply cannot make rent. It is important to acknowledge that landlords, particularly small landlords, have also been affected by this crisis. However, while evictions have been delayed, rent has not been canceled, but jobs have, and we must adjust rents to reflect that.

Certain factors have made things easier on landlords as well. The 2019-2020 winter was the seventh-warmest on record, with an average temperature more than 4 degrees above the norm and only 4.8 inches of snowfall compared to an average of 21.3 inches. With the economic fallout from the pandemic, the price of crude oil dipped below $0 and has remained below $40 per barrel throughout the crisis. All of this is to say: it has been and will likely remain a relatively inexpensive time to keep New York City buildings heated—one of the major cost factors for landlords. Further, many landlords have also received mortgage relief during the crisis.

The Board’s Income and Expense report, which was not able to factor in Covid-19 impacted value, found that landlords’ Net Operating Income dipped slightly from 2016–2018. Even following this dip, however, Net Operating Income remains near an all-time high, and it has not dipped back below the record threshold of $500 that was exceeded for the first time in 2014.

As a City, we face great challenges that we must address together. High rents will cause more evictions and put more New Yorkers out on the street, adding to our unconscionably high homelessness numbers. The difference this year is that with businesses closed, the virus posing a risk to anybody who lives within the five boroughs, and many New Yorkers leaving the City, if we raise rents and cause a massive wave of evictions, it will not be easy to find new tenants for those vacant apartments.

We have to remember the lesson of this pandemic: that we are all in this together. The best way to keep New York running and rent coming in is to acknowledge the extraordinary nature of our situation and accommodate the impacted economic needs of tenants to keep them in their homes.

After two straight years of historic rent freezes, the Board has now voted for low increases three years in a row. More needs to be done to balance tenants’ rent burdens with landlord’s revenues.

Year after year, as rents go up, tenants have shouldered an undue burden. Meanwhile, income cannot keep pace; average incomes only crept up by 2.3% between 2005 and 2013 in real terms. The approved rent increases each year were largely based upon the landlord’s operating costs, measured by the price index of operating cost (PIOC). This practice not only failed to consider tenants, but was also proven to be inaccurate: based upon data from the Department of Finance (DOF), the PIOC has overstated landlord costs by 11% since 2005. This miscalculation led to unfairly high rent increases in past years, which must be corrected with a rent freeze.

Over the past six years, the Board has done a lot of work to improve this process, both by adapting the way it evaluates the data, and by expanding its public hearings to reach more tenants and landlords in more parts of the City. In 2016, the Board instituted a second hearing in northern Manhattan, and has kept up that level of accessibility since then. Thank you to the members of the Board for these changes.

This year, as New York City remains in shutdown, the Board has moved to hold its hearings on Zoom. I urge you going forward to adjust your approach to virtual hearings to accommodate more New Yorkers who want to participate. You can do this by providing interpretation at all meetings, keeping the comments section on YouTube turned on so viewers can chime in, and expand your outreach efforts to inform communities of hearing dates and how they can access them.

In establishing rent adjustments this year, we must acknowledge that, even after the freezes and low increases of the past six years, Rent Guidelines Board increases have far outpaced inflation and the consumer price index. I have compared 25 years of RGB increases to the Consumer Price Index and found that, even following recent freezes and low increases, rent increases have outpaced the Consumer Price Index by over 10%. That means a $500 a month apartment in 1994 is now a minimum of $950.00 a month with an annual rent of at least $11,400. Following inflation, that same unit would be $864.77 a month and $10,377.24 a year.[i] [JT1] 

Those increases have come with consequences. A unit is considered affordable if the rent is no higher than 30% of their household income. The median rent-to-income ratio of tenants in rent-stabilized apartment is 36.4%. By this standard, a majority of rent-stabilized tenants have units that are not affordable. The stress of financial insecurity takes a toll on New Yorkers every day.

The impact of this rent squeeze is seen in our city’s dire homelessness crisis. As of this morning 56,116 New Yorkers woke up in a shelter, having nowhere else to go.

As we seek to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, New York City is at a crossroads. If we take the path of continuing the rent squeeze, we will see more New Yorkers on the streets, and we may not even see their vacant apartments filled. If we acknowledge that we are all facing challenges together, and accommodate our city’s financially burdened tenants with a small rollback, we will keep New Yorkers in their homes and their rents on the rolls.

The time is now for a rent rollback, for the 29,000 rent-stabilized units in my district[ii] and for tenants across New York City.

As a final note, I would like to acknowledge that so much of the data, analysis, and expertise that many of us who participate in this process have relied on over the years came from Tom Waters, who died in April from what was presumed to be Covid-19. Mr. Waters was a board member and former director of Tenants & Neighbors, and the long-time housing analyst at the Community Service Society. For so many Mr. Waters provided the data that underwrote the housing movement, and in his analysis, he thought big about how to provide housing for all New Yorkers. I count myself among the many who owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Waters. Unsurprisingly, his research is cited in this testimony.

 

Comparison Chart of Rent Guidelines Board Orders[iii] and Consumer Price Index[iv]

14% Difference between RGB One Year Increases and Annual CPI Average

 

Year

1 Year

2 Year

RGB Order

Avg. CPI

1 yr. RGB & CPI Difference

Sample Rent Increases based on RGB

Sample Rent Increases based on CPI

2019

1.50%

2.50%

51

1.80%

-0.30%

$  950.00

$  864.77

2018

1.50%

2.50%

50

2.40%

-0.90%

$  938.27

$  849.48

2017

1.25%

2.00%

49

2.10%

0.85%

$  926.69

$  832.01

2016

0.00%

2.00%

48

2.10%

2.10%

$  915.25

$  814.90

2015

0.00%

2.00%

47

0.70%

0.70%

$  915.25

$  798.14

2014

1.00%

2.75%

46

0.80%

0.20%

$  915.25

$  792.59

2013

4.00%

7.75%

45

1.50%

2.50%

 $  906.19

 $  786.30

2012

2.00%

4.00%

44

2.10%

-0.10%

 $  871.33

 $  774.68

2011

3.75%

7.25%

43

3.20%

0.55%

 $  854.25

 $  758.75

2010

2.25%

4.50%

42

1.60%

0.65%

 $  823.37

 $  735.22

2009

3.00%

6.00%

41

-0.40%

3.40%

 $  805.25

 $  723.64

2008

4.50%

8.50%

40

3.80%

0.70%

 $  781.80

 $  726.55

2007

3.00%

5.75%

39

2.80%

0.20%

 $  748.13

 $  699.95

2006

4.25%

7.25%

38

3.20%

1.05%

 $  726.34

 $  680.89

2005

2.75%

5.50%

37

3.40%

-0.65%

 $  696.73

 $  659.77

2004

3.50%

6.50%

36

2.70%

0.80%

 $  678.08

 $  638.08

2003

4.50%

7.50%

35

2.30%

2.20%

 $  655.15

 $  621.30

2002

2.00%

4.00%

34

1.60%

0.40%

 $  626.94

 $  607.33

2001

4.00%

6.00%

33

2.80%

1.20%

 $  614.65

 $  597.77

2000

4.00%

6.00%

32

3.40%

0.60%

 $  591.01

 $  581.49

1999

2.00%

4.00%

31

2.20%

-0.20%

 $  568.28

 $  562.37

1998

2.00%

4.00%

30

1.60%

0.40%

 $  557.13

 $  550.26

1997

2.00%

4.00%

29

2.30%

-0.30%

 $  546.21

 $  541.60

1996

5.00%

7.00%

28

3.00%

2.00%

 $  535.50

 $  529.42

1995

2.00%

4.00%

27

2.80%

-0.80%

 $  510.00

 $  514.00

1994

2.00%

4.00%

26

2.60%

-0.60%

 $  500.00

 $  500.00

 

 

[i] Consumer Price Index Data from 1913 to 2014 (CPI-U) provided by U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, available from the US Inflation Calculator available at http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/consumer-price-index-and-annual-percent-changes-from-1913-to-2008/

[ii] Tom Waters, Community Service Society of New York. The Geography of Rent Regulation and Legislative Districts, http://b.3cdn.net/nycss/21de717dd5b4b8e395_5gm6i6zlu.pdf

 

 


 

Four New 2020-2021 Community Board Members Nominated by Council Member Kallos and Appointed by Borough President Brewer

Friday, May 29, 2020

Upper East Side, NY - Five new active neighborhood leaders join Community Boards serving the Upper East Side after being nominated by Council Member Ben Kallos and appointed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Manhattan’s 12 community boards are local organizations each composed of 50 volunteer members serving staggered two-year terms. Community boards are tasked with being the independent and representative voices of their communities — the most grass-roots form of local government. The boards are pivotal in shaping their communities and work to enhance and preserve the character of the city’s many unique neighborhoods.

AS CONCERNS FROM NYC RESIDENTS MOUNT ABOUT NUTRITIONAL QUALITY OF FOOD BEING DISTRIBUTED BY CITY, BP ADAMS, CM KALLOS, DOCTORS OF COLOR ANNOUNCE NEW LEGISLATION STRENGTHENING NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR MEALS SERVED TO MOST VULNERABLE NEW YORKERS

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Brooklyn, NY – Today, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined City Council Member Ben Kallos and doctors of color to unveil new legislation that would strengthen nutritional guidelines on meals funded by the City, including grab-and-gomeals. The announcement came as New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs have expressed concern about the quality and nutritional standards of the food distributed through the GetFoodNYC initiative, launched in response to the growing number of New Yorkers who have lost jobs or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Borough President Adams and Council Member Kallos have been vocal in recent weeks about the need to provide healthier meal options to New Yorkers.

“Our City cannot be literally feeding our public health crisis by serving foods that have no nutritional value. Numerous residents throughout Brooklyn have raised concerns to me about the quality of the food they are getting through grab-and-go sites, food pantries, and other operations subsidized by the City. The leading co-morbidities associated with COVID-19 are diet-related, like obesity and hypertension. We must change the paradigm in the way we feed residents to prioritize health and wellness, rather than just caloric intake,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“COVID-19 is no excuse to feed our most vulnerable New Yorkers junk food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” said Council Member Kallos. “Nutritional value must be a priority when our City acquires food to give to hungry residents. This legislation works to improve the quality of the food the City will give out going forward. Thank you to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for calling attention to this issue citywide and working with me to fix it.”

STATEMENT: Council Member Kallos on Street Closures for Safe Outdoor Social Distancing

Friday, May 1, 2020

As the weather gets warmer, New Yorkers will want to go outside more and they should be able to do so safely. East End Avenue in my district is a perfect street to open exclusively to pedestrians. Making East End from 83rd to 89th Street one continuous pedestrian plaza will expand our open space to make it much easier for residents to get fresh air without risking infection. Once the street is open to pedestrians, this will relieve the pressure off our local parks and give everyone the space they need to practice social distancing outdoors correctly. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson for working to make the street closures happen. Looking forward to the expansion across the City and in my district.

Wildcat Workers Join Council Member Ben Kallos in Delivering Meals to Seniors at Isaacs and Holmes NYCHA Towers

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Wildcat Workers Join Council Member Ben Kallos in Delivering Meals to Seniors at Isaacs and Holmes NYCHA Towers

wildcat

Wildcat Services Works with Chronically Unemployed Persons and those with Criminal Convictions as part of their Efforts to Help Individuals to Achieve Economic Wellbeing

Upper East Side, NY- Today Council Member Ben Kallos in partnership with the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center was joined by volunteers from Wildcat services in delivering 200 meals to seniors living at the Holmes Towers and Isaac’s Houses as well as older adults residing in other public housing facilities in the surrounding neighborhoods. During to the COVID-19 pandemic, food provided to seniors and individuals in need must be delivered directly to the recipient’s door to avoid the risks posed by pick-ups. As a result, the Stanley Isaacs Center has had to work and rely on energetic community volunteers to help deliver the food and there has been a consistent need for more volunteers.

Council Member Kallos, who has worked with Wildcat Services since 2018 when he contracted them to help keep neighborhood streets clean, noticed that the decline in foot traffic due to businesses being closed meant that some Upper East Side streets could skip a day of cleaning. He contacted Wildcat management to inquire whether their workers would instead be willing to join him in distributing meals to the City’s most vulnerable. After coordinating and some preparation, today, a team of Wildcat service workers spent time with Council Member Kallos and facility employees going door to door ensuring residents in need received their meals. 

The 200 meals were provided by New York Common Pantry. Council Member Ben Kallos has funded New York Common Pantry with $11,000 in discretionary funding for FY 2020. This funding is used in their mission to help meet the food needs of New York City families by providing culturally-appropriate and nutritiously-balanced meals that also reduce hunger and promote dignity, health and self-sufficiency.

“Our neighborhood facilities that feed our seniors and house NYCHA residents needed help with getting meals to the community,” said Council Member Ben Kallos “I knew I could not do it all myself so I called in enforcements. My friends over at Wildcat pounced at the chance to help, today is a win for everybody involved. Thank you to the folks from Wildcat and whose help made this possible and to the other volunteers who really made a difference today.”

“Throughout our history, Isaacs Center has provided essential services to seniors, especially those who - under normal conditions - are living on fixed incomes and are forced to make hard choices every month between food, medicine, and rent. In this moment of extraordinary crisis, and in alignment with all appropriate health and safety guidelines, we are proud to maintain critical operations to provide meals to isolated, homebound, and medically fragile older adults. We applaud and thank Council Member Kallos, Common Pantry, and Wildcat for their continued partnership and support, said Gregory J. Morris, President and Executive Director, Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center.” 

“Ben Kallos has always been supportive of us here at Holmes and Isaacs.  It is very important to the seniors and the community as a whole to a have food especially at a time like this.  We are appreciative to all the volunteers that come out to deliver food, putting their own health at risk. The Stanley Isaacs Community Center is a valuable resource in our community. Food insecurities, safety, health and well-being are things that our community has struggled with for years.  We can only combat these with continued support from our elected officials,” said La Keesha Taylor, Holmes Towers resident and community stakeholder. 

“On behalf of Wildcat it is our pleasure to help with such a compassionate and necessary need for the community. We thank Council Member Ben Kallos for entrusting us, together we will get through this,” said Lortesha White Senior Supervisor at WildCat services.

 

"We are always proud to partner with Council member Kallos. Serving our community together allows us to ensure all residents get the healthy, nutritious food they need, especially now when so many are affected by the crisis,” said Deana Murtha Senior Director of Development and Communications New York Common Pantry.

About Wildcat: Since its founding in 1972, Wildcat has continued to add innovative services and programs centered on transitional employment, job placement and workforce development to help justice-involved individuals, the homeless, the chronically unemployed and public assistance recipients achieve economic wellbeing.

As a pioneer in transitional employment, Wildcat touches the lives of tens of thousands of justice-involved individuals and their families. We are proud that our work informs the national conversation about mass incarceration and justice reform.

 

STATEMENT: Council Member Ben Kallos on Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order to Send Absentee Ballot Applications to Voters due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Friday, April 24, 2020

STATEMENT: Council Member Ben Kallos on Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order to Send Absentee Ballot Applications to Voters due to COVID-19 Pandemic
 

“Democracy cannot be another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The safest way to hold an election in these uncertain times would be by doing so on paper by mail. 

“New Yorkers should be able to request their absentee ballots online, there is something wrong with the fact that voters will have to go through these bureaucratic steps just to vote. The Erie County Board of Elections has already done it and every other county should follow their lead. Governor Cuomo should also implement online voter registration for everyone, even if they don’t have New York State driver’s license or issued identification.

“If Governor Cuomo cannot order absentee ballots be delivered to every voter, then sending the applications is the next best thing. Mailing every voter an absentee ballot application will be a crucial reminder that they need to actually apply to vote absentee.

“New Yorkers should get absentee ballot applications with a pre-stamped self-addressed envelope as well as instructions on how to submit by fax, email, or where possible just filling out the form online.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo is doing the right thing and proving that there is no reason to prohibit voting by mail. If New York can have everyone vote by mail during a pandemic, this is one part of the ‘new normal’ that should remain."

 

BACKGROUND:

Governor Cuomo today stated in a press conference that he had ordered the Board of Election to mail all registered voters absentee ballot applications. Mailing ballots to all New Yorkers was one of the key steps Council Member Kallos in an op-ed in the Gotham Gazette on how to “Ensure Voter Access Amid Coronavirus.” New York is in the minority of states without vote by mail as 28 other states allow for no-fault absentee voting, including Florida, Michigan, Ohio and California.
 

###

Job Protections for Essential Workers Including Whistleblowers Proposed by Council Members Ben Kallos, Brad Lander and Speaker Johnson

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

“Just Cause” Legislation Would Provide Protections for Essential Workers During the Pandemic

New York, NY—Today, New York City Council Members Ben Kallos, Brad Lander, and Speaker Corey Johnson introduced legislation to protect essential workers from termination without “Just Cause.” Essential workers include healthcare workers, first responders, utility workers, and those on the frontline including those at supermarkets, making deliveries, and anyone working at an essential business as defined by Executive Order. Heroic health care and warehouse workers have faced retaliation for speaking out against unsafe conditions where they work. Essential businesses would be required to provide progressive discipline and a “just cause” within a week of termination subject to arbitration, a private right of action, with essential employees able to recover back pay and employers subject to fines of up to $2,500 per violation.

“No one should lose their job simply for asking for protective equipment during a pandemic. Our city’s essential workers are heroes and deserve to be treated that way complete with job protections for putting their lives on the line,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Brad Lander, and our brothers and sisters in labor for joining us in our fight to protect essential workers.”

“At a time when the very lives of our hospital and health care workers are on the line, it is unconscionable that they would be fired for ringing the alarm bell about health and safety issues,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “It is imperative that we stand up for these doctors, nurses, and health care workers, listen to and lift up their concerns, and ensure that they cannot be unjustly fired for telling the truth about the conditions they face.”

Over the last month, private hospitals have issued guidance to their workers about what public communications is deemed acceptable. Some of the guidance threatened workers with termination if the communication is not first approved by executive-level staff. New York City’s 11 public hospitals have not issued such warnings and the Council Members urge the private hospital network and all healthcare institutions to follow the lead of New York City’s Health + Hospitals and allow their frontline workers to speak out without fear of an unfair firing. 

Spring Has Sprung with New Planters Adorning Second Avenue Bike Islands in East Nineties Thanks to Public-Private Partnership Funded by Council Member Kallos

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Spring Has Sprung with New Planters Adorning
Second Avenue Bike Islands in East Nineties Thanks to
Public-Private Partnership Funded by Council Member Kallos

New York, NY – Previously empty bike islands in the east nineties along Second Avenue have just got a little greener to match bike islands with a tree following a public-private partnership between Horticultural Society of New York and the office of Council Member Ben Kallos. New planters have been installed on traffic islands that will be maintained through the season.

Council Member Kallos provided $50,000 in discretionary funding through the Greener NYC initiative for Fiscal Year ending in 2020 to fund this partnership which was approved by the Department of Transportation for new planters on previously empty bike islands on Second Avenue at:

  • 95th Street
  • 93rd Street
  • 92nd Street
  • 91st Street