New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Statement on Governor Cuomo’s Proposed Campaign Finance and Election Reforms

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

 

Campaign Finance Reform Generally

"1.1 million New Yorkers voted for campaign finance reform in New York City politics and it is time to get big money out of Albany.

"Whether your top issue is education, transit, environment, or public safety, a precondition to winning is a public campaign finance system that forces politicians to work for voters over the interest of big money.

“The ‘Blue Wave’ of newly elected state officials must act now to get big money out before its corrupting influence can take hold as a breakwater.”

Council Member Ben Kallos introduced Int. 1130 in 2016 to reform New York City’s campaign finance system. After Kallos testified at Mayor de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission in favor of campaign reforms, those reforms were adopted as Ballot Question 1. Kallos successfully advocated for Question 1 in the NYCCFB’s Voter Guide, actively participated in the Democracy Yes coalition, and authored opinion editorials in favor of the reforms in City and State and Medium. Kallos then authored Local Law 1 of 2019 extending the new campaign finance reforms of Ballot Question 1 to the special election for public advocate and to special elections that follow.

Mayor de Blasio Backs “Retirement Security for All” to Help New Yorkers Save for Retirement in Package Carried by Council Members Kallos & Miller

Thursday, January 10, 2019

New York, NY – Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to move forward with “Retirement Security for All,” previously announced on February 25, 2016. 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.

New York State Attorney General and then Public Advocate Letitia James authored legislation now re-introduced 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.

Developers Would Provide Construction Workers with Prevailing Wage and Benefits on Government Subsidized Projects under Legislation Proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


New York, NY – Affordable housing and economic development projects receiving city subsidies would be required to pay workers a prevailing wage and provide training in the classroom and on the job through apprenticeship coupled with transparency, under legislation introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos.

Construction-related injuries and deaths continued to rise for the fifth straight year to 744 injuries and 16 deaths in fiscal year 2018, approximately triple the 212 injuries and 6 deaths in fiscal year 2014 according to the Mayor’s Management Report, as reported by City and State. Over the past fiscal year, when incidents further increased by 20%, Local Law 78 of 2017 authored by Council Member Ben Kallos was implemented forcing developers to report of construction-related injuries and fatalities with new minimum fines of $2,500 for failure to report. The Local Law 78 reports have been available on a monthly basis since June 2018 from the DOB.

Revolving Door between New York City Government and Real Estate Industry Would Be Disclosed in Application Process

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Council to Have Increased Oversight of HPD’s Affordable Housing Programs as a Result of Legislation Introduced by Planning, Dispositions and Concessions Chair Kallos.
 

New York, NY – Real Estate developers will be required to disclose contacts within government agencies who have the potential to influence projects currently being considered for city subsidy. Developers will also have to disclose to the City Council their ownership interests and Minority Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) status, as well as their efforts to hire locally, prior to seeking permission to build on city land or obtain millions in city subsidies. Introduction 1323 of 2019, authored by Council Member Ben Kallos, continues his push for transparency in government especially at the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD). This legislation forces HPD to provide the City Council with a copy of its 37-page “Compliance Package” prior to hearings so that the Council has an opportunity to review and look into contacts that may be facilitating deals for developers.

Laws to End School Bus “Nightmares” Pass City Council

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Laws to End School Bus “Nightmares” Pass City Council

GPS Devices to be Installed on All Public School Buses and Routes Shared with Parents Ahead of Time in Two Bills Sponsored by Council Member Kallos
 

New York, NY – Today, the City Council passed legislation aimed at preventing the annual back to school “nightmares.” At the start of every school year, New York City's students are stuck on buses for hours, leaving parents worrying as to where their children are. Council Member Ben Kallos introduced two bills passing the Council today as part of the STOP Act, that would give parents an opportunity prior to the school year beginning to review and challenge routes and require bus companies to test routes with dry runs. The second bill co-prime sponsored by Council Member Chaim Deutsch, requires the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) to install GPS devices on buses so parents know where their children are.

640 New Public School Seats Now Planned and Funded for Upper East Side Following Years of Advocacy by Council Member Ben Kallos

Monday, December 31, 2018

Upper East Side, NY – The Upper East Side will be getting 640 new public school seats thanks to advocacy by Council Member Ben Kallos. The seats are planned as part of an estimated $324.64 million investment to fund a total of 2,794 new public school seats for School District 2, which includes the Upper East Side, along with Tribeca and the Village (912 seats) as well as Chelsea and Midtown West (1,242 seats). The seats are outlined in the School Construction Authority and Department of Education’s proposed fiscal years 2020 – 2024 five-year capital plan. Since taking office in January of 2014, Council Member Ben Kallos has been a zealous advocate for new school seats for the Upper East Side.

Over 1,400 new public school prekindergarten through eighth-grade seats have been planned, funded or built on the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island and Midtown East since 2014, with this announcement, following direct advocacy by Council Member Kallos.

Council Member Kallos has expressed his concerns to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Department of Education, and in particular to the School Construction Authority (SCA) at hearings dating back to 2015. Kallos has consistently questioned the administration about the Upper East Side’s need for more school seats in at least half a dozen separate hearings including: May 28, 2015, March 16, 2016, May 16, 2016, March 8, 2017, March 21, 2017, March 26, 2018, April 18, 2018, and May 22, 2018. This summer, Kallos brought to the attention to the SCA that his district was at 102% elementary utilization and that with new construction, new seats were necessary to help prevent any further overcrowding.

640 New Public School Seats Now Planned and Funded for Upper East Side Following Years of Advocacy by Council Member Ben Kallos

Monday, December 31, 2018

Upper East Side, NY – The Upper East Side will be getting 640 new public school seats thanks to advocacy by Council Member Ben Kallos. The seats are planned as part of an estimated $324.64 million investment to fund a total of 2,794 new public school seats for School District 2, which includes the Upper East Side, along with Tribeca and the Village (912 seats) as well as Chelsea and Midtown West (1,242 seats). The seats are outlined in the School Construction Authority and Department of Education’s proposed fiscal years 2020 – 2024 five-year capital plan. Since taking office in January of 2014, Council Member Ben Kallos has been a zealous advocate for new school seats for the Upper East Side.

Over 1,400 new public school prekindergarten through eighth-grade seats have been planned, funded or built on the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island and Midtown East since 2014, with this announcement, following direct advocacy by Council Member Kallos.

Council Member Kallos has expressed his concerns to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Department of Education, and in particular to the School Construction Authority (SCA) at hearings dating back to 2015. Kallos has consistently questioned the administration about the Upper East Side’s need for more school seats in at least half a dozen separate hearings including: May 28, 2015, March 16, 2016, May 16, 2016, March 8, 2017, March 21, 2017, March 26, 2018, April 18, 2018, and May 22, 2018. This summer, Kallos brought to the attention to the SCA that his district was at 102% elementary utilization and that with new construction, new seats were necessary to help prevent any further overcrowding.

Letter to Gov. Cuomo on Second Avenue Subway Extension Phase 2

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of New York State

New York State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,

Phase Il of the Second Avenue Subway ("SAS") is critical to the development and future health of my community. We are writing to ask that you lead a tour of the Phase Il extension with myself, other local elected officials, and community stakeholders in East Harlem to update us on your goals and immediate objectives of this critical project. Your leadership during Phase I of the SAS project was instrumental in its completion. It is even more important now given the opening of Phase I that we harness the momentum so that we can complete this equally important Phase Il.

Community organizations, local advocates, elected officials from all levels of government, and the residents of East Harlem strongly back the SAS Phase Il extension — which as you know — would bring the Q train from the existing 96th Street stop to 125 th Street. This has been long promised to residents of East Harlem, many of whom live in transit deserts that continue to deny its residents and my constituents access to job opportunities and educational advancement that stymies economic activity and commerce; and prevents reasonable access to hospitals and medical care, particularly for seniors. The completion of the Phase Il extension of the Second Avenue Subway will be invaluable to the constituents we both serve and demonstrate that it is more than just wealthy Upper East Siders who will benefit from these large-scale Metropolitan Transportation Authority projects. For my community, this extension will connect strap-hangers to bus services connecting to LaGuardia Airport and Metro North line that connects New York City to several counties outside of the Five Boroughs

Council Member Ben Kallos Cuts Ceremonial Ribbon at 92nd Street Y as $2.3 Million in Security Upgrades and Facades are Underway

Friday, December 21, 2018

 “I am proud to represent such a wonderful organization, a true pillar of the community,” said Council Member Kallos. “I am delighted that I could be helpful in providing City Council funding for these vital upgrades to the building and for a range of 92Y arts education programs in District 5 schools and senior centers.”

Legislation Expanding New Campaign Finance Laws to Upcoming Special Elections, Including the Public Advocate's Race, Passed by Council

Thursday, December 20, 2018

“Over a million voters demanded fewer big dollars in New York City elections,” said Council Member Ben Kallos who has not solicited and actually refused big dollars from New York City real estate developers. “We must start with the next Public Advocate, who could be the first city-wide candidate without the influence of big dollars from real estate developers elected instead on small dollars.”

Pending Further Order of the Court, No Construction at 428-432 East 58th St. Will Be Permitted Above 80 Feet Until At Least February 26, 2019

Thursday, December 20, 2018

“Developers can’t keep getting away with breaking the law. Public safety was endangered by after-hours variances and street closure permits that were issued under false pretenses and then not even complied with by the developer. We are in court to finally stop developers from perverting the law to harm communities when those laws were originally intended to protect residents,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Pro Bono Co-Counsel for ERFA and a petitioner. “Thank you Michael Hiller for a strong argument for applying the law as written. Judge Debra A. James is a credit to our judiciary with her ability to handle diverse cases, digging into a complex subject matter, and asking tough questions that really got to the heart of the matter.”

Pending Further Order of the Court, No Construction at 428-432 East 58th St. Will Be Permitted Above 80 Feet Until At Least February 26, 2019

Thursday, December 20, 2018

“Developers can’t keep getting away with breaking the law. Public safety was endangered by after-hours variances and street closure permits that were issued under false pretenses and then not even complied with by the developer. We are in court to finally stop developers from perverting the law to harm communities when those laws were originally intended to protect residents,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Pro Bono Co-Counsel for ERFA and a petitioner. “Thank you Michael Hiller for a strong argument for applying the law as written. Judge Debra A. James is a credit to our judiciary with her ability to handle diverse cases, digging into a complex subject matter, and asking tough questions that really got to the heart of the matter.”

Maloney, Fire Unions, Local Officials and Community Leaders Call for Reinstatement of LIC’s Engine Company 261

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Over the last 5 to 7 years Long Island City and the communities around it have seen very rapid growth in population and an explosion in construction. New York City must respond to this reality and reinstate Engine Company 261 as soon as possible,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. "The safety of New Yorkers in Queens should not fall victim to an old cost-cutting measure we all knew was a bad idea when it was implemented. I fully support the men and women of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association demanding that Engine Company 261 is reinstated. Common sense and our City’s obligation to put safety first must prevail here. Thank you to Congress Member Maloney for calling attention to this issue and working to get it solved.”    

STATEMENT: Council Member Kallos Praises Ethics Reforms in State Legislative Pay Commission Decision

Friday, December 7, 2018
 
Thank you to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former State Comptroller Carl McCall, and former City Comptroller William Thompson for unanimously using legislative pay raises to bring long overdue ethics reforms to the state legislature.
 
The commission did the right thing and now the legislature must accept their decision by giving up stipends known as “lulus” used by legislative leaders as rewards and punishments and limiting outside income to 15% or $19,500 with an outright ban on legal practice.
I am humbled that the New York Times once again praised the City Council for reforms I authored that were passed by our body as a model.

I join the New York Daily News in calling for the Assembly and Senate to adopt additional rules reforms. I supported Council Members Jumaane Williams, Brad Lander, and David Greenfield as a Council Member-elect and eventually co-sponsored rules reforms in 2014 to giving all members equal staff budgets, equal discretionary funding modified transparent for poverty levels, empower chairs to call hearings and direct committee staff, and to force hearings on legislation with the support of a supermajority of the City Council. 

The ethics and rules reforms we won have led to a more democratic legislature that has empowered the people of this great city to win the reforms they need.
 

Extending Newly Adopted Campaign Finance Reforms to Special Elections Including Public Advocate Proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos

Friday, December 7, 2018

Extending Newly Adopted Campaign Finance Reforms to Special Elections Including Public Advocate Proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos

Public Funds Eligibility Thresholds Halved for Citywide Special Elections

New York, NY - As the special election for Public Advocate in New York City draws near to be called in January, with a cascade of special, primary and general elections to follow, Council Member Kallos has authored legislation applying the new campaign finance reforms overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters who voted on ballot question 1 on November 6 to the special election now and municipal elections that follow through 2021. In addition, the legislation would also lower the threshold for citywide candidates to qualify for public matching funds. The legislation has been introduced pre-considered T2018-3404 and already scheduled for a hearing in the Committee on Governmental Operations at 10AM on December 12, 2018.

“Over a million voters demanded fewer big dollars in New York City elections,” said Council Member Ben Kallos who has not solicited and actually refused big dollars from New York City real estate developers. “We must start with the next Public Advocate, who could be the first city-wide candidate without the influence of big dollars from real estate developers elected instead on small dollars.”

The legislation would extend the first ballot question on campaign finance reform from applying only in 2021 to providing that same option for special elections and the elections that follow (which already halve existing limits) in the interim:

  • Lowered contribution limits from $2,550 citywide to $1,000, $1,975 for borough president to $750, and from $1,425 for city council to $500.
  • Increased public matching of every small dollar of $175 and under with 6 public tax dollars to 8 public dollars and small dollars of $250 and under for citywide with 8 public dollars.
  • Increased public grant from 55% to 75% of the spending limit.

Unlike, question 1, lowered contribution limits and increased matching would be retroactively applied to candidates that select this option.

In addition to applying ballot question 1 to the special election the legislation goes further by lowering the minimum funds raised threshold to qualify for a public grant by half, just as other limits are halved. The threshold for Mayor is halved from $250,000 to $125,000 and for Public Advocate and Comptroller from $125,000 to $62,500. Only the first $250 of an individual New York City resident’s contribution is applied toward meeting dollar amount threshold. Participating candidates would still need to collect the same number of contributions of 1,000 for Mayor and 500 for Public Advocate and Comptroller.

Kallos Expands Upper East Side and East Harlem Clean-Up with 4 Day a Week Cleaning of Sidewalks, Bike Islands, Gutters, Drains and Tree Pits

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

 

New York, NY – Sidewalks and streets on the Upper East Side are about to get cleaner with the attention of a dedicated Wildcat Service crew after $85,000 in funding from the NYC Cleanup Initiative allocated by Council Member Ben Kallos. A three-person crew will focus its efforts on four-day a week sweeping of sidewalks and bike islands, cleaning gutters and drains of blockages, and removing liter from tree pits. The new initiative funding follows ongoing investment by Kallos and a commitment to cleaning up the Upper East Side that has included securing twice a day basket pickup and buying a 322 new large covered trash cans for every corner in the district, limiting overfill and spillover that became litter.

Council Member Kallos is partnering with neighborhood associations and Wildcat Services to pilot routes focusing on major cross streets:

  • 57th and 72nd between York and Second Avenues, and
  • 79th, 86th, and 96th between East End and Lexington Avenues.

     

     

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety for East Siders Continues Downward Trend for Fourth Year in a Row

Friday, November 30, 2018

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety for East Siders

Continues Downward Trend for Fourth Year in a Row

Network of Safe Streets with Bike Lanes and Pedestrian Features Expands

New “Bike Safety Officer” to Patrol Upper East Side Bike Lanes

New York, NY — Following an expansion of the Upper East Side’s safe streets network, coupled with an increase in education, safety equipment, and enforcement, bike safety from 30th to 97th streets on Manhattan’s East Side continues to improve as a result of a program led by Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers. Since the program’s launch by Council Member Kallos in 2014 there has been a trend toward fewer injuries for pedestrians, cyclists and motorist injured in collisions. The trend also shows fewer collisions involving cyclists.

This year, the program included a new bike safety officer and the expansion of protected bike lanes.

In October of this year, the 19th Precinct lead by Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Kathleen Walsh and Executive Officer Captain William Gallagher established a “Bike Safety Officer” assigning Officer Tuohey to patrol Upper East Side bike lanes and street, ensuring safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Infrastructure improvements include:

  • Improving the bike lane on Second Avenue between 68th and 59th streets from shared to partially parking protected planned for 2019.
  • Providing a pedestrian and bike crossing for the 59th Street Queensboro Bridge planned for 2019.
  • Doubling bike lanes from just First Avenue and the 90th & 91st Street pair to include Second Avenue, 70th & 71st Street and 77th & 78th Streets in 2017.
  • Leading pedestrian intervals along York Avenue to give pedestrians a chance to cross before vehicles get the green light in 2016.
  • “Safety neckdowns” have extended the curb and islands have been added at dangerous intersections throughout the Upper East Side, so pedestrians have less distance to cross.

“Our first priority is to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe from cars, and we’ve made great strides doing so on the Upper East Side,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Particularly older residents are also afraid of getting hurt in a collision with bikes that disobey the rules. Whether it is ‘near misses’ from a failure to yield to pedestrians, or reports of cyclists who run red lights, go the wrong way, or ride on sidewalks, everyone must know the rules of the road in order to share it safely. Thank you to the NYPD, Department of Transportation, Bike New York, Citi Bike, and Transportation Alternatives for their partnership in making our streets safer.”  

STATEMENT: CM Kallos on New York Times Editorial Board Endorsing City Council Rules for Potential Albany Pay Raises​

Monday, November 26, 2018

In 2016, I authored and successfully worked to pass legislation making the City Council a full-time job.  We banned stipends referred to as “lulus” and got rid of outside income that exposed Council Members to corruption, or at the very least, its appearance.

Now the New York Times Editorial Board has praised what the Council did and recommended that the New York State Legislature follow suit and “act as responsibly” as the Council did in 2016 when we adopted these measures.

In the coming weeks as Albany and the pay committee discuss the possibility of raising wages for state lawmakers for the first time in 20 years, let us remember that compensation goes hand in hand with trust. The public would be better served if any pay raises that may come were tied to banning outside income and lulus for state lawmakers.
 

STATEMENT: Children with Special Needs Stranded on School Bus After Midnight

Friday, November 16, 2018

I am deeply grateful for intervention by Mayor de Blasio’s office who dispatched emergency services and finally reunited children with their parents.

We should not need emergency services to rescue our children from school buses. Parents should not spend hours panicking without knowing where their children are. We should not have to scramble to find out where a school bus is, at the mercy of whether a driver gives parents their personal mobile phone number. We must pass Int. 1099 of 2018 to require GPS on every school bus, so parents know where their kids are.

STATEMENT: Ballot Proposals Win

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“New Yorkers just voted big money out of politics. After a decade’s long fight for campaign finance reform, I am glad the voters took matters into their own hands and got big money out."
 
“Starting today candidates for public office in New York City can run on small dollars. The voters have spoken and I hope every candidate in 2021 hears their message, refuse big money from real estate and take more small dollars instead. Voters will finally have a choice come election day with viable candidates running on small dollars."
 
"Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio for calling a Charter Revision Commission that empowered New Yorkers to vote through reforms that we couldn’t get done through the political process. Thank you to the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission for a six months long process with hearings in every borough, online and even by phone with a result that reflects they truly listened to the voices of our city."