New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn Daily Eagle One homeless shelter provider in Brooklyn has racked up hundreds of violations by Noah Goldberg

One homeless shelter provider in Brooklyn has racked up hundreds of violations

A Brooklyn-based nonprofit has racked up nearly 300 open violations at five different homeless shelters across the borough — and it runs all five of the “cluster sites” with the most violations in Brooklyn, according to the most recent city-released statistics.

Core Services Group Inc. operates 40 “emergency or transitional housing settings,” providing “critical services” to at least 3,000 people, according to the organization’s website. The nonprofit runs at least 20 shelters and cluster sites in New York City and provides at least 800 beds of emergency, transitional and shelter-based housing, according to the city. It also operates shelters in Washington D.C.

Cluster sites are temporary apartments that house people experiencing homelessness in privately owned buildings. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced first in 2016 that he planned on getting rid of cluster sites as one of the options the city uses to house the homeless by 2019, partially due to the “bad conditions” of many of the sites. At the time there were 3,000 units of cluster site housing.

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“That number of violations in units is not acceptable,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin, who chairs the Committee on General Welfare, on Monday.

The City Council held an oversight hearing on Monday regarding the Department of Homeless Services and its contracts with nonprofit groups running some of the city’s shelters.

“In Brooklyn, it appears Core Services Group is running cluster sites that typically have more violations than shelters. Today, [the Department of Homeless Services] reiterated that these cluster sites will be phased out over the next two years at which point we hope to see fewer violations,” Councilmember Ben Kallos told the Brooklyn Eagle at the hearing. “DHS and the city need to stay on top of these providers making sure violations are handled and that conditions are suitable for New Yorkers.”

There were nearly 49,000 people staying in the city’s shelter system as of Sunday.

Molly Park, the first deputy commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, said at the hearing that the city plans on closing all cluster sites by 2021.

Core Services Group does not operate the cluster sites with the most open violations in the city — the 12 sites with the most violations are all in the Bronx, including one site, run by nonprofit group Aguila, that has racked up a whopping 197 open violations.

Core Services Group also operates homeless shelters in the city — and is slated to operate the shelter in Queens that has elicited anti-homeless rhetoric in the borough. It also operates a shelter in Washington Heights where a man’s decaying body was found weeks after his death.

Kallos, who chairs the Committee on Contracts, asked DHS brass Monday if the city is stuck with vendors who struggle to run sites without violations.

“Why do certain providers who consistently have violations … still see DHS continue to award or renew contracts? For example, Acacia currently has 1,184 open violations. Are we as a city stuck with specific vendors?” he asked. (Acacia Network Housing Inc., a Bronx-based nonprofit, is currently being probed by the Department of Investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

Park responded that most open violations occur in cluster sites and not in other types of homeless shelters, like commercial hotels where the city houses people experiencing homelessness.

While DHS plans on closing down all the cluster sites by 2021, Kallos hopes the city will focus on first shutting down the sites run by providers like Core Services Group with high numbers of open violations.

Core Services Group declined to comment and referred all questions about the cluster sites they operate back to DHS.

DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how much money the city contracts to Core Services Group.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Housing Works employees protest, claiming harassment and union-busting tactics by Mary Frost

Housing Works employees protest, claiming harassment and union-busting tactics

Manhattan Councilmember Ben Kallos said, “It says something that the number one demand is caseload.” The average pay of Housing Works employees is $16.23, he noted, “Too close to the minimum wage.” He also listed “No clear grievance process and concern about a safe work environment” as good reasons to unionize.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Special Ed advocates say school bus GPS will save kids by Paula Katinas

Special Ed advocates say school bus GPS will save kids

On Wednesday, the council approved legislation sponsored by Chaim Deutsch (D-Brighton Beach-Sheepshead Bay) and Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) to install GPS devices on school buses and to give parents the option of using the tracking devices via an app. Another bill would give parents the opportunity before the start of the school year to review and bus routes and request changes to those routes.

The bills have been sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his signature.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NYC looks at ways to entice voters to polls by Paula Katinas

NYC looks at ways to entice voters to polls

Councilmembers Mark Treyger Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) and Helen Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side) are pushing legislation to make it easier for New Yorkers to register to vote and to cut the red tape prospective candidates face getting on the ballot.

One bill would seek to strengthen the Young Adult Voter Registration Act, a 2004 law requiring voter registration forms to be sent to graduating high school seniors with their diplomas. The bill would require the forms to be distributed to students in class instead of mailing them with diplomas.

"Ensuring that our schools are connecting students with language-appropriate voter registration materials will help us empower our young adults to stand up, take action for what they believe in, and become part of the social fabric of our city, our state and our country," said Treyger, chairman of the Council’s Committee on Education.

A second bill would require landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration forms with the apartment lease.

The third bill would overhaul the process by which candidates get on the ballot. Under the bill, candidates could qualify to get on the ballot by meeting a minimum threshold to receive public funds through the city’s campaign finance system.

It would do away with the current system which requires candidates to secure a certain number of signatures on nominating petitions from registered voters in their districts.

Kallos charged that the current system has given rise to “ballot bumping,” an effort by well-financed candidates and political clubs to hire lawyers to take opponents to court and knock them off the ballot for minor technical infractions.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Council votes to crack down on cheating landlords by Paula Katinas

Council votes to crack down on cheating landlords

On Tuesday, the Council approved Intro 1015-A, a bill sponsored by Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Jumaane Williams, with input from Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer, to hold building owners who receive tax abatements accountable to the city.

Starting in 2020, landlords who aren’t providing affordable apartments after they have received financial windfalls in the form of city financing or tax breaks will be required to register their units with the city.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle NYC: Success of ‘City-Wide’ Bike-Share Program Not Wide Enough by Mary Frost

NYC: Success of ‘City-Wide’ Bike-Share Program Not Wide Enough

Officials, including Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council Committee on Transportation, and Councilmember Ben Kallos, said the move was all about equity for the outer boroughs.

"We have spent years working to get bike sharing in all five boroughs and although we have made a lot of progress some areas don't have it,” Kallos said in a statement.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle City Council Looks at Easing Online Voter Registration by Paula Katinas

City Council Looks at Easing Online Voter Registration

The council’s Committee on Governmental Operations voted to pass legislation sponsored by Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) that would require the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to create a secure website and mobile app for residents who want to register to vote online.

“Democracy should be a click away. We are used to filling out forms online with the click of a mouse and voter registration should be no different. You should be registered and receive a confirmation by email, just as with any other website,” Kallos said in a statement. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Immigrants in NY have new place to go for city-sanctioned photo ID cards by James Harney

Immigrants in NY have new place to go for city-sanctioned photo ID cards

“I am excited to become one of the almost 1 million IDNYC cardholders, and I am proud to do it in my district on Roosevelt Island,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side-Midtown East-Roosevelt Island), who personally signed up for an IDNYC card after the press conference.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle 'City of Water Day' celebrates NYC's maritime roots and reclaimed waterfront by Mary Frost

'City of Water Day' celebrates NYC's maritime roots and reclaimed waterfront

New York City Councilmember Ben Kallos (Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island) told the crowd, “We’re taking back our waterfront.” He said that the expanded ferry service expected to roll out in 2017-2018 would “connect all five boroughs.”

The Councilmember has literally immersed himself in his subject.

“It’s always a please to swim across the East River, and around the Statue of Liberty with New York Swim,” he said. “Tomorrow morning I’ll be in the Hudson, swimming from 99th to 79th.”