New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Statement by Council Member Ben Kallos on Charter Revision Commission’s Preliminary Staff Report

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I applaud the staff recommendations released today by the New York City Charter Revision Commission. The Commissioners must adopt the strongest among them to reset the foundation of this great city and create a democracy that empowers every voice in elections and governance.

A full public match campaign finance system that will finally incentivize and allow candidates to run on small dollars alone, such as in legislation I authored in 2016 and testified to the Commission earlier this year, will reduce the corrupting influence of big dollars and special interests in our elections process and empower New Yorkers who cannot write checks of $4,950 but still want their voices heard.

We must also enrich and empower our City’s 59 Community Boards. Since 2014, I have advocated for term limits because they create a culture of getting things done, one where current and outgoing members mentor new members and pass on knowledge, and which allows new voices and new ideas to enter the public discussion. Term limits better ensure that Community Boards, our most local form of government, reflect the neighborhoods they represent. This, coupled with providing dedicated planning staff and binding power to veto or initiate Uniform Land Use Review Procedures, will give Community Boards the voice they deserve.

While government seldom reflects the voices of those who speak out, it is great to see so many voices from all over the city reflected in the New York City Charter Revision Commission Preliminary Staff Report. I encourage New Yorkers to join me in comment over the next week to support the most important recommendations and strengthen others as together we remake New York.

We look to the Commissioners to put the strongest recommendations on the ballot - ones that could not be accomplished through the legislative process- for an ambitious set of charter reforms that New Yorkers can vote for and restore a democracy of, by, and for the People!

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Kallos and Powers Call on the BSA to Prohibit the Creation of Unbuildable, Gerrymandered Lots Used by Developers to Evade Zoning Rules

Monday, July 16, 2018

New York, NY- On Monday, July 16 elected officials from Manhattan came together to urge the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to consider the citywide implications that its upcoming hearings and rulings will carry if they rule in favor of the developers. On July 17 the BSA is set to consider community appeals against development projects in Council Member Kallos’ district at 180 East 88th Street and at 200 Amsterdam Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
As New York City gets set to regulate the use of excessive mechanical voids this year, elected officials and community groups are calling on the BSA and the de Blasio administration to stick to the Mayor’s word from a June 27th, 2018 town hall where he acknowledged that the City should study all the loopholes used by developers, not only voids and added that the City should come back with a decision on the matter.

Letter Opposing and Requesting Reissue of Request for Proposals for the Development, Operation, and Maintenance of a Sports & Recreational Facility, Queensboro Oval, Manhattan

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Download the Letter and Exhibits.

For many years, community members have fought for access to the land underneath the Queensboro Bridge, known as the Queensboro Oval, which I understand is owned by the Department of Transportation, but which the city made an official Playground in 1909. Since the 1970s, the park has been leased to an exclusive private tennis club, for a gradually expanding season and the concessionaire has left the field in poor condition during the summer months it is open to the public, leaving this space unattractive and unusable.

Over the past four and a half years, I have worked with community leaders, Community Board 8, and my fellow elected officials to advocate for the return of this land to the public, as a yearround public park.

After sharing with the community an initial proposal to build a new public recreation facility at the site, the Parks Department issued on February 16 of this year a Request for Proposals (RFP) that appears skewed towards keeping site’s current use in place. Please consider working together to resurface the Queensboro Oval as a public amenity without fees.

Short of this, please consider reissuing the RFP for a concession at this site with changes reflecting the requests of the community. Below I have detailed my legal and public policy-based concerns with the current RFP as drafted, including that there is no requirement for evaluation criteria weighted towards public use, the capital improvements requested as well as various inaccuracies and misrepresentations appear to benefit the incumbent concessionaire, the requirements preclude responses from non-profits, and the user fees for this concession are the highest in the city, creating a disparate impact. I believe these concerns reflect those of the community members who have been fighting for this park.

Download the Letter and Exhibits.

Council Member Ben Kallos' Statement on BSA Ruling on 428-432 East 58th Street

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The fight to preserve our residential communities against super-tall buildings will likely have to continue in court before a judiciary less likely to be tainted by the political process after today's irresponsible decision by the Board of Standards and Appeals. The Board ruled in favor of a bad acting developer against a lawful rezoning that was the result of a grassroots effort by the local community and elected officials.

Once again the city is allowing a developer to ignore the laws, having hurtled forward with its illegal foundation, in full knowledge of the zoning change, then asking the city for special treatment after the fact.

In a mad rush to complete its foundation so it could then claim a hardship, the developer completed the bulk of its foundation using illegal After Hours Work Variances, while failing repeatedly to comply with Department of Transportation safety requirements.

The city has been complicit in ignoring the law in order to help a developer beat the community, from delaying the rezoning for years to adding a bogus grandfather clause to granting illegal After Hours Variances, endangering public safety by closing streets in violation of the law, and now finally ignoring the hard-fought zoning law the community had won.

If Kalikow’s behavior is any indication of what the city is prepared to let developers get away with, then no law on the books will prevent developers from abusing the system and winning, until the courts step in.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB)

Public Hearing and Comment on Proposed Rules

June 19, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Testimony to the New York City Charter Revision Commission

Community Boards and Land Use

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Council Member Ben Kallos


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

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

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

Opportunity for Reform

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

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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

The New York City Council Votes to Adopt the FY 2019 Budget

Friday, June 15, 2018

The $89 billion 2018-19 budget passed by the New York City Council is a budget that highlights our needs and aims to strengthen the City’s financial position in case of economic downturn. I am particularly proud to have fought alongside my colleagues for and won:

  • Fair Fares - saves $700 a year in transit costs for 800,000 New Yorkers living in poverty and 12,000 veterans attending colleges in New York City for a $106 million investment.

  • Property Tax Reform Commission - to study disparities in property taxes resulting in our district paying higher property taxes than others do for larger homes.

  • Fair Student Funding - school in our neighborhood were chronically underfunded and nearly everyone will see a boost in funding with an investment of $125 million.

  • Accessible Schools - almost every local public school in the neighborhood is not accessible which is why we are investing $150 million in making our schools accessible to every student.

  • Supporting Our Youth - after school, summer programs, summer and year-round youth employment saw restorations and increases of $58.5 million.

  • Expanding Our Libraries - with an investment of $60 million for new libraries and $16.7 million to keep them open.

  • Cleaning Up Our Parks and Streets - we’ve invest $15.8 million in Parks Maintenance workers, tree stump removal and extra sanitation services.

  • More Affordable Housing - we need need more affordable housing for all New Yorkers including $40 million for public housing infrastructure, $3 million for homeless youth shelters, and $500 million for senior affordable housing.

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

Friday, June 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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

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

Child Care at Government Meetings Proposed by Council Member Kallos

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Child Care at Government Meetings Proposed by Council Member Kallos

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Testimony to New York City Charter Revision Commission on Democracy

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

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

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

Executive Summary of Recommendations:

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

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

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

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

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

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