New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

$20 Billion in New York City Spending Directed to Save the Environment by New Law

Friday, September 24, 2021

During Climate Week the New York City Council passed legislation to overhaul an outdated Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program that will direct $20 billion in city spending to save the environment. The program originally authored by Mayor Bill de Blasio as a Council Member in 2005 was never followed by his administration, which still included references to outdated VHS and cassette tapes, mini-discs, and answering machines. The laws authored by Contracts Chair Ben Kallos adopt new environmental goals, expands coverage to more contracts, and adds new major categories such as furniture and textiles.

Tens of Billions of Dollars in New York City Spending Are Now Required to Focus on Environmental Impacts Under a New Law Passed Today

Thursday, September 23, 2021

 

The New Environmental Procurement Laws Focus on Waste Reduction and Highlight Textiles
 

New York, NY – Today New York City passed legislation updating the City's Environmental Preferential Purchasing Program (EPP). The proposed changes affect some $20 billion in spending and reform a program that has not been overhauled in 16 years. With ambitious goals that are responsive to our climate emergency, the legislation authored by Council Member Ben Kallos adopts the toughest standards for electronics and furniture that the City purchases. It also overhauls environmental goals and launches a task force on the textiles bought by the City of New York.

 
“We are in the midst of a climate emergency therefore, New York City government has a responsibility to make sure that every penny of our $94 billion budget that is going to the private sector puts the environment first,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, author of New York City’s declaration of a climate emergency. “This legislation has the potential to make New York City an example to the rest of the world on how major cities can use their economic might to help the environment. Thank you to Speaker Johson for working with me on this and being committed to getting it passed.”
 
In 2005, New York City adopted EPP to minimize the environmental impact of municipal government in its role as a consumer. The original law, which set forth strong environmental standards at the time, was not updated through biannual issuance of regulations as originally intended, leaving the city decades behind other states and even the Federal Government.
 
Int. 2271-A  will:

  • Adopt Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) – electronics would be assessed based on their effect on the environment receiving rankings of Gold, Silver, or Bronze, under the EPEAT program managed by the Green Electronics Council. This is the highest standard adopted by the Federal government in 2007, Amazon in 2010, and available in 43 countries. The legislation would also require power management software by activated on all city systems where it available.
  • More Ambitious Standards – the city would promulgate rules adding new environmental purchasing standards and overhaul others:
    • Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions (replacing “Decreasing”)
    • Eliminate Reliance on Virgin Materials (New)
    • Eliminate Reliance on Hazardous Substances (replacing “Reduce”)
    • Improve Outdoor Air Quality (New)
    • Reduce the Negative Effects and Generate Positive Effects for Environment (New)
    • Additional standards that would remain: conserve energy and water, increase use of recycled and reused materials, improve indoor air quality, and promote end-of-line management.
  • Prohibit the Purchase of Halogen Lamps (expansion from incandescent)
  • Adding Furniture to Environmental Purchasing

 Any contract that did not follow EPP would was required to consider the life-cycle cost-effectiveness, which would now be required to be submitted to the Director of Environmental Purchasing prior to awarding the contract. Reporting would be required annually, with all waivers and reports made public by posting them online.
 
Int. 2272-A would establish a taskforce to research and consider other social costs associated with the production of textiles, including the nature of labor conditions along the supply chain. And reporting on:

  • whether such textiles are recycled or organic in whole or in part;
  • source and supply chain for textiles;
  • value of contracts for textile;
  • length of use of textiles; and
  • disposal.

Textiles are some of the most reusable items in the waste stream and yet they continue to be sent to landfills. Fashion and garment companies across the world – including H&M, Stella McCartney, and Burburry – are committing to moving the industry towards circularity, whether that be by taking responsibility for their products, after customers have finished using them, or by only using materials that can be fully broken down and re-manufactured into new items. As a key player in the international garment industry, New York City is uniquely positioned to lead this important environmental change.

Automated Noise Enforcement Proposed by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos to Take on Roving Motor Cycle Gangs, Blasting Music, and Vehicular Noise

Thursday, August 26, 2021

New York, NY – As New Yorkers drift towards slumber each night they can expect a rich cacophony of noises that keep them up each night, from cars blasting bass that shakes windows as they drive by, to motorists leaning into their horn out of anger, to roving motorcycle gangs revving engines amplified by straight exhaust pipes as they speed down sidewalks, even trucks using a jake brake that makes the Home Improvement “Argh, Argh, Argh” as they slow for a red light. The noise wouldn’t be so bad on a highway, park, or distant vista, but it’s happening in neighborhoods across the all five boroughs that have become destinations to drive through with buildings that are 6, 12, and even 30 stories tall housing thousands of New Yorkers. NYPD’s no chase policy has left these annoyances uncurbed. According to data crunched by BetaNYC between Aug 1 2019 to Aug 1, 2020, there were 61,493 noise complaints related to vehicles. From Aug 1, 2020, to Aug 1, 2021, there were 99,621.
 
New Yorkers have had enough and have come out to meetings with elected officials demanding they do something about it. Council Member Ben Kallos are answering the call with new legislation for automated noise enforcement using video cameras and microphone triangulation to catch the booming vehicles and mailing violations of up to $1,575.
 
“As a new parent these assholes drive by waking up my daughter after we just finished our nighttime routine and then I don’t know how I am going to get her to sleep,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “When I hear the revving from these roving motorcycle gangs barreling down the streets who often ride up on sidewalks, I frantically grab my daughter and find somewhere we might be safe, like by a streetlight pole where they can’t hit us, and I think to myself, ‘this can’t be normal, right?’”
 
Major cities around the world and other states have moved forward with automated enforcement including in California, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Switzerland, and Canada. Technology has advanced to a point where noise can be isolated to individual vehicles in moving traffic.

Millions Going Directly Back in Taxpayers Pockets Will Be Here to Stay Under Proposal from Finance Chair Dromm and Council Member Kallos

Thursday, July 29, 2021

New York, NY – With thousands of New Yorkers relieved from millions in unfair tax burdens utilizing the help of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate (OTA), the City Council is looking to ensure this vital work continues.  With the goal of enabling a long term option for New Yorkers seeking guidance and justice with tax issues, Council Member Ben Kallos joins Finance Chair Danny Dromm introducing legislation that will make the office permanent through statutory revision of the city charter.

Established in 2015 as an advocacy and service arm of the the New York City Department of Finance by Director Jacques Jiha, OTA has assisted New Yorkers for 6 years  Passage of this legislation would make New York join Washington D.C. the first cities in the country to codify such an office, joining a number of states and a federal office.

The office has reported on significant results for New York City homeowners, businesses and non-profits. 

Since April 1, 2016, OTA intervention has resulted in $15,633,506 in refunds, $22,687,936 in abatements, plus $22,709,531 in corrections, for a total of $61,030,973 in funds returned to taxpayers as of tax year 2020-21.

The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate provides a venue for independence, impartiality and confidentiality for New Yorkers seeking tax relief and currently employs advocates that listen to the taxpayer’s position, leading to investigation, evaluation, advocacy for changes supported by procedure or law, requests that the Department of Finance to take a second look, and advisement for the taxpayer for next steps.  After an opportunity to evaluate the work of the office for 6 years, the legislation establishes that the office is worth keeping in place, looking to ensure its continued existence as an official municipal office governed by the City’s Department of Finance.

The office allows New Yorkers to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and provide direct assistance when complex issues arise especially involving the real property tax system. Based on community input, the office is able to identify and recommend solutions for systemic issues within the agency that cause difficulties to taxpayers, providing an invaluable resource to policy makers and other stakeholders. This independent evaluation of agency operations can be a gamechanger in identifying larger scale bottlenecks and inefficiencies, leading to better long term tax policy.

“It’s a no brainer that we need this office to be permanent in our City. Too many New Yorkers are often spread thin financially due to the high cost of living in our City. The office of the Taxpayer Advocate is literally saving homeowners from getting into debt or falling behind on taxes by advocating for them successfully, “said Council Member Ben Kallos. “New York City residents cannot afford for a future mayor to do away with this office on a whim to save money. So the best way to prevent that is put it in the law.”

 

New York City Seeking “Right of First Refusal” on Large Real Estate Transfers to Build Schools, Firehouses, and Vital Municipal Infrastructure Under Legislation by Council Member Kallos

Thursday, July 29, 2021

New York, NY – Legislation introduced today (Int 2363) by Council Member Kallos would ask real estate developers to inform the city when they are transferring property on lots over 20,000 square feet. City agencies would then be required to respond within a month with notice to the public so they can get their services built.
 
Even with the pandemic, New York City’s population is still growing as essential city services struggle to keep up due to difficulty finding a place to build in a city that’s largely already built.
Vital infrastructure is necessary to support a growing city where schools are overcrowded and firehouses struggle to cover more and more residents.
 
In 2018, Council Member Ben Kallos secured $92 million to build 824 new school seats by 2024 with no location secured as of 2021 with dozens of new luxury towers keep going up without them.
 
“New York City is already built so there isn’t really vacant land where you can just build a new school.  Right now, the city has to buy existing buildings to build what residents need, which can be tough in the most competitive real estate market in the world. By the time I read about a big real estate deal in the paper and call the developer to beg for a school, it’s already too late, and my community is desperate for school seats,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Elected officials ask agencies to build new schools and facilities all the time, but we never know what’s going or even what’s in play till it is too late. This legislation would put the city in the loop on big real estate transactions, force city agencies to share whether they see a need as well as whether they even tried to make a deal, and lets residents know what happened. In Manhattan, the city won’t actually need to buy all of the land, it will just need to be a part of the transaction to build a public-private partnership with municipal facilities in the base and the housing we need above.”

Testimony in Opposition to the Blood Center/Longfellow 334-foot Commercial Tower

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Blood Center's expansion plans have been opposed by every elected official along with thousands of residents in the community for more than a decade. Environmental impacts of this proposed development cannot be mitigated, from shadows on the park and JREC to new loopholes and the fact that the proposal would include the displacement of thousands of people from 500 apartments. With regard to the stated need for proximity, the Blood Center's exclusion from existing new joint projects in the neighborhood, other sites they won't consider, the 18 other locations in New York and New Jersey, along with a possible headquarters on Long Island, seem to undermine that need. Taking a serious look at finances we found that the New York Blood Center made $269 million selling blood that was donated, spent $75 million buying up blood centers in 5 other states, have $3 million in offshore accounts, and if that isn't enough, spent more buying real estate ($27 million) then on research ($14 million) which only accounts for less than 5% of their program services budget.

Watch Council Member Ben Kallos' Testimony

Ruppert Park Set for Complete $8.9 Million Renovation Funded by Upper East Side Elected Officials

Monday, July 19, 2021

New York, NY – A neighborhood park will be getting the first full renovation and redesign in decades thanks to more than $8.9 million in discretionary funding from local elected officials. Funding comes from Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Keith Powers and from the City Council through Speaker Corey Johnson. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Community Board 8 and NYC Parks, as well as community stewards for Ruppert Park from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Muslim Volunteers for New York and nearby Knickerbocker Plaza all joined in heralding the announcement.
 
“Ruppert Park has needed an overhaul since I was kid and no one wanted to play there. As a dad in the neighborhood, this is the closest park where I can take my 3-year-old daughter and even she gets bored here. I can’t believe it took my lifetime, but Ruppert Park is going to get a complete redesign to become a destination park in the neighborhood that everyone will want to go to,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Keith Powers, Assembly Member Dan Quart, Congresswoman Maloney, the Parks Department and the community for their partnership and investment in Ruppert Park.”

A Recovery for All of Us: New York City Invests $1 Billion in Life Sciences

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio and the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) today announced a plan to double the City’s $500 million investment in life sciences to $1 billion as part of LifeSci NYC, a commitment launched in the Mayor’s State of the City address to create jobs and establish New York City as the global leader in life sciences. This expanded initiative is expected to generate 40,000 jobs.

Mayor de Blasio kicked off this next chapter of the city’s support for this industry by announcing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to help advance the commercial research and development of new medicines, medical devices, diagnostics, materials, and research tools. The City will provide up to $112 million in City capital to award $20 million to support one or more innovation projects. Multiple awardees can access up to $20 million each.

 

Free CUNY Application for New York City High School Students Sought by Council Member Ben Kallos

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

New York, NY – Countless New York City students and their families pay hundreds of dollars in college application fees to CUNY institutions each year, disincentivizing chances for higher education opportunities for aspiring college students. A bill introduced today by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos will expand access to City University of New York colleges by getting rid of the applications fees for all city public school graduates

“I’m fighting to equalize access here in public higher education for the same reason I fought for school lunch for all city kids” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Kids can’t learn if their family’s current economic realities are impacting their ability to go to class with peers learning together, competing together, and applying together for higher educational opportunities.  This is a concrete way to alleviate some of this burden on our city families next year.”
 

"I'm glad to co-sponsor Council Member Kallos' bill providing assistance for application fees for public school students applying to CUNY," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "College application fees can be a financial burden for our public school students. This legislation will make applying to CUNY more accessible for high schoolers and will help make their dreams of a college education possible.”

The eligibility would include any student of a high school in the city school district of the city of New York, including a charter school, projected to graduate in the current school year or any student who has received a high school diploma from such school.  If the legislation is passed by the end of the year, the program could begin next year.

The proposed legislation  Int 2308-2021 requires the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development, in consultation with the Department of Education, to establish a program to provide financial grants to cover the application fee for New York public school graduates applying to any two or four-year degree program at the City University of New York. 


The current CUNY freshman application fee is $65; fees are as high as $78 at some private universities. Students are required to submit payment using MasterCard, Visa, American Express, eCheck or CUNY fee waiver, with limited current eligibility of veterans, certain low-income students and other groups.  It does not accept waivers distributed by the College Board, NACAC or any other organization. Assuming an average cost of $55 per application, a student applying to ten colleges will have $550 in costs for fees alone.
 

Int 2308-2021

By Council Member Kallos 

A LOCAL LAW 

To amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to the provision of financial  grants to public school applicants to be used for city university of New York application fees 

Be it enacted by the Council as follows: 

1 Section 1. Chapter 4 of title 21 of the administrative code of the city of New York is  2 amended by adding a new section 21-414 to read as follows:  

3 § 21-414 Application grants for city university of New York. a. Definitions. For the  4 purpose of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:  5 Financial grant. The term “financial grant” means the provision of money to an individual  6 or entity without an obligation of repayment. 

7 Public school applicant. The term “public school applicant” means any student of a high  8 school in the city school district of the city of New York, including a charter school, projected to  9 graduate in the current school year or any student who has received a high school diploma from 10 such school.  

11 b. In consultation with the department of education, and any other agency the commissioner 12 deems necessary, the department shall establish and operate a program, subject to appropriation, 13 to annually provide financial grants for the purpose of paying the application fee of all public  14 school applicants applying for admission to any two or four-year degree program at the city  15 university of New York. 

16 c. The commissioner shall establish criteria and procedures for the disbursement of grants  17 pursuant to this section. Such criteria and procedures shall be made publicly available on the  18 department’s website. 

1 § 2. This local law takes effect 90 days after it becomes law, provided that the  2 commissioner of youth services may take all actions necessary for its implementation, including  3 the promulgation of rules, before such effective date.

 ###

 

Letter to New York City Department of Education Requesting Additional 3k to Manhattan

Monday, May 10, 2021

Bill de Blasio, Mayor, City Hall, New York, NY 10007
Meisha Porter, Chancellor Department of Education Tweed, 52 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007
Nina Kubota, President School Construction Authority 30-30 Thomson Avenue Queens, NY 11101 

Dear Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Porter, and President Kubota, 

We are now less than 3 weeks away from the May 28 deadline for parents to apply for 3-K, and  there are too few 3-K options for School District 2, which covers much of Manhattan. In order to  take on this immediate crisis, please (1) direct public schools to make space available, (2) lease  and build out new pre-kindergarten centers to accommodate 3 and 4-year-olds, and (3) open  contracts for expansions by existing providers and applications from new providers. 

We have a long history of working together to find and secure providers and spaces to  accommodate the need for pre-kindergarten on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. After  seven years of fighting for universal free pre-kindergarten to serve three and four-year-olds on  the Upper East Side, I am grateful for the expansion to every neighborhood in the city for the  2021–22 school year. At the announcement, I noted our partnership, and the need to work  together to find new seats. However, since then, despite work on the part of my office, we have  not received any information as to your progress, or any sign of the same level of cooperation  we’ve had in the past that successfully secured more seats for our children. 

 

3K Map

We are less than three weeks away from the May 28 deadline for parents to apply for 3-K, and there are only  36 providers in School District 2, which runs from the  southern tip of Manhattan to East 100th Street. There  are no providers below 23rd street or on Roosevelt Island, and only one on the Upper East Side. There are  2,966 four-year-olds enrolled in pre-kindergarten in   District 2 as of the 2019 – 2020 school year, which should provide a reasonable expectation for the seat need we will have for three-year-olds.

Direct Public Schools to Make Space Available for 3-K 

Declining enrollment in our public schools during the pandemic offers an opportunity to fill  these seats with three-year-olds.  

This school year saw a 4% decline in enrollment, a loss of 43,000 students, with pre-kindergarten  down 13% and kindergarten down 9%, across the city. Neighborhoods in Manhattan were among  the hardest hit by families leaving the city during the pandemic, leading to elementary schools in  

District 2 losing students at a higher-than-average number, according to Chalkbeat. Two  elementary schools in District 2 lost more than 20% of their enrollment: P.S. 234 lost 171  students (-26.76%) and P.S. 89 lost 104 students (-23.11%). On the Upper East Side, P.S. 158  Bayard Taylor lost 130 students (-16.19%) and P.S. 290 Manhattan New School lost 101  students (-17.50%). Upper East Side elementary schools and K–8 lost a combined total of 543  students. Although we might expect some of these students to return, a portion of these 543 seats  could accommodate 3-K and could meet half the neighborhood’s need for this September. 

Many of these schools have shared concerns that existing pre-kindergarten seats were  underfunded, and that public health guidance during the pandemic has been inconsistent and changed from day to day with little warning from the Department of Education, including  changes relating to the 6-foot rule, 3-foot rule, meals, and indoor spaces. These concerns have left public schools reticent to welcome a new 3-K program. 

To address these concerns, the Mayor and Chancellor must increase funding for 3 and 4-year-old  students in public schools, expand funding to cover overhead, and provide immediate clear and  consistent guidance on reopening this coming school year. Furthermore, the Mayor and  Chancellor must mandate that public schools that have seen declines in enrollment accept new 3- K classes on at least a temporary basis until enrollment is stabilizes. 

Lease and Build Out New Pre-Kindergarten Centers to Accommodate 3 and 4-year-olds 

The Department of Education and the School Construction Authority can and must fill large  empty storefronts with pre-kindergarten centers. 

New York City faced a blight of empty storefronts even before the pandemic. Ever-rising rents  have even begun forcing out national chains and big box stores, leading the Center for Urban  Future to begin studying the phenomenon more than a decade ago. While many chains have a  small footprint, some have very large footprints that can accommodate pre-kindergarten centers  including Duane Reade which closed 64 locations, Rite Aid which closed 10 locations, and many  others. 

On the Upper East Side, we’ve built out three new pre-kindergarten centers. One was built as  part of new construction, another was added to a building that already contained a public school,  and the last involved the conversion of a former garage to a new school. We’ve proven the model  works here and all over the city.

Our office has submitted multiple large vacant storefronts, from all over the neighborhood, but  we have not received updates from the Department of Education and the School Construction  Authority. Please provide an immediate response for the locations provided and a list of other  sites in consideration. 

The time is now to fill our vacant storefronts and build out the infrastructure our city’s working  families need in order to care for their children. 

Open Contracts for Expansions by Existing Providers and Applications from New Providers 

Our community-based organizations that are both non-profit and for-profit can help us address  immediate and long term need for 3-K. The Department of Education must immediately open  contracts for existing providers to expand, and new providers to join the free pre-kindergarten  program. 

Many community-based providers who already offer free pre-kindergarten in partnership with  the Department of Education have multiple locations. Often, each location is structured as its  own corporation to limit liability, despite common ownership and operations. The Department of  Education has taken the position that these providers cannot add seats from additional locations.  This must be immediately corrected. Existing providers should be able to add additional seats at  any locations under common ownership or operations. We need the seats now. 

There are many community-based providers who never participated in universal pre kindergarten, in part because of a low reimbursement rate per student and a failure by the  Department of Education to account for overhead costs, such as the high cost of rent in  Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio recently announced full funding for indirect rates for city contracted non-profits. In a similar vein, community-based providers should be able to submit  CPA-certified financials to demonstrate overhead costs, such as Manhattan rent. The Department  of Education should provide additional funding to cover the share of rent devoted to these  programs and increase per-student funding. 

Without enough seats in our public schools and our existing community-based providers, the  Department of Education must immediately open the contracting process for new providers with  an expedited timeline to open by September. 

Between filling seats in existing public schools, leasing vacant storefronts, expanding seats with  existing providers and adding new providers, we have a shot at getting the 3-K seats we need for  this September, but we must act now. 

Sincerely, 


Ben Kallos 

Council Member 
District 5

 

Council Member Ben Kallos Introduces bill Taking on Airbnb to Stop Illegal Short Term Rentals and Open Up More Apartments For New Yorkers

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

New York, NY – New legislation introduced today seeks to regulate Short-Term Rentals by would requiring hosts to register their homes prior to sharing and ensure platforms followed the law. Illegal short-term rentals in New York City add to the variety of long-standing affordability issues the City faces due to the loss of rent-stabilized or otherwise affordable apartments being turned into illegal hotels and listed on websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, Booking.com, and others. The legislation authored by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos and Tenants PAC seeks to help New York City recover from the pandemic by putting a dent in the long-standing affordable housing crisis that continues in part because of thousands of illegal short-term rentals instead of housing real New Yorkers.
  
“We need every apartment being listed illegally on Airbnb back on the market to help our affordable housing crisis. At a time that hotels are closing or sitting there empty it is crazy to see apartments all over the city getting converted into illegal Airbnbs. Moving forward the only listings we should see are actual home sharing where the host is home,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Tenants PAC and the Coalition Against Illegal Hotels for their expertise and assistance in getting this important legislation drafted and introduced.”

New York City to Create and Manage Retirement Savings Accounts for up to 1.5 million Small Business Workers

Thursday, April 29, 2021

After Years fighting President Trump and Republican Congress
Who Sought to Block States & Cities from Providing Retirement Accounts to Residents this Groundbreaking Legislation Passes City Council Vote
 

New York, NY – At least 1.5 million private-sector workers in New York City that do not have access to retirement plans through their employers will finally get one as “Retirement Security for All'' legislation sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos passed a vote the New York City Council.  The bill received a public hearing in the City Council in September 2019 but stalled due to legal issues created by the Trump administration.
 
As a result of the new legislation employers with 5 or more employees that do not currently offer a retirement plan would be required to automatically enroll employees through payroll deduction. There would be no cost to employers with small employers and gig workers able to voluntarily join the program.
 
 “Even in our beloved but expensive City where the cost of living is high, every New Yorker should be able to save for retirement. This legislation is a huge first step in helping generations of New Yorkers working for small businesses to save and be that much more ready to be self-sufficient when it is time to retire. With this legislation, New York City is leading the way by providing residents something in addition to their social security,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who is an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney. “Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson for prioritizing this and focusing on it so that it could pass into law today. I can't wait to help millions of New Yorkers to have a more secure future.”
 
New York State Attorney General and then Public Advocate Letitia James first authored the legislation now carried and championed by City Council Member Ben Kallos and Civil Service and Labor Committee Chair I. Daneek Miller, Int. 888 & Int. 901, that would allow every private-sector worker in New York City to save pre-tax for retirement even if their employer did not offer a 401K.
 
The plan met with uncertainty following the passage of House Joint Resolutions 66 and 67 by Rep. Walberg (R-MI) and Rep. Rooney (R-FL) on March 30, 2017 and signature by Trump on April 13, 2017, to roll back regulations permitting States and Municipalities to offer retirement savings plans. With the election of President Biden, New York City one of the largest municipalities in the nation has taken the opportunity to lead through this legislation.
 
In New York City, two-thirds of workers, more than 2 million people in 2009, did not participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans, largely because their employer didn’t offer one, according to a 2011 report by Comptroller John Liu. More than one-third of households led by a member who will become a senior citizen in the next decade will either be unable to retire or have to live on entirely or primarily on Social Security Income, according to the same report. The National Institute on Retirement Security predicts a United States retirement saving deficit of as much as $14 trillion.
 
"There are millions of New Yorkers that are in no way ready for retirement, which is a ticking time bomb for our social safety net. It wasn't always like this, and now that Donald Trump is behind us we are taking steps to make sure that people who have worked hard are ready for retirement. I'm proud that New York City is taking the lead on this, and I hope more cities and states follow suit. I want to thank Council Member Ben Kallos and Daneek Miller for their tireless work and leading the way to get us to the finish line," said Council Speaker Corey Johnson
 
“Fulfilling the goal of retirement is fast becoming a lost tradition in America,” said Council Member I. Daneek MillerChair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor. “People are working desperately to keep pace with ever-increasing living costs, but lack the means or direction to avoid falling into poverty in their later years. Our legislation will help more than half of working New Yorkers currently without a savings plan set aside a portion of their earnings so they can begin to lay a foundation for a stable future, and particularly benefit our communities of color who saw their average household wealth plummet for over three decades. I thank my colleagues for embracing this bold proposal that is needed now more than ever.”
 
“Too many hardworking New Yorkers face the frightening prospect of aging into poverty rather than retiring with dignity. We know that retirement plans can make all the difference, but more than a million private-sector workers in New York City have not had access to this benefit that is critical to their financial stability. I applaud Council Members Kallos and Miller for their work on seeing this legislation through,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
“Automatic workplace retirement savings provide an easy pathway for workers to start building a safety net and grow the savings they need to take control of their future,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “On behalf of our 750,000 New York City members, I thank the City Council for passing this critical program to help New Yorkers save at work. We appreciate the leadership of Council Speaker Johnson and Council Members Kallos and Miller in making this program a reality for our city’s workers.”
 
On April 12, 2018 Governor Andrew Cuomo signed budget bill S.7505C / A.9505D that established the “New York State Secure Choice Savings Program” as Article 43 of the General Business Law to provide employers that do not currently offer retirement savings to their employees with the option of offering a Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA) managed by the State.
 
The legislation was originally introduced on April 25, 2017 and re-introduced on May 9, 2018. It consists of two bills Int. 1580 of 2015 now Int. 901 of 2018 to establish a board and Int. 1574 of 2015 now Int. 888 of 2018 to establish a plan. The Board would be established to administer the plan, engage in rulemaking, auditing, and reporting, along with public education and community outreach forums. The plan would cover all employers with more than ten employees that did not already offer a retirement plan. At no cost to the employer, private sector employees would be automatically enrolled, with an option to decline, in a payroll deduction pre-tax retirement savings plan administered by the City.
 
Council Member Kallos' work on Retirement for All dates back to 2015 when he was co-prime sponsor to legislation that studied the implementation of implement Retirement Security for All with then Public Advocate Tish James and Civil Service and Labor Committee Chair I. Daneek Miller. The bill was heard in committee in June 2015.
 
Unlike the New York State plan and similar to states like California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon, the New York City legislation would mandate that certain employers automatically enroll their employees if they don’t already offer an option. The New York City plan would default to a Roth IRA with a contribution rate of 5% with an option to change rates or choose an IRA. Established in 2017 the state of Oregon’s plan OregonSaves now boasts more than 100 thousand accounts and nearly $100 million in assets. The average monthly contribution is over $100 with an opt-out rate of less than one-third.
 
In 2016, the new legislation was initially enabled by rules promulgated by the United States Department of Labor (RIN 1210-AB71) prior to the Trump administration stepping in to block it in early 2017. Kallos joined then Public Advocate James in a January letter advocating for cities to be empowered to offer Savings Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees.
 
In 2015, Public Advocate James and Council Member I. Daneek Miller had introduced and heard Int. 692 to create a review board to study and issue a report regarding recommendations for the City to establish a retirement security program for private-sector workers.
 
Prior to their election, Kallos practiced Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) law at Gorlick, Kravitz, and Listhaus, representing laborers at the Mason Tenders District Council fighting for the retirements of workers and Miller served as President of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local No. 1056 and co-chaired the MTA Labor Coalition which represents 29 unions and more than 60,000 workers.
 

Billions of Dollars in New York City Spending Would Be Required to Focus on Environmental Impacts Under Legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos

Friday, April 23, 2021

New York, NY – Today the City Council's Contracts Committee held a hearing chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos focusing on new legislation which would update the City's Environmental Preferantial Purchasing Program. The proposed changes affect some $20 billion in spending that goes throuhgh the Environmental Preferential Purchasing program which has not been overhauled in 16 years. With ambitious goals that are responsive to our climate emergency the legislation authored by Kallos (D-Manhattan) would adopt the toughest standards for electronics, add furniture, overhaul environmental goals, and launch a taskforce on textiles.
 
“We have a climate emergency and New York City government should make sure that every penny of our $94 billion budget that is going to the private sector puts the environment first,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, author of New York City’s declaration of a climate emergency.
 
In 2005, New York City adopted Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) to minimize environmental impact of municipal government in its role as a consumer. The original law, which set forth strong environmental standards at the time, was not updated through biannual issuance of regulations as originally intended, leaving the city decades behind other states and even the Federal Government.
 
The first bill would:

  • Adopt Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) – electronics would be assessed based on their effect on the environment receiving rankings of Gold, Silver, or Bronze, under the EPEAT program managed by the Green Electronics Council. This is the highest standard adopted by the Federal government in 2007Amazon in 2010, and available in 43 countries. The legislation would also require power management software by activated on all city systems where it available.
  • More Ambitious Standards – the city would promulgate rules adding new environmental purchasing standards and overhaul others:
    • Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions (replacing “Decreasing”)
    • Eliminate Reliance on Virgin Materials (New)
    • Eliminate Reliance on Hazardous Substances (replacing “Reduce”)
    • Improve Outdoor Air Quality (New)
    • Reduce the Negative Effects and Generate Positive Effects for Environment (New)
    • Additional standards that would remain: conserve energy and water, increase use of recycled and reused materials, improve indoor air quality, and promote end-of-line management.
  • Prohibit the Purchase of Halogen Lamps (expansion from incandescent)
  • Adding Furniture to Environmental Purchasing

 
Any contract that did not follow EPP would was required to consider the life-cycle cost-effectiveness, which would now be required to be submitted to the Director of Environmental Purchasing prior to awarding the contract. Reporting would be required annually, with all waivers and reports made public by posting them online.
 
The second bill would establish a taskforce to research and consider other social costs associated with the production of textiles, including the nature of labor conditions along the supply chain. along reporting on:

  • whether such textiles are recycled or organic in whole or in part;
  • source and supply chain for textiles;
  • value of contracts for textile;
  • length of use of textiles; and
  • disposal.

 Textiles are some of the most reusable items in the waste stream and yet they continue to be sent to landfills. Fashion and garment companies across the world – including H&M, Stella McCartney, and Burburry – are committing to moving the industry towards circularity, whether that be by taking responsibility for their products, after customers have finished using them, or by only using materials that can be fully broken down and re-manufactured into new items. As a key player in the international garment industry, New York City is uniquely positioned to lead this important environmental change.
 

$120 Million in Funding Won for Nonprofits Serving Low-Income Communities of Color New Yorkers Impacted Most by Pandemic

Friday, April 23, 2021

Contracts Chair Kallos has led the Fight to Restore Funding Cuts to Nonprofits by Mayor de Blasio Since the Pandemic.

New York, NY - After over a year of fighting for New York City’s nonprofits, today Council Member Kalllos joined the administration in announcing that deep cuts to the nonprofit sector will be restored. As chair of the Contracts Committee Council Member Kallos has been at the helm of the fight to support human services providers in the City of New York as they faced draconian cuts throughout all of 2020.  

"Nonprofits are leading the recovery by supporting low-income black and brown New Yorkers impacted most by the pandemic and our city is finally doing the right thing by restoring cuts to operations that will help keep these vital services going," said Contracts Chair Ben Kallos who has been leading the fight for these funds. "Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their leadership and investment in our nonprofit community."

 

  • August 22, 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic Council Member Kallos authored a letter to administration demanding restoration of indirect cuts.   
  • September 15, 2020, Contracts Chair Kallos joined the Human Services Council, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Members, and providers to lead a rally demanding a restoration of these funds. 
  • November 24, 2020, Council Member Kallos held a hearing giving nonprofits the ability to testify on the urgent need  and restorations of funding. 

After promising to fully fund indirect costs with $54 million in November 22, 2019, Mayor

Bill de Blasio announced in July 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 2020 cut indirect funding by nearly 40% to $34 million under the guise of a “right-sizing” assurance for providers that reimbursements from that fiscal year would be completed. Human service providers were already 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.

Contracts Committee Chair Kallos along with more than  20 Council Members demanded a restoration of these funds by letter in August 2020. Last September, Contracts Chair Kallos joined the Human Services Council, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Members, and providers to lead a rally demanding a restoration of these funds. 

On November 25th,  the day before Thanksgiving, the Contracts Committee held a hearing seeking to hear from providers on the importance of the city paying for indirect costs and the impact on services for providers and the people they serve. Several Human Service Providers and elected officials testified at the hearing including:

  • Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer
  • Council Member Brad Lander
  • Council Member Helen Rosenthal
  • Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon
  • Wayne Ho, President & CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)
  • Rodrigo Sanchez-Camus, Esq., Director of Legal, Organizing, & Advocacy Services at NMIC
  • JoAnne Page, President & CEO of the Fortune Society
  • William Scarborough, Account Manager in Employment Services at The Fortune Society
  • Frederick Shack, Chief Executive Officer of Urban Pathways
  • Janelle Farris, Executive Director & President of Brooklyn Community Services

Underfunding was an issue prior to the pandemic, more than half of NYC human services nonprofits could not keep even two months of cash on hand, due to underfunded government contracts, a problem that dates back years. This funding crisis was the main driver behind 2019's groundbreaking commitment to strengthening health and human services infrastructure through increased indirect funding. These retroactive cuts undermine the City’s progress and put providers at significant financial risk when the need for their services is skyrocketing.

The Indirect Cost Rate (ICR) Funding Initiative launched by the City in 2019 and is a result of the City Council pushing the Mayor’ s office and working with nonprofit sector leaders through the Nonprofit Resiliency Committee. 

The announcement today of $120 million over two years brings the total investment for ICR to $94 M per year. 

 

Bill Banning Toxic Pesticides in City Parks and Public Spaces Proposed by New York City Council Member Kallos Passes Council

Thursday, April 22, 2021




WATCH THE PRESS CONFERENCE
 

New York, NY— Toxic pesticides will be banned from city parks under a bill passing today sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos and 31 other Council Members. The bill bans all city agencies from spraying highly toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate (Roundup), and is the most far-reaching legislation to implement pesticide-free land practices in New York City parks and public spaces.
 
The City’s most heavily used liquid herbicide is glyphosate, sold as Roundup, which represents over 50% of pesticide use by city agencies and was sprayed 1,365 times in 2013, according to a Health Department Report. In contrast, Chicago has reduced pesticide use dramatically, and now 90% of its parks are pesticide-free since 2014. The use of this pesticide poses a health risk for anyone who frequents city parks and playgrounds, as well as, city workers, including city parks employees who come into contact with glyphosate containing chemicals while spraying.
 
The bill was re-introduced on April 18, 2019 and was heard in January 2020 in the Committee on Health, after receiving support from a veto-proof supermajority of 34 City Council co-sponsors. Since the hearing, the bill lost 2 co-sponsors due to the exits of former Council Members Rafael Espinal and Ritchie Torres.
 
“Parks should be for playing not pesticides,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “All families should be able to enjoy our city parks without having to worry that they are being exposed to toxic pesticides that could give them and their families’ cancer. As a new parent my daughter isn’t allowed to play on the grass, especially because as a baby puts everything in her mouth. I look forward to working with all of our city agencies to ban toxic pesticides and keep our children safe.”

"I’m proud we’re voting on this bill to modernize our pest control and keep New Yorkers safe. It’s important that, as technology changes and evolves, New York City government keeps up. We no longer burn coal in our buildings.  We don’t light our offices with gas lamps. And we shouldn’t be using toxic and dangerous chemicals in our public spaces. Now we longer will be. I want to thank the sponsor of the bill and chair of our Contracts Committee, Council Member Ben Kallos, Founder and President of the Black Institute, Bertha Lewis, and all of the community advocates who made this possible, " said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson

At Least 1,000 New Solar Trash Compactors Could be Coming to Busy City Street Corners

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New York, NY – Legislation to be introduced tomorrow on Earth Day will require the City of New York Department of Sanitation to install solar-powered waste receptacles on at least 1,000 population-dense or high pedestrian traffic street corners throughout the City.
 
Introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), this legislation aims to help keep our busiest intersections clean for longer periods of time by using solar-powered trash cans, which can reduce the need for collections by 70 percent on average. The trash compactors work by using solar panels to harness the energy that is then used to compact the garbage inside, allowing it to hold up to five times more waste than regular trash cans. The modern trash bins are fully enclosed and are highly effective at preventing trash overflow or windblown waste.
 
The solar-powered trash compactors also include the added benefit of preventing rats and other rodents from eating trash. Since trash does not need to be collected as frequently, the trash compactors also drastically reduce the use of plastic trash bags by the Sanitation Department, making them better for the environment. 
 
“Every New Yorker has seen it. Garbage piled up at the corner because the trashcan is full or overflown when one regular can is just not enough,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “These devices that hold up to five times the amount of trash that regular metal wastebaskets do are a no-brainer in terms of return on investment. They operate on solar power and require less crews picking up multiple times per day.”
 
While thousands of compactors have already been placed around the city in the past decade with municipal and nonprofit funding, this legislation would mark the largest expansion of these modern receptacles to date.
 
At a negotiated cost per receptacle, the City would likely spend under half a million dollars for the 1,000 receptacles that will improve quality of life and help make our busiest city streets cleaner. These costs would be offset by a reduction in the amount of daily pick-up rounds needed in certain high-traffic areas. Currently, Council Members are using expense funding to purchase these receptacles. However, by requiring the Sanitation Department to purchase and place them instead Council Members would see this expense funding freed up for other community uses. The City will have the opportunity to use the solar-powered trash cans as to advertise and have the trash can pay for themselves.
 
During Council Member Ben Kallos’ time in office in 2017 & 2019 he has used discretionary funding to purchase a total of 515 large, dome-shaped covered trash cans to place on every street corner on the Upper East Side. The purchase and installation of these larger trash cans has been largely credited with helping achieve cleaner streets and no more overflowing trash cans on the sidewalks of busy commercial corridors like on East 86th Street.
 

A Recovery for All of Us: Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Porter, Announce Major Expansion of 3-K for All to Reach Every District by This Fall

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

City, in partnership with City Council, will expand free, full-day, high-quality early childhood education to an additional 16,500 three-year-olds across New York City 

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter today announced that in partnership with City Council, 3-K for All will expand to the remaining sixteen community school districts in the 2021-22 school year – bringing free, full-day, high-quality 3-K to up to 16,500 more three-year-olds across New York City. By this fall, the City will support approximately 40,000 3-K seats across all 32 community school districts.  

In addition to expanding to School Districts 1, 12, 14, and 29 this fall as previously announced, the City will expand to offer 3-K to as many families as possible in the remaining sixteen school districts: 2, 3, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28 and 30. 3-K is already offered to every three-year-old in School Districts 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 19, 23, 27, 31, and 32. 

“3K has been invaluable for so many kids and working families across our city,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Now, as we build a recovery for all of us, we are bringing 3K to every district across our city, giving more kids the quality head start they need to grow and thrive.” 

“Providing a high-quality education to every New York City student starts with our youngest children, and I’m thrilled to expand 3-K for All to reach every district citywide and bring access to thousands more three-year-olds and their families during this critical time,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “These programs provide children with an invaluable head start in school and life, and I encourage families to explore the 3-K and Pre-K for All options available in their communities and apply.” 

Like Pre-K for All, 3-K for All relies on the partnership of community-based organizations, including Head Start programs, child care agencies, and family child care providers. The timing of the expansion aligns with the culmination of the City’s historic commitment to achieve pay parity for certified early childhood education teachers by October 2021, a goal which is on track to be met. Achieving a pathway to pay parity between early childhood educators in community-based organizations and those working in district schools completes the promise made by the Mayor and City Council to the provider community during summer 2019, as part of agreements with District Council 37, the Day Care Council of New York, and the Head Start Sponsoring Board Council, as well as a commitment to non-represented teachers. Certified teachers saw phased-in wage increases beginning in October 2019. Non-certified teachers and support staff have also seen increases in compensation. 

3-K for All is the nation’s most ambitious effort to provide universal, free, full-day, high-quality early childhood education for every three-year-old child and builds on the success of Pre-K for All. High-quality 3-K helps to make sure children are prepared for kindergarten and have a strong start in school and life. 

“My daughter is 3 years old, and 3K for All is a lifeline that will make it easier for countless families like mine to stay in New York City and thrive. After this pandemic forced our children into isolation for a year, New York City parents will be relying on 3K for All to help our children catch up,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Child care on the Upper East Side starts at $30,000 and that’s if you can get a seat. Few can afford this and it’s forcing families out. 3K for All is a game changer, giving every child the fair start that they deserve. Countless families including mine are breathing a sigh of relief with today’s announcement. I know I’ve been persistent about getting UPK and now 3K rolled out, but this was too important for our children’s future to leave it up to the next administration. I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for staying true to his word in making Universal Pre-Kindergarten a reality and now 3K for All by 2021. When it is safe to do so I am giving the Mayor a hug.” 

Announcing 3K for All Expansion in 2021 and Commitment to Assist with Rollout from Council Member Ben Kallos

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

“My daughter is 3 years old, and 3K for All is a lifeline that will make it easier for countless families like mine to stay in New York City and thrive.

“After this pandemic forced our children into isolation for a year, New York City parents will be relying on 3K for All to help our children catch up.

“Child care on the Upper East Side starts at $30,000 and that’s if you can get a seat. Few can afford this and it’s forcing families out, even before the pandemic.

“3K for All is a game changer, giving every child the fair start that they deserve.

“Countless families including mine are breathing a sigh of relief with today’s announcement.

“I know I’ve been persistent about getting UPK and now 3K rolled out, but this was too important for our children’s future to leave it up to the next administration.

“I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for staying true to his word in making Universal Pre-Kindergarten a reality and now 3K for All by 2021. When it is safe to do so I am giving the Mayor a hug.

Council Members Menchaca, Lander, Levin, and Kallos Restore Participatory Budgeting in their Districts to Accelerate Covid-19 Recovery

Monday, March 22, 2021

NEW YORK, NY - Council Members Menchaca, Lander, Levin, and Kallos announced on Monday that their offices are setting aside a combined total of $4.5 million dollars for their constituents to decide how to invest in their communities. Known as Participatory Budgeting, the citywide process was suspended last year due to the pandemic. This year, these Council Members are reviving the process on their own to accelerate the City's recovery.
 
"What better way to help get New York City on back to normal than with an exercise in democracy and having residents vote on the change they want to see in their neighborhoods," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Participatory Budgeting brings communities together and although we cannot be fully together just yet, we can still get residents to join the process and get involved. If we are going to ever get back to normal, we cannot let the good things we were doing like PB get lost from our commitments. I am happy to see Participatory Budgeting back as I am sure are my constituents. Thank you to Council Members Menchaca, Lander, and Levin for doing what it takes to literally keep PB alive this year.”

Council Member Ben Kallos Proposes NYC Poll Site Task Force

Friday, March 19, 2021

New York, NY – After overwhelming turnout in the 2020 elections leading to long lines at many Manhattan poll sites, communities across New York are clamoring for increased access and more sites to engage in the democratic response. 

New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has responded by introducing legislation to give voice to citizens and create a task force of community members with diverse expertise to work with the Board of Elections in the selection of sites.

“Community stakeholders with deep knowledge of their neighborhoods can be an invaluable resource in examining where we New Yorkers go to vote,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “This task force will help us improve efficiency and accessibility and help to renew the trust of New Yorkers in our voting system.”

This bill would establish a Poll Site Task Force to promote efficiency and accessibility at polling places in New York City. The task force would be required to review poll sites considered and used in the 2020 presidential election and make recommendations for poll sites for future elections.