New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Statement of Council Member Ben Kallos on the Adoption of Campaign Finance and Community Board Reforms by Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission on Democracy

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Campaign Finance Reform
 
“Democracy in New York City could finally get better by reducing contribution limits by more than half and making small dollars more valuable by matching more of them with a greater multiplier. Though I advocated for a full public match of every small dollar, this will increase from matching a little more than half of small dollars to matching three-quarters of small dollars. Increasing the public match will dramatically decrease the amount of money Mayoral candidates need to raise in unmatchable contributions from $3.28 million to just over $1 million,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, whose recommendations were included in the Commission’s adopted resolution.
 
Community Board Reforms
 
“Community Boards will start to be more representative of their communities with the support they need to take on over-development and plan for the future with terms limits, urban planners, a citywide standardized application, and reporting on vacancies and demographics,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who advocated for all of these Community Board reforms before the Commission.
 
Commission
 
“The Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission did extensive outreach in all five boroughs in-person, by phone, and even by Twitter, and today’s resolution is proof positive that they listened to the people of this great city. Now it is those people who must vote these proposals through to take back their city,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who testified at every opportunity before the Commission. “Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio for creating this Commission with a focus on improving Democracy which has proposed these necessary reforms that could not get done through the typical political process.”

Transcript of Call to Mayor's Charter Revision Commission on Democracy Tele-Townhall

Thursday, August 9, 2018

All reforms start with getting big money out of politics with a full public match of every dollar which would finally allow candidates to run for office without soliciting big money. Through this change we can ensure that elected officials make better appointments to the community boards without having to satisfy special interests.

Term Limits are a good thing and [are] necessary to ensure that these bodies reflect their communities and create a culture of getting things done and foster mentoring and the passing on of institutional memory. Community Boards should have term limits to, whether following recommendations from Citizens Union or my proposal for two four year terms staggered with Council Members and Borough Presidents.

Community Boards with Term Limits will need dedicated urban planner. This would empower Community Boards in rezoning, variances in front of the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) applications to review. Absent even those, planners can devote resources to studying how a community district can grow while planning for future need, how urban planning can positively affect public safety issues and community violence, and how to preserve business ownership and encourage new business and development in blighted areas.

With so many contentious rezoning before the City Council like Inwood yesterday, Community Boards along with their Borough Board and their Borough President must be able to initiate grassroots community rezonings Uniform Land Use Review Procedures (ULURP) completely funded by the City or with a triple no have a veto.

American Heart Association Supports New Council Bill Addressing Kids Meals

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

 

American Heart Association Supports New Council Bill Addressing Kids Meals

Proposed legislation aims to reduce sugar consumption among NYC Children by defaulting to non-sugary drinks in kid's meals

"The new normal should be healthy meal and drink options for our children no matter where they are eating, "said Council Member Ben Kallos. “If we get this part down, at every food establishment serving kids it will make it much easier and simpler to raise happy healthy children."

CM Kallos Letter to Parks and DOT Re: Request for Proposals for the Development, Operation, and Maintenance of a Sports & Recreational Facility, Queensboro Oval,

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Re: Request for Proposals for the Development, Operation, and Maintenance of a Sports & Recreational Facility, Queensboro Oval, Manhattan, Solicitation #M70-O-2017, Issued

February 16, 2018, Due March 23, 2018

Dear Commissioners Silver and Trottenberg,

As you are likely aware, Council District 5, which I represent, has among the least acreage of park land per person in the city. As such, East Siders cherish and fight for their parks.


For many years, community members have fought for access to the land underneath the Queensboro Bridge, known as the Queensboro Oval, which I understand is owned by the Department of Transportation, but which the city made an official Playground in 1909. Since the 1970s, the park has been leased to an exclusive private tennis club, for a gradually expanding season and the concessionaire has left the field in poor condition during the summer months it is open to the public, leaving this space unattractive and unusable.

Over the past four and a half years, I have worked with community leaders, Community Board 8, and my fellow elected officials to advocate for the return of this land to the public, as a year-round public park.

After sharing with the community an initial proposal to build a new public recreation facility at the site, the Parks Department issued on February 16 of this year a Request for Proposals (RFP) that appears skewed towards keeping site’s current use in place. Please consider working together to resurface the Queensboro Oval as a public amenity without fees.

Letter on Unbuildable Zoning Lots to the Board of Standards and Appeals

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dear Chair Perlmutter and Honorable Members of the Board:

We ask the Board of Standards and Appeals to prohibit the creation of unbuildable lots designed to evade zoning regulations. Allowing developers to create unbuildable lots that serve no purpose other than to avoid zoning regulations has serious implications for New York City not just Manhattan. In this example at 180 East 88th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the creation of a tiny new lot between the development site and the street serves only as a physical ploy so the building can circumvent zoning regulations that apply to buildings when they front a street. As a result of this tactic, the building does not come to the street, and instead can be built taller with a private residential plaza, which zoning no longer allows.

Testimony to the Board of Standards and Appeals RE: 2017-290-A, 1558 Third Avenue (a.k.a. 180 East 88 th Street), Manhattan In Support of Appeal of DOB Determination

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Testimony to the Board of Standards and Appeals  RE: 2017-290-A, 1558 Third Avenue (a.k.a. 180 East 88 th Street), Manhattan  In Support of Appeal of DOB Determination

Thank you to Chair Perlmutter and the members of the Board of Standards and Appeals for the opportunity to testify in support of the community’s appeal of the Department of Building’s determination to allow the construction of a tower at 1558 Third Avenue—or 180 East 88th Street as it is marketed—despite its frontage on 88th Street, which should require it to conform to Tower on a Base zoning.

The Buildings Department allowed a tower, because the developer carved out a micro-sized, unbuildable sham zoning lot to make it appear as if the building did not front 88th Street.

I strongly support the community’s appeal because this lot was created purely for the purpose of evading the zoning code, and I urge the Board of Standards and Appeals to uphold the spirit of the zoning code and overrule the Buildings Department’s determination.

This building will rise more than 500 feet high, with a blank open space running back from 88th street, rather than a street wall coordinated with the height of neighboring buildings. Furthermore, the portion of the building facing 88th Street will be much higher than would be allowed under the sliver rule.

New Tool: Mayor de Blasio and DCP Announce Real Time Information on NYC Land Use Proposals Now Just a Click Away

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Easy-to-use Zoning Application Portal – ZAP – includes status of active applications and project data dating to 1970

Access it here – and on your mobile device

July 24, 2018 – Mayor de Blasio and Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago today announced the launch of ZAP, DCP’s exciting new Zoning Application Portal. The web-based data tool makes details and status of all zoning and land use applications directly available to the public, with an intuitive map-based interface. 

“The online portal makes searches for a zoning-change application, whether large or small, accessible to everyone – including New Yorkers like me who aren’t architects or city planners. I congratulate the Department of City Planning for this user friendly and transparent search tool,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“This online tool is the ultimate in planning and zoning transparency. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s intuitive. We hope that New Yorkers – residents, advocacy groups, property and business owners – take full advantage, and get more involved in planning for our city’s future. Either way, check out ZAP. It’s way cool!” Director Marisa Lago said.

ZAP offers easy searches for land use applications, including pending applications, with a variety of useful search filters. It includes about 28,000 projects, dating back to 1970 when DCP began digitizing project application data.  About 500 of them are currently in public review. 

ZAP, which can be searched, features direct links to DCP tools and other City databases by project address to ZoLa(DCP’s Zoning & Land Use map), the Department of Buildings’ BISWeb and the Department of Finance’s ACRIS sites.  

Firehouse on Upper East Side Gets Over Half a Million Dollars from Council Member Ben Kallos

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

New York, NY – The Upper East Side’s firehouse just received $525,000 in discretionary funding from Council Member Ben Kallos. The firehouse located at 159 East 85th Street is the only one in the Council Member’s district and home of Engine Company 22, Ladder Tower 13 and Battalion 10. $375,000 will be used to weatherize windows and $150,000 will be used to modernize the fire door.

 The Council Member was joined by Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) President Jake Lemonda and his Executive Board, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Vice President LeRoy McGinnis and Manhattan Trustee Vincent Speciale, as well as FDNY 3rd Division Deputy Chief Coyne and FDNY Battalion Chief Edward Burgess.

 

Testimony to the New York City Charter Revision Commission on the Preliminary Staff Report

Monday, July 23, 2018

The three most important reforms for this Charter Revision Commission are:

  1. Get Big Money Out of New York City Politics – of all the options presented there is only one way that will actually get big money out of New York City politics and that is by matching every small dollar contribution with public dollars. Anything less than matching every small dollar will leave an incentive to seek and accept large dollar contributions that at worst have a corrupting influence and at best create the appearance of impropriety.
  2. Term Limits for Community Boards – as we seek to empower Community Boards, term limits are necessary to ensure that these bodies reflect their communities and create a culture of getting things done and foster mentoring and the passing on of institutional memory.
  3. Binding Land Use Powers for Community Boards and Borough Presidents – the Community Boards along with their Borough Board and their Council Member or Borough President must be able to initiate Uniform Land Use Review Procedures (ULURP) completely funded by the City or with a triple no have a veto.

Please note that any reforms to the Community Boards are meaningless without full public matching, as those appointed will still answer to their Council Members and Borough President, whom without it may still have to answer to big moneyed donors and special interests.

Executive Summary of Campaign Finance Recommendations

Get Big Money Out of New York City Politics

Support Match Every Dollar with a Full Public Match – increase the public match from 55% to match every small dollar (approximately 85% of the spending limit).

Support Lower Dollars Matched and Increase Multiplier – reduce the matching of only the first $175 to $100 of a contribution from a city resident with the matching rate increased from 6 to 1 to 10 to 1 for a total of $1,100.

Support Lower Contribution Limits – lower contribution limits to $2,000 for citywide and $1000 for borough and City Council because you should not be able to give more to the Mayor than the President.

New Stop Matching Big Dollar Contributions Stop matching big donations over $175–ideally lowered to $100–with public dollars and force big money candidates to actually solicit small dollars from residents if they want public matching funds.

New Eliminate War Chests and Kill All the Zombie Committees – bring back prohibitions against non-participant war chests by repealing Local Law 189 of 2016 and requiring candidates in New York City to have only one authorized committee at a time with any remaining funds paid to the city after each election.

Expand Candidates and Voters Now

Support Empower Residents to Run for Office - automatically allow candidates who qualify for public matching to be on the ballot as an alternative to archaic petition requirements.

Support Automatic Voter Registration – government should use all opportunities of interaction to register voters or update voter registration information.

New Separate Voter Assistance and Campaign Finance – the administration of the public matching funds must be done impartially and separated from legislative advocacy, voter registration, and voter engagement.

New Lifetime Term Limits – eliminate the revolving door between the Albany legislature and New York City Council with lifetime term limits for city offices.

Support Act Now – the unique environment of the 2021 election presents the only meaningful opportunity to enact reform.

Executive Summary of Recommendations for Community Boards

Better Representation and Reflection of Community

Support Term Limits for Community Board Members and Leadership – community boards must no longer be a lifetime appointment and must have term limits for membership as well as for leadership positions.

 

New End Automatic Reappointment with Standardized, Public Applications – applications must be publicly available online and in print with everyone required to submit an application with non-confidential information.

New Ensure Representation with Automatic Removal for Non-Attendance – the Charter currently provides for removal for non-attendance by the community board or the Borough President, which is rarely used, and should be strengthened with automatic vacancies.

New Prohibit the Appointment of Partisan Party Officials or Lobbyists - – de-politicize community boards so they serve the community, not the interests of elected officials, political parties, or the special interests of lobbyists.

 

Land Use Powers for Community Boards and Borough Presidents

 

New Binding Land Use Power to Initiate or Veto ULURP – community boards must be able to initiate or veto ULURPs with support from Borough Board and Council Member or Borough President.

 

Support Urban Planners for Every Community Board – each community board, especially those that do not see a need, would have the resources needed to achieve their Charter mandate for planning.

Support Office of Community Planning – in order to assist and coordinate their Charter mandate for planning, community boards need an office that answers to them and not the Mayor.

 

Support Member Training – provide community board members with the knowledge they need to be effective with mandatory training on conflicts of interest, budget and the contracting process, zoning and ULURP, Board of Standards and Appeals, as well as landmarks.

Boundaries

Oppose District Boundaries – overlapping boundaries with multiple elected officials strengthens boards and provides better representation while tying boundaries to Constitutional mandates for one person one vote would needlessly gerrymander and split communities.

Community Groups’ Collaboration with Council Member Kallos and New York City Parks Department Result in Dozens of New Tree Guards Installed to Protect and Preserve Upper East Side Trees

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Upper East Side, NY – On Wednesday July 18, local community groups including the East 86th Street Association, the East 60s Neighborhood Association, the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association and Upper Greenside came together with Council Member Ben Kallos and the New York City Parks Department to celebrate the installation of a significant number of the tree guards requested by Council Member Kallos and the community for the Upper East Side.

Council Member Kallos allocated a total of $175,000 from his discretionary funding in FY 2018 to get the 98 tree guards installed. With the help of the community groups, the work is now very much under way.

Just months ago Council Member Kallos and the New York City Parks Department announced 19 new trees valued at $38,000 provided by the MTA and 17 new tree guards to protect them, and plantings along  Second Avenue at the cost of $30,600 provided by Council Member Ben Kallos. This was an expansion of his Adopt-A-Planter program launched in 2014 along the First Avenue protected bike lane.

As covered by PIX 11 News in 2014 Council Member Kallos secured approvals from NYC Parks and the Department of Transportation for residents to adopt planters with and without trees to beautify them with training and materials from Upper Green Side. Over the past four years, the Adopt-A-Planter participants have requested tree guards to protect trees and plantings.

Statement by Council Member Ben Kallos on Charter Revision Commission’s Preliminary Staff Report

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I applaud the staff recommendations released today by the New York City Charter Revision Commission. The Commissioners must adopt the strongest among them to reset the foundation of this great city and create a democracy that empowers every voice in elections and governance.

A full public match campaign finance system that will finally incentivize and allow candidates to run on small dollars alone, such as in legislation I authored in 2016 and testified to the Commission earlier this year, will reduce the corrupting influence of big dollars and special interests in our elections process and empower New Yorkers who cannot write checks of $4,950 but still want their voices heard.

We must also enrich and empower our City’s 59 Community Boards. Since 2014, I have advocated for term limits because they create a culture of getting things done, one where current and outgoing members mentor new members and pass on knowledge, and which allows new voices and new ideas to enter the public discussion. Term limits better ensure that Community Boards, our most local form of government, reflect the neighborhoods they represent. This, coupled with providing dedicated planning staff and binding power to veto or initiate Uniform Land Use Review Procedures, will give Community Boards the voice they deserve.

While government seldom reflects the voices of those who speak out, it is great to see so many voices from all over the city reflected in the New York City Charter Revision Commission Preliminary Staff Report. I encourage New Yorkers to join me in comment over the next week to support the most important recommendations and strengthen others as together we remake New York.

We look to the Commissioners to put the strongest recommendations on the ballot - ones that could not be accomplished through the legislative process- for an ambitious set of charter reforms that New Yorkers can vote for and restore a democracy of, by, and for the People!

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Kallos and Powers Call on the BSA to Prohibit the Creation of Unbuildable, Gerrymandered Lots Used by Developers to Evade Zoning Rules

Monday, July 16, 2018

New York, NY- On Monday, July 16 elected officials from Manhattan came together to urge the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to consider the citywide implications that its upcoming hearings and rulings will carry if they rule in favor of the developers. On July 17 the BSA is set to consider community appeals against development projects in Council Member Kallos’ district at 180 East 88th Street and at 200 Amsterdam Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
 
As New York City gets set to regulate the use of excessive mechanical voids this year, elected officials and community groups are calling on the BSA and the de Blasio administration to stick to the Mayor’s word from a June 27th, 2018 town hall where he acknowledged that the City should study all the loopholes used by developers, not only voids and added that the City should come back with a decision on the matter.

Council Member Ben Kallos' Statement on BSA Ruling on 428-432 East 58th Street

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The fight to preserve our residential communities against super-tall buildings will likely have to continue in court before a judiciary less likely to be tainted by the political process after today's irresponsible decision by the Board of Standards and Appeals. The Board ruled in favor of a bad acting developer against a lawful rezoning that was the result of a grassroots effort by the local community and elected officials.

Once again the city is allowing a developer to ignore the laws, having hurtled forward with its illegal foundation, in full knowledge of the zoning change, then asking the city for special treatment after the fact.

In a mad rush to complete its foundation so it could then claim a hardship, the developer completed the bulk of its foundation using illegal After Hours Work Variances, while failing repeatedly to comply with Department of Transportation safety requirements.

The city has been complicit in ignoring the law in order to help a developer beat the community, from delaying the rezoning for years to adding a bogus grandfather clause to granting illegal After Hours Variances, endangering public safety by closing streets in violation of the law, and now finally ignoring the hard-fought zoning law the community had won.

If Kalikow’s behavior is any indication of what the city is prepared to let developers get away with, then no law on the books will prevent developers from abusing the system and winning, until the courts step in.

New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) Public Hearing and Comment on Proposed Rules

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB)

Public Hearing and Comment on Proposed Rules

June 19, 2018

 

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

Good afternoon to the Rent Guidelines Board Chair Hon. Kathleen A. Roberts, Public Members Camarena, Joza, Reiss and Pinsky, Owner Members Pinsky and Walsh, and Tenant Members Garcia and Goodridge.

To New Yorkers here today, and especially tenants, thank you for attending 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 freeze.

After two straight years of historic rent freezes, last year, the Board voted for a rent increase of 1.25% for one-year leases and 2% for two-year leases. While this was a lower increase than the disproportionately high increases of previous years under prior administrations, more still needs to be done to balance tenants’ rent burdens with landlord’s revenues.

Testimony to the New York City Charter Revision Commission Community Boards and Land Use Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Testimony to the New York City Charter Revision Commission

Community Boards and Land Use

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

 

Council Member Ben Kallos

 

New York City's Community Boards originated in the 1950s, when Manhattan Borough President Robert F. Wagner established twelve “Community Planning Councils,” each comprised of 15-20 members. The councils served an advisory role to the Borough President, primarily for planning and budgetary issues. As mayor, Wagner institutionalized the councils as “Community Planning Boards” in the 1963 Charter Revision, extending them to all five boroughs.

Expanded again in 1968 by Mayor John Lindsay through the passage of Local Law 39, Community Boards acquired their present structure in the Charter Revision of 1975, which established the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and expanded the number of boards to the present 59. Additionally, the Charter Revision Commission recommendations gave the Community Boards a formal role in three specific areas: (1) Improving the delivery of city services; (2) Planning and reviewing land use in the community; and (3) Making recommendations on the city's budget.

Currently, each Community Board consists of up to 50 volunteer members appointed by the borough president, with half nominated by the City Council members representing that district. Board members are Charter mandated to reside, work in, or have some other significant interest in the community. As the most local form of government, Community Boards serve an essential role in our city’s democracy by shaping neighborhood development and advising government on community needs and interests.

Opportunity for Reform

On March 3, 2014 I chaired a hearing of the Committee on Governmental Operations on “Best Practices for Recruitment and Appointments to Community Boards.” The hearing received 19 testimonies from individuals, organizations, and borough presidents past and present. There was a strong desire for reform to strengthen Community Boards with greater resources and

Support Grows for PA James' Legislation for On-Site Childcare for Municipal Employees

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"Child care should not be a luxury just for the rich," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Parents shouldn't have to choose between going to work or staying home to care for a child. Employer-sponsored child care guarantees working parents a safe place for their child, and I'm proud to stand with Public Advocate James in asking the City to lead by example and provide child care options for its workers."

The New York City Council Votes to Adopt the FY 2019 Budget

Friday, June 15, 2018

The $89 billion 2018-19 budget passed by the New York City Council is a budget that highlights our needs and aims to strengthen the City’s financial position in case of economic downturn. I am particularly proud to have fought alongside my colleagues for and won:

  • Fair Fares - saves $700 a year in transit costs for 800,000 New Yorkers living in poverty and 12,000 veterans attending colleges in New York City for a $106 million investment.

  • Property Tax Reform Commission - to study disparities in property taxes resulting in our district paying higher property taxes than others do for larger homes.

  • Fair Student Funding - school in our neighborhood were chronically underfunded and nearly everyone will see a boost in funding with an investment of $125 million.

  • Accessible Schools - almost every local public school in the neighborhood is not accessible which is why we are investing $150 million in making our schools accessible to every student.

  • Supporting Our Youth - after school, summer programs, summer and year-round youth employment saw restorations and increases of $58.5 million.

  • Expanding Our Libraries - with an investment of $60 million for new libraries and $16.7 million to keep them open.

  • Cleaning Up Our Parks and Streets - we’ve invest $15.8 million in Parks Maintenance workers, tree stump removal and extra sanitation services.

  • More Affordable Housing - we need need more affordable housing for all New Yorkers including $40 million for public housing infrastructure, $3 million for homeless youth shelters, and $500 million for senior affordable housing.