New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Covid-19 Vaccine: Eligibility Opens for Over 75 and Essential Workers, How to Get the Vaccine

Monday, January 11, 2021

Governor Cuomo has expanded Covid-19 vaccine eligibility. Beginning today, millions more New Yorkers can begin making appointments to schedule their first dose of the vaccine. 
 
As part of this Phase 1B: any New Yorker 75 and over is eligible to begin taking the vaccine. 

The expansion also makes the vaccination available to:

  • Teachers, Child Care Workers, College Instructors, Education workers - 870,00 people
  • First Responders - 207,000
  • Public Safety workers - 100,000
  • Public Transit workers - 100,00 
  • Grocery workers & Shelter Residents

The closest city-operated locations to the district are:

NYC Health + Hospitals, Metropolitan
Hospital-Based Health Center/Clinic
1901 Fist Avenue, 4A, Manhattan, 10029
(between East 97th and 99th Streets)

NYC Health + Hospitals, Bellevue
Hospital-Based Health Center/Clinic
462 1 Avenue, Manhattan, 10016
(between East 26th and 28th Streets)
 

New Report Details Need For Improved, Expanded Bicycle Parking Across New York City

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

For every bike rack in NYC, there are more than 100 free parking spaces for cars 

Bike theft up by more than 27% in 2020; One in four households has had a bicycle stolen

Current and recent mayoral administrations have failed to deliver on 11 separate plans to improve bicycle parking 

Photos and graphics available here

NEW YORK — Today, Transportation Alternatives (TA) released a new report detailing the considerable lack of bike parking in New York City, as well as specific recommendations for improving this crucial piece of transportation infrastructure across the five boroughs. TA also launched an online petition calling on Mayor de Blasio to invest in safe, secure bike parking.  

In the report, The Power of Bicycle Parking: An Easy, Affordable and Effective Way to Save Lives, Encourage Cycling, and Create a Fairer New York City, TA argues that secure bicycle parking  — just like a protected bike lane — is a critical utility that encourages more New Yorkers to travel by bike. At present, bike parking remains far too limited and insecure, and this disproportionately impacts lower income New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color, as they are less likely to ride when bicycle parking is unavailable. With bicycling booming, traffic fatalities increasing, and bicycle theft up by more than 27 percent, the time is now for the de Blasio administration to fulfill and improve upon long-overdue promises for bike parking. 

“Simply put, there is not enough bicycle parking in New York City,” said Danny Harris, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director. “Despite more households owning bikes than cars, bike parking has taken a  back seat to free private car storage on our streets. Even peer cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C. have significantly more bike parking per-capita than New York. As more New Yorkers turn to bikes, our city needs to start building more bike parking now. Installing dedicated spaces at scale will send a strong signal that biking is safe, reliable, and accessible for all New Yorkers.”

Benefits of Bike Parking

The lack of bike parking is one of the top reasons New Yorkers cite for not biking or biking infrequently. Bicycle parking encourages more people to ride and makes cycling safer. It also encourages stopping and spending at local businesses, and research shows that, per square foot, bicycle parking earns business more revenue than car parking — up to 3.6 times more than space used by cars.  

Shortcomings of Recent Bike Parking Efforts by City

The de Blasio administration and previous mayors have failed to deliver on at least 11 separate plans to build bicycle parking. These include failing to meet NYC DOT’s goals for building bicycle parking near transit hubs, adding 1,500 bicycle parking spaces annually, piloting secure bicycle parking in shipping containers and other bicycle lockers, and creating an interactive map of bicycle parking.

Under the Bloomberg administration, bicycle rack installations increased 16 fold between his first and last year in office and averaged over 2,800 installations annually in his final term. Meanwhile, the de Blasio administration has reduced the installations to half the number installed annually by his predecessor. 

Transportation Alternatives’ Recommendations

Any plan to expand bike parking must start in lower income communities and communities of color, where there has been a lack of equitable investment in street infrastructure. More bike parking can have a disproportionately positive impact for lower income New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color as they are more likely to rely on a bicycle for transportation over recreation and less likely to live or work in buildings that offer bicycle storage.

Central to any bike parking plan is the need to transform free car parking spaces into spaces for secure bike parking. In the space needed to park only one car, the City can create seven to ten spaces to park bikes. The City should work with partners like the MTA to build bike parking near transit hubs and to leverage the expertise of the private sector to quickly expand bike parking where it’s needed most. Policy changes are needed too, to ensure the NYPD tracks bicycle theft, and to allow developers to build bike parking instead of car parking if this better suits a community need.

“At the height of the pandemic, I had relied on my used bike to commute more than four miles each way to Astoria, but during one hospital shift, my bike was stolen,” said Dr. George Syros, a cardiologist at Mt. Sinai Queens. “Thanks to the Bike Match program launched by Transportation Alternatives, I was able to get another bike, but nobody should lose their reliable transportation option while dealing with the already challenging COVID situation. Many hospital workers are biking to work now, and secure bike parking needs to be significantly expanded to meet this growing need. I hope that the city improves in this area in 2021.”

"We can't be a bike-friendly city without more bike parking, and the Council will continue pushing for more as we recover from the pandemic. Bike parking is part of cycling infrastructure, just like protected bike lanes, and we need more of all of it to encourage cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation as we rebuild our city,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. 

“As Transportation Chairman one of my main priorities has been to decrease personal vehicular traffic throughout the City by encouraging New Yorkers to transition into more sustainable, safe, and efficient alternative modes of transportation and legislating the expansion of our cycling infrastructure. With the pandemic, our reliance on delivery services has substantially increased and delivery workers, many of whom are immigrants have not received any form of economic relief. These delivery workers rely on their bikes to do their job and many lose hundreds of dollars every month on stolen bikes. We need to ensure the City is installing the needed infrastructure so that all New Yorkers, especially our delivery workers, can keep their bikes safe,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Transportation Committee. “The 2020 cyclist boom has to be met with additional bike and rider safety. I thank all the advocates from Families for Safe Streets and at Transportation Alternatives for the work they are doing to ensure our City is the safest and friendliest city for cyclists and pedestrians.”  

“Transportation policy is climate policy,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection. “So often we hear of emissions policies being talked about in terms of ‘getting a number of cars off the road’ that it’s easy to forget that sometimes, the best answer is to simply get the cars off the road. We can’t do that effectively, however, if there are no safe or secure places to store bicycles in most neighborhoods. The report released today shows that bike parking benefits environmental justice communities, small businesses, and our streets as a whole, and I want to commend Transportation Alternatives for their hard work on this issue.”

"Anyone would be amused or horrified to learn what New Yorkers do to fit their bikes in tiny studio apartments. I once had to put my bike vertically in a bathtub while visiting a friend for lack of bike parking or space in their apartment, " said Council Member Ben Kallos. "I fully support every recommendation from Transportation Alternatives and will work to make them a reality. We've already partnered with residents to place bike racks throughout the district anytime they are requested. I am particularly interested in the climate protected and even pods to protect bikes from theft."  

"New Yorkers took to their bikes this past year in unprecedented numbers, seeking healthier and safer ways to get around the city during a pandemic. But our city still lags far behind in creating the infrastructure to support safe cycling for all communities. It shouldn't take years to get a bike rack installed in a high traffic area. It's time for NYC to follow through on its commitments, starting with much needed infrastructure in low income, communities of color. Transportation Alternatives is right: increasing bike infrastructure, including bike parking is key to helping people move around the city, supporting local businesses, and getting New Yorkers to work safely and equitably,” said Council Member Brad Lander. 

“As this report makes clear, bicycle commuting is up, and adequate bicycle parking is crucial infrastructure for the increasing number of New Yorkers who rely on bike travel. It is critical that we work with our partners across government to provide equitable bicycle parking across the city, something that community leaders have long been calling for. Adequate bike parking is a delivery worker issue, a commuter issue, and a transit accessibility issue — and I look forward to collaborating on Council efforts to make these recommendations a reality. I thank Transportation Alternatives for assembling this report and to leaders like Shabazz Stuart and Oonee for showing what’s needed. These plans should drive the next steps in NYC bike infrastructure," said Council Member Stephen Levin.

"The bike boom is real. New Yorkers are turning to bike transportation more than ever, but we need places to park them. It’s critical that we open up new areas for bike parking, be they personal or shared bikes, including in key commuting areas like Midtown. Thanks to Transportation Alternatives for a dedicated focus on this,” said Council Member Keith Powers.

“Municipal governments across the world ensure that their cities have adequate bike parking. It’s time for New York City to follow their lead. Sufficient biking infrastructure will help accommodate cyclists, many of whom are low income New Yorkers, all while enabling more residents to take up biking as an environmentally responsible, healthy form of transportation,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso

"As more New Yorkers turn to bikes as a safe and affordable form of transportation, it's critical that our streets and infrastructure reflect this shift. For too long cyclists have held back by the fact that public space is overwhelmingly dedicated to cars and car parking. We can't wait any longer to create accessible and equitable bike parking in New York City, and I want to thank Transportation Alternatives for commissioning this report and I look forward to working with them to make this vision a reality," said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.

"When more New Yorkers bike, we get less traffic congestion and we slash emissions from the transportation sector - our leading contributor to climate change. Expanding access to secure bicycle parking along with protected bike lanes will encourage more families to travel by bike and in turn improve air quality.  This report also reiterates that what's good for our environment is also good for our economy as bicycle parking helps small businesses earn more revenue. We thank Transportation Alternatives for their leadership on this issue," said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. 

“New York City has fallen far short of even its own modest goals for installing bike racks, let alone building more robust secure bike-parking facilities. We can’t achieve the status of a world-class city for cycling if we don’t provide ample parking solutions, like those in many European and Asian cities. We applaud Transportation Alternatives for calling attention to the city’s bike-parking deficit, and we urge elected leaders to commit to the initiatives TA outlines in its report,” said Eric McClure, Executive Director of StreetsPAC.  

"Convenient and plentiful bike parking is a low-cost improvement to make cities better for bikes. Bike parking not only incentivizes people to feel comfortable using a bike to get where they need to go, but creates the visibility required to normalize bicycling as a valid means of transportation within neighborhoods and cities. Bike parking is a critical part of city planning that can help people accomplish a wide range of personal, social and economic goals," said Morgan Lommele, Director of State + Local Policy at PeopleForBikes

“Bike infrastructure doesn’t stop at the bike lane,” said Kate Slevin, Senior Vice President, State Programs & Advocacy at Regional Plan Association. “This is a challenge for our entire region and it is long overdue that bikes be prioritized on our streets as cars have been for decades. As our Five Borough Bikeways report outlines, bike networks should also include infrastructure to support riders - including bike parking, bike freight loading zones and monitoring technology to keep everyone safe.”

“Bike parking should be the easy part of the city’s cycling strategy. Its neglect is another head-scratcher by the de Blasio administration,” said Jon Orcutt, Advocacy Director at Bike New York.  

“New York cannot become a cycling city unless we create a large-scale, public secure bike parking system that is both affordable and accessible to all. This is crucial 21st Century infrastructure that other large cities have invested in for years. Moreover, Oonee has shown that medium sized facilities can be built with community support, with no taxpayer subsidy and effectively service a broad array of constituencies. The time is now, we urge New York’s leaders to create a plan for a citywide bike parking system,” said Shabazz Stuart, Founder & CEO of Oonee

"It is imperative that we create bike parking infrastructure within underserved communities. By doing so, we inherently encourage exploration of the city, inclusivity, safety and support of local businesses," said Milly Louis of the Good Co. Bike Club

Bridging the Digital Divide: BP Adams, CM Kallos Release New Report Laying Out Path to Universal Internet Access in NYC

Monday, December 21, 2020

 

Brooklyn, NY - Today, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos announced the release of a new white paper titled “Bridging the Digital Divide for Every New Yorker with a Universal Internet Guarantee.” The report notes how reliable high-speed Internet connection has become a basic need for every New Yorker, whether for remote learning, working from home, virtual socializing, and more. This need has become especially acute amid a deadly pandemic that has placed severe limitations on people’s ability to safely gather in-person. 

 Borough President Adams and Council Member Kallos, both of whom have been outspoken about the City’s and private sector’s failures to provide Internet access to the communities that need it most, hailed the new report as a comprehensive roadmap for achieving universal Internet access in New York City. 

 "The coronavirus pandemic has shown all of us the importance of a reliable high-speed home internet connection, whether for remote learning and working from home or for gathering virtually with loved ones. With many households in Black and Brown communities lacking high-speed internet, the shift to social distancing has been particularly challenging and has exacerbated long-standing inequities. As we prepare for a second wave, or for the next virus, we must rebuild our society with the guarantee of universal broadband—finally treating the internet as a utility like phone service or electricity. We must use all of New York City’s local regulatory power to deliver on the promise of universal broadband by establishing a Universal Internet Guarantee," wrote Borough President Adams and Council Member Kallos.

The digital divide, which describes the gulf between those that have easy access to reliable, high-speed Internet connection and those that do not, maps onto broader entrenched inequities of race and class in New York City. According to data collected by the U.S. Census in 2015, one in three households in the Bronx and one in four households in Brooklyn lacked access to the Internet. Both boroughs have the highest proportion of low-income communities of color in the city. A report by the New York City Comptroller’s office released last year further found that About 30 percent of Hispanic and Black New Yorkers lack broadband Internet access, compared to 20 percent of White New Yorkers and 22 percent of Asian residents. 

 This divide has been thrown into sharp relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably in the administration of remote learning for New York City students. When the City initially shifted to remote learning in March of this year, it quickly procured 300,000 iPads with LTE for $269 million to distribute to students. But it has struggled in the months since to fulfill every request for a remote learning device, leaving some students - largely Black and Brown - without any way of logging in for remote instruction. In a City Council oversight hearing in late November, the Department of Education (DOE) said roughly 60,000 students who requested a device in the early fall still had not received one. Chancellor Carranza says he expects to fill all outstanding requests for remote learning devices before the winter break. Even those that receive devices, however, sometimes struggle to log in for remote instruction due to a poor or non-existent Wi-Fi connection, especially those living in shelters or public housing. 

 In the report, Borough President Adams and Council Member Kallos lay out several steps which, taken together, could pave the way for universal internet access in all five boroughs. 

 Create a “Mandatory Inclusionary Internet” requirement for new developments akin to the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which requires new developments in rezoned areas to provide a certain amount of affordable units. 

  • Require providers of 5G to offer a free or low-cost high-speed Internet option targeted to low-income New Yorkers. 
  • Create a free municipal Wi-Fi network using the infrastructure provided by the City’s abandoned “NYCWiN” initiative. 
  • Expedite the timeline for installing LinkNYC kiosks, which provide free public gigabit Wi-Fi. 
  • Wire the City’s bus stops and shelters with USB charging ports and free Wi-Fi. 
  • Use votes on the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) to hold providers accountable for offering affordable Internet to all New Yorkers as a condition of their franchise renewal agreements.
  • Work with cable franchisees like Spectrum, Altice, and Verizon, to provide free or low-cost broadband to all low-income New Yorkers, modeled after efforts like Spectrum Internet Assist and Altice Advantage Internet. 

 In addition, Borough President Adams and Council Member Kallos urged the passage of legislation they introduced in October, co-sponsored by Council Member Farah Louis, that would guarantee every student who needs one a free, internet-ready laptop with culturally responsive learning materials. The bill would also require the DOE to report on the demographics of which students access these remote learning devices, their housing situations, Internet connections that already exist at their homes, sources of computer funding, and information on all DOE computers.

Bridging the Digital Divide for Every New Yorker with a Universal Internet Guarantee

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Download the Report

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The coronavirus pandemic has shown all of us the importance of a reliable high-speed home internet connection, whether for remote learning and working from home or for gathering virtually with loved ones. There is a common cliché that “the virus doesn’t discriminate,” but the reality is that coronavirus disproportionately harms low-income communities of color impacted by systemic racism in government and the private sector. With many households in these communities lacking high-speed Internet, the shift to social distancing has been particularly challenging. As we prepare for a second wave, or for the next virus, we must rebuild our society with the guarantee of Universal Broadband—finally treating the Internet as a utility like phone service or electricity. We must use all of New York City’s local regulatory power to deliver on the promise of Universal Broadband by establishing a Universal Internet Guarantee.

Mayor de Blasio recently took a step in the right direction when he announced $157 million in funding to expand broadband Internet access to 600,000 underserved New Yorkers, including 200,000 public housing residents. But New York City’s public housing authority (NYCHA) has 173,762 public housing units, home to 381,159 authorized residents, and this plan would still leave half without Internet. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers do not have broadband, and this plan would leave nearly one million of them on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

To deliver truly Universal Broadband, we need several fixes at once. We could start with rezoning to require affordable Internet Mandatory Inclusionary Internet, just like we required affordable housing with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. We could offer incentives for 5G providers to offer affordable access. We can require cable providers to expand affordable Internet offerings we already won to every single low-income New Yorker. And if the providers won't do it, we can take over their networks and do it ourselves by establishing a Municipal Broadband network. We can upgrade existing infrastructure by speeding along the conversion of old payphones into free Internet kiosks and add WiFi to bus stops. We can even open up the city government’s wireless network to the public. The pandemic has shown us the importance of giving every public school student who needs one a laptop with affordable broadband in the home to eliminate the homework gap and give a whole new generation a real chance at equity. Where all else fails, for those we still haven’t reached in low-income communities of color, we must invest the millions promised by the Mayor in businesses owned and operated by women and people of color to spur innovation and connect every last New Yorker.

In partnership together, with an eye toward each of our roles in the city’s franchising, with votes, as Borough President on the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC), and as Council Member, on Internet franchises in the New York City Council, respectively, we have authored a report that focuses on some of the most important aspects of this digital divide and proposed solutions to help close it, bridge it and bring us closer to the equitable New York City we need to move toward today. The full report follows.

Speaker Corey Johnson Unveils Legislation to Create A New Ten-Year Comprehensive Planning Cycle for New York City

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Legislation is accompanied by the Council’s new “Planning Together” report on failures of City’s long-term planning process 

New York, NY – New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson today issued the Planning Together report, which details the failures of the City’s long-term planning processes and explores trends and national best practices for long-term planning. The report also proposes a new comprehensive planning framework for New York City, which is the basis for accompanying legislation that will be sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson. The report can be found on the Council’s website.

The legislation will be introduced at the Council’s Stated meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17.

This planning framework is designed specifically to help correct neighborhood disparities and decades of disinvestment in communities of color and support equitable growth to create a more resilient and inclusive City. The new legislation would amend the Charter to create a new ten-year comprehensive planning cycle for New York City consistent with the recommendations of the report.

The legislation requires the city to streamline its planning mandates into a single process. The City’s strategic planning, budget, and land use planning process is now currently spread out over a dozen documents, reports, and plans already required by local law.

The legislation will also require the City to connect its policy and land use planning to the City’s budget priorities.

As documented in the report, the City’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis, neglected aging infrastructure, and vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change are all worsened by the failures of the City’s current long-term planning processes.

This comprehensive planning legislation can help us address these challenges.

Comprehensive planning is a world-recognized planning process in which a city or a region holistically examines its existing conditions, identifies challenges, opportunities, and goals, and proposes policies to achieve them.  New York City is the only major American city that does not engage in some form of comprehensive planning.

“Our planning process is completely broken. As we seek to recover and rebuild in the wake of COVID-19, our increasingly contentious and unproductive planning regime will continue to undermine our ability to equitably respond to the challenges we face. We must adapt and grow It’s time for a new approach. Comprehensive Planning will bring a cyclical and fully integrated framework for us to work with that balances citywide and community needs to take on our challenges together. This is how we get things done,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

The report identifies seven key issues with the City’s current planning processes:

  • The City’s planning mandates are insufficient and scattered across over a dozen siloed plans and reports, raising issues of public transparency and accountability.
  • A lack of coordination across City agencies creates inefficiencies in how the City operates and limits multi-disciplinary policy making.
  • A lack of proactive planning for our neighborhoods has forced communities into reactionary and defensive positions, contributing to a contentious land use review process that fails to sufficiently invest in communities suffering from decades of disinvestment or support the equitable growth we need in order to solve our City’s housing crisis.
  • The City’s piecemeal approach to planning responds best to the neighborhoods with resources to agitate for change, which has resulted in an uneven, unequal, and unfair distribution of zoning policy–and the deprioritization of the needs of low-income people, immigrants, and people of color.
  • The City’s long-term budget planning bears very little meaningful relationship to the City’s policy or land use planning, undermining our City’s ability to achieve citywide goals of sustainability and equity. 
  • The long-term planning that the City does complete with respect to capital infrastructure is unrealistic and does not align with the City’s demonstrated ability to execute capital projects, making it difficult to accurately track performance or effectively prioritize the City’s short- and long-term spending.
  • Budget decisions remain divorced from assessments of capital needs, which are incomplete and insufficient.

To address these issues, the report proposes a ten-year comprehensive planning framework, which is the basis for the legislation.   

Specifically, the ten-year comprehensive planning framework, which will be mandated by legislation, will: 

  • Center racial and economic justice within a full range of budget, land use, and policy tools;
  • Meaningfully connect the City’s budget, land use, and strategic planning processes;
  • Streamline and increase the utility of more than a dozen planning and budget related documents, reports, and plans already required by the City Charter;
  • Require the City to regularly review and report on the current conditions of the City, including an assessment of short- and long-term risks, economic and racial disparities, the impacts of recent development and investment decisions, and a thorough assessment of current infrastructure needs;
  • Integrate citywide and community-based planning, through requirements for on-going robust public engagement and the creation of new representative decision-making bodies;
  • Set measurable citywide and district-level targets for housing, jobs, open space, resiliency infrastructure, schools, transportation, and other infrastructure;
  • Develop a proactive land use plan for all of New York City’s neighborhoods in partnership with communities, prioritizing any projected growth in areas with high access to opportunity and low risk of displacement; 
  • Identify and prioritize communities’ urgent budget needs, regardless of whether or not those neighborhoods will be rezoned;
  • Require the City to regularly review and update zoning policy in response to the successes, failures, and unintended consequences of the City’s rezoning decisions;
  • Require the City to produce a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) to evaluate the impacts of the Long-Term Plan and incentivize development that is consistent with the plan by reducing developers’ projects costs; 
  • Incentivize rezonings, development, and infrastructure spending that align with the City’s Long-Term Plan;
  • Increase and improve coordination across City agencies to create efficiencies in government to achieve citywide goals; and
  • Implement strong reporting and oversight measures to hold every Mayor accountable to the Long-Term Plan’s commitments and priorities.

Adoption by the City Council of the Long-Term Plan will ensure that it represents a vision for New York City shared across mayoral agencies, elected officials, and the New Yorkers that they represent that sufficiently addresses citywide needs.  agencies, elected officials, and the New Yorkers that they represent that sufficiently

Council Member Ben Kallos Testimony Scoping Session for New York Blood Center Expansion

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Good afternoon,

I am Council Member Ben Kallos. Thank you to the Department of City Planning for hosting this meeting.

This scoping session is crucial for the community to have a voice in this proposal’s environmental impact statement.

I am your Council Member and I will have a vote on this project as it goes through the ULURP process.

From what I have seen so far, I have concerns about the shadow study and the impact on St. Catherine’s Park. I have expressed these concerns at Community Board 8 meetings and listened to support, opposition, and suggestions to improve the project.

As you know, the current Blood Center building is located on a through lot in the mid-block on 66th and 67th st., zoned R8B for residential use with a height limit of 75 feet. This proposal would rezone half of the block to allow the construction of a 16-story, 334-foot-tall building.

As with any zoning change, we must carefully study the impact on our climate and on the surrounding neighborhood. With a proposal of this magnitude on a mid-block, we have to ask if there are mitigation measures that can sufficiently address the project’s impacts.

I am particularly concerned by the impact the new building would have on sunlight in St. Catherine’s Park. 

The environmental impact study should investigate the impact to our only Park in the East 60's.

  1. How many children and families use St. Catherine’s Park each year and during what hours? Specifically, how many children use what areas of the park during the hours that of projected shadow impact in the build scenario? 
  2. How would the new shadows impact activation and use?

If there is an impact, what will be the impact on the health of children playing outside for fewer hours a day, burning fewer calories, particularly on childhood obesity rates in a city with an epidemic of overweight children and adults?

As the applicant looks at mitigation measures, is there an example of a similar project with a similar or greater loss of light to a city park, where mitigation actually increased the use of the park during shaded hours after the construction of the project?

I ask this because a community as a whole should be better off following discretionary land use actions than before.

Mitigation will need to overcome the negative environmental impacts of this project.

We should not only look at St. Catherine’s Park. The Blood Center sits across the street from the Julia Richman Education Complex. Julia Richman houses six schools with students from across the city of New York, including one school focused on students from immigrant families and a school for children on the autism spectrum.

The science of effective learning spaces has shown that natural light in classrooms “boosts mood, alertness, concentration and energy levels” and improves test scores.

How much natural light will be lost in classrooms at Julia Richman? 

A peer-reviewed study in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America confirmed what might be common sense: “External noise was found to have a significant negative impact upon performance.” How much construction noise will be audible in the classroom or outdoors during classroom and construction hours? 

What will the impacts of this project be to students with autism trying to learn across the street? Can those impacts be completely mitigated? If not will the children ever be able to catch up?

I was proud to support the passage of Local Law 19 of 2019, known as the Climate Mobilization Act, which sets ambitious carbon emissions standards for New York City’s biggest polluters: its buildings.

  • What will the difference in CO2 emissions be between the current building and the building as proposed? 
  • Will the building as proposed be compliant with the long-term requirements of the Climate Mobilization Act? 
  • If not, what will the difference in CO2 emissions be between the building as proposed and after required retrofits to meet the Climate Mobilization Act's long-term regulations?

What impact will rezoning this half-block of residential zoning to commercial zoning have on projected affordable housing for the neighborhood? What would be the impact of this rezoning were it repeated once, twice, or on every block of the Eastside? What is the impact on the commercial core and emissions from vacant spaces 9 blocks away with the addition of several million FAR of commercial space?

 

[The conclusion of this testimony was made extemporaneously, no transcript is currently available]   

 

Civic Participation Would Be Easier for New York City Residents Under New Framework Proposed in Legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos

Thursday, December 10, 2020

New York, NY Following an unprecedented rise in civic engagement, new legislation introduced by City Council Member Ben Kallos would seek to make engagement with the government easier for residents of New York City. The proposed bill would force the City to adopt a standard format and template for the presentation of participation information for every City government meeting, whether virtual or in person. This information would be available through multiple formats, including on the agency’s website, through a mobile application, and through any other commonly used form of communication.

“If 2020 has taught us anything it is that New Yorkers are paying attention to politics and government and want to get involved,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “By standardizing  how government meetings are presented and how we notice those meetings both virtual and in person it will be easier for more people to participate and get involved.”

Following the death of Greg Floyd in Minneapolis the beginning of the pandemic, more and more New Yorkers have become engaged with their government. During the City Council’s 2020 budget cycle, many took to the streets, held protests, and gathered at City Hall, demanding a voice on the budget vote. This desire to engage with government translated to a record turnout during the November general elections and is likely to continue to next June’s municipal primaries.

Currently, if a member of the public wants to attend or testify at a public hearing, they would have to either receive an invitation, check the City Register (which the average New Yorker does not check daily), or check each agency and organization’s website for each of their schedules and for each of their methods to participate. This cumbersome process leads to low attendance and low participation by the public. The bill would simplify the process by having one standard template that can be shared easily across any online platform.

"Not only has this pandemic amplified existing inequities, it has exposed the City's digital divide and municipal disorganization when hosting virtual meetings" said Noel Hidalgo, executive Director of BetaNYC, a Public Interest Technology Nonprofit Organization. "BetaNYC has long advocated for digitally accessible meetings and looks forward to working with Council Member Kallos to ensure that our public meetings are designed for the digital era we are in. Centralizing a digital standard for the City's myriad of digital meetings starts the process. There is no better time than the present to ensure that our civic institutions are ready for the digital era they operate in."

 

New “Super Market”-Style Food Pantry and Resource Center for Low-Income Manhattanites Opens up on the Upper East Side Just in Time for Holidays

Thursday, December 10, 2020

New York, NY – Today the Upper East Side welcomed a new Urban Outreach Center location dedicated to feeding and caring for the neighborhood’s residents in deepest need. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by members of the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services members, including Avenue Church NYC Senior Pastor the Rev. Beverly Dempsey, Urban Outreach Center Executive Director the Rev. Jordan Tarwater, and ETHOS co-founders Senator Krueger and Council Member Ben Kallos. The new site features a supermarket-style food pantry allowing individuals the comfort of being able to choose from available foods, just as if it were a regular supermarket. This carefully planned feature adds dignity and a sense of normalcy for people receiving fresh produce and other healthy staples from the food pantry. The Urban Outreach Center is a new 501(c)3 nonprofit, created from the historic homeless services mission of Avenue Church NYC, formerly Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, is now located at 1745 First Avenue.

 

  •  Food Pantry - Distributing basic essentials like tuna, peanut butter, and locally grown fresh vegetables to thousands of people in the community
  • Community Dinner - Serving hot, restaurant-quality meals to food-insecure families, senior citizens, and low-income New Yorkers on Tuesday evenings.
  • Clothing Rooms - Extending a lifeline for homeless residents who need clothing for many occasions, including job interviews.
  • Mail Distribution - Providing a transitional mailing address for hundreds of individuals.
  • Resource and Job Center - Connecting anyone in need with a range of social services resources designed to educate and prepare individuals for finding a new job. Resumé, computer use, and mock job interviews help by appointment.

 

Both the Urban Outreach Center and Avenue Church NYC are members of Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Services, which was launched in late 2015 by Council Member Ben Kallos, Borough President Gale Brewer and State Senator Liz Krueger as a way of combining the efforts of the local faith-based and non-profit organizations, electeds, and city agencies to help homeless individuals off the street and to the services they require. In the summer of 2019 ETHOS members including Council Member Kallos welcomed a Win Supportive Housing Facility for Women and Children to the Neighborhood, cutting the ribbon of 17 new one and two-bedroom apartments dedicated to homeless women and their children. The facility is just steps away from Council Member Kallos’ district office and home.

“When Jan Hus Presbyterian Church began our homeless outreach and advocacy program over 35 years ago, the church was transformed alongside the thousands of lives we have impacted along the way. Now as Avenue Church NYC, we are at once grateful and humbled to be able to host UOCNYC in our new location largely designed for addressing the needs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said The Rev. Beverly Dempsey, Senior Pastor of Avenue Church NYC and Chair of the Board of the UOCNYC.

“The Urban Outreach Center is committed to ending the hunger gap in East Harlem and the Upper East Side – providing our low-income neighbors with the healthy food they need, with the dignity they deserve. We are so grateful for the warm reception from the neighborhood and the outpouring of support from those who share our vision that no parent, child, or senior citizen in NYC should struggle because they lack access to food or other basic resources,” said The Rev. Jordan Tarwater, Executive Director of the Urban Outreach Center of NYC.

“Those with the most need to do more for those with the least, and we are doing everything we can on the Upper East Side to help fellow low-income New Yorkers. We are opening the first local supermarket-style food pantry to give low-income New Yorkers dignity and choice. New Yorkers in need will have a multitude of services available and we couldn’t have done any of it without the commitment and determination of Reverends Beverly Dempsey and Jordan Tarwater to serve low-income residents out of this community,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-founder of ETHOS.

“New Yorkers experiencing homelessness come from every community across the five boroughs, and now more than ever, we need every community to come together to address homelessness amid this unprecedented crisis,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “We thank the Eastside Task Force for Homeless Services for spearheading this initiative and look forward to collaborating with neighborhoods across the City to continue identifying new ways in which we can support New Yorkers experiencing homelessness as they get back on their feet.”   

“The Urban Outreach Center is a much-needed resource on the East Side,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12). “As we are battling a recession and pandemic, record numbers of New Yorkers are finding themselves homeless and jobless. The Urban Outreach Center will help mitigate that by providing essential services - such as a jobs center and food pantry - to help New Yorkers rebuild during and after the COVID-19 crisis.”

"As our city faces its greatest-ever homelessness crisis, the Urban Outreach Center's opening of a new soup kitchen and resource center is welcome news for New Yorkers in need on the East Side," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "I am proud to join my colleagues on the East Side Taskforce for Homeless Services (ETHOS) in expressing our gratitude for the Urban Outreach Center's hospitality and mission."

“Over the last year, as our nation, our city, and our state have been crippled by the devastating pandemic, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of our neighbors in need. There could not be a better time for the Urban Outreach Center to open. I am very pleased to welcome them to the East Side, and very thankful for the work that they do, particularly in these challenging times,” said State Senator Liz Krueger.

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams said, "The pandemic has brought hardship on so many this year and has changed the way we celebrate the holiday season, which is why it's more important than ever to come together and support those most in need. I applaud the Urban Outreach Center's mission, and thank all the elected officials, nonprofits and faith-based organizations who've worked to bring this critical resource to the community."

"As a member of the East Side Task Force for Homeless Outreach and Services, I am proud to welcome a new Urban Outreach Center location dedicated to helping our neighbors in need.  I commend Council Member Ben Kallos, our fellow ETHOS Taskforce members, Urban Outreach Center's Executive Director Jordan Tarwater and Avenue Church's Senior Pastor Beverly Dempsey for their efforts in making this new community resource a reality," said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright

"Congratulations to the Urban Outreach Center on your expanded services and your new location. Avenue Church and Urban Outreach Center are important partners in our work serving those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The services that Urban Outreach Center will provide at this location reflect their dedication to the community and couldn’t come at a more critical time," said Ann L. Shalof, Chief Executive Officer, Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter

"The Stanley M.  Isaacs Neighborhood Center welcomes the new Urban Outreach Center of NYC location to our neighborhood. As a meal provider operating throughout the public health crisis, we have seen an unprecedented increase in food insecurity at this time, and look forward to partnering with Avenue Church to meet the ever-growing need,” said President and Executive Director Gregory J. Morris. "Thank you to Rev. Beverley Dempsey, Council Member Kallos, and the other ETHOS members who have diligently pushed to get this facility open and ready to serve the community."  

“As food insecurity and unemployment continue to reach deeper into our community the work of the Urban Outreach Center is more vital than ever.  Lives that can be so easily ignored will instead be enriched because of the faith, commitment, and generosity of the staff, volunteers, and donors that support this critical work day after day.  I offer my congratulations to all who have made this new Center possible.  A Center where the most vulnerable among us are a little less vulnerable.  A Center where dignity, equity, inclusion, and justice are not just ideals to reach for but the foundation from which all good and just works do proceed,” said The Reverend Roy A. Cole, Church of the Epiphany.

“As a community leader, this new facility will assist so many residents that are experiencing food insecurities.  Our homeless neighbors are not excluded and can benefit greatly too from the services offered. The resource center will be an asset to those who are seeking employment, rather than returning to the workforce or first-time job seekers. There is a beacon of light on the Upper East Side,” said Saundrea I. Coleman, Co-Founder of The Holmes-Isaacs Coalition

“The secret to making a difference in the lives of those who need help is not what you give or receive, it’s what you share. This Urban Outreach Center and Avenue Church shares its compassion along with the basic elements to survive,” said Rita Popper, Knickerbocker Plaza Tenants’ Association.

"The East Side Middle School staff, our students, and our community are delighted to be sharing a city corner with the Urban Outreach Center, which will provide so many essential services to our neighborhood's residents most in need. Our students, especially our very active student council, is looking forward to partnering with the Center and helping it serve the homeless and food insecure fellow New Yorkers," said David Getz, Principal of East Side Middle School.

"At PS 527, we pride ourselves on educating future community leaders, and participating in many community service projects each year.  This is our community, and we want to make sure everyone has the necessities in life.  We know how hard the pandemic has been, and we welcome this wonderful resource to help others," said Daniel R. McCormick, Principal PS 527- East Side School for Social Action.

 

 

ABOUT THE URBAN OUTREACH CENTER:

 

The Rev. Beverly Dempsey is the 12th installed pastor of Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House—now Avenue Church NYC.

 

Beverly brings to her years of pastoral ministry a wealth of experience from a first career in banking, an MBA in marketing and finance, and a second career in marketing and strategic planning. Beverly earned her Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and is in her final project phase of her Doctor of Ministry from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. 

 

Beverly is the Chair of the Board for the Urban Outreach Center of New York City. She serves on the Boards of Trustees for Auburn Seminary.

 

The Rev. Jordan Tarwater is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently serving as the Executive Director of the Urban Outreach Center of New York City and as the Jan Orr-Harter Minister of Social Justice at Avenue Church NYC on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

 

ABOUT ETHOS:

 

Council Member Kallos launched the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS) with Borough President Brewer, Senator Krueger, Council Member Garodnick, Department of Social Services (DSS), community and faith leaders and service organizations. The taskforce works to get every unsheltered person living on the street the help they need. If you see one of our City’s most vulnerable on the street, please call 311 or use the NYC 311 App to ask them to dispatch a “homeless outreach team.” They will ask where you saw the person, what they looked like, and offer report on whether the person accepts our city’s offer of shelter, three meals a day, health care, rehabilitation, and job training. By connecting our dedicated nonprofits and religious institutions with city services, ETHOS is really making a difference.

 

ETHOS Providers:

Office of Council Member Ben Kallos

Office of Manhattan Borough President Brewer

Office of State Senator Liz Krueger

Office of Council Member Keith Powers

Department of Homeless Services

Human Resource Administration

The Urban Outreach Center of NYC

Avenue Church

Church of the Epiphany

St. James’ Church

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

Jan Hus Presbeteryian Church

All Souls Church

Park Avenue Christian Church

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church

Congregation Or Zarua

Temple Shaaray Tefila

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

New York Common Pantry

Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell

Community Board 8

New York Public Library- Webster Branch

Urban Pathways

Park Avenue Women's Shelter

Goddard Riverside

Bronx Parent Housing Network

Women In Need

 

UOCNYC Board Members:

The Rev. Beverly Dempsey, Chair

Alexander Watson, Treasurer

Mona Baird

Matthew Chacko

Johan Halsberghe

The Rev. Richard Hong

Amanda Ingram

Luisa Lopez

Kristen Steen

Eva Vega-Olds

Deborah Widerkehr

Council Member Kallos Testimony: Voter Assistance Advisory Committee of the NYC Campaign Finance Board

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

 

Wednesday, December 9th 

Good evening members of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee of the NYC Campaign Finance Board I am New York City Council Member Ben Kallos.

Thank you for providing this opportunity to the public in order to get feedback on what was one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime. My comments today will be brief.

 

More poll sites

In the most recent presidential election, New Yorkers finally had the opportunity to vote early, however, many voters had to wait for hours in the rain to vote early. An astonishing, yet not totally surprising, 839,875 votes had been cast in the first 7 days of early voting. We have known for years about the possible long lines, especially ahead of this particular election, due to insufficient hours and locations in the state’s implementation of Early Vote. That is why I have been calling for longer hours and additional early voting sites in order to take on hours-long lines.

 In 2019, the Albany legislature passed early voting, requiring only 60 hours of voting over 9 days and only up to 7 early vote sites per county, regardless of the county’s population. I first raised alarms about the insufficiency of this mandate at a City Council hearing on March 12, 2019, demanding more sites from the Board of Elections.

 Way back in 2014, I proposed Introduction 593 to establish early voting for municipal elections. This legislation would have guaranteed at least one early vote site per Council District for a minimum total of 51, voting open for 12 hours on each weekday and 8 hours on each weekend day. Since then we have updated the requirements and reintroduced the bill to reflect the state’s new early vote program. The bill now mandates at least 8 early voting sites per district, and adds 4 hours per weekday and 3 hours per weekend day to the hours we saw in the 2020 election, totaling 32 additional hours of voting and a 92 hours altogether to vote early.

 

VOTER PORTAL

In 2016, I authored and passed  Local Law 65 to require the Board of Elections to provide voters with absentee ballot tracking from their request, to when it gets mailed, and when it gets received. Despite testifying that the Board of Elections (BOE) could implement the system in 2015, they chose not to, leaving more than 100,000 voters disenfranchised in the Primary. It took 5 years and a pandemic to finally implement and it isn’t even fully complete with missing 

 

Online voter registration

Currently you can only register to vote online if you have a New York State issue identification or driver’s license and that’s not good enough. In late 2017, the City Council passed online voter registration that I authored as Local Law 238 to mandate that the Campaign Finance Board build an online portal to expand access to voter registration. In June 2019 the Campaign Finance Board was ready to launch, just in time for the legislature in Albany to blocked our implementation with a new law. To be clear Albany blocked New York City residents from being able register online to vote for President. As of October 2020, a total of 40 states have online voter registration, but not New York, it needs to change now. Next year is an off-year election everywhere else in New York, if Albany won’t enfranchise the rest of the state, then at least let us register New York City residents in time for 2021.

 

Ballot Access

When Covid-19 hit New York in the middle of petitioning for the 2020 elections, Governor Cuomo cut petitioning short and lowered the threshold needed for candidates to get on the ballot, in order to limit the spread of the virus.. With hundreds of candidates running for municipal office in 2021 during a pandemic, we have heard renewed calls for a ballot access system that will not put New Yorkers at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19. I have introduced Introduction 730, which would allow a candidate to qualify for the ballot without petitioning if they have qualified for the city’s public matching campaign finance system that candidates should be able to be on the ballot. Adding this as an option to the way candidates can get on the ballot would minimize risk to candidates and the public during the pandemic. If deemed necessary and safe, petitioning could remain an option for candidates who have not met the matching funds threshold. We are all familiar with the face-to-face interactions petitioning and canvassing require, and I am worried that it will exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 by forcing hundreds of candidates and volunteers to approach strangers, share pens, and take other unnecessary risks. Petitioning is an archaic requirement that dates back to the 1800s, and this year is the right year to give candidates another option, which is even more representative of support in from voters.

Ranked Choice Voting

[Full testimony Not Available yet, delivered extemporaneously


 

Council Member Kallos Testimony: Voter Assistance Advisory Committee of the NYC Campaign Finance Board

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

 

Wednesday, December 9th 

Good evening members of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee of the NYC Campaign Finance Board I am New York City Council Member Ben Kallos.

Thank you for providing this opportunity to the public in order to get feedback on what was one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime. My comments today will be brief.

 

More poll sites

In the most recent presidential election, New Yorkers finally had the opportunity to vote early, however, many voters had to wait for hours in the rain to vote early. An astonishing, yet not totally surprising, 839,875 votes had been cast in the first 7 days of early voting. We have known for years about the possible long lines, especially ahead of this particular election, due to insufficient hours and locations in the state’s implementation of Early Vote. That is why I have been calling for longer hours and additional early voting sites in order to take on hours-long lines.

 In 2019, the Albany legislature passed early voting, requiring only 60 hours of voting over 9 days and only up to 7 early vote sites per county, regardless of the county’s population. I first raised alarms about the insufficiency of this mandate at a City Council hearing on March 12, 2019, demanding more sites from the Board of Elections.

 Way back in 2014, I proposed Introduction 593 to establish early voting for municipal elections. This legislation would have guaranteed at least one early vote site per Council District for a minimum total of 51, voting open for 12 hours on each weekday and 8 hours on each weekend day. Since then we have updated the requirements and reintroduced the bill to reflect the state’s new early vote program. The bill now mandates at least 8 early voting sites per district, and adds 4 hours per weekday and 3 hours per weekend day to the hours we saw in the 2020 election, totaling 32 additional hours of voting and a 92 hours altogether to vote early.

 

VOTER PORTAL

In 2016, I authored and passed  Local Law 65 to require the Board of Elections to provide voters with absentee ballot tracking from their request, to when it gets mailed, and when it gets received. Despite testifying that the Board of Elections (BOE) could implement the system in 2015, they chose not to, leaving more than 100,000 voters disenfranchised in the Primary. It took 5 years and a pandemic to finally implement and it isn’t even fully complete with missing 

 

Online voter registration

Currently you can only register to vote online if you have a New York State issue identification or driver’s license and that’s not good enough. In late 2017, the City Council passed online voter registration that I authored as Local Law 238 to mandate that the Campaign Finance Board build an online portal to expand access to voter registration. In June 2019 the Campaign Finance Board was ready to launch, just in time for the legislature in Albany to blocked our implementation with a new law. To be clear Albany blocked New York City residents from being able register online to vote for President. As of October 2020, a total of 40 states have online voter registration, but not New York, it needs to change now. Next year is an off-year election everywhere else in New York, if Albany won’t enfranchise the rest of the state, then at least let us register New York City residents in time for 2021.

 

Ballot Access

When Covid-19 hit New York in the middle of petitioning for the 2020 elections, Governor Cuomo cut petitioning short and lowered the threshold needed for candidates to get on the ballot, in order to limit the spread of the virus.. With hundreds of candidates running for municipal office in 2021 during a pandemic, we have heard renewed calls for a ballot access system that will not put New Yorkers at risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19. I have introduced Introduction 730, which would allow a candidate to qualify for the ballot without petitioning if they have qualified for the city’s public matching campaign finance system that candidates should be able to be on the ballot. Adding this as an option to the way candidates can get on the ballot would minimize risk to candidates and the public during the pandemic. If deemed necessary and safe, petitioning could remain an option for candidates who have not met the matching funds threshold. We are all familiar with the face-to-face interactions petitioning and canvassing require, and I am worried that it will exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 by forcing hundreds of candidates and volunteers to approach strangers, share pens, and take other unnecessary risks. Petitioning is an archaic requirement that dates back to the 1800s, and this year is the right year to give candidates another option, which is even more representative of support in from voters.

Ranked Choice Voting

[Full testimony Not Available yet, delivered extemporaneously



 

On the Eve of Thanksgiving Non-Profits Testify on the Urgent Need to Restore Funding Cuts

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

New York, NY – On the day before Thanksgiving, non-profits on the frontlines of this pandemic who are struggling to feed the hungry shared the devastating impact of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s retroactive and prospective cuts of tens of millions of dollars. The hearing on cuts to non-profits was held in the New York City Council Committee on Contracts Chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos and joined by dozens of providers and residents who are struggling through the holiday season.

After promising to fully fund indirect costs with $54 million in November of 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in July of 2020, that he would be cutting the city’s reimbursement for these costs both retroactively and moving forward. Prior to this, Mayor de Blasio’s Executive Plan in April cut indirect funding by nearly 40% to $34 million under the guise of a “right-sizing,” assurances for providers that reimbursements from that fiscal year would be completed. Human service providers are now in trouble having already spent funds relying on this reimbursement which was reduced to 10% of contract value or 60% of actual costs and must now continue through this pandemic without the city paying for indirect costs as promised.

“It’s time for Mayor de Blasio to grow a heart and come to his senses, if Scrooge could come around, so can he, and I am not above showing up at Gracie Mansion dressed as a Jacob Marley, to convince him to do the right thing,” said Contract Committee Chair Ben Kallos referencing A Christmas Carol. “Mayor de Blasio said he would support our non-profits working on the frontlines to help those in need then cut their funding for the previous year and the next, and it is time to pay up. This Thanksgiving I would be thankful if Mayor de Blasio fully funded non-profits feeding our hungry.”

Contracts Committee Chair Kallos along with 20 Council Members demanded a restoration of these funds by letter in August. In September, Contracts Chair Kallos joined Human Services Council, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Members, and providers to lead a rally demanding a restoration of these funds.

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation Unveils Newly Renovated Blackwell House

Monday, November 16, 2020

Historic Landmark Brings Community and Visitors Together to Experience Some of the Islands Most Historic Treasures 

See Pictures and Information Here 

(ROOSEVELT ISLAND, NY – November 2020) The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) today announced the ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Blackwell House. Located at 500 Main Street, this two-story landmark is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is home to some of the island’s most historical treasures, records, and archives. This socially distanced, special invite only event will take place at 11:30 AM and will be live streamed on RIOC’s Instagram page (rooseveltislandrioc).

Independent Expenditures Targeted for Restrictions Ahead of 2021 Election

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Candidates would see spending reduce campaign spending limits with

liability for independent expenditures

New York, NY – Candidates seeking to get an unfair advantage by coordinating with independent expenditures to get around spending limits would see their cheating frustrated under legislation proposed by campaign finance reformer and Council Member Ben Kallos. In 2013, two campaigns were fined a combined $15,000, for getting around spending limits by coordinating their campaigns with an Independent Expenditure through a plan to share the same campaign consultant. The two bills would create strict liability for sharing a consultant and extend liability to those responsible for the independent expenditure.

“Voters want a fair election. Candidates should know they can’t cheat their way into office. No more outspending opponents using coordinated independent expenditures then paying a small fine once elected, this money will go against your spending limit as it should,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a campaign finance reformer who authored the current full public matching system.

Under New York City’s public campaign finance system, campaigns have limits on how much they can spend starting at $190,000 in a general election for City Council. Despite prohibitions against corporate giving directly to candidates Citizens United allows corporations unlimited spending provided it is done independently. In 2013, the last competitive citywide election, Independent Expenditures totaled $15.9 million. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) backed independent expenditure Jobs for New York spent $4.9 million on 541 communications to voters. In 17 out of 41 primary elections for City Council, total independent spending exceeded the individual candidate spending limit and in nearly half those cases was more than double the spending limit.

A total of $31,000 in fines were issued, the most ever to a campaign consultant and two candidates for City Council in 2013 by the Campaign Finance Board. Regardless of the fines that were issued, the issue with coordinating independent expenditures is that it removes limits on amounts, corporate contributions, as well as on spending, to undermine the campaign finance system and the integrity of free and fair elections.

Under the proposed legislation, spending by an independent expenditure would immediately reduce candidate spending limits, including but not limited to the following specific instances:

  1. Campaign consultant shared in common;
  2. Fundraising for the independent expenditure by someone in common with the campaign;
  3. Independent expenditures suggested, formed, or requested by the candidate;
  4. Prior relationship between candidate or staff and the subsequent independent expenditure;
  5. Office space shared between candidate or consultants and the independent expenditure; and
  6. Communications between candidate and independent spender through a third-party.

 

“Extend liability for violations to agents of independent spenders” was recommendation number 9 of “Keeping Democracy Strong” the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s 2017 Post-Election Report:

Under the Act and the City Charter, penalties for violations committed by independent spenders are treated differently than those for violations committed by campaigns. Under the Act, the candidate, the principal committee, the treasurer, and “any other agent” of the candidate may be liable for penalties assessed by the Board. The Charter, which sets the requirements for independent expenditures, does not explicitly extend liability to agents of the person or entity responsible for the expenditure.

The Board Rules were changed in 2016 to extend liability for penalties to agents of independent spenders, but Charter authority would provide further clarity on this issue. The Board recommends an amendment to the Charter that establishes liability for violations and penalties to any agent acting on behalf of an independent spender.

Taken together both bills would seek to prevent illegal coordination between campaigns and independent expenditures by reducing candidate spending limits and fining independent spenders directly.

 

Affordable Homeownership Opportunity on the Upper East Side Announced by Council Member Kallos and Local Developer

Thursday, November 19, 2020

New York, NY- The Upper East Side, known for its quaint side streets and expensive housing, will be offering affordable housing opportunities to 10 lucky individuals through newly constructed cooperative apartments. Today, Council Member Ben Kallos and the City Council approved a tax exemption for the 10 units developed by Beach Path, LLC  and Hirschen Singer & Epstein LLP and at 1402 York Avenue, located in Council District 5 and Community District 8. Kallos worked personally with the developers to reduce costs for coop owners in comparison to what was initially proposed. The units will be offered to eligible buyers that qualify as low-income households at 80% AMI  $63,860 for an individual or $72,800 for a couple, with an estimated sales prices ranging from $23,972 to $64,437.. Applications for affordable housing will be available in the coming weeks at HousingConnect.nyc.gov

1402

“New York City is a city of renters. However, homeownership should also be possible and that is where this great program with HPD comes into place,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I am grateful for the work and the cooperation of Beach Path, LLC and Hirschen Singer & Epstein LLP and here to make this possible for middle-income New Yorkers who qualify. As a city, if we are ever going to get past this housing crisis we will have to use every tool available.”

“As developers we are very proud to finally be able to bring this project to fruition and work with the councilman and HPD to help curb the housing shortage that our city faces,  said Enrico Scarda on behalf of Beach Path, LLC”  

 One of the newly constructed studio apartments will be on the first floor, separate from the affordable coop apartments. The project came together as a result of a partnership between New York City’s Housing Preservation Department’s (HPD) Inclusionary Housing program, Council Member Ben Kallos The Crest Group, and the development was designed by Kossar + Garry Architects, LLP, at a construction cost of approximately $9 million. 

Amenities in the building for residents’ use include a bicycle storage room, fitness center and common roof terrace. The studio apartments include washer and dryer hookups and expansive street-facing windows to maximize natural light. Transit lines near the building include the Q train and the M15-SBS, M31 and M57 bus lines.

These are the first affordable homeownership opportunities in Council District 5, bolstering the Council Member’s record of creating or preserving 1,000 units of affordable housing. 

As the former chair of the subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions, Kallos was able to preserve nearly 6,000 units of affordable housing, all of which are listed in the housing portal that HPD was required to create as a result of legislation he authored.

####


 

Covid-19-Related Concerns Lead to Proposal Offering Option to Scrap in-Person Petitioning and Canvasing as Means for Candidates to Have Access to Ballots

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Antiquated, Turn of the Century Petitioning System to be Replaced by Meeting the Minimum Threshold to Receive Public Funds through the City’s Campaign Finance System

New York, NY – Petitioning was cancelled abruptly this year, leaving many candidates without enough signatures to get on the ballot. With hundreds of candidates running for municipal office in 2021 during a pandemic, Government Operations Chair Fernando Cabrera and Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Ben Kallos have renewed calls to hear and pass Introduction 730 to put candidates on the ballot if they qualify for the city’s public matching campaign finance system in order to minimize risk to candidates and the public during the pandemic.

"For the past four years we've been pushing ballot access reform with a reasonable alternative to petitioning, which was canceled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Since then candidates have not been given any other means to get on the ballot.  It's now time to allow candidates to get ballot access by qualifying for the city's public matching finance system.  Any candidate who qualifies for public matching funds has already demonstrated their community's support and this is enough.  With key offices and numerous Council seats open in 2021, the time is now to end this antiquated system, get big money out of our elections and support entry of more people of color into elective politics.   This is the intent of Intro 0730.  As Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill and give my full support to this approach,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera

We need a safe way for candidates to get on the ballot during a pandemic. Ballot access reform is more than a century overdue. Democracy must mean giving voters more than one ‘choice’ on the ballot,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Candidates who qualify for public matching are required to demonstrate support from the community with in-district small dollar donations and that should be enough to get on the ballot knowing that they will have the funds they need to run a competitive election.”

Uber & Lyft Would See Stiff Competition from Fleet of Yellow and Green Cabs Under Proposal from Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and Council Member Ben Kallos

Monday, November 16, 2020

Decimated by the Pandemic, Taxi Cab Drivers Offered a Life Line with “Universal eHail App”

New “Universal eHail App” & Open API Would Increase Competition and Allow Drivers to Accept eHails without Uber or Lyft

New York, NY – Following Tuesday’s $200 million victory in California for Uber and Lyft re-classifying drivers from employees with a minimum wage and health care back to independent contractors with neither, lawmakers in New York City are re-introducing legislation for a “Universal eHail App” to allow any cab driver to accept eHails through a municipal app and open API. Under legislation proposed by New York City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and Council Member Ben Kallos, riders would be able to electronically hail 16,591 yellow and green cabs together with 120,000 for hire vehicles from a single municipal app or using third party apps. The legislation originally proposed in 2014 before a string of more than 8 taxi driver suicides seeks to empower them over app companies and level the playing field.

Roosevelt Island Essential Worker Parents Describe “Disparity” and “Nightmare” As City Refuses to Open “Learning Bridges” Site

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Roosevelt Island Essential Worker Parents Describe “Disparity” and “Nightmare” As City Refuses to Open “Learning Bridges” Site

 

Roosevelt Island, NY - Families and public school students at PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island serving 632 students rallied for a “Learning Bridges” - remote learning center - where there currently is none. Island Kids had been working since August to become a Learning Bridges site to serve 45 children, but was rejected on October 27, 2020 with a form letter that included no explanation. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and Acting RIOC President Shelton Haynes joined Council Member Ben Kallos and more than 40 families for a virtual rally with signs drawn by children calling for the city to open Learning Bridges on Roosevelt Island. An online petition for Learning Bridges started on October 30 has already exceeded 100 signatures.

WATCH THE RALLY

Prevailing Wage Proposed for Human Services Workers by Contracts Chair Kallos, Council Members Lander and Rosenthal

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Prevailing Wage Proposed for Human Services Workers by Contracts Chair Kallos, Council Members Lander and Rosenthal
 
Legislation Aims to Force City to Stop Contracting to Pay Human Service Workers Poverty Wages and Close Gender Pay Gap.
 

New York, NY – New York City provides services to millions of youths, seniors, homeless, and veterans in poverty through human service non-profits whose government contracts ironically pay workers poverty wages. Legislation proposed by Contracts Chair Ben Kallos and Council Member Lander, would raise wages for 200,000 human service employees working at non-profits who do business with the city by setting a prevailing wage rate. Once passed into law, the Comptroller would work with the human services sector to determine the average wage or adopt a collectively bargained wage for new contracts which would be required to provide this funding. Once prevailing wage rates are adopted, the city would be required to fully fund wage increases as part of new contracts, modifications, or renewals increasing overall funds to non-profits providing vital human services.
 
Undervalued & Underpaid: How New York State Shortchanges Nonprofit Human Services Providers and their Workers, released by the Human Services Council in 2017, found the following staggering statistics:

  • Average annual pay for human services workers is $29,600 in New York City. Such pay is only about 40 percent of the average for all workers and falls far short of the income needed to meet United Way’s survival family budget needs.
  • Human services workers in New York City are overwhelmingly women (over 82%) and four-fifths of which are women of color (80%). Across New York State they are well-educated — 41 percent have a four-year college degree and another 25 percent have an associates’ degree or some college — and most work full-time or close to full-time schedules.
  • Inadequate pay is not just a problem for the lowest-paid human services workers. Average pay for middle-tier occupations such as social workers and substance and drug abuse counselors is 20 - 40 percent greater in hospital, school and civic organization settings than in primarily government funded nonprofit human services providers.
  • Pay is so low that 60 percent of those working in the human services sector were utilizing or had a family member utilizing some form of public assistance benefit such as Medicaid or food stamps.

Free Laptops and Tablets with Internet for All Public School Students Loaded with Culturally Responsive Digital Textbooks Proposed by Electeds

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Free Laptops and Tablets with Internet for All Public School Students Loaded with Culturally Responsive Digital Textbooks Proposed by Electeds

Following Broad Systemic Failures, Department of Education to be Required to Report on Cost, Stock and Distribution of Devices for Oversight and to Ensure Equity

 

New York, NY — With every single one of New York City’s 1.1 million public school students learning online partially or fully, the Department of Education estimates that there are still upwards of 77,000 students who still need internet-capable devices despite repeated assurances from Mayor Bill de Blasio that “every student who needs one gets one.” Oversight legislation authored by Council Members Ben Kallos and Farah Louis and sponsored by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Education Chair Mark Treyger, Borough Presidents Eric Adams and Gale Brewer, and Council Member Stephen Levin would force the city to give free laptops and tablets with Internet for all public school students loaded with culturally responsive digital textbooks and report on numbers, costs, and distribution along with the demographics of students receiving devices.
 
Since the start of the pandemic in March and the transition to remote learning, parents and students have reported inability to access to high speed internetlack of adequate remote learning devices, and an exacerbation of racial disparities in student engagement with remote learning. In April, the Department of Education spent over $269 million on 300,000 iPads, equipped with T-Mobile LTE for $10 a mobile. The number of devices distributed, the number of students who received devices, and the number actually used, remain outstanding. Last month, the City Council even had to subpoena Department of Education remote attendance data.

Statement Praising Schools’ Chancellor Carranza for Recognizing Remote Learning Can Open Up Gifted & Talented for All from Council Members Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Ben Kallos

Friday, October 23, 2020

“Every child who qualifies or simply wants one should be guaranteed a gifted and talented education and we are grateful that the Schools’ Chancellor Carranza is recognizing that. Free of the physical limits of a physical school or classroom, public schools can desegregate and open these programs to students across our city.”

“As we see a new surge in cases with parents and students choosing between continuing a hybrid in-person model or fully remote, we must implement a citywide remote learning option this school year that offers enrichment programs like gifted and talented or teaches to students’ learning style. With remote learning varying by classroom from hours of live streamed instruction to independent learning assignments followed by weekly reviews, we can and must connect families and parents with an education that supports their learning style.”

 

Background:

On August 7, as reported in the New York Post, former Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus Co-Chair Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Council Member Ben Kallos demanded that public schools use all remote learning as an opportunity to desegregate schools while catering to student learning styles and offering enrichment such as gifted and talented for all.

On August 23, the New York Post Editorial Board supported this proposal in an editorial “How NYC could make remote learning into a winner for many kids.”

On October 16, at an Education Committee Hearing, in response to questioning by Council Member Ben Kallos, Schools’ Chancellor Carranza expressed openness to using remote learning to expand gifted and talented programs requesting a copy of the letter which was sent again (see video at 2:35:14).

On October 22, at a Queens parental advisory board meeting, Chancellor Richard Carranza, said “In a virtual environment, if you have some criteria, then a student could ostensibly, with a very gifted teacher, have more students having an experience of a gifted experience, not just in one classroom. Let’s say you have a really gifted and talented teacher that is willing to have 60 students across five schools in Queens. Now you have the ability to give that experience to more students,” according to the New York Post