New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Releases

Testimony to the City Planning Commission New York City Council Member Ben Kallos RE: Land Use Review Application N 180082 ZRM In Support of Rezoning the Sutton Area

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I am here today to give testimony in support of the community-led grassroots zoning text change application submitted to the Commission by the East River Fifties Alliance in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Dan Garodnick, and me. ERFA, the community coalition leading this application, consists of 45 buildings, represented by co-op boards, condo boards and individual owners, and over 2600 individual supporters living in more than 500 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area.

Thank you to Commission Chair Marisa Lago, Vice Chair Kenneth J. Knuckles, and the members of the City Planning Commission for hearing us today. Thank you as well to your staff, and in particular to the Department of City Planning’s community affairs and Manhattan Borough offices’ professional and dedicated work in handling this application.

In the Sutton Area, a small residential neighborhood by the East River in Midtown Manhattan, we have come together to envision a community that welcomes new construction while protecting the rent-regulated tenants who have lived in our neighborhood for decades, like our friends Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez.

We are here to support real housing for real New Yorkers, including affordable housing, instead of 800-foot-high full-story penthouses built to serve as investments, often for foreign speculators.

We envision a residential community in the Sutton Area where new buildings serve the needs of the local community and of the City as a whole, adding to our housing stock for working people and fitting the shape and character of our neighborhood.

We have seen the super-tall buildings at 432 Park and 111 West 57th Street, and we believe they have no role on quiet side streets in fully residential neighborhoods. When I first learned that the super-tall buildings could creep onto our residential side streets, I wanted to do something that had not been done before: to organize the community to propose our own plan to rezone the neighborhood for the present and the future. That is what we did, led by residents from the Sutton Area and co-signed by four elected officials: we filed the first ever community-led rezoning at City Planning, which we are discussing today.

This rezoning corrects an accident of history that has left the Sutton Area the only residential neighborhood in the city with uncapped R10 zoning without any further protections. The proposal seeks to impose tower-on-a-base zoning, which would result in squatter, more human-scale buildings, with a dense base and a shorter tower, adding more units to our housing stock, which will be filled by real New Yorkers. Depending on lot configuration, maximum building heights in tower-on-a-base zoning are estimated between 300 and 500 feet, far closer to the built context of the neighborhood than a super-tall building that would cast a shadow all the way across the East River into Queens.

Bicycle Safety Improves on East Side for Third Year in a Row

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bicycle Safety Improves on East Side for Third Year in a Row

Bike Safety Education, Equipment & Enforcement Program Led by

Council Members Kallos and Garodnick Gets Results

New York, NY —  Following 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 Dan Garodnick.  Since the program’s launch by Council Member Kallos in 2014 there has been a reduction in the number of collisions involving cyclists each year, and fewer pedestrians and cyclists injured in collisions.

The NYPD reports 17th and 19th precinct report Year to Date (YTD) through mid-October:

·         1,557 summons issued to bicycles mostly for not giving right of way to pedestrians and disobeying a steady red signal;

·         15,929 moving violations issued to vehicles, with 5,717 violations for improper turns, 2,730 violations for disobeying a traffic control device, and 1,541 violations for not giving right of way to pedestrians among other violations as of August; and

·         103 seizures of “e-bikes” with all but one receiving a summons (ECB/OATH), representing more than 10% of all enforcement with 923 seized citywide;

New York Shifts Course on Big Buildings on Far East Side

Thursday, October 12, 2017

In a reversal, city planners are assisting a group of neighbors trying to halt ongoing construction of an 800-foot tower across from the luxury high rise where many in the group live.

For over two years, the neighbors and a group they founded, the East River Fifties Alliance, has spent more than $1 million drafting an unusual do-it-yourself zoning rule, that could block the tower on East 58th Street near Sutton Place.

City Hall and the city’s Planning Commissioner had lambasted the campaign in the past for a misguided efforts to block a single building to protect views at the Sovereign, an 485-foot tall, co-op.

In June, when asked about an earlier proposal, Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “This proposal would protect the views of a handful of residents who live in a building that is hundreds of feet taller than the height they feel is appropriate and block new buildings.”

At the time, the city planning commissioner, Marisa Lago, said “there is an important distinction between planning based on a sound, land-use rationale and policy-making designed and shaped to stop a specific building proposal.”

But last week, the commission staff released a new zoning proposal by the group and offered support for it. It set an unusual fast-track review process that would enable it to be approved by the commission by Nov. 1, before election day, and by the City Council by mid-November.

“We believe there is a land-use rational,” said Bob Tuttle, a city planner, about the group’s latest proposal at a recent commission meeting. “We understand the community’s desire for height limits.”

But at the meeting, Mr. Tuttle acknowledged that the proposed zoning change, which covers portions of a 13-block area east of First Avenue, would only affect a single development site in the foreseeable future: the East 58th Street construction site.

Both the developer and the community opponents said it would halt the current project, known as Sutton 58 as it is envisioned.

Jonathan Kalikow, president of Gamma Real Estate. which is developing the new tower, warned that this zoning change targeted at his building would have a chilling effect on developers across the city.

“This zoning change, if passed, will have really horrific negative consequences for the city of New York,” he said. Mr. Kalikow said he was rushing to try to complete the complex foundation needed for the tall narrow tower before the zoning change could take effect.

The new zoning proposal grew out of a meeting in August between planners and elected officials, including the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who had joined East River Fifties group in submitting the plan.

Earlier plans by the group had called for strict height limits. The new approach, recommended by the planning staff, would create a new zoning rule that would force developers on side streets to keep much of the bulk of their buildings below 150 feet and only indirectly cap heights.

It would particularly penalize developers like Mr. Kalikow, who obtained air rights from nearby buildings, zoning experts said. The fast-track schedule was made possible after a decision by Ms. Brewer and the local community board to forego hearings on the proposed zoning changes.

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry group, noted that Ms. Brewer has long been an advocate for more openness in city government and in land-use decisions. A spokesman for Ms. Brewer said she had already held a hearing earlier this year, on another version of the plan.

 

Alan Kersh, president of the East River Fifties Alliance, and a resident of the Sovereign, said the revised city plan is more “flexible” than the height limits his group first proposed.

He said it would allow for a building taller than what his group had originally proposed, but much shorter than what the developer planned to build.

Groundbreaking on East River Esplanade Renovations by Hospital for Special Surgery from 70th to 72nd Streets, Secured by Council Member Kallos as Co-Chair of Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Maloney

Monday, October 2, 2017

 New York, NY – Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) President and CEO Louis A. Shapiro joined Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and NYC Parks Manhattan Commissioner Bill Castro for an official groundbreaking on renovations to the East River Esplanade from 70th to 72nd Streets by HSS. The revitalization and improvements by HSS to the East River Esplanade in this section were negotiated by Council Member Ben Kallos as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for new construction that was voted on and passed the City Council on July 23, 2015. 

Mayor de Blasio Announces Final Design of Project to Fill East Side Greenway Gap will Commence Next Week

Saturday, September 30, 2017

100 million initiative comes as part of administration-wide push to complete a contiguous 32-mile waterfront pedestrian promenade and bikeway around Manhattan

NEW YORK—As part of City Hall in your Borough week in Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the formal design process for a new section of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway between East 61st Street and East 53rd Street will officially kick off next week. The Mayor was joined by local officials to tour a portion of the existing greenway and discussing plans for its expansion. Construction of the new segment will commence in 2019, with completion expected in 2022.

New After-school Provider Begins Serving Increasing Number of School-Aged Roosevelt Islanders

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Roosevelt Island, NY - Residents, elected officials, school and program administrators gathered yesterday September 18 at PS/IS 217 to welcome Child Center of NY to Roosevelt Island as the Beacon after-school program provider. In April of 2017, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) issued a request for proposal (RFP) for providers to offer Beacon after-school programming at the Roosevelt Island school to a growing population of school-aged children on the Island. By mid-summer, DYCD had selected a winner, Child Center of NY.  Today the doors to the new Beacon after-school program were opened by Council Member Ben Kallos, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and other community leaders including Mandana Beckman Principal at PS/IS 217 where the programming will be held.

Child Care at Government Meetings Proposed by Council Member Kallos

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New York, NY – Parents interested in having a say in local government could have free child care provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos. The legislation was announced today in honor of the United Nations Women's founding of HeForShe and launch of IMPACT 10x10x10 Parity. It 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 child care 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 child care? If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City it means offering free child care when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”
 
 

Cornell Tech Campus Opens on Roosevelt Island, Marking Transformational Milestone for Tech in NYC

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Tech now has a new home in New York City on Roosevelt Island at Cornell Tech. We are growing jobs and educating the next leaders of the tech economy right here on Roosevelt Island so the next big thing in tech will be 'Made in New York,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, a tech entrepreneur. “Welcome to Cornell Tech, Dean Dan Huttenlocher and thank you to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the vision, Mayor de Blasio and RIOC President Susan Rosenthal for making it happen, and the Roosevelt Island community for being a part of this every step of the way. I look forward to working with Cornell Tech on bringing millions in investment to growing companies on Roosevelt Island and in New York City.”

Forty Pre-Kindergarten Seats Opened on the Upper East Side at P.S. 290

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Upper East Side, NY – 40 more 4-year-olds will have free pre-kindergarten seats on the Upper East Side starting with today’s first day of school. Council Member Ben Kallos joined Principal Doreen Esposito to cut the ribbon on the 40 new pre-kindergarten seats at P.S. 290, The Manhattan New School on 82nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. 

 

Watch the Ribbon Cutting.

Chancellor Fariña Announces Free School Lunch for All

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

NEW YORK — Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James today announced that lunch is now free for every student at every public school across New York City. Free School Lunch for All will provide over 200,000 more students with free lunch starting this school year. Last school year, 75% of students were eligible for free lunch and starting this school year, 100% of families will be eligible to receive free lunch.

New York City has sought all forms of funding for meal reimbursement and is now eligible to receive the highest reimbursement from the federal government through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This federal program allows school districts to provide meals free of charge to all enrolled students. The Free School Lunch for All initiative will benefit all families regardless of where they live or attend school.

“There is now such thing as a free lunch in New York City public schools,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “When I was a child attending City public schools, I often went without food, because going hungry was better than getting picked on for receiving free or reduced school lunch. I've been fighting alongside Public Advocate Letitia James and Education Chair Danny Dromm at hearing after hearing for four years so that no child has to make the same unfortunate choice I did years ago, to go hungry. Our families should be able to trust that when they send their kids to public school, they won't come home hungry. Thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate James, Education Chair Dromm, Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Community Food Advocates Executive Director Liz Accles for their advocacy, and Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña for making universal school lunch a reality.”

Mayor de Blasio Launches NYC Ferry Service Connecting Astoria, Roosevelt Island, LIC and Manhattan

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“We are finally using our waterways to improve commutes for thousands of Roosevelt Islanders who will be able to take the new ferry. Roosevelt Islanders can travel by air (by tram), land (by car, bus, and train) and now water (by ferry), all offering improved commutes. After advocating alongside the community since before I got elected and continuing that fight for ferry service every day since then, I am proud to be a part of a City government that finally made it a reality,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett for reclaiming our waterways and bringing ferry service citywide.”

STATEMENT: Landlords Like Kushner Targeted by NYC Council Member Kallos Bill

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Yesterday’s lawsuit against a company owned by Jared Kushner highlights the City of New York's obligation to ensure tenants are not being cheated by unscrupulous landlords. The allegations are yet more proof of a broken system that allows landlords to charge tenants more than they are legally allowed. After exhaustive research by ProPublica, it is estimated that 50,000-200,000 units in New York City may be illegally rented at market rate. This issue is one of the most serious problems in our fight for affordable housing and why I authored Introduction 1015.
 Introduction 1015 requires all owners of any affordable units in New York City to register those units with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and disclose the monthly rent. That allows the City to track the locations of these units and verify they are being rented at or below the legally allowable rate and fine bad landlords who flout the law.
 
While State law requires landlords to register with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the penalties for non-compliance were removed in 1993. It is a law without teeth, unable to force or persuade landlords to comply.
 
I applaud Housing Rights Initiative for their thorough research into these properties. But it should not have taken over a month of painstaking efforts to find this information. It should be as easy as going to HPD’s website. More importantly, the City should be doing this proactively.

11 bills Pass City Council to Protect Tenants from Landlord Harassment and Reform the Department of Buildings to Better Enforce Existing Laws

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New York, NY – Council Member Ben Kallos Vice Chair of the caucus was the prime sponsor of Int. 930 and 931 which aim to correct the behavior of  landlords and building owners that neither fix reoccurring problems on their properties nor pay the fines that go along with those violations, putting tenants in unsafe conditions sometimes for years on end. The Stand For Tenant Safety (STS) legislative package will offer greater protection for tenants, especially in regards to the use of construction as harassment by landlords. STS was pushed by a citywide alliance of grassroots tenant organizations and legal service groups collaborating with the Progressive Caucus.

 

"Believe it or not, construction being used to harass and push tenants out is a huge problem in New York City. This package of legislation aims to fix the behavior of unscrupulous landlords who cut corners, neglect repairs and take advantage of loopholes to hurt tenants and avoid paying fines. Thank you to the coalition of tenant organizations and legal service groups that worked for two years to get these bills passed, “said Council Member Ben Kallos Vice chair of the Progressive Caucus.

Riders Get Countdown Clocks at Bus Stops on Upper East Side Following Participatory Budgeting Victory and Investment by Council Member Kallos

Thursday, August 3, 2017

New York, NY – Upper East Side bus riders may have noticed something new on their rides, bus countdown clocks showing when the next bus is coming. The bus countdown clocks were actually voted for by local residents in Participatory Budgeting and are a part of Council Member Ben Kallos’ fight against service cuts to the M31, M66, M72, and other bus routes in the neighborhood.
 
“I hope that new bus countdown clocks will bring more riders back to our buses, as they walk by and see a bus on the way to help get them where they are going faster,” said Council Member Ben Kallos who rides the M15, M31, and M79 through the district. “Riders will finally know when the next bus is coming or if it isn’t coming at all, so they can make that crucial decision of whether it is faster to ride or walk. I hope to have a bus countdown clock anywhere my constituents will use them so please reach out for one at your bus stop today.”
 
“Neighborhoods flourish when they have a multitude of transportation options, and NYC DOT is proud to work with the community and CM Kallos to continue bringing transportation upgrades to the Upper East Side,” said DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez.  “With the arrival of Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) bus countdown clocks, and a new Citi Bike station in this district, Upper East Siders are able to receive visual and audible real-time bus arrival information should they decide to get around by bus, as well as a denser Citi Bike network should they choose to bike.”
 
The bus countdown clocks were three years in the making. In 2014, Rider’s Alliance advocated for bus countdown clocks in the city’s capital budget, but was met with some skepticism by Council Member Ben Kallos, who agreed to add the bus countdown clocks to Participatory Budgeting where residents voted on how to spend one million dollars in the community.

Statement: Council Member Ben Kallos on Voter Data Release

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Statement: Council Member Ben Kallos on Voter Data Release
 Today’s decision by the New York State Board of Elections is a shameful capitulation to the President’s fear mongering about voter fraud. Allegations of widespread voter fraud have repeatedly been disproven and there exists no evidence to suggest it occurred in last November’s election or any election.
 
The President’s sham commission is nothing more than yet another Republican attempt to restrict voting rights and only serves to perpetuate dangerous myths and spread doubt about our democratic process. That the commissioners of the State Board of Elections would assist such a commission casts doubt on their integrity and their commitment to protecting the personal data of New York’s 12.5 million voters.

Rep. Maloney, Health Professionals, & Advocates Discuss Next Steps on Healthcare Following Epic Failure of the Senate Republican Repeal Bill

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Photo caption (L-R):  Mark Hannay (Director, Metro New York Health Care for All), Richard Mollot (Executive Director, The Long Term Care Community Coalition), Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried, Peter Morley (Patient Advocate), Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Councilmember Ben Kallos, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Michael Rawlings (Chief Operating Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue)

NEW YORK—Following the failure of Senate Republicans’ proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) hosted a roundtable at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue with healthcare professionals, patient advocates, and concerned constituents to discuss the future of the health care law. The group focused on steps forward, strategies for strengthening the ACA, and ways to combat Administration efforts to undermine the landmark legislation.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans have access to good, affordable healthcare. We need to preserve the protections the ACA put in place and build on our progress,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Democrats and Republicans must work together to bring down costs and expand coverage to really deliver the A—affordable—of the ACA. Although the ACA has done really tremendous things, a stronger, better version can do more – and its’ up to us in Congress to make that happen. Prices are still too high. There are counties where the exchanges have one or no insurers. We can do better. If Republicans can drop their obsession with repealing the ACA, then we can get to work on making sure all Americans have access to good, affordable and reliable healthcare.”

"The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of Americans get the health insurance they need to live healthy lives," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "When Congress passed the ACA many amendments were necessary to pass this historic legislation, but now is the time to revisit those amendments and make it even stronger. Thank you to Congress Member Carolyn Maloney for leading the charge on protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act."

2017 Update to Open Data Plan

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NEW YORK—The Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications today released the annual update to the NYC Open Data Plan, a schedule of public datasets City agencies plan to release through 2018. Over the last year, agencies have released datasets across hundreds of categories, from the number of trees planted to FDNY incident dispatch numbers. The annual update is part of Open Data for All, a strategic overhaul around how the City collects and reports data to New Yorkers, with a focus on helping as many New Yorkers as possible view, understand, and engage with information that describes how government is helping them live, work, and play.

"Open Data empowers residents with data they need to learn about city services first hand and is an invaluable tool for elected officials like me to analyze and oversee how our city delivers services,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “In particular, I’m excited to see the inclusion of the Programs and Benefits API. Residents can now get the help they need from a list of benefits available, who qualifies and how to apply. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and DoITT Commissioner Anne Roest for continuing to make New York City more transparent with each new data set."

 

NYC Parks and Elected Officialls Break Ground on Phase I of East River Esplanade Sea Wall Reconstruction

Monday, July 24, 2017

"We are breaking ground on a new East River Esplanade that was literally crumbling into the river after generations of neglect," said Council Member Ben Kallos, who advocated for the $41 million in the City's budget for this work and co-chairs the East River Esplanade Task Force with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney. "Having already secured this funding, we were able to get shovels in the ground soon after the sea wall collapse occurred here at Carl Schurz Park. This investment spans two Council Districts to fix various collapses and sinkholes between 63rd and 125th Streets. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for agreeing to provide $35 million in initial funding for the Esplanade, the Parks Department for getting these repairs started in time to address the recent collapse, and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney for prioritizing our waterfronts and her longstanding co-leadership of the East River Esplanade Task Force."