New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB)

Public Hearing and Comment on Proposed Rules

June 19, 2018

 

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

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

To New Yorkers here today, and especially tenants, thank you for attending this hearing. I am proud to stand with you today.

This year, I am calling on the Rent Guidelines Board to vote for a rent freeze.

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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Testimony to the New York City Charter Revision Commission

Community Boards and Land Use

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

 

Council Member Ben Kallos

 

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

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

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

Opportunity for Reform

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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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

Ground Broken on $2.1 Million Upgrade and Renovation to Senior Center and Youth Center at Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center

Friday, June 8, 2018

Upper East Side, NY- Today, construction began on the $2.1 million renovation and upgrade of Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center’s senior center kitchen and youth center facilities.  Located in the Holmes Towers at 415 E 93rd Street, the Isaacs Center is a non-for profit organization with a more than 50-year history of serving the needs of over 6,000 children and low-income families, out-of-school and out-of-work youth, and older adults annually. The senior center, which provides meals and critical safety nets to approximately 150 seniors daily, is being upgraded, after being in need of repair for over five years. The Youth Center, which provides after-school programming and workforce development services to hundreds of children and young adults, is also receiving a much-needed upgrade to its restroom facilities.

The senior center kitchen and youth center facilities that will be remodeled, primarily serve seniors and residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Isaacs/Holmes developments. While the funding for this project was designated in previous years, renewed attention to citywide capital improvements to NYCHA facilities has allowed this project to move forward now. Construction is expected to be completed in February 2019, with full completion and use of the facility scheduled to be available by July 31, 2019.

Council Member Kallos’ funding allocation to this project was $680,000 in FY 2015 and $350,000 in FY 2017 for a comprehensive upgrade to the senior center and youth center. The remaining funding came from NYCHA and the City Council, including former Council Members who represented the neighborhood.

The scope of the work includes, but is not limited to:

Isaacs Houses – replacement of existing kitchen equipment, new kitchen floor and ceiling, and mechanical upgrades.

Holmes Towers – complete bathroom renovation, replacement of plumbing fixtures, new LED lighting fixtures, and new doors and frames.
 

Construction Begins on 180 Seat Pre-Kindergarten Facility in the Upper East Side Serving Four-Year-Olds and Their Families

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Upper East Side, NY- The New York City School Construction Authority broke ground today on construction of a new Pre-Kindergarten facility located at 355 East 76th Street. The new site will help the Department of Education meet the demand for seats needed in the 2019 school year with 180 initial seats for fall of 2019. This new push from the City to build and open more Pre-Kindergarten seats on the Upper East Side comes after years of public advocacy from Council Member Ben Kallos and local parents to the Department of Education to fulfill the area’s need and live up to the promise of Pre-Kindergarten for all children in New York City.
 

For the 2017-18 school year, 736 families applied for a total of 550 Pre-Kindergarten spots in the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, though not every application was from a family living in this area or materialized into a student enrolling in a Pre-Kindergarten seat. The unmet demand forced parents to consider enrolling their children in Pre-Kindergarten sites as far away as downtown Manhattan. This push by the City to increase the number of Pre-Kindergarten seats in Council District 5 includes another 234 seats will come from other new centers on East 57th and East 95th Streets for a total of over 400 seats.
 
The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, and neighboring Council Member Keith Powers. Representatives from the offices of State Senator Liz Krueger, State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer were present as these were the elected officials that have been supportive in Council Member Kallos’ four-year effort to increase the number of Pre-K seats on the Upper East Side. These new seats were originally announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in January as part of Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget.

Child Care at Government Meetings Proposed by Council Member Kallos

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Child Care at Government Meetings Proposed by Council Member Kallos
 

Parents Could Request Child Care, Reducing Barriers to Participation in Government Meetings;

Child Care Aims to Increase Women’s Participation in Government and Running for Office


New York, NY – Parents interested in having a say in local government could have free childcare provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos. The legislation is being announced ahead of Mother's Day and will be introduced within a few days. The bill was inspired by a move to provide childcare at conferences in academia, civic technology, and by NYC Community Education Council 2. Countless parents have found childcare to be a challenge to their professional careers, not to mention civic engagement.
 
“It actually costs parents money to be civically engaged,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who grew up with a single mother and now offers free childcare at his annual events. “How can democracy work when we exclude parents from representing the interests of themselves and their children because they may not have access to childcare? If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City it means offering free childcare when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”

The American Heart Association Supports City Council Effort Aimed At Making Healthy Choices The Norm

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The American Heart Association Supports City Council Effort Aimed At Making Healthy Choices The Norm

Council Member Kallos introduces bill that takes sugary drinks off restaurant kids’ menus

New York, NY, May 23, 2018 —  The world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, the American Heart Association backs Council Member Ben Kallos’ bill designed to take sugary drinks off the kids’ menu in New York City restaurants.

The bill aims to make healthier drinks like water, low-fat milk and 100% juice the default option on kids’ menus. By passing this policy, New York City will join a growing number of cities setting healthy standards on kids’ restaurant menus to promote children’s health. Today, the majority of children’s meals at most restaurants are unhealthy. Although parents could still choose from any drink, this policy will help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

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

Technology in Education and Upgrades to Neighborhood Schools Win big in Participatory Budgeting as Council Member Kallos Pledges More Money to Improve Schools

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New York, NY—Over 1,900 Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island residents 11 years old and over voted  in person or online on how to spend $1 million in tax dollars to improve the community as part of “Participatory Budgeting 2018 cycle.” This year residents were able to vote in the district office seven days a week as well as at multiple mobile “pop-up” voting locations and online by digital ballot.

This is the fifth year Council Member Ben Kallos participates in Participatory Budgeting, and the results were:

1.      P.S. 290 MNS Re-Construction of Kindergarten Bathroom $200,000 – 792 Votes

2.      Laptops for Public Schools $350,000 – 736 Votes

3.      NYPL District Libraries Technology Upgrade $200,000 – 712 Votes

4.      P.S. 183 HVAC for Cafeteria and Community Space $600,000 – 666 Votes


The three highest voter winners will be funded for a total of   $750,000. Due to a strong showing and a close final tally in votes the fourth project on the list of winners with a total cost of $600,000 will be given the remaining $250,000 from the $1,000,000 in Participatory Budgeting money plus an additional $350,000 from Council Member Ben Kallos’ discretionary funding to complete the project.

STATEMENT: Council Member Ben Kallos on Scaffolding Incident in Upper East Side that Left an Injured Pedestrian

Friday, May 11, 2018

STATEMENT: Council Member Ben Kallos on Scaffolding Incident in Upper East Side that Left an Injured Pedestrian

Upper East Side - NY. I am grateful that the injury resulting from this incident was not life-threatening and that the resident was able to walk away from it however potentially deadly debris should not be falling out of the sky and onto New Yorkers ever.

In addition to having a bill that limits the amount of time scaffolding is up unnecessarily, I am looking into introducing legislation that would make ensure scaffolding that is up is inspected effectively so that it is safe and actually protects pedestrians in the event of an accident. I will certainly be following up with the Department of Buildings as they investigate what exactly occurred here. These structures are meant to keep people safe and if they are not doing that job correctly we need to fix that.  

Council Member Ben Kallos represents District 5 which covers First Avenue and East 57th Street where the incident occurred.

Testimony to New York City Charter Revision Commission on Democracy

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Since its inception in 1988, New York City has had the model campaign finance system in the country. It is a system that has survived court challenges, been strengthened by legislative changes, and helped candidates like me compete and get elected. It is a system I am invested in protecting and improving upon during my time in the City Council. But no system in perfect, especially not one as complex and impactful as campaign finance. There is room for improvement, and I offer to this commission proposals large and small that will create a fairer campaign finance system by shifting the balance of power away from the wealthy and well-connected, back toward the people it was designed to serve.

I urge this Charter Revision Commission to consider modest changes to the existing Campaign Finance system that would not put the existing system at risk, while still having a large impact.

Executive Summary of Recommendations:

  • Get Big Money Out of New York City Politics: Empower Small
    • Match Every Dollar with a Full Public Match – increase the public match from 55% to 85% of the spending limit to match every small dollar.
    • Increase the Match on Small Dollars over Big Money – match small dollars contributions of $100 or less at a higher rate than larger contributions.
    • Lower Contribution Limits – lower contribution limits to $2000 for citywide and $1000 for borough and City Council because you should not be able to give more to a mayoral campaign than a presidential.
    • Democracy Vouchers - provide residents with vouchers to be used toward campaigns.
  • A Citizen Legislature: Empower Residents to Run for Office
    • Ballot Access Reform – automatically allow residents who qualify for public matching to be on the ballot as an alternative to archaic petition requirements.
    • End the Revolving Door between New York City and State: Life Time Term Limits – elected officials may only complete two terms total per office.
    • In-district Residency Requirement –candidates must reside in the city for at least 5 years and within their district for at least 1 year.
  • Empower the Voice of Residents Over Big Money – Independent expenditures are on the rise and we must limit the influence of big money to amplify the voices of people over corporations.
  • Clean Elections – prohibit private money in candidate campaigns.
  • Act Now – 2021 presents a unique opportunity to enact reform.

Million Dollar Investment in East River Esplanade Overhang Redesign and Renovation by the Brearley School Following Agreement with Council Member Ben Kallos and the City

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Upper East Side, NY –The Brearley School, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and Council Member Ben Kallos have formed a public-private partnership to rebuild and maintain a platform known as “The Pier” that had fallen into severe disrepair with rain leaking through onto John Finley Walk on the East River Esplanade.

The Pier over John Finley WalkAs part of a new lease agreement and in response to concerns raised by Council Member Ben Kallos, the Brearley School and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services have agreed to invest over $1 million to rehabilitate the Pier. CIVITAS, the Council Member and representatives from the Brearley School will host the public for a preview of the plan on Thursday, May 10, 2018 from 6PM to 8PM at the Brearley School. The plan will incorporate colorful new designs, contemporary lighting, green walls, and new planters with seasonal plantings maintained through a partnership with a local conservancy. The new Brearley lease will run for the next 20 years, with two 10-year renewals.

Previously, the City was responsible for the pier infrastructure. As part of the new lease, the School is taking on that responsibility along with the voluntary renovation and beautification that will be carried out as part of the public-private partnership. In addition, Brearley will post contact information for residents to report any issues. Routine maintenance issues reported will be fixed within days or weeks, and updates will be posted regularly in the event of any larger issues.

This new public-private partnership was a result of community meetings and surveys with CIVITAS, and Council Member Kallos and Brearley working with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to address community concerns. A detailed history and the full terms of the agreement are listed below.

“Block by block, we are rebuilding the Esplanade, bringing in new institutional partners so we can for it together as a community moving forward. Renovations to the pier structure should result in fewer complaints about bird droppings and water dripping on passerby below on the East River Esplanade,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to the Brearley School and the Department of Citywide Administrative services for working with our office to address community concerns and giving back to our community.”

Light Pollution Targeted in Earth Day Reintroduction by Kallos to Protect Wildlife, Improve Stargazing, Conserve Energy and Help New Yorkers Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New York, NY – Light pollution can harm wildlife and make it hard to stargaze let alone for New Yorkers to get a good night’s sleep. Under new legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos, street lights would be “fully shielded” to stop them from shining up into the sky or the windows of nearby residents, instead only illuminating the sidewalks and streets intended.
 
“New York City may be the city that ‘never sleeps’, but that shouldn’t be because of a streetlight outside your bedroom window. Fully shielded light fixtures will brighten up the day with fewer sleep-deprived New Yorkers walking around in a bad mood,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Fully shielded light fixtures will reduce light pollution to conserve energy, protect wildlife, improve stargazing, and help New Yorkers get a good night’s sleep.”

Improved Source Separation in Public Places and Zero Waste Reporting Mandated in Legislation Re-introduced by Council Member Kallos

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Improved Source Separation in Public Places and Zero Waste Reporting Mandated   
in Legislation Re-introduced by Council Member Kallos
 
Bill would Increase City’s Waste Diversion and Recycling Rates 

 
New York, NY – In order to support the City’s Zero Waste goal by 2030 and improve the city’s dismal recycling rate, legislation introduced by Council Member Kallos would require source separation to be available in any place of public accommodation with bins for trash, recycling, and compost. Additional legislation would require New York City reach its goal of Zero Waste - diverting all waste from landfills  by 2030, regardless of the next Mayor. Both bills will be introduced on April 25th at the City Council's stated meeting. 
 
“The city has set a goal of Zero Waste by 2030 without an Executive Order or a plan to get there. Now that the city has set a goal, it is time to put into the law. The city should be looking for ways to reduce waste we send to landfills instead of wasting hundreds of millions building marine transfer-to-landfill stations,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents a Marine Transfer Station currently under construction on the border of East Harlem. “Recycling should be a habit. New Yorkers should be able to recycle whether they are home, at work, in a park, or catching a quick bite to eat. Recycling by places that offer public accommodation can and must be better.”

New York City Council Fights Back Against Trump Reinstating Plastic Bottles in National Parks with Bill to Ban them in City Parks & Beaches

Monday, April 23, 2018

New York City Council Fights Back Against Trump Reinstating Plastic Bottles in National Parks with Bill to Ban them in City Parks & Beaches
 
Bottled Water Would Be Replaced by Reusable Bottles in 
City Parks and Concessions Under City Council and Sierra Club Legislation

 
New York, NY – Following President Trump’s repeal of a six-year ban on selling bottled water at national parks that had reduced plastic pollution and waste, just in time for summer, the New York City Council is introducing legislation to block the sale of single-use water bottles or any plastic water bottles in city parks and beaches.
 
The package of legislation targets city government concessions including those operated by Trump such as Wollman and Lasker rinks as well as the Ferry Point golf course.

“Trump may try to destroy the environment at our national parks, but we can force President Trump to do his part to protect our environment right here in New York City,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We can save our planet one bottle at a time. Learning from the example of our National Parks under President Obama, we can bring the same protection to our environment right here in New York City.”
 

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

"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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

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.