“Today the New York State Senate unanimously passed legislationenabling municipalities to equip school buses with cameras that can capture vehicles illegally passing school buses while the stop arm is out. The legislation also allows for fines to be electronically issued to drivers who are caught driving this recklessly.”
“Today’s victory comes on the heels of the State Assembly also passing a version of the same bill unanimously and Governor Cuomo expressing his support for the legislation. As we wait for the Governor's signature, it is time for New York City to rise to the challenge and take advantage of this opportunity and pass legislation enabling the New York City Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transport to install the camera technology on all of the school buses in our City.”
“Across New York City 150,000 children ride a school bus on any given day and according to a recent pilot study, as many as 15,000 drivers are potentially passing buses illegally per day putting kids across the five boroughs in danger. The NYPD has reported writing over 700 citations for this offense just this year.”
Restriction of Unbuildable, Gerrymandered Zoning Lots to Be Studied by
City Planning Following Requests by Council Member Ben Kallos and Advocates
New York, NY — Tiny, unbuildable, gerrymandered zoning lots that have been created for the sole purpose of evading zoning restrictions, will be studied for regulation by the Department of City Planning following requests by Council Member Ben Kallos and advocates. City Planning will conduct a study related to the establishment of a minimum lot size for non-residential zoning lots, to prevent otherwise unusable zoning lots yielding unintended building forms in certain zoning districts. The results of the study will be shared with the Council by August 2019.
“Our city needs more housing for everyday New Yorkers, but developers keep creating new loopholes to get around fair zoning, just get better views for billionaires,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We have fought bad developers every step of the way, but it’s become clear that a zoning change is needed, and that’s just what City Planning will be studying. Thank you to City Planning Chair Marisa Lago for working to close loopholes so our zoning can effectively protect New York City’s neighborhoods.”
This issue was first raised by Council Member Kallos at 180 East 88th Street, in his district, created a 4-foot zoning lot to claim the property did not front on 88th Street (despite the address), so that it did not have to comply with zoning rules. He and Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter on May 16, 2016 to the Department of Buildings, who issued an immediate stop work order in response, as covered by the New York Times. The Times continued its coverage of the case, with an exploration of how this loophole is used to avoid the zoning. After the 4-foot lot became a 10-foot lot and the Department of Buildings rescinded its stop work order, Council Member Kallos, Borough President Gale Brewer, Senator Liz Krueger, and a coalition of community groups including Carnegie Hill Neighbors and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District sued the Department, and then appealed the case to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).
Upper East Side, NY - Today Council Member Ben Kallos joined Extell Development President and Founder Gary Barnett to cut the ribbon on a newly completed residential and commercial construction at 1768 Second Avenue at 91st Street across the street from his district office.
The two buildings that make up this project are a 6-story and an 11-story building that will offer units reserved for households starting with incomes of $36,858 for individuals to $96,800 for a family of six (at 70% to 80% of the area median income). Units range from studios at $1,018 to three bedrooms at $1,740. The new buildings will also offer private childcare on its ground floor operated by Alef Bet Preschool. About a dozen students who will be attending Pre School at this facility were also present at the ribbon cutting.
“We are building 100% affordable housing for low-income families on the Upper East Side, complete with the childcare these growing families will need,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “This development is model for building affordable housing in neighborhoods with the most expensive real estate using as of right incentives and without piling on discretionary subsidies from the city. Gary Barnett has been responsive to my office, neighbors, and the larger community, not to mention that this is the second space childcare that he has built.”
STATEMENT: Council Member Ben Kallos on Governor Cuomo support for Bus Arm Legislation
“New York City’s children deserve to be safe when they get on and off their school buses every day. Now that Governor Cuomo has expressed his support for allowing municipalities like New York City to install stop arm cameras on school buses we should jump at the opportunity and pass legislation I am authoring requiring New York City do so.
This legislation would force the Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transport to install stop arm cameras on city school buses with the capability of issuing electronic fines to drivers who illegally pass school buses while the stop arm is down. There is no question that this dangerous behavior puts the lives of children in peril; we have all seen it done on our roads and now is the time to do whatever we can to teach irresponsible drivers that this behavior will have consequences.”
“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration is claiming that ‘there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.’ At a time when courts around the country have ruled in favor of cancer victims suing Roundup, because it contains glyphosate and caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma it is unbelievable that this EPA would say this. It is obvious that the EPA is now serving lobbyists, special interests and industry not the American people or the environment.
The EPA’s decision is precisely why New York City must take action and ban the use of toxic pesticides in our parks by adopting Introduction 1524-2019. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans and that there was strong evidence of an association between glyphosate exposures and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.’ Other countries that have heavily regulated or outright banned glyphosate include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and India among others. Join the fight at Benkallos.com/Petition/BantoxicPesticides.”
Ribbon Cut on $15 Million in Repairs to the East River Esplanade Resulting from Public/Private Partnership withRockefeller University
(New York, NY) — Today the Rockefeller University cut the ribbon on a public/private partnership that repaired and refurbished, a crumbling seawall and dilapidated stretch of the East River Esplanade. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place near East 63rd Street and was led by East River Esplanade Taskforce Co-Chairs Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Parks Borough Commissioner William Castro and Rockefeller University Executive Vice President Timothy O’Connor.
The New York City Council rallied alongside advocates on the steps of City Hall to mark the passage of the Climate Mobilization Act.
New York, NY — The New York City Council today passed legislation to mobilize the city around climate action. The New York City Climate Mobilization Act, which includes 10 bills and resolutions introduced by Council Members Costa Constantinides and Rafael Espinal and Progressive Caucus Members Donovan Richards, Andrew Cohen, and Steve Levin, is the largest single carbon reduction effort that any city, anywhere, has ever put forward. The Progressive Caucus endorsed the package as a part of its 2018-2021 legislative agenda, which includes combating climate change as one of its priorities.
“I am proud to be a co-sponsor of Introduction 1253 as it sets ambitious, comprehensive standards on New York City’s worst polluters, old buildings. By modernizing buildings to raise efficiency standards we will dramatically cut pollution long term,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Retrofitting for efficiency and sustainability will reduce our City’s carbon footprint and create thousands of much-needed, good paying jobs. Thank you to Council Member Costa Constantinides for his dedication and work in the effort to get this bill and entire package passed.”
New York, NY— Toxic pesticides would be banned from city parks under a bill introduced today by Council Members Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera. Introduction1524-2019 would ban all city agencies from spraying highly toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate, and be the most far-reaching legislation to regulate pesticide use in New York City. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, and the chemical is partially or fully banned in many countries throughout the world.
On behalf of our constituents, we are writing to convey our profound concerns relating to the use of glyphosate-based herbicides being sprayed within New York City.
Neighborhoods and parks throughout New York continue to be treated with the toxic pesticide RoundUp and other glyphosate- and surfactant-based products. The spraying of these products, done with the expressed goal of killing weeds, is raising serious alarm amongst residents and city workers who may be unknowingly exposing themselves and their families to harmful chemicals.
Last year, a California jury found that RoundUp contributed to toxic and carcinogenic effects and awarded $78 million to a sole plaintiff who was exposed to the pesticide while working as a groundskeeper. While the case is on appeal, the jury in the original trial held the producer of RoundUp, Monsanto, was responsible for the worker’s terminal cancer. A federal jury in a separate case reached the same conclusion just last month, and hundreds of cases have yet to be heard involving plaintiffs seeking damages for adverse health effects caused by contact with and exposure to Roundup. Significantly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the
World Health Organization, classified glysophate as "Probably Carcinogenic to Humans" in 2015.
The IARC concluded that the chemical likely causes a range of cancers, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancers, skin cancers and pancreatic cancer. These concerns regarding Roundup's long-term safety should give us serious pause.
“We need more affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers, not more super tall towers for billionaires propped up on empty mechanical voids.
“I am deeply disappointed that after every Community Board and nearly a dozen elected officials in Manhattan spoke out for fewer and shorter mechanical voids, that the City Planning Commission would disregard the community, evidence from their own experts at the Department of City Planning, and vote in favor of taller buildings for billionaires.
“The City Council must overturn what the City Planning Commission has proposed by reducing the heights of mechanical voids. I've done it before and I will do it again.
New York, NY – Voters would finally know where politicians get their campaign money from under a new proposal to publicize the sources of contributions from major industries such as real estate right before elections. Under the legislation authored by Council Member Kallos, donors would be required to disclose where they get their money from. Displaying the percentage of a candidate’s funds that come from industries such as finance, insurance, lobbying, labor, real estate and government, the disclosures would be shared with the public via official New York City voter guides available online and mailed to every voter in New York City.
“Nearly six thousand units of affordable housing preservation and construction spanning more than sixty projects on city land have come through the Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions subcommittee while I served as Chair.
Arts Organization Chashama and NY City Council Member Kallos To Celebrate Immigrant Artists and their works of Art
New York, NY - Chashama and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos will celebrate the opening of the art nonprofit’s new gallery featuring four shows by immigrant artists on April 1, 2019 at 12 p.m. at 340 East 64th Street. Ecuadorian and Mexican artists and DACA recipients Francisco Donoso and Maria De Los Angeles will exhibit Esperanza de Otro Mundo Posible/Hope of Another Possible World; John Rivas and Raelis Vasquez will exhibit Stories of our Ancestors; and an international collective from the 2019 NYFA Immigrant Artist mentoring program will present WhereElse?, a multidisciplinary show meant to spark dialogue about immigration and otherness.
“To me, art is simple, it is filling a space with something beautiful. And that is exactly what ChaShama has once again managed to do here; display great artwork for people to see. I am proud to have partnered with ChaShaMa to cut the ribbon at this location. The Upper East Side welcomes the installation and appreciates the dedication it took for the artists to complete it. The community and I are grateful for the art and are looking forward to many more works of art that will be displayed at this space as time goes on, said Council Member Ben Kallos.
Cooling Tower Inspections to See New Disclosure and Enforcement to Prevent Spread of Legionnaires’ Disease
Legislation Authored by Council Members Kallos and Yeger Passes City Council
New York, NY - New Yorkers can breathe easier as the heat season approaches. Cooling towers that are a breeding ground for Legionnaires’ Disease will finally have to report on their compliance with 90-day inspections meant to thwart the spread of the deadly disease.
More than 1,000 cooling towers (representing 20 percent) were out of compliance with 90-day inspections that must be conducted while towers are in operation, according to WNYC in June of 2018. In response, as reported by WNYC, Council Member Kallos authored Int. 1149-B of 2018, co-sponsored by Council Member Kalman Yeger, mandating that building owners receive electronic reminders and inspectors to file results within 5 business days of the inspection so that the New York City Department of Health and Mental HygieneDOHMH can engage in immediate enforcement and ensure that inspections are actually occurring.
Water, Low-fat Milk and 100% Fruit Juice to Become "New Normal" for All Kids Meals
New York, NY - Kids meals are in for a change. From the iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal to a kids’ meal at your local diner, water, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice will be the default instead of sodas that are high in sugar. Int. 1064-B authored by Council Member Ben Kallos.
Obesity is an epidemic in New York City where more than half of adults are overweight or obese, according to the NYC Health. Obesity is starting early in life: nearly half of all elementary school children are not at a healthy weight and 1 in 5 kindergarten students enters school already obese.
The American Heart Association recommends that children limit consumption to one or fewer 8-oz sugar sweetened beverage per week. The New York Academy of Medicine testified that according to their scientific research a “12-oz serving of regular soda [in a kids meal can contain] more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. An average 8-year old would need to walk 70 minutes, or the distance between City Hall and Time Square, to ‘walk the calories off.’”
McDonald’s provided testimony that its Happy Meal was already compliant with the proposed legislation stating, “soda was removed from the Happy Meal section of U.S. menu boards in 2013.” The testimony continued sharing empirical evidence that changing the default beverages as McDonald’s had already produced results. “[W]e subsequently saw positive shifts in consumer behavior, and the number of Happy Meals served with water, milk, or juice has since increased by 14 percentage points. As of November 2017, and for the first time, more than half of Happy Meals served in the U.S. included water, milk or juice as the beverage of choice rather than soda and other beverages.”
Scientific research confirmed that the original “Healthy Happy Meals” legislation restricting calorie counts would have a positive impact on reducing caloric intake and obesity in children, according to research by Dr. Brian Elbel of the NYU School of Medicine published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study is applicable to the current legislation, which would have a similar impact.
A 2017 Global Strategy Group survey commissioned by the American Heart Association found that New Yorkers expressed nearly universal support (94 percent) for making the food and beverage options on children's menus healthier. The survey concluded that NYC voters are strongly in favor (87 percent) of making healthy drinks like water and low-fat milk the default drink option on children's menus.
It is vital that structures like this church, which physically mark the relationship of Yorkville to its history as an enclave for European immigrants, be landmarked to preserve this cultural history. This church was, and remains, a cultural gathering spot and place of familiarity for the Hungarian community. Designed by prominent Hungarian architect Emory Roth in the Hungarian vernacular style, the church is a symbol of the Hungarian community and their efforts to establish a Reformed congregation in the city, free from the religious persecution they faced in their homeland. It instilled a sense of pride in their culture, while also providing a sense of security for the Hungarian immigrant community.
That history is my family’s history. My grandparents came to New York City in the wake of Kristallnacht prior to the start of World War II joining the existing community of Hungarians, moving to an apartment on East 71st Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues with a ground floor dermatology practice.
By 1940, New York City had the largest Hungarian community in America, with a population of about 123,000. The First Hungarian Church, designed in the Hungarian Vernacular and Secessionist style, became a cultural enclave for the Hungarian community. The church recalls churches located in small Central European villages, thus creating a “little Hungary” within Yorkville. Moreover, this provided and still provides a sense of security giving immigrants, like my family, a sense of place within their new country.
New York, NY-Transit advocates and elected officials and the New York City Department of Transportation gathered today to call on state lawmakers to authorize bus lane enforcement cameras citywide in the upcoming state budget due at the beginning of next month.
Today, Congress Member Maloney, State Senator Kreuger and Assembly Member Seawright joined Council Member Ben Kallos, DOT Manhattan Commission Ed Pincar and advocates from NYPIRG Straphanger’s Campaign, Transit Center, Riders Alliance, and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, to call on Albany to expand hours and equip at least 50 SBS buses with cameras to enforce bus lanes in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget.
Rezoning Effort to Stop Supertall Towers Earns Support from Manhattan Elected Officials and Community Boards During Public Review
New York, NY – An effort to limit excessive empty spaces such as mechanical voids to prop up buildings to give billionaires better views received widespread support from elected official and community boards in Manhattan during the public review period that ends March 8.Eight of ten of community boards along with over a dozen elected officials in Manhattan that would be impacted have placed their support behind a zoning text amendment limiting the use of excessive mechanical voids in buildings with suggestions for improvements. The two community boards that disapproved did so conditionally only if improvements requested are not made. The Department of City Planning has publicly noticed the next step in the process a public hearing for members of the public to testify on March 13, 2019.
Recent advances in construction technology combined with a real estate market incentivizing apartments for billionaires led to buildings like 432 Park, which got 25% of its supertall height by exploiting the mechanical voids loophole. Voids are large spaces in a building meant to house mechanicals, but when abused are mostly empty and used to add height to the building because they currently do not count as zoning floor area. Rafael Viñoly, who designed 432 Park, also proposed 249 East 62nd, which has a base of 12 stories and 150-foot mechanical void to raise up 11 stories above. 50 West 66th Street proposed a 161-foot mechanical void to reach a height of 775 feet.
During the month of February, Council Member Kallos toured nearly every Community Board in Manhattan to share the importance of a proposed zoning text amendment from the Department of City Planning to stop supertall buildings that abuse empty voids to gain height solely to build apartments for billionaires. Council Member Kallos developed a map of areas that were already protected, would be protected, and remained in jeopardy that he revised with the City Council Land Use Division complete with a one pager that was distributed throughout the borough of Manhattan complete with petition.
Testimony in Support of the Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment Application by Department of City Planning (N190230ZRY)
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Thank you to City Planning Chair Lago and the members of the City Planning Commission for hearing the Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment immediately following review by Community Boards, Borough Board, and the Borough President. We hope the Commission will speedily amend this proposal to reflect community concerns and vote perhaps at the next meeting, on March 27, 2019, so that the City Council may act quickly.
The Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment with requested improvements is supported by Representative Carolyn Maloney, State Senators Liz Krueger, Jose Serrano and Robert Jackson, Assembly Members Richard Gottfried, Harvey Epstein, Robert Rodriguez, and Rebecca Seawright, and City Council Members Diana Ayala, and Keith Powers.
As elected officials in state and city government representing the borough of Manhattan, we stand united in support of this Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment, but believe it must be amended to reflect community concerns. We also call upon the Department of City Planning to return to this Commission this summer with a plan to protect commercial districts in Midtown, Hudson Yards, and the Financial District as well as to close remaining loopholes in the Residential text if those loopholes are determined out of the scope of this proposal.