New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Up to the Hour Monitoring to Launch for Link NYC Public Phones

Information about the availability of LinkNYC's free phone service will now be shared online.. This real-time, up to the hour monitoring will ensure residents are able to find free phones that are working whenever they need one. In the past, public payphones often didn't work: picking up a handset that had no dial tone or had been damaged become normal; sometimes booths were empty with no phones inside. With the upgrade from payphones to LinkNYC kiosks offering 911 and free phone servie, the City is hoping to make broken public phones a thing of the past. "Even in a world where almost everyone has a smartphone, my battery still dies every day, and I find myself relying on LinkNYC terminals to make calls while I charge my phone, more often than I thought," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Upgrading our payphones into free phone and wifi kiosks has created an opportunity to use new technology tools to keep our city's infrastructure online and up to date." 

 

Bike Lanes Along Second Avenue Subway Get Trees and Tree Guards Funded by MTA and Council Member Kallos

Bike Lanes Along Second Avenue Subway Get Trees and Tree Guards Funded by MTA and Council Member Kallos

 Trees have been planted in the Bike Lane Islands and are Complete with Tree Guards to protect them from Neighborhood Pets

 New York, NY – One year after the opening of the Second Avenue Subway and fully protected bike lanes, the new pedestrian islands are getting 19 new trees valued at $38,000 and provided by the MTA, and 17 new tree guards to protect them and plantings at the cost of $30,600 provided by Council Member Ben Kallos. This is 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 by 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.

 “Spring has finally sprung and with the new trees and planters can’t wait to turn every pedestrian island into a small garden,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I am glad I was able to collaborate with our city agencies to launch and expand this great program to beautify the neighborhood.”

Mayor de Blasio Announces NYC Secure, The City's First-Ever Cybersecurity Initiative to Protect New Yorkers Online

"I am proud to see New York City step into the forefront of cyber security by protecting not only local government and businesses but also residents throughout the five boroughs via a new convenient and free app," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "New York City is the center of the universe and for that reason alone our city and its residents are targets of scams like phishing, ransomware and identity theft. NYC Secure will give New Yorkers a much needed added layer of protection on their mobile devices. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for having the foresight and courage to invest time and resources in this initiative."

 

Fight against Super-Tower in Sutton Area Continues as Council Member Kallos, the East River Fifties Alliance and East Side Electeds Oppose Appeal filed by Developer

Fight against Super-Tower in Sutton Area Continues as Council Member Kallos, the East River Fifties Alliance and East Side Electeds Oppose Appeal filed by Developer

Developer Requests Exemption from Zoning Change and More Time to Work Despite City Council’s Mandate to Remove Grandfathering Clause

New York, NY- Council Member Ben Kallos testified Tuesday before the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) in opposition to the construction of a mega-tower in the recently rezoned East Fifties residential neighborhood. Despite the rezoning, which was the result of a grassroots effort by the local community and elected officials, the developer, Gamma Real Estate, is appealing to the BSA in an effort to exempt its property from the new rules. Council Member Kallos joined fellow elected officials, civic groups, and dozens of members of the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) in opposing this application for a super-tall building in a residential neighborhood.

In November of last year, the City Planning Commission approved the ERFA application, but included a grandfathering clause designed to exempt 428-432 East 58th Street, the Gamma building, from the new rezoning. All of the rezoning’s co-applicants called for the grandfathering clause to be removed by the City Council, however, and the Council removed the exemption in the zoning text with a resounding 45 in favor, 0 against, and 1 abstention, leading the developer to appeal to the BSA.

At the hearing, Council Member Kallos presented testimony on behalf of Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Keith Powers, and himself, arguing that efforts to rezone the Sutton area by the community were underway and known to the developer prior to them even purchasing the property, and so no special accommodation should be made. While the BSA has the power to allow construction to continue in cases when the zoning changes, catching by surprise a developer who has begun work on a building, in this case the developer bought the property at a discount knowing about the planned zoning changes and instead of slowing construction activity to ensure compliance with the Zoning Resolution, they hastened it, relying heavily on illegally granted After Hours Variances and even doing work at times without permits.

Joint Testimony to the Board of Standards and Appeals,In Opposition to Request for Exemption from Zoning Change

Download PDF of Testimony and Exhibits

Joint Testimony to the Board of Standards and Appeals
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos
New York State Senator Liz Krueger

and

New York City Council Member Keith Powers

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

RE: 2017-320-BZY, 428-432 East 58th Street, Manhattan
In Opposition to Request for Exemption from Zoning Change

Spoken Testimony

Thank you to Chair Perlmutter and the members of the Board of Standards and Appeals for the opportunity to testify today.

We are here to strongly oppose Sutton 58 Holding Company LLC’s request to exempt its development at 428-432 East 58th Street from zoning text that is the result of a community-led grassroots zoning text change approved by Community Board 6, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.

We are proud to represent the community surrounding the site that is the subject of today’s hearing.

The effort by a the East River Fifties Alliance, a community group with over 2600 members, to rezone the narrow streets east of First Avenue between 51st and 59th Streets and the progress being made in the ULURP proceeding for that rezoning were publicly known to the developers, not only before they began laying their foundation, or before they applied for the permits, but before they even purchased the property.

As the Board is aware, the vesting provisions of the Zoning Resolution are designed to protect owners of real estate from unforeseen zoning changes which unfairly restrict development after properties are acquired. In this instance, however, the applicant acquired the property with full knowledge of the planned zoning restrictions, and thereafter, rather than slowing construction activity to avoid potential prejudice, increased it, often working beyond the hours permitted by existing permits. The applicant is seeking to turn the vesting provisions of the Zoning Resolution upside down.

Section 11-331 of the Zoning Resolution, which allows construction under certain conditions, is being subverted by the applicant for the purpose of creating an unfairness. After the zoning change was adopted, the applicant continued to perform construction work on the building, proceeding at its own risk and in bad faith, even though a full stop work order had been served on December 1, 2017.

This zoning change was intended to cover this property. As you may know, the City Planning Commission approved the ERFA application with a grandfather clause exempting this particular building, but this clause was resoundingly City Council overturned by the City Council, with a vote of 45 in favor, 0 against, and 1 abstention. At the Council vote, I stated, “We removed the grandfathering provision that the City Planning Commission has added erroneously.”

The applicant has since argued that I intended for the developer to seek recourse through the appeal process to the BSA under the vesting provisions of ZR 11-331, as they have done. The intent of this comment was only to state that it was the developer’s right to appeal to the BSA, and in no way an endorsement of the validity of such an appeal, which I am here today to wholeheartedly oppose.

This work to complete this foundation was done with illegal After Hours Work Variances. After Hours Work Authorization may only be granted for one of five reasons specifically enumerated under §24-223(e) of the Administrative Code. The After Hours Variance applications in this case cited a reason of “Public Safety” and were approved for “Other,” but the description of work included only work that does not qualify for “Public Safety” and which was also done during regular hours.

The Board of Standards and Appeals must make a finding of fact as to each of the After Hours Work Variances. It must determine whether such authorizations were properly based on any of the five enumerated reasons. Any work authorized for “Public Safety” reasons must not include work that is also done during regular hours without that same public safety concern. Finally, any foundation work done under an After Hours Variance in violation of the law may not be counted for the purposes of establishing a foundation.

Given the facts, the Board should find that none of the After Hours Variances were properly issued, thereby disqualifying any and all of the foundation built during those illegal After Hours Variances.

Once the rezoning application was nearing a final vote, the developers began to take last resort actions in an attempt to convince this board that their property should be exempted from the impending rules. These actions included doing work for hours after their permits expired and simply doing work with no permit at all.

The issue of fact in this proceeding is whether the foundation is substantially complete, and the Board of Standards and Appeals has a long tradition of independently inspecting sites. However, while the developer was preparing their appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals, and even after filing this appeal, the developer continued work on the building in question, concealing, altering and destroying the physical evidence of progress at the time of the zoning change.

In light of the concealment and alteration of the physical evidence of the building’s construction on the day of the rezoning preventing any independent evaluation and analysis, the BSA must not reward this act, and must assume that the building was not substantially complete. Should the BSA not make this assumption, it must require that the developer provide details and supporting documentation for all work done since adoption.

This Board serves a crucial purpose, to ensure New York City’s Zoning Resolution is not so rigid that commonsense and fairness are erased by rules for rules’ sake. Specifically, the power to vest properties into the zoning code as written at the time the building’s foundation is completed is an important way of ensuring that developers are not surprised by changes to city law, finding themselves in a situation where they have just poured their savings into something they can no longer afford.

The scenario you are considering today is a distortion of the spirit of this law. The developers did not find themselves stuck with a foundation they could do nothing with. They poured their foundation illegally, partially in the final hour and partially after midnight, as a last-ditch effort to convince this Board that they were stuck with it and should thus receive special dispensation. A total of 1701 cubic yards of this foundation was poured utilizing unpermitted street closures. Of that, 180 cubic yards of cement was poured after the applicant’s permit expired. An additional 300 cubic yards was poured on the day of the zoning change’s adoption, and so it is not considered. Only 93 cubic yards of cement was poured without cutting any corners, with the permission of our city’s agencies. All the while, the developer did work utilizing illegally granted After Hours Variances.

This is not substantial completion of a foundation. This is an attempt to avoid the law. Please vote against approving this applicant’s request, in order to maintain the integrity of the zoning code and of this residential neighborhood.

Mayor de Blasio, Victims’ Families, Survivors, Seniors and Officials Demand Albany Expand Speed Enforcement Cameras Near Schools in State Budget

Extension and expansion of speed cameras to protect more schools was included in Assembly one-house budget bill, officials and families urge Senate and Governor to act

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio joined crash survivors, victims’ families, seniors and elected officials on the steps of City Hall to demand leaders in Albany include an expansion of New York City’s school zone speed enforcement camera program in the final state budget by April 1. With the program slated to expire in June, the City and advocates are seeking not just its extension, but major improvements.

Where installed, speed cameras have been proven to reduce speeding in New York City school zones by 63 percent, with injuries to pedestrians dropping 23 percent. But under the current restrictions, 75 percent of the children who were killed or severely injured in traffic were hit at locations or at times where the City can’t legally use a camera. For example, cameras cannot be installed on 9th Street in Park Slope—the site of a crash that killed two young children this month. The New York State Assembly included reforms in its one-house budget bill that increase the number of school zones where cameras are allowed, and allow them to be placed on more dangerous streets.

"We have a duty to protect our children from being killed in a collision that could be prevented by a simple traffic camera," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Some of the most dangerous intersections where we should not have lost any lives are within feet of schools in my neighborhood. We need traffic cameras anywhere someone has been injured or killed, especially near schools."

Mayor de Blasio Announces NYC Secure, The City's First-Ever Cybersecurity Initiative to Protect New Yorkers Online

NEW YORK – Mayor de Blasio today announced the launch of NYC Secure, a pioneering cybersecurity initiative aimed at protecting New Yorkers online. Using a steadily evolving suite of solutions, NYC Secure will defend New Yorkers from malicious cyber activity on mobile devices, across public Wi-Fi networks, and beyond. The first NYC Secure programs will include a free City-sponsored smartphone protection app that, when installed, will issue warnings to users when suspicious activity is detected on their mobile devices. The City additionally announced new world-class protection for its public Wi-Fi networks, becoming the first city in the world to provide such services to all residents and visitors free of charge.

NYC Cyber Command (NYC3), which leads the City of New York’s cyber defense efforts, is overseeing the development and implementation of NYC Secure. Created in 2017 by Executive Order, NYC Cyber Command directs citywide cyber defense and incident response, mitigates cyber threats, and provides guidance to the Mayor and City agencies. Using the latest technologies and leveraging public-private partnerships, NYC Cyber Command works across more than 100 agencies and offices to protect, detect, respond, and recover from threats while setting citywide information security policies and standards.

"I am proud to see New York City step into the forefront of cyber security by protecting not only local government and businesses but also residents throughout the five boroughs via a new convenient and free app," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "New York City is the center of the universe and for that reason alone our city and its residents are targets of scams like phishing, ransomware and identity theft. NYC Secure will give New Yorkers a much needed added layer of protection on their mobile devices. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for having the foresight and courage to invest time and resources in this initiative."

Legislation to Improve Voter Registration and Civic Engagement Re-introduced in New York City Council

As New York City continues to struggle with embarrassing voter turnout, three pieces of legislation reintroduced in the City Council today take direct aim at the problem through reform. In an effort to increase registered voters in New York City, the first bill requires landlords to provide new tenants with a voter registration form along with the existing package of paperwork received when a new lease is signed. The second requires the City to take proactive steps to register its students to vote and comply with an existing law that requires each student to receive a voter registration form with their high school graduation diplomas. The third bill would change New York City’s archaic ballot access laws, which date back to the 1800s, allowing candidates to obtain entry onto the ballot by meeting the minimum threshold to receive public funds through the City’s campaign finance system instead of arbitrary signatures.

Legislation to Improve Voter Registration and Civic Engagement Re-introduced in New York City Council

As New York City continues to struggle with embarrassing voter turnout, three pieces of legislation reintroduced in the City Council today take direct aim at the problem through reform. In an effort to increase registered voters in New York City, the first bill requires landlords to provide new tenants with a voter registration form along with the existing package of paperwork received when a new lease is signed. The second requires the City to take proactive steps to register its students to vote and comply with an existing law that requires each student to receive a voter registration form with their high school graduation diplomas. The third bill would change New York City’s archaic ballot access laws, which date back to the 1800s, allowing candidates to obtain entry onto the ballot by meeting the minimum threshold to receive public funds through the City’s campaign finance system instead of arbitrary signatures.

Small Donors Incentivized Over Big Dollars in Legislation Re-Introduced by A Dozen New York City Council Members

Small Donors Incentivized Over Big Dollars in Legislation

Re-Introduced by A Dozen New York City Council Members

Candidates Could Run for NYC Office Entirely on Small Dollar Contributions of $175 or Less

New York, NY – Candidates for public office in New York City could entirely say no to contributions of $4,950 and rely entirely on small-dollar donations of $175 or less under legislation re-introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos.
 
In the 2013 mayoral race, nearly half of all the money raised by Mayoral candidates were in contributions of $4,950, the maximum allowed under law.
 
Under the current system, mayoral candidates receive 3,650 contributions of $175 or more from New York City residents in order to receive a full public match of $3.8 million, leaving a funding gap of $2.5 million to get to the spending limit of $7 million. Since these contributions are not matched with public funds, the system encourages candidates to seek non-matching big dollar maximum contributions -including from outside New York City- in order to fill the gap with as few contributions as possible. By eliminating the cap, the need for maximum contributions from big donors and special interests is also eliminated.
  
This legislation was originally Introduction 1130-A in early 2016, ultimately reaching 32 sponsors and heard in committee but not voted on by the Council. Now, at re-introduction, it comes with the support of new Governmental Operations Committee Chair Fernando Cabrera and new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who pledged support for 1130-A at last year’s Citizens Union Forum. The bill already has the support of a dozen current Council Members including Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Costa Constantinides, Stephen Levin, Helen Rosenthal, Raphael Espinal, Daniel Dromm, Brad Lander, and Justin Brannan. The legislation eliminates the arbitrary 55% cap on the amount of total campaigns which can come from public dollars. By doing so, candidates will, for the first time, have a path to fully fund their campaigns with only small dollars.

Fewer Garbage Trucks to Pass through Upper East Side Streets Once Marine Transfer Station Opens than Ten Years Ago

Fewer Garbage Trucks to Pass through Upper East Side Streets
Once Marine Transfer Station Opens than Ten Years Ago

25% Reduction in DSNY Waste and Trucks to Marine Transfer Station

Upper East Side, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia at a Town Hall with Council Member Ben Kallos announced the New York City Department of Sanitation has agreed to limit the amounts of trash that will be processed by the Marine Transfer Station (MTS) and the number of garbage trucks that will pass through Upper East Side.

The once industrial Upper East Side originally hosted both the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station and a Sanitation Garage. The landmark asphalt mixing plant at East 90th Street was closed in 1968. The Marine Transfer Station at East 91st Street was part of a network of three Manhattan stations that processed 320 garbage trucks a day until it closed in 1999. The Sanitation Garage at 545 East 73rd Street housed 105 garbage trucks that would wake residents up at 4:30 AM, until the garage was demolished in 2008. In the 90s residents could see several hundred trucks a day and in the 2000s, over one hundred. A new letter from the Department of Sanitation commits to a much lower impact on the community from the new 91st Street Marine Transfer Station.

Statement: Council Member Ben Kallos on East River Helicopter Crash Near Gracie Mansion

Statement: Council Member Ben Kallos on East River Helicopter Crash Near Gracie Mansion
 

"My deepest sympathy, thoughts, and prayers go out to the victims of the helicopter crash near Gracie Mansion. As a concerned resident and representative of this neighborhood, I will do my part to ensure that this type of tragic incident never happens again.

The City must convene a permanent working group with the Federal Aviation Administration, State Department of Transportation, and other relevant agencies at every level of government along with industry and residents to investigate issues brought on by the helicopter taxi and tourism industry. The City must then come back within 90 days with recommendations to limit environmental impacts and improve safety for passengers. 

I will also be pushing the boundaries of preemption by Federal and State laws governing aviation as we seek to find a way to use New York City laws to keep our residents and tourists safe.

The number one priority must always be safety and the necessary equipment for that must always be available to preserve lives."

On this Valentine’s Day, Council Members and Transit Activists Ask De Blasio, Will You Be Our Bus Mayor?

On this Valentine’s Day, Council Members and Transit Activists Ask De Blasio, Will You Be Our Bus Mayor?

 Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, City Council Colleagues and Transit Activists Call on Mayor de Blasio to Improve Bus Service by Implementing Simple Solutions to Turnaround Bus Service for 2.5 Million New Yorkers

 New York, NY- Today on Valentine’s Day, Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, Council colleagues and members of the Bus Turnaround Coalition stood on the steps of City Hall to ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to be the city’s bus mayor and implement policies that will dramatically improve service for New York’s 2.5 million daily riders. Bus riders and council members also tweeted Wednesday at Mayor de Blasio: “Will You Be Our Bus Mayor?”

 Transportation chair Rodriguez circulated the attached letter in recent days highlighting several fixes and policies Mayor de Blasio can implement to increase bus speeds and improve riders' commutes. A majority of council members signed on in support and doubled-down on their request today on the steps of City Hall, urging the Mayor to make turning around our failing bus service a high priority.

"Mayor de Blasio must make improving bus service a top priority as quickly as possible," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Whether it is more bus lanes, modernizing transit signaling systems to prioritize buses or simply speeding up the rollout of bus clocks throughout the five boroughs, New York City has no choice but to make these upgrades in order for our residents to compete globally in the workplace with the rest of the world. Thank you to Riders Alliance and Council Member Rodriguez for their continued fight for these implementable solutions to improve bus service."

 

HPD Joins Azimuth Development Group and Partners to Celebrate the Opening of 100% Affordable Homes at 321 East 60th Street on the Upper East Side

New York, NY — New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) joined New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, Azimuth Development Group and development partners to celebrate the opening of a new 21-unit residential building located at 321 East 60th Street in the Lenox Hill section of Manhattan. The building is 100% permanently affordable to low-income households, for example individuals earning at or below $53,440 annually. Event attendees also included TD Bank, Aufgang Architects, and the New York City Housing Partnership Development Corporation.

“Inclusionary Housing provides a powerful tool for creating affordable housing opportunities across New York City’s neighborhoods,” said HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “Today we celebrate the completion of  this newly constructed 100 percent affordable building in the heart of Manhattan, thanks to our Inclusionary Housing program.  We are grateful to Council Member Kallos for his support and all our development partners for their commitment to building a more equitable and affordable city.”

Lawsuit Filed by Upper East Side Elected Officials and Community Leaders Challenges Proposed Skyscraper that Mocks Area Zoning Laws

Upper East Side, NY – On Friday, January 26th State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Ben Kallos, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, and FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court contesting the City’s approval of 180 East 88th Street, which is currently under construction.   This building violates two zoning rules that apply to any building at this location:  the sliver building rule, which prohibits tall towers on narrow lots, and the “tower-on-a-base” rule, which requires any building fronting on a side street to have a base along the street line that roughly matches the height of its neighbors, so as to preserve the continuity of the block.   

 The building was approved because of a piece of chicanery that, if accepted as a precedent, would nullify these two zoning rules entirely.  The developer, DDG Partners, created a tiny new tax and zoning lot fronting on 88th Street, initially only four feet deep and later enlarged to ten feet.  The developer then transferred title to this sham lot to a sham entity, created only for the purpose of owning this lot.  This sham lot cannot be built on; both because it is too small and because the Building Code requires that it be kept clear as an emergency exit from the new building.  Through this ploy, the developer claims the property no longer fronts on 88th Street, and so does not have to comply with zoning rules that would prohibit such a sliver building.

Statement: Council Member Ben Kallos Response to Mayor de Blasio's State of the City

Statement: Council Member Ben Kallos Response to Mayor de Blasio's State of the City


It is great to see Mayor de Blasio make improving democracy in New York City a top priority of his new term. Last term, the City Council passed a series of laws to improve access to the polls, lessen the influence of lobbyists, and make it easier for first-time candidates to run for office. Many of the priorities the Mayor is calling for can be achieved through law by the City Council, and we will continue to push on bills I introduced last term and will be reintroducing this year:
 
Full Public Match: former Introduction1130-A  Eliminates the arbitrary 55% cap on public funding of elections and allows every small dollar raised from city residents to be matched at 6 to 1. By doing so we are creating a path for candidates to run competitive elections that reach the total spending cap on contributions of just $175. Doing so eliminates the need to seek max checks from millionaires and incentivizes candidates to seek small donations from within the neighborhoods they seek to serve.
 
Young Adult Voter Registration Act (YAVRA) former Introduction 628:  To ensure compliance with existing law that requires graduating students receive a voter registration form with their diploma, the legislation requires those registration forms contain a unique code the City can scan to determine which schools are complying with the law and helping their students get registered to vote. Additionally, the Department of Education would be required to report annually to the Council on their efforts to comply with the law from borough to school level, with details including the number of eligible students, the number of forms distributed by language, and the number completed and returned.
 

Tenants Leaving Housing Court Would See Protection from Discrimination by Landlords Under Legislation Re-Introduced in New York City Council

Tenants Leaving Housing Court Would See Protection from Discrimination by Landlords Under Legislation Re-Introduced in New York City Council

New York, NY – New York City tenants who go to housing court could receive protections from the so-called “tenant blacklist” under legislation re-introduced yesterday by City Council Member Ben Kallos. Tenant screening companies, which create “tenant blacklists,” would be regulated to ensure they provide fair and complete information, including court records that show when tenants were in the right. Landlords would also be prevented from using the information to discriminate against tenants when the terms of an order issued in housing court have been satisfied. Together this legislation will lessen the number of prospective tenants denied a place to live merely because they were involved in a housing court case.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers named in housing court cases every year are reported to be on “tenant blacklists.” These “blacklists” are created by screening reports sold by companies along with credit reports and are often used to deny applications to renters. Tenant screening companies who provide a list of those named in housing court cases without any indication of the particulars or outcome of the case include CoreLogic SafeRentTransUnion Rental Screening SolutionOn-Site, and ALM.

NYC Parks and DDC Cut Ribbon on New East 81 st Street Pedestrian Bridge with Councilmember Ben Kallos

(New York City – December 28, 2017) Representatives from the City’s Department of Design and Construction and NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined City Councilmember Ben Kallos on Thursday to celebrate the opening of the East 81st Street pedestrian bridge, connecting the East River Esplanade at the lower level to the promenade at the upper level, known as the John Finley Walk.

 DDC worked with Primer Construction Corporation and STV on the $16 Million project replacing the old pedestrian bridge originally built in 1942 with a brand new one that is now ADA accessible. Workers installed an ADA-compliant ramp measuring 452 feet long and 9 ½ feet wide. The ramp connects the new pedestrian bridge to the East River Esplanade, making it

Fight to Get Scaffolding Down Continues in Second Term with Reintroduction by Council Member Ben Kallos

New York, NY – More than 7,700 scaffolds entomb 280 miles of City sidewalks may soon be dismantled, under legislation introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos in 2016 and to be reintroduced on Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Unnecessary scaffoldings also known as “sidewalk sheds” would have to be removed if seven days pass without construction work with a six-month limit to complete necessary repairs. 

Sidewalk sheds are temporary structures, made of wooden planks, boards and metal pipes to protect pedestrians from dangerous conditions that are being corrected or new construction. Scaffolding is not only an eyesore but attract crime such asdrug deals and provide an alternative to shelter for homeless. Sidewalk sheds meant to keep residents safe have become a danger in themselves as they collapse on pedestrians in Manhattan and Queens causing injuries. In spite of these collapses, many sidewalk sheds persist for years, sometimes more than a decade, with one almost old enough to vote.

New York City Campaign Finance Board Public Hearing on 2017 Elections January 29, 2018

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Ben Kallos, Council Member of the 5th District and author of Introduction 1130-A, a piece of legislation I introduced in 2016 along with 31 of my colleagues and a diverse group of advocates ranging from good government to labor to academics to women’s organizations to organizations representing low income communities.

 As we discuss the 2017 city elections I am here today to ask that the Campaign Finance Board include this legislation, which will be re-introduced at the January 31st Stated Session, as one of its recommendations in its forthcoming mandatory post-election report.

 New York City has the model public finance system in the country. It is a system that has survived court challenges, helped me get elected, and one that I am invested in protecting and improving upon during my time in the City Council.

 For anyone here or watching on the live-stream who may not be fully familiar with the system: New York City’s campaign finance system matches the first $175 of contributions from city residents at a 6:1 ratio and gives participating candidates a partial public matching grant of up to 55% of the total spending limit in competitive races.