“We are now taking big strides in fulfilling the need for Pre-K seats on the Upper East Side. Building by building we are working with the City to open up more pre-kindergarten seats so that every four-year-old in my district can get the benefits of Pre K without having to commute an hour away,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you the School Construction Authority for the work on the facility and to the Department of Education for helping us get this new facility open and serving the community.”
On June 8, 2018, City Council Member Ben Kallos, together with the New York City Housing Authority, announced the start of renovations and upgrades for the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center.
Council Member Kallos allocated $680,000 in Fiscal Year 2015 and $350,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 for upgrades to the senior center and youth center. NYCHA and the City Council, including former Council Members who represented the neighborhood, provided the remaining funding.
Council Member Kallos said, “The Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center is truly one of our community’s cornerstones. I could not think of a better way to put this money to good use in a way that will benefit the everyday lives of my constituents. I am looking forward to the work being completed and happy for those who will reap the benefits.”
Rita Sklar, of the family has possessed the building since the 1940s and principal of Ninety Five Madison Corp., warmly embraced designation of the “grande dame that has withstood the test of time.” Sklar said the Emmet was a “tiny building in a growing sea of towering modern buildings,” that “remained a jewel”, and was worthy of individual landmark designation. The Historic Districts Council’s Kelly Carroll discussed Dr. Emmet’s support for the Irish independence movement, and noted that he left his extensive library to the Irish American Historical Society and Notre Dame. Designation was also supported by Community Board 5, the 29th Street Block Association, the Society for the Architecture of the City, and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, who had recently visited the site, said the building has been “beautifully maintained,” and “has great presence on the block.”
Chair Srinivasan stated that State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, and Council Member Ben Kallos had communicated their support for both designations in a joint letter to the Commission.
Council Member Kallos said: “Affordable housing remains out of reach for too many New Yorkers. As the Administration continues to announce progress on preserving and building new housing, we will watch every deal closely to ensure New Yorkers are actually getting the affordable housing we need. The IBO has questioned whether the city is overstating, or worse, overpaying for affordable housing. I look forward to continuing to fight for affordable housing alongside Speaker Corey Johnson as Chair of the Subcommittee on Planning, Dispositions, and Concessions by ensuring every hard-earned tax dollar is maximized to drive a hard bargain and generate significantly more affordable housing. I also plan to ensure this committee empowers communities in the planning process, creates opportunities for minority and women-owned small businesses, and produces a full return on any city land and resources we give up.”
Intro No. 0931-2015, sponsored by Ben Kallos, would treat unpaid judgments rendered by the Environmental Control Board as tax liens on the property in question, which would potentially subject the building to the City’s tax-lien sale program.
City Land Committee Hears Testimony from DOB on 21 Pieces of Construction Safety Legislation by Jonothon Sizemore
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley was combative when questioning Chandler. Citing the Committee’s report, Crowley noted that while permits issued by the DOB were up 15 percent from 2014 to 2016, fatalities had gone up 100 percent in that same time. She laid blame for the rise in deaths on a “lapse in safety standards and supervision on the behalf of the DOB.” Crowley, sponsor of the prevailing wage bill, was baffled that the DOB would oppose requiring prevailing wages and apprenticeship training, which she pointed out that the School Construction Authority already requires for all its developments.
Council Member Benjamin Kallos expressed concerns over DOB’s testimony against apprenticeship programs. Kallos noted, and DOB conceded, that there are apprenticeship programs offered in a range of languages other than English, so language may not be such a bar. Further, when asked how many programs require a G.E.D. or its equivalent, the DOB was unable to provide an answer because it did not track such things. Kallos asked DOB to reconsider its position based on the lack of data to back the DOB’s assertions.
City Land Landmarks Leaves Only One Backlog Item Remaining After Last Meeting of 2016 by Editorial Board
Occupying a prominent site that formerly hosted the Vanderbilt mansion at the south end of Grand Army Plaza, the building was designed Ely Jacques Kahn in a Modern Classical style. Bergdorf Goodman was among the original tenants, and grew to become one of the City’s iconic department stores, ultimately purchasing the entire building.
The vernacular Italianate 412 East 85th Street House was built circa 1860, and is a rare surviving wood-framed house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The house has had a series of owners, and undergone some minor alterations, but remains largely intact. The house’s owners, Catherine De Vido and Susan Jordan, supported landmark designation. Council Member Ben Kallos, Gale Brewer, and preservationist organizations also urged Landmarks to designate the property.
The Harlem Branch of the YMCA, now the Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center, was completed in 1919 to designs by architect John Jackson. At the time of its construction, YMCAs were racially segregated, and the Harlem Branch was built for the use of African Americans. The building served as a center for Harlem intellectual and social life, and Harlem Renaissance luminaries such as Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Paul Robeson are associated with the YMCA. There was no opposition to designation on the November 12thhearing. Chair Srinivasan said the cultural and social history associated with the building made it “a standout.”
The site for the skyscraper forms an L-shape, wrapping around several existing buildings and fronting both Third Avenue and 88th Street. Last year the developer carved out a lot measuring four by twenty-two feet on the development’s 88th Street front. Doing so allowed the owner to avoid strict zoning requirements, including height limits for narrow buildings between two low-rise buildings. The move also allowed the owner to designate space on the side facing 88th Street as a required rear yard, when in practice it would serve as an entrance to the skyscraper. The Department of Buildings approved the carve-out.
In May 2016, after construction had begun, the scheme came to the notice of Council Member Ben Kallos who, with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, requestedthat Buildings immediately stop construction at the site for a review. Together, they called the 88 square-foot lot “the smallest created in modern times” and “unbuildable” with “no legitimate purpose.” Buildings stopped construction at the site shortly after.
Working with the City, the developer proposed increasing the carved out lot to ten by twenty-two feet. On October 27, 2016, Buildings approved the increased size, stating that the agency considered the now larger lot “developable.”
Ten bills will be aired for public opinion to place restrictions on and revamp the processes of the Board of Standards and Appeals. On December 6, 2016, Council Member Ben Kallos introduced five new bills regarding the oversight and operations of the Board of Standards and Appeals at the City Council’s stated meeting. The Board of Standards and Appeals, which was originally created to be an independent board tasked with granting “relief” from the zoning code, is empowered by the Zoning Resolution and primarily reviews and decides applications for variances and special permits.
Co-owner of 412 East 85th Street Susan Jordan endorsed landmarking, saying the preservation of the 19th-century wood-framed house was important to the immediate and larger communities, and that the building served as a “reminder of Yorkville’s agrarian past.” Council member Ben Kallos called the building “absolutely amazing,” and noted that it was one of only six wood-framed houses still standing on the Upper East Side, including Gracie Mansion. Area resident Franny Eberhart called the building a “window to the history of Yorkville.”