New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

HPD JOINS AZIMUTH DEVELOPMENT GROUP AND PARTNERS TO CELEBRATE THE OPENING OF 100% AFFORDABLE HOMES AT 321 EAST 60tH STREET IN MANHATTAN

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.

Bill to Return Thousands of Subsidized Units to Affordable Housing Ages Into Law

 
New York, NY – Landlords failing to provide required affordable housing in exchange for city financing, tax breaks or additional density will have to register their units and offer new and existing units to residents for rental in one location or face escalating fines under legislation that aged into law Friday, following its passage by the New York City Council in December. Introduction 1015-A, authored by Council Member Ben Kallos and sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Brewer, and Housing and Buildings Chair Williams was introduced in response to a ProPublica report estimating that New York City has paid developers $100 million for 50,000 affordable units that might not be offered for affordable rates.

Council Passes Bill Requiring Department of Education to Report The Number of Children Turned Away from Neighborhood Public Schools

 Council Passes Bill Requiring Department of Education to Report The Number of Children Turned Away from Neighborhood Public Schools
 
Geographic Diversity Would Be Added as Measure for Public Schools
 

New York, NY – Today the City Council passed legislation forcing the Department of Education to report the number of children from each neighborhood who apply to attend a particular school, the number of seats available at each school, how many offers of admission were made, and total enrollment in all public schools. The legislation authored by Council Member Ben Kallos will show the current geographic diversity in NYC schools, whether there are sufficient numbers of school seats in each neighborhood, and how many children are being turned away from the public school system because the City lacks the capacity to allow children to attend school in the neighborhood in which they live. 

Progressive Caucus Passes Nearly 50 Bills in Current Council Session

New York, NY – On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, the New York City Council passed several bills endorsed by the Progressive Caucus in its current session policy platform. Including the bills passed today, the Caucus and its members have sponsored and advocated for the passage of nearly 50 bills representing crucial advancements in progressive issues including tenant safety, workers’ rights, affordable housing, and community safety.

The bills passed today endorsed through the Progressive Caucus’ Current Session ‘Advancement Agenda’ include: (1) Community Land Trusts (I. 1269), which amends the administrative code of NYC as it relates to creation of regulatory agreements with community land trusts; (2) Asthma Allergens (I. 385), which calls to regulate indoor asthma allergen hazards in residential dwelling and pest management; (3) Right to Request Flexible Schedule (I. 1399), which protects employees who seek temporary changes to their work schedule for personal events and certain scheduling changes; (4) Right to Know Act, a legislative package that aims to protect the civil rights of New Yorkers while promoting communication, transparency and accountability for everyday interactions between NYPD and the public; and (5) Automatic Benefits (I. 855), which would support a study regarding the feasibility and cost of utilizing City administrative data to determine individuals who are likely eligible for public assistance and to provide electronic notices of eligibility. The nearly 50 passed bills endorsed by the Caucus are listed at the end of the release.

Thousands of Subsidized Units Will Return to Affordable Housing Under Legislation that Passed the City Council

Registration required for thousands of previously unaccounted for affordable homes with fines for bad landlords

Upgrading Housing Connect to include existing affordable housing with notification for eligible units so residents can apply all in one place

New York, NY – Landlords failing to provide required affordable housing in exchange for city financing, tax breaks or additional density will have to register their units and offer new and existing units to residents for rental in one location or face escalating fines under legislation that passed the New York City Council yesterday. Introduction 1015-A, authored by Council Member Ben Kallos and sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Brewer, and Housing and Buildings Chair Williams was introduced in response to a ProPublica report estimating that New York City has paid developers $100 million for 50,000 affordable units that might not be offered for affordable rates.
 
“New York City is in desperate need of affordable housing. It is a crisis, and we cannot allow landlords to hide even a single unit of it from the public,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We need a full accounting of every affordable unit of housing in the City, and we need regular monitoring and strict enforcement. If New Yorkers are going to pay billions of taxpayer dollars to developers in exchange for building affordable units, we need to ensure residents in need can actually get that affordable housing.”
 
New York City and State for decades have failed to hold landlords and developers accountable for agreements like 421-a, J-51, and Article XI. In 1993 New York State eliminated penalties for failing to register, allowing thousands of building owners to ignore the law for years and charge rents above the legal limit. These programs provide direct financing, decades-long tax abatements, or additional density to landlords and developers in exchange for building and maintaining affordable housing units whose tenants have income that meet a certain percentage of the Area Mean Income. Together these programs cost the city roughly $1.2 billion per year in tax revenue, but much of the affordable housing is getting lost. ProPublica found that owners of 15,000 buildings — receiving over $100 million from the city — failed to register any affordable units, leaving New Yorkers roughly 50,000 units short of what they paid for. After hearing this legislation, Mayor de Blasio identified 37,141 apartments that were avoiding $304 million in property taxes while failing to comply with the 421-a affordable housing program.

Improving City Assistance to New Yorkers in Need through Notifications and Pre-Filled Applications to be Studied Under Bill Passed by the New York City Council

Improving City Assistance to New Yorkers in Need through Notifications and Pre-Filled Applications to be Studied Under Bill Passed by the New York City Council

 

Hunger, Housing, Health, and Child Care Benefits Among 40 Human Service Benefits That City Will Study to Improve Participation
 
New York, NY - On Tuesday, December 19 the New York City Council passed legislation to study the cost and city’s technical ability to provide pre-filled applications for assistance programs and proactive notice to potential applicants in an effort to sign up more residents who already qualify, but do not participate.
 
Assistance for low-income New Yorkers who are in need of hunger, housing, health, childcare, or 40 other assistance programs through notifications and pre-filled applications will be studied by the city, under Introduction 855-B authored by Council Member Ben Kallos and passed by the Council.

 550,000 of the 2.3 million New Yorkers who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are not getting it, according to the city. In 2011, Community District 8 on the Upper East Side, represented by Council Member Ben Kallos was first in the city for SNAP under-enrollment with 91% of eligible seniors not enrolled, according to LiveOnNY.
 
“No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, especially when assistance programs have been created to help those in need,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I hope that the city’s study will save tax payer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city. Next year, we’ll have the information we need to eliminate the bureaucracy, paperwork, and unnecessary hurdles that prevent our poorest from accessing and keeping the assistance they need to be lifted from poverty.”

Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise in New York City Passes Council

Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise in
New York City Passes Council


City to Respond to After Hours Noise Complaints When They Are Happening or Likely to Happen Again
 
Noise Limit Lowered for After Hours Construction in Residential Neighborhoods

 
New York, NY – Noise is the top complaint in New York City with booming construction surrounding residents who complain only to see their concerns go unaddressed for days or met with a small fine paid by developers as a cost of doing business. After hours noise will be targeted with new rules for responding when the noise is still happening or is likely to happen again, turning down the volume on after hours construction noise in residential neighborhoods over the next two years, and empowering the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to shut down equipment that is too loud. Introduction 1653-B was authored by Council Member Ben Kallos in collaboration with DEP who helped improve it and co-sponsored by Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides, which passed that committee and is on track to pass the City Council today.
 
In 2016, violations went down as complaints went up, according to the New York Post. Analysis found that noise complaints peak dramatically after 8PM then falls after midnight with a second increase between 7AM and 9AM according to Pratt Professor Ben Wellington in The New Yorker.
 
 

Geographic Diversity Tracking Bill Passes Vote in Education Committee

Geographic Diversity Tracking Bill Passes Vote in Education Committee
 Legislation Aims to Measure Diversity in NYC Public Schools
  New York, NY – Today the City Council’s Education Committee passed legislation that would measure the number of children from each neighborhood who apply to attend a particular school, the number of seats available at each school, how many offers of admission were made, and total enrollment in all public schools. The bill introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos will also require the Department of Education (DOE) to issue reports on the number of individuals who applied for, received offers for, and enrolled in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade in DOE schools. 

The reporting required under the legislation will show the current geographic diversity in NYC schools, whether there are sufficient numbers of school seats in each neighborhood, and how many children are being turned away from the public school system because the City lacks the capacity to allow children to attend school in the neighborhood in which they live. The information would be reported by community school district and by individual school. The information would be disaggregated by grade level, community school district of residence of individuals, primary home language of individuals, and zip code of individuals.

“The fact is we need more school seats and we need more transparency from the Department of Education. We have a growing city and the more useful data we can get the better our children will be served,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “The Mayor’s promise of ‘Pre-Kindergarten for All’ must include enough seats in every neighborhood, including the Upper East Side. Parents in my district are giving up on our public schools and with it our government and parents who can’t afford private school are being forced out."
According to records obtained by Council Member Kallos in 2015, 54% of would-be pre-kindergarteners on the Upper East Side were not offered school seats in their zip codes. For the 2017-2018 school year, more than 900 four-year-olds applied for a total of 596 seats available for this school year. A decrease of 22 seats from the previous school year. This means that at least one in three four-year-olds will not be offered a seat in their neighborhood.

In 2016, in School District 2, which spans from the Financial District to the Upper East Side, 1,696 preschoolers took the Gifted and Talented exam, 838 of whom were deemed eligible for the program, and 652 applied. However, according to Department of Education, only 346 received offers, leaving 47% of applicants, a total of 306 preschoolers, without access to the coveted program.

The aforementioned data for these two programs indicates a larger problem which extends to general enrollment. This legislation seeks the data from the DOE needed to enact changes in order to give the City Council the ability to do so.  

James Cagney Place Officially Designated a City Plaza

James Cagney Place Officially Designated a City Plaza

After 42 Years, Closed Section of East 91st Street Becomes Official Plaza

New York, NY,– Residents at James Cagney Place today, welcomed the news that a section of East 91st Street that has been closed to vehicular traffic for more than 40 years -- and renamed James Cagney Place in 1989 -- was officially recognized as a Pedestrian Plaza under the NYC Department of Transportation’s (DOT)  NYC Plaza program Round 10. The award notice came after three years of effort by Community Board 8 Members Rita Popper and Dave Rosenstein, with support from Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and in partnership with sponsor Ruppert-Yorkville (R-Y) Management, which helped form Friends of James Cagney Place LLC.

In 2017, the Friends of James Cagney Place organized free events including a jazz festival, movie night, Halloween Parade, and the tree lighting to build community support and demonstrate the import of a protected plaza as a community resource. These events are in addition to daily use by residents walking their dogs, seniors enjoying passive recreation, and children sledding on this section of Carnegie Hill when it snows.

STATEMENT: On Successful Rezoning of Sutton Area

New Yorkers are tired of out-of-control, out-of-scale development destroying affordable housing and the shape of our residential neighborhoods.

Today, the City Council voted to stop the march of supertall buildings from commercial districts on 57th Street into residential districts, where they would displace rent-regulated residents to build buildings for billionaires.

In 2015, we formed the East River Fifties Alliance which has grown to 45 buildings in the area, and 2,600 individuals from 500 buildings all over the city with support from Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District, CIVITAS, and citywide organizations like the Municipal Arts Society.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, Senator Liz Krueger, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer joined me as co-applicants and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney has joined in support.

We worked with the Department of City Planning on several options for providing affordable housing as part of our proposal. DCP ultimately advised that with the change to a Tower on a Base, the best way to produce affordable housing was through the existing inclusionary housing framework, which is what we approved today. DCP has also agreed to improve the inclusionary housing program citywide.

We removed a grandfathering provision that the City Planning Commission had added inappropriately and City Planning has voted that removing this provision was “in scope.”

This rezoning will protect octogenarians like Herndon Werth and seniors like Charles Fernandez and his sister who faced displacement from their affordable, rent-regulated units.

The vote today is in support of residents over luxury real estate developers, putting affordable housing for real New Yorkers over buildings for billionaires.

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NEW SECTION OF ANDREW HASWELL GREEN PARK OPENS NYC Parks Completes Phase 2A Construction on an East River Open Space

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Community Board 8 197A Task Force Co-Chair Barry Schneider,Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione, and community members to celebrate the completion of Andrew Haswell Green Park Phase 2A construction.

“Thanks to the many city and state funding partners of Andrew Haswell Green Park, New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the views of the East River and the Roosevelt Island tram while in the shadow of Alice Aycock’s monumental sculpture, the “East River Roundabout,”  said Commissioner Silver. “A unique location, this latest addition to the greenery on the Upper East Side, will draw visitors looking for a place to relax and appreciate the city scene from a new vantage point.”

"We are rebuilding the East River Esplanade block by block, street by street and park by park," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "The completion of Andrew Haswell Green Park phase 2A represents more open green space for the residents of the East Sixties. Thank you to the New York City Parks Department for their dedication and commitment to getting this park open. East Siders will now be able to enjoy it and its wonderful views of the river"

Transparency Watchdog Praises Council Votes Improving Open Data Law and Advancing Online Voter Registration

Int. No. 1701-2017 (Vacca) upgrades the NYC Open Data Law and most importantly requires the City to publish on the Open Data Portal information the status of data sets and makes it much easier for the public to track how well the City is complying with the Open Data Law.

1528-A-2017 (Vacca) requires agencies to list the names of data sets that have been requested via FOIL request. This will make it much easier for the public and the City to understand what data the public is requesting and should be published as open data.