New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

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."

Council Member Ben Kallos Statement on Long Lines for Election Day (Midterms 2018)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"High turnout may be the new normal, with lines today that rivaled 2008, and it is time for the Board of Elections to make voting easy.

We can start by splitting massive poll sites with more than a dozen election districts. For buildings with more than one hundred units, the Board of Elections should expand its offering of a poll site in your building. As someone who has voted in my own building's lobby, nothing is more convenient or engages more voters. Let's bring this citywide.

With today's election results I hope we can finally implement key election reforms to get rid of lines and make voting easy:

-Automatic and same-day registration,

-Vote by mail with no-fault absentee voting, and

-Early voting.

Just to name a few.

We need to overhaul the Board of Elections so broken by patronage that it can't even run an election with new laws to take the party bosses out of control and hand it over to the voters."

Council Member Ben Kallos Statement on Mass Shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

Saturday, October 27, 2018

America is stronger together; no amount of hatred and violence will ever change that. As someone who could've just easily been at synagogue with his daughter this Shabbos, today my prayers are with the victims and families of those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. During times like these, we must stand together even closer against any form of bigotry and demand swift justice of anyone responsible for such a heinous act.

Mass shootings in our country’s schools, and now houses of worship must not be allowed to become the norm. It appears today’s tragic event was an act of home-grown terror and is the result of what happens when hate, racism, and anti-Semitism are not rooted out immediately but are left unchecked to thrive. Thank you to the first responders in Pittsburgh for their brave actions which I am sure saved many lives. New York City and the Upper East Side stand with Pittsburgh and pray for healing.

Construction Begins on The New York Public Library’s New Roosevelt Island Branch

Friday, October 12, 2018

October 12, 2018) New York Public Library (NYPL) President Tony Marx and NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Lorraine Grillo today announced that construction has begun on a new, much larger Roosevelt Island branch. NYPL and DDC joined island residents and local elected officials to break ground on the $7.8 million project – funded by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Ben Kallos and former City Council Member Jessica Lappin – which will more than double library space on Roosevelt Island. The project, being managed by DDC for the Library, is projected to be completed in late 2019.

The project will convert the first floor of a former school at 504 Main Street into a new, energy efficient 5,200-square-foot New York Public Library branch, replacing the smaller existing branch down the street at 524 Main Street. The new space will provide new accommodations for the community, unavailable in the current one-room library. A separate multi-use community room will serve the public for various events and activities, and will include an audio induction loop to help the hearing impaired. A children’s room will also be provided, with glass doors and a glass partition to maintain a sense of openness inside the new facility.

CB 8 Meetings to be Live Streamed after Allocation by CM Kallos and Powers

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New York, NY -Today, live-streaming of Community Board 8 in Manhattan began again. This program is funded by Council Members Ben Kallos (District 5) and Keith Powers (District 4) and the service is provided by WNET.

Council Member Kallos has funded the live-streaming of 6 Community Board 8 meetings through a budget allocation of $20,000. Council Member Powers will split his $20,000 allocation between multiple boards in his district, funding 3 Community Board 8 meetings for this fiscal year.

Community Board live-streaming is a program of WNET. WNET has streamed, curated and archived 86 community board meetings using the latest digital technology since the program began two years ago. This program is supported by grants from individual Council Members across the City.

$336,000 in Security Cameras Roll Out to Cover Hard-to-Patrol Parks, Transit Hubs and Quality of Life Hot Spots on the Upper East Side

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

$336,000 in Security Cameras Roll Out to Cover Hard-to-Patrol Parks, Transit Hubs and Quality of Life Hot Spots on the Upper East Side

Public/Private Delivers Security Cameras Through Partnership Between 
Council Member Ben Kallos, Rockefeller University and Hospital for Special Surgery

WATCH THE VIDEO 
 

New York, NY – The Upper East Side already known as a safe place to raise a family, is about to get safer with $336,000 in security cameras for hard-to- patrol parks, transit hubs and quality of life hotspots funded by Council Member Ben Kallos following positive vote by hundreds of residents in Participatory Budgeting. The security cameras were placed in consultation with community organizations and local commanding officers to provide a live feed to the NYPD and its local precincts.

Security cameras will target hard-to-patrol parks including Andrew Haswell Green and the East River Esplanade in a public/private partnership with Rockefeller University and Hospital for Special Surgery, the 86th Street subway hub for the Q and 4/5/6 subways as well as 75th Street and First Avenue, a hotspot for quality of life violations. The new access makes it possible for the Police Department to monitor the isolated areas in real-time, 24 hours a day.
 
Location of new NYPD security cameras:
Hard-to-Patrol Parks - $160,000

  • 64th Street and FDR Drive to cover pedestrian bridge and Andrew Haswell Green - $35,000
  • FDR Drive at 65th Street and 68th Street to cover East River Esplanade - $90,000
  • 70th Street to cover the East River Esplanade - $35,000

Transit Hub - $141,000

  • 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue to cover Q subway station
  • 86th Street at 2nd Avenue to cover Q subway station
  • 86th Street at 3rd Avenue to cover 4/5/6 and Q subway stations
  • 86th Street and Lexington Avenue to cover 4/5/6 station

Quality of Life Hotspots - $35,000

Council Members Treyger, Deutsch and Kallos Stand with Advocates and Families Calling on the OPT to Install GPS Trackers on School Buses and to Report Bus Routes to Families 30 Days Prior to First Day of School.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Council Members Treyger, Deutsch and Kallos Stand with Advocates and Families Calling on the OPT to Install GPS Trackers on School Buses and to Report Bus Routes to Families 30 Days Prior to First Day of School.
 
Int. 1099-2018 Provides Parents, Schools with Location Monitoring for School Buses

Int. 2018-3003 Requires OPT Share bus routes, how routes are determined, and any process for public to improve the routes.

 
New York, NY – Legislation being heard today in the City Council’s Education Committee requires GPS devices to be installed on all school buses contracted with the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT). It would also require OPT to provide real-time GPS location data to authorized individuals, such as parents and school administrators, and eliminate the problem of bus drivers and escorts fielding frantic and angry calls from parents and schools when they are supposed to be focused on doing their jobs safely.

Prior to the hearing, lead bill sponsor Council Member Ben Kallos Education Chair Mark Treyger and Council Member Chaim Deutcsh who worked on an earlier version of the bill as a staffer for Council Member Michael Nelson in 2000 were joined by dozens of parents and activists to call for reform at OPT.

 The new bills come as a result of years of complaints by schools, parents, and advocates about the many systemic issues plaguing OPT, including missing buses, chronic delays in bus arrivals and pick-ups, poor routing, failure to abide by medical codes for disabled students, a lack of specific training for drivers and escorts working with disabled children, and unsanctioned routing changes.

In recent years the back to school period in New York City has been made more stressful by school buses taking hours to drive students to and from public schools. In an effort to stop this annual problem before it repeats next year, new legislation also heard in today’s hearing will make bus routes available to parents at least 30 days before school starts with enough time to prevent a miserable commute for their children. The legislation will also force OPT to perform trial runs for the routes chosen, report annually on how yellow bus routes are determined, report the number of buses and staff needed to meet those goals and recommendations.


"No parent should wonder where their child is or when their child is finally getting home from a school bus ride gone off track. Parents would rest assured knowing when and where their school bus is to pick up or drop off their child using an app on their phone," said Council Member Ben Kallos a new parent. "After trying to work with the Office of Pupil Transportation for years I am disappointed that despite every promise parents still don't know where a school bus is with their child. Thank you to Education Chair Mark Treyger for his leadership, Council Member Chaim Deutsch who has spent 18 years working on this issue starting under then Council Member Michael Nelson."

2019 Charter Revision Commission Testimony

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Download the Full Testimony (PDF)

September 27, 2018, Updated October 10, 2018

Our City’s Charter is in desperate need of an upgrade for the next generation.

The last telegram was sent in 2006, so I don’t think the Charter should require telegraph to be maintained by NYPD Commissioner. The minimum wage is about to be $15 an hour, and I don’t think the mayor’s fourth enumerated power should be to pay election workers $20 a day.

We are presented with an opportunity to examine the balance of powers, the infrastructure of our government, and ultimately who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the 8.7 million people who call this city home. Since August, I have carried a copy of the Charter around with me, highlighting interesting sections, and soliciting input. I must admit that I haven’t made it all the way through to Section 3103 of the Charter. My testimony represents a best effort through a cursory review identifying challenges with proposed solutions as a starting point.

I joined hundreds of New Yorkers in participating in the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission by testifying over several months in favor of items now on the ballot, including term limits and urban planners for community boards and a slate of Campaign Finance reforms to reduce large contributions and match more small dollars with more public dollars to finally get big money out of New York City politics.

First and foremost, I would ask that if these measures pass, this Commission not weaken them in any way and in fact strengthen them by adding a requirement that any part of the Charter adopted through a vote of the people only be subject to change by those same people at another vote.

Along those lines, certain reforms must be protected from future change by any means short of a vote of the people. These include ethics reforms instating a lifetime ban on lobbying and lifetime term limits for elected officials and enshrining in the Charter reforms that were made by the city council to make the job of council member full time, eliminate “lulus” for equal compensation and standardize budget allocations for each council member.

In the face of an attack on our rights from the federal government, New York City is in need of its own Bill of Rights guaranteeing residents a right to a free higher education and child care, affordable health and mental health care, access to parks, libraries, and public transit, affordable internet, freedom from hunger, clean air and water, just to name a few.

This Commission can create a pathway for all the residents with great ideas for laws at these hearings and in the future to submit bills to the city council for a guaranteed hearing and vote.

Ultimately the 1989 Charter Revision Commission gave many of the powers from the Board of Estimate to the mayor and boards appointed by the mayor. Regardless of the mayor, other elected officials and communities have often been without power to stop a wrong. My recommendations hope to democratize many of the city’s most powerful boards with appointments from the borough presidents and the council to achieve fair housing and affordable housing goals. Borough presidents and community boards must be empowered to veto bad rezonings, the city council empowered with a final vote on franchises that have left residents without reliable cable or Internet, and both empowered to initiate land use changes in their own right.

I would highlight for this commission three main themes:

  1. Land Use: Empower communities in land use by changing the makeup of decision-making boards to have fewer mayoral appointments and include representation from the city council.
  2. Budget: Create a budget that anyone can review with budgeted amounts, actual spending, and a plan for the future, and create the lockbox we need to protect congestion pricing from unscrupulous politicians.
  3. Protect the Will of the People to Enshrine Campaign Finance and Ethics Reforms in the Charter: Reforms that are essential to the functioning of our democracy, established through previous referenda, local law, and city council rules, should be enshrined in the City Charter.

Download the Full Testimony (PDF)

Summary of Recommendations to the

2019 Charter Revision Commission

Create New Rights for New Yorkers

  1. Create a New York City Bill of Rights to recognize certain inalienable rights and guide and restrain our government as it makes decisions moving forward.

Support Mayoral Charter Commission Proposals

  1. Empower small donors and get big money out of politics by eliminating the cap on publicly matched campaign funds.
  2. Increase the matching funds ratio from 6:1 to 8:1, consider expanding to 10:1.
  3. Lower the contribution limits to $2,000 for citywide, $1,500 for borough and $1,000 for city council.
  4. Establish term limits for community boards of four terms of two years and consider term limits for leadership and lifetime term limits.
  5. Provide urban planners and other technical resources for every community board.

Protect and Improve the Charter

  1. Require amendment of anything original established in the Charter by a vote of the people to be amended or removed only by another vote of the people.
  2. Require public engagement in government policymaking, including by creating a process through which residents can propose legislation to be heard and voted on by the city council and then signed or vetoed by the mayor.
  3. Review the Charter to identify powers that are being ignored, and propose a system of checks and balances that allows for different parts of our government to act when those with the primary responsibility fail to do so.
  4. Remove outdated references from the Charter like a duty to maintain telegraph.
  5. Remove references to specific wages in the Charter that are now illegal poverty wages.

Improve Democracy

  1. Stop matching big dollars (over $175 for city council and borough president or $250 citywide) with public dollars.
  2. Provide Democracy Vouchers so that everyone can participate in the political system.
  3. Eliminate “war chests” that allow candidates to raise vast amounts of money over multiple election cycles.
  4. Kill all the zombie committees by terminating all campaign committees after each election.
  5. Run student voter registration drives in the classroom with mock voting and civic engagement as part of every child’s education to teach a new generation of New Yorkers to take back their government.
  6. Implement all changes now in time for 2021.
  7. Eliminate draconian petition requirements in favor of ballot access triggered by qualification for public dollars.
  8. Implement automatic voter registration.
  9. Separate Voter Assistance and Campaign Finance so the administration of the public matching funds system is done impartially and separated from legislative advocacy, voter registration, and voter engagement.
  10. Remove post-census half term because having an election in 2021 for a two-year term is wasteful and can be avoided with new technology.
  11. Establish lifetime term limits for elected officials.

Ethics Reforms to End Patronage and Corruption

  1. Limit the number of provisional employees allowed to replace civil servants.
  2. Publicly post all jobs for at least 14 days prior to conducting interviews.
  3. Instate lifetime ban on lobbying for elected officials and agency heads.
  4. Eliminate salaries of elected officials from Charter and tie them to the Consumer Price Index.
  5. Protect elected officials and independent agencies from retaliation with protections for their office’s budget and from termination other than for cause.

Permanently Reform City Council

  1. Permanently make the city council a full time job and prohibit all outside income.
  2. Permanently equalize compensation for all council members by banning “lulus.”
  3. Expand prohibition against serving political party leadership to council members.
  4. Budgets for council members must remain equal, with transparent formula to account for difference in geographical and land cost challenges.
  5. Permanently standardize formula for council members’ discretionary budgets for their districts.
  6. Limit Speaker’s discretionary budget to 50% of the allocation of all 50 other members of the city council in order to ensure fairness and an equitable distribution of funds.
  7. Provide full 7 days public notice online of upcoming votes.
  8. Legislation should include problem, solutions, evaluation, metrics, and sunset.
  9.  Eliminate excessive reports, studies and taskforce laws by empowering city council to request information or adopt rules and regulations.
  10. Mandate inclusion of experts from academia and private sector in the adoption of laws and regulations of government.

Empower Residents through the City Council and Borough Presidents

  1. Adopt the New York City Council Report to the New York City Charter Revision Commission of 2010.
  2. Expand city council’s power of advice and consent to all agency heads.
  3. Allow city council to remove agency heads for cause and borough boards to begin a process against borough commissioners for cause.
  4. Establish a right of visitation at all city facilities for all elected officials upon notice or reasonable cause.
  5. Empower borough presidents to oversee capital projects.
  6. Give binding power of approval or disapproval on all land use decisions where a community board, borough board, and borough president all vote in favor or in opposition.
  7. Provide environmental studies for any community board, council member or borough president initiated zoning text amendment or rezoning.
  8. End automatic reappointment and open community boards with standardized applications.
  9. Automatic removal of community board members for non-attendance.
  10. Prohibit political party officials or lobbyists from serving on community boards.
  11. Mandatory training for all community board members on conflicts of interest, city budget, and land use, including landmarks, Board of Standards and Appeals, and ULURP.

Empower Communities in Land Use Decisions

  1. Weaken mayoral control of land use boards and commissions by empowering borough presidents and city council.
  2. Allow for meaningful public review with community notice and public hearings at initiation of land use applications with city agencies.
  3. Protect potential landmarks from eternal limbo with 6 months to respond and another 6 months to vote on calendaring proposed landmarks with codification of protections for items under consideration.
  4. Redefine “Major Concessions” to cover more city land that is being privatized.
  5. Require wage and job standards following a city land use action.
  6. Limit land use approvals by requiring groundbreaking within 3 years and project completion within a total of 5 years or lapse back for renewal, a new developer, or a new purpose.
  7. Make 197-a plans binding and require the Department of City Planning and applicable city agencies to include them in any subsequent land use decisions.
  8. Protect any land used as a park from real estate development.
  9. Enforce fair share provisions of the Charter.
  10. Achieve fair housing and affordable housing goals in every district.
  11. Protect residents in rent regulated housing from displacement by new affordable housing development.

Bridge the Digital Divide with Universal Broadband and Improved Cable and Phone

  1. Require franchise agreements to guarantee universal access to every New Yorker of every income without censorship.
  2. Empower residents in franchise process by giving votes to public advocate, borough presidents, and city council.
  3. Empower city council to participate in the selection of a franchise and to vote on final franchise agreements.
 

Save Money with Better Contracts

  1. Any benefit legislated by government for the private sector must also automatically apply to public sector city employees as a minimum benefit.
  2. Stop overpaying by adding borough president and city council appointments to procurement board and, when bids are more expensive, allow purchasing from retail market.
  3. Create enforcement mechanism for Charter requirement to compare cost to in-sourcing any time out-sourcing is considered.
  4. Notify affected borough presidents, community boards, and council members when the contracting process begins so that all may have a voice in key elements of requests for proposals, and encourage local residents to respond or to play a role in evaluations of any received proposal.

Empower Residents in the Budget Process

  1. Require that the City make the budget and spending available in real time so residents have accounting software for government to track every penny.
  2. Make hiding money “off budget” illegal.
  3. Require scoping of capital projects prior to allocations to prevent massive overruns and delays.
  4. Track fiscal impact of public policy during and after implementation.
  5. Focus on the Mayor’s Management by requiring a hearing on the Mayor’s Management Report following the current requirement for hearings on the Mayor’s Preliminary Management Report.
  6. Create a budget lockbox for public transit.

Download the Full Testimony (PDF)

Charter Revision Commission Testimony (Updated)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Download the Full Testimony (PDF)

September 27, 2018, Updated October 10, 2018

Our City’s Charter is in desperate need of an upgrade for the next generation.

The last telegram was sent in 2006, so I don’t think the Charter should require telegraph to be maintained by NYPD Commissioner. The minimum wage is about to be $15 an hour, and I don’t think the mayor’s fourth enumerated power should be to pay election workers $20 a day.

We are presented with an opportunity to examine the balance of powers, the infrastructure of our government, and ultimately who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the 8.7 million people who call this city home. Since August, I have carried a copy of the Charter around with me, highlighting interesting sections, and soliciting input. I must admit that I haven’t made it all the way through to Section 3103 of the Charter. My testimony represents a best effort through a cursory review identifying challenges with proposed solutions as a starting point.

I joined hundreds of New Yorkers in participating in the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission by testifying over several months in favor of items now on the ballot, including term limits and urban planners for community boards and a slate of Campaign Finance reforms to reduce large contributions and match more small dollars with more public dollars to finally get big money out of New York City politics.

First and foremost, I would ask that if these measures pass, this Commission not weaken them in any way and in fact strengthen them by adding a requirement that any part of the Charter adopted through a vote of the people only be subject to change by those same people at another vote.

Along those lines, certain reforms must be protected from future change by any means short of a vote of the people. These include ethics reforms instating a lifetime ban on lobbying and lifetime term limits for elected officials and enshrining in the Charter reforms that were made by the city council to make the job of council member full time, eliminate “lulus” for equal compensation and standardize budget allocations for each council member.

In the face of an attack on our rights from the federal government, New York City is in need of its own Bill of Rights guaranteeing residents a right to a free higher education and child care, affordable health and mental health care, access to parks, libraries, and public transit, affordable internet, freedom from hunger, clean air and water, just to name a few.

This Commission can create a pathway for all the residents with great ideas for laws at these hearings and in the future to submit bills to the city council for a guaranteed hearing and vote.

Ultimately the 1989 Charter Revision Commission gave many of the powers from the Board of Estimate to the mayor and boards appointed by the mayor. Regardless of the mayor, other elected officials and communities have often been without power to stop a wrong. My recommendations hope to democratize many of the city’s most powerful boards with appointments from the borough presidents and the council to achieve fair housing and affordable housing goals. Borough presidents and community boards must be empowered to veto bad rezonings, the city council empowered with a final vote on franchises that have left residents without reliable cable or Internet, and both empowered to initiate land use changes in their own right.

I would highlight for this commission three main themes:

  1. Land Use: Empower communities in land use by changing the makeup of decision-making boards to have fewer mayoral appointments and include representation from the city council.
  2. Budget: Create a budget that anyone can review with budgeted amounts, actual spending, and a plan for the future, and create the lockbox we need to protect congestion pricing from unscrupulous politicians.
  3. Protect the Will of the People to Enshrine Campaign Finance and Ethics Reforms in the Charter: Reforms that are essential to the functioning of our democracy, established through previous referenda, local law, and city council rules, should be enshrined in the City Charter.

Download the Full Testimony (PDF)

Summary of Recommendations to the

2019 Charter Revision Commission

Create New Rights for New Yorkers

  1. Create a New York City Bill of Rights to recognize certain inalienable rights and guide and restrain our government as it makes decisions moving forward.

Support Mayoral Charter Commission Proposals

  1. Empower small donors and get big money out of politics by eliminating the cap on publicly matched campaign funds.
  2. Increase the matching funds ratio from 6:1 to 8:1, consider expanding to 10:1.
  3. Lower the contribution limits to $2,000 for citywide, $1,500 for borough and $1,000 for city council.
  4. Establish term limits for community boards of four terms of two years and consider term limits for leadership and lifetime term limits.
  5. Provide urban planners and other technical resources for every community board.

Protect and Improve the Charter

  1. Require amendment of anything original established in the Charter by a vote of the people to be amended or removed only by another vote of the people.
  2. Require public engagement in government policymaking, including by creating a process through which residents can propose legislation to be heard and voted on by the city council and then signed or vetoed by the mayor.
  3. Review the Charter to identify powers that are being ignored, and propose a system of checks and balances that allows for different parts of our government to act when those with the primary responsibility fail to do so.
  4. Remove outdated references from the Charter like a duty to maintain telegraph.
  5. Remove references to specific wages in the Charter that are now illegal poverty wages.

Improve Democracy

  1. Stop matching big dollars (over $175 for city council and borough president or $250 citywide) with public dollars.
  2. Provide Democracy Vouchers so that everyone can participate in the political system.
  3. Eliminate “war chests” that allow candidates to raise vast amounts of money over multiple election cycles.
  4. Kill all the zombie committees by terminating all campaign committees after each election.
  5. Run student voter registration drives in the classroom with mock voting and civic engagement as part of every child’s education to teach a new generation of New Yorkers to take back their government.
  6. Implement all changes now in time for 2021.
  7. Eliminate draconian petition requirements in favor of ballot access triggered by qualification for public dollars.
  8. Implement automatic voter registration.
  9. Separate Voter Assistance and Campaign Finance so the administration of the public matching funds system is done impartially and separated from legislative advocacy, voter registration, and voter engagement.
  10. Remove post-census half term because having an election in 2021 for a two-year term is wasteful and can be avoided with new technology.
  11. Establish lifetime term limits for elected officials.

Ethics Reforms to End Patronage and Corruption

  1. Limit the number of provisional employees allowed to replace civil servants.
  2. Publicly post all jobs for at least 14 days prior to conducting interviews.
  3. Instate lifetime ban on lobbying for elected officials and agency heads.
  4. Eliminate salaries of elected officials from Charter and tie them to the Consumer Price Index.
  5. Protect elected officials and independent agencies from retaliation with protections for their office’s budget and from termination other than for cause.

Permanently Reform City Council

  1. Permanently make the city council a full time job and prohibit all outside income.
  2. Permanently equalize compensation for all council members by banning “lulus.”
  3. Expand prohibition against serving political party leadership to council members.
  4. Budgets for council members must remain equal, with transparent formula to account for difference in geographical and land cost challenges.
  5. Permanently standardize formula for council members’ discretionary budgets for their districts.
  6. Limit Speaker’s discretionary budget to 50% of the allocation of all 50 other members of the city council in order to ensure fairness and an equitable distribution of funds.
  7. Provide full 7 days public notice online of upcoming votes.
  8. Legislation should include problem, solutions, evaluation, metrics, and sunset.
  9.  Eliminate excessive reports, studies and taskforce laws by empowering city council to request information or adopt rules and regulations.
  10. Mandate inclusion of experts from academia and private sector in the adoption of laws and regulations of government.

Empower Residents through the City Council and Borough Presidents

  1. Adopt the New York City Council Report to the New York City Charter Revision Commission of 2010.
  2. Expand city council’s power of advice and consent to all agency heads.
  3. Allow city council to remove agency heads for cause and borough boards to begin a process against borough commissioners for cause.
  4. Establish a right of visitation at all city facilities for all elected officials upon notice or reasonable cause.
  5. Empower borough presidents to oversee capital projects.
  6. Give binding power of approval or disapproval on all land use decisions where a community board, borough board, and borough president all vote in favor or in opposition.
  7. Provide environmental studies for any community board, council member or borough president initiated zoning text amendment or rezoning.
  8. End automatic reappointment and open community boards with standardized applications.
  9. Automatic removal of community board members for non-attendance.
  10. Prohibit political party officials or lobbyists from serving on community boards.
  11. Mandatory training for all community board members on conflicts of interest, city budget, and land use, including landmarks, Board of Standards and Appeals, and ULURP.

Empower Communities in Land Use Decisions

  1. Weaken mayoral control of land use boards and commissions by empowering borough presidents and city council.
  2. Allow for meaningful public review with community notice and public hearings at initiation of land use applications with city agencies.
  3. Protect potential landmarks from eternal limbo with 6 months to respond and another 6 months to vote on calendaring proposed landmarks with codification of protections for items under consideration.
  4. Redefine “Major Concessions” to cover more city land that is being privatized.
  5. Require wage and job standards following a city land use action.
  6. Limit land use approvals by requiring groundbreaking within 3 years and project completion within a total of 5 years or lapse back for renewal, a new developer, or a new purpose.
  7. Make 197-a plans binding and require the Department of City Planning and applicable city agencies to include them in any subsequent land use decisions.
  8. Protect any land used as a park from real estate development.
  9. Enforce fair share provisions of the Charter.
  10. Achieve fair housing and affordable housing goals in every district.
  11. Protect residents in rent regulated housing from displacement by new affordable housing development.

Bridge the Digital Divide with Universal Broadband and Improved Cable and Phone

  1. Require franchise agreements to guarantee universal access to every New Yorker of every income without censorship.
  2. Empower residents in franchise process by giving votes to public advocate, borough presidents, and city council.
  3. Empower city council to participate in the selection of a franchise and to vote on final franchise agreements.
 

Save Money with Better Contracts

  1. Any benefit legislated by government for the private sector must also automatically apply to public sector city employees as a minimum benefit.
  2. Stop overpaying by adding borough president and city council appointments to procurement board and, when bids are more expensive, allow purchasing from retail market.
  3. Create enforcement mechanism for Charter requirement to compare cost to in-sourcing any time out-sourcing is considered.
  4. Notify affected borough presidents, community boards, and council members when the contracting process begins so that all may have a voice in key elements of requests for proposals, and encourage local residents to respond or to play a role in evaluations of any received proposal.

Empower Residents in the Budget Process

  1. Require that the City make the budget and spending available in real time so residents have accounting software for government to track every penny.
  2. Make hiding money “off budget” illegal.
  3. Require scoping of capital projects prior to allocations to prevent massive overruns and delays.
  4. Track fiscal impact of public policy during and after implementation.
  5. Focus on the Mayor’s Management by requiring a hearing on the Mayor’s Management Report following the current requirement for hearings on the Mayor’s Preliminary Management Report.
  6. Create a budget lockbox for public transit.

Download the Full Testimony (PDF)

East River Esplanade Renovations by Hospital for Special Surgery from 70th to 72nd Streets Are Completed

Thursday, September 27, 2018

In working with Council Member Ben Kallos, HSS agreed to:

  • Master Plan – Work with key community stakeholders to develop a Masterplan for the East River Esplanade from 62nd Street to 78th Street, in partnership with Rockefeller University, led by the Council Member.
  • Noise Barriers - Noise barriers eight-feet in height under its East Wing Building between East 70th and East 71st Street. Water Fountain and Irrigation - Water for the Esplanade at 71st Street for a water fountain and irrigation to keep plants alive.
  • Greening the Esplanade - Key esplanade improvements between 70th and 72nd include:
    • New planting beds and landscaping.
    • Improved lighting through repair and replacing of light fixtures.
    • Repair and repainting of railings as well as new seating and paving.
  • Maintenance in Perpetuity - Maintenance in perpetuity, for all improvements, provided by HSS from 70th to 72nd.

Council Member Ben Kallos Co-Chairs the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney. Both also sit as Ex-Officio Board Members of Friends of the East River Esplanade, a conservancy to which the Council Member has directed over $170,000 in funding and brought on Board Members from Rockefeller University and HSS.
 
“It is wonderful to finally be able to see residents enjoy some peace and quiet, lush greenery and in a portion of the park that will be cared for by HSS forever. The sound barriers quell the noise of passing vehicles, plants that died without water are growing green from irrigation, while residents have a new water fountain,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to HSS for their partnership with the community investing in our park space and conservancies.

Bill of Rights, Resident Law Making and Empowering Council and Borough Presidents Over Mayor in Land Use Proposed for City Charter Commission

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Kallos Chides NYPD Commissioner for Failure to Maintain Telegraph and Suggest Removal of Poverty Wages

Read the Full Testimony

New York, NY- Today Council Member Ben Kallos testified before the City Council’s Charter Revision Commission. In his testimony, Kallos highlighted a number of areas in the City’s Charter that he is calling for the commission’s attention on.
  • Bill of Rights to free higher education, affordable health and mental health care, and, access to parks, libraries, public transit and affordable internet
  • Protect the will of the people requiring anything passed by referendum to come back before voters for changes. 
  • Empowering City Council and Borough Presidents with appointments to Mayoral Boards with Land Use Powers
  • Right for residents to propose legislation for Council hearing and vote

Read the Full Testimony

Charter Revision Commission Testimony

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Download the Testimony in PDF

Our City’s Charter is in desperate need of an upgrade for the next generation.

The last telegram was sent in 2006, so I don’t think the Charter should require telegraph to be maintained by NYPD Commissioner. The minimum wage is about to be $15 an hour, and I think the Mayor’s fourth enumerated power should be to pay election workers $20 a day.

We are presented with an opportunity to examine the balance of powers, the infrastructure of our government, and ultimately who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the 8.7 million people who call this city home. Since August, I have carried a copy of the Charter around with me, highlighting interesting sections, and soliciting input. I must admit that I haven’t made it all the way through to Section 3103 of the Charter. My testimony represents a best effort through a cursory review identifying challenges with proposed solutions as a starting point.

I joined hundreds of New Yorkers in participating in the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission by testifying over several months in favor of items now on the ballot including term limits and urban planners for Community Boards and a slate of Campaign Finance reforms to reduce large contribution and match more small dollars with more public dollars to finally get big money out of New York City politics.

First and foremost I would ask that if these measures pass, this Commission not weaken them in anyway and in fact strengthen them by adding a requirement that any part of the Charter adopted through a vote of the people only be subject to change by those same people at another vote.

Along those lines there are certain reforms that must be protected from future change without a vote of the people, such as ethics reforms for a life time ban on lobbying and life time term limits for elected officials and enshrine reforms in the Council to make the job full time, eliminate “lulus” for equal compensation and standardize budget allocations for each Council Member.

In the face of an attack on our rights from the Federal government, New York City is in need of its own bills of rights guaranteeing residents a right to a free higher education and child care, affordable health and mental health care, access to parks, libraries, and public transit, affordable internet, freedom from hunger, clean air and water, just to name a few.

This Commission can create a pathway for all the residents with great ideas for laws at these hearings and in the future to submit bills to the City Council for a guaranteed hearing and vote.

Ultimately the 1989 Charter Revision Commission gave many of the powers from the Board of Estimate to the Mayor and boards appointed by the Mayor. Regardless of the Mayor, other elected officials and communities have often been without power to stop a wrong. My recommendations hope to democratize many of the city’s most powerful boards with appointments from the Borough Presidents and the Council to achieve fair housing and affordable housing goals. Borough Presidents and Community Boards must be empowered to veto bad rezonings, the Council empowered with a final vote on franchises that have left residents without reliable cable or Internet, and both empowered to initiate land use changes in their own right.

I would highlight for this commission three main themes:

  1. Land Use: Empower communities in land use by changing the makeup of decision making boards to have fewer Mayoral appointments and include representation from the City Council
  2. Budget: Create a budget that anyone can review complete with budgeted amounts, modifications, and spending with the ability to drill down to individual salaries and how much they spent on pencils.
  3. Protect the Will of the People to Enshrine Campaign Finance and Ethics Reforms: Reforms that are essential to the functioning of our democracy, established through previous referenda, local law, and City Council rules, should be enshrined in the City Charter.

Download the Testimony in PDF

Giving Parents, Schools Access to School Bus GPS Data Will Make Our Most Vulnerable Students Safer

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Giving Parents, Schools Access to School Bus GPS Data Will Make Our Most Vulnerable Students Safer

Int. 1099-2018 Will Provide Parents, Schools with Location Monitoring for School Buses

New York, NY – Legislation introduced last week in the City Council would require GPS devices to be installed on all school buses contracted with the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT). It would also require OPT to provide real-time GPS location data to authorized individuals, such as parents and school administrators, and eliminate the problem of bus drivers and escorts fielding frantic and angry calls from parents and schools when they are supposed to be focused on doing their jobs safely.

The new legislation was introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos and is co-sponsored by Education Chair Mark Treyger and Council Member Chaim Deutch who worked on an earlier version of the bill as a staffer for Council Member Michael Nelson in 2000. The bill comes as a result of years of complaints by schools, parents, and advocates about the many systemic issues plaguing OPT, including missing buses, chronic delays in bus arrivals and pick-ups, poor routing, failure to abide by medical codes for disabled students, a lack of specific training for drivers and escorts working with disabled children, and unsanctioned routing changes.

"No parent should wonder where their child is or when their child is finally getting home from a school bus ride gone off track. Parents would rest assured knowing when and where their school bus is to pick up or drop off their child using an app on their phone," said Council Member Ben Kallos a new parent. "After trying to work with the Office of Pupil Transportation for years I am disappointed that despite every promise parents still don't know where a school bus is with their child. Thank you to Education Chair Mark Treyger for his leadership, Council Member Chaim Deutsch who has spent 18 years working on this issue starting under then Council Member Michael Nelson."

Illustrating Historical Data for the Digital Age

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Illustrating Historical Data for the Digital Age

 Municipal Archives to be Searched for Data that should be on the Open Data Portal an Effort to Make It Accessible and Easy to Understand

 New York, NY – Access to information in New York City’s Open Data Portal to be improved by several pieces of legislation heard today in the Committee on Technology. The improvements will add historical data from municipal Archives including charts and graphs that have largely been missing since the Portal’s creation in 2012. The legislation is part of the City’s ongoing effort to make government data available for all in an easily accessible format.

 Introduction 1098, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, requires the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) to conduct a complete survey of its records for “statistical or factual information” contained within lists, tables, graphs, charts, or other “non-narrative forms.” Each will be evaluated for inclusion on the Open Data Portal based on “sufficient public value.” Records will be judged based on historical, research, and cultural value, clarity and completeness, and whether the information each contains has previously been requested for release.

 “The Open Data Portal empowers New Yorkers with valuable information needed in order to learn about city services. It is an invaluable tool for elected officials like myself to analyze and oversee how our city delivers services promised,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “This legislation will expand and clarify the information and historical data appearing on the portal. It will help policy-makers and the public evaluate programs, better plan for the future.”

 The survey, to be completed by July 2021, will be conducted in consultation with members of the public from historic, research, cultural, and academic institutions.