New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

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AM New York City Council introduces bundle of coronavirus relief bills during first virtual meeting by ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH

City Council introduces bundle of coronavirus relief bills during first virtual meeting

One bill in the package, introduced by Councilmembers Ben Kallos, Brad Lander and Speaker Johnson, proposes an expansion of “whistleblower” protections for essential workers from being fired without “just cause.”

In early April, Lawmakers planned to propose legislation to protect healthcare workers after reports of hospitals threatening to fire doctors and nurses for speaking out about personal protective equipment shortages. The legislation now protects any essential worker, like a healthcare or transit workers, and those working in any essential business like a grocery store, pharmacies, post offices or food bank.

“With the pandemic everything that is wrong with our society has been magnified,” said Councilmember Kallos. “ In many cases people who are saying that we don’t have the protection, you are sending us to war without any weapons, are being retaliated against…having these protections will mean that somebody doing the right thing is not going to lose their job.”

AM New York First ExpressCare clinic opens for patients in Manhattan by BETH DEDMAN

First ExpressCare clinic opens for patients in Manhattan

NYC Health + Hospitals opened an ExpressCare clinic at their Metropolitan location Feb. 3, the first of the chain of clinics to open in Manhattan, according to a press release. 

The clinic will treat non-life-threatening conditions such as colds, flu, sprains, rashes, minor cuts and lacerations and certain types of infections, according to the press release. It will operate seven days a week from 6 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends and holidays. 

The clinic will provide faster treatment for these conditions than would be available in the emergency department, according to the press release. The physicians employed at the clinic will also help connect patients to primary care doctors in the NYC Health + Hospitals system for follow-up care. 

Redirecting non-life-threatening treatment from the emergency department will help reduce wait times for patients in need of immediate emergency care, said Alina Moran, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan, in the press release.

“We are excited to add a new health care option for the community we serve in East Harlem and upper Manhattan,” Moran said in the press release. 

This is the fourth ExpressCare clinic in the NYC Health + Hospital system, with other locations in Elmhurst, Lincoln and Queens, according to the press release. 

The clinic will operate in a shared space with the Geriatric Outpatient Services until construction on the permanent location is complete in several months, said Noel Alicea, the public relations representative for NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan.

NYC Council Member Diana Ayala, the representative for District 8, helped secure the $1.6 million for the construction of the clinic. 

AM New York C.B.5 Parks and Public Spaces Committee votes to support chemical pesticide ban by Chriss Williams

C.B.5 Parks and Public Spaces Committee votes to support chemical pesticide ban

Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera’s bill banning the use of chemical pesticides in city green spaces is gathering community support. 

Manhattan’s Community Board 5 Parks and Public Spaces Committee, which covers a center slice of Midtown from 59th to 14th Sts., unanimously passed a resolution in favor the legislation on Monday Feb. 3. 

“It’s a very dangerous chemical,” said spokesperson for Councilmember Rivera Jeremy Unger. “This is long overdue.” Under the bill, the Parks Department would be prohibited from using pesticides with glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup. In 2013, Parks sprayed Roundup 1,300 times. Since 2014 the agency has cut their use of glyphosate-based weed killers by 70 percent, a spokesperson said. When Parks does use glyphosate, it does not spray the chemical inside of playgrounds, dog runs or “when the public is in the immediate vicinity” the spokesperson added. 

At the meeting, Unger cited a 2015 World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research of Cancer (IARC) study which linked glyphosate to cancer as evidence to do away with the synthetic weed killer. But there is not a complete consensus in the scientific community on the effects of the compound on humans which some members of the community board brought up. 

“There is substantial debate and controversy and it’s not settled,” said committee member Tod Shapiro. He then asked Unger if the “feel good legislation” was sort of a liberal “hobby horse political thing, divorced from actual substance?”

Two years after the WHO study, the European Commission reauthorized the pesticide until 2022. And earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reiterated their 2019 stance on the chemical stating that there are “no risks of concern to human health” when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label.  The EPA decision comes a year after high-profile case were a California couple claimed they got non-Hodgkins Lymphoma after using Roundup for years. 

AM New York Pols urge city to make universal after-school programming a reality by ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH

Pols urge city to make universal after-school programming a reality

“Universal access to after school will increase and equalize educational opportunities, keep kids out of the criminal justice system, and make life easier for parents whose jobs keep them at work until at least 5 p.m.,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos, at an oversight hearing on after-school legislation on Tuesday. The Upper East side pol sponsored a bill in 2018 requiring that the city provide free after-school programs to every public school student between the ages of three through 21.

Kallos was joined by other members of the Youth Services committee including Councilmember Treyger who touched on his own after-school legislation proposed in 2018. Treyger’s bill would require annual reports by the Department of Education and DYCD on the demographics of the students at each after-school program including whether the student has special needs or is an English language learner. The report would also require that the agencies note the eligibility criteria for each program and the amount and source for program funding. 

AM New York Homeless who died in 2019 honored at memorial event in Manhattan by Gabe Herman

Homeless who died in 2019 honored at memorial event in Manhattan

The annual event, called Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, was hosted by the nonprofits Care For the Homeless (CFH) and Urban Pathways (UP) at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, at 7 West 55th St.

This year, 153 homeless people were honored, and each name was read aloud as a bell tolled and a candle was lit. Several elected officials spoke, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi and City Council Member Ben Kallos.

A eulogy was also given for the four Chinatown victims who were beaten to death one night in early October. There were six other eulogies given at the event, and 15 people read the names of all those who had died in 2019.

AM New York Tenant housing court history could become a protected class under city bill by By Sarina Trangle

Tenant housing court history could become a protected class under city bill

In a bid to root out so-called tenant blacklisting, the city may expand its list of protected classes to include people who have been involved in housing court cases.

At a hearing Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration indicated it supported a bill that would empower the city's Commission on Human Rights to investigate when New Yorkers believe a landlord opted not to rent to them because of their history in housing court.

Earlier this summer, the state banned this practice, often referred to as tenant blacklisting. Lawyers who represent renters have long spoken out against owners that reject anyone included in databases of people who have been involved in any housing court action — even in cases that tenants win — over the past seven years.

The state's prohibition, however, exclusively tasks the attorney general with enforcement and does not allow renters to take owners to court with their own attorneys.

AM New York Rally against anti-Semitism held on Upper East Side by AM News Staff

Rally against anti-Semitism held on Upper East Side

A rally against anti-Semitism was held Sunday at Asphalt Green, where protesters held signs and called for unity after swastikas were found painted at the recreation center and in the wake of the mosque shootings in New Zealand. (Credit: Todd Maisel)

AM New York New rules proposed to curb abuse of 'mechanical voids' in high-rises by Sarina Trangle

New rules proposed to curb abuse of 'mechanical voids' in high-rises

West Side, Upper East Side, Queens and the Bronx.

The limits seemed lax to several elected officials and neighborhood groups in Manhattan, who claimed at a hearing Wednesday that the regimen would still allow the proliferation of places like 432 Park Ave., where mechanical voids account for about 25 percent of — and illuminate patches at night of — the 1,396-foot tall condo, according to City Councilman Ben Kallos. 

"We need to pass it immediately due to the sheer number of buildings that are coming down the pipeline that want to use voids to get additional height," Kallos said. "There is always room for improvement, and I am concerned it doesn't go far enough."

Trade groups representing engineers and developers, however, said the framework proposed was not flexible enough for the breadth of buildings it could regulate and raised concerns about it impeding energy efficiency and other construction advancements.

"By restraining innovation at a time when the means of achieving operational and energy efficiencies are rapidly evolving, the legislation could cost the city opportunities for future use of the most advanced and appropriate mechanical health and safety systems," said Paul Selver, a member of the Real Estate Board of New York trade group representing landlords and developers.

Kallos, reading testimony on behalf of 10 other Manhattan politicians, suggested mechanical spaces that stretch beyond 14-feet in height be calculated into buildings' permitted square footage; and grace spaces only be allowed every 200, rather than 75, feet.

AM New York New rules proposed to curb abuse of 'mechanical voids' in high-rises by Sarina Trangle

New rules proposed to curb abuse of 'mechanical voids' in high-rises

City planners have not managed to avoid critiques with their new approach to mechanical voids.

The Department of City Planning suggested new protocols for spaces set aside in residences for electrical, heating and cooling systems after community groups claimed developers were stretching buildings past standard heights by including unusually tall floors for mechanical equipment.