Developers were using excessive mechanical spaces to increase the height of their buildings. On May 29, 2019, the City Council voted to adopt the Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment with modifications. The Department of City Planning proposed the amendment in response to developers incorporating excessively tall mechanical floors – “mechanical voids” – in residential towers to increase their allowable height, as mechanical floors did not count toward the zoning floor area in the Zoning Resolution. This would result in towers with several floors of mostly empty space that would allow developers to build higher, increasing the values of the apartments on higher floors. In late 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the Department of City Planning (DCP) to investigate the mechanical voids problem and find a solution.
City Land Council Member’s Legislation to Reveal Campaign Contribution Sources by May Vutrapongvatana
Any contributions that do not include this information will not be eligible for public matching.
“In NASCAR you can see who is paying right on the hood of the car. A pie chart showing where politicians are getting their money from in a voter guide when you are deciding who to vote for is the next best thing. Too big a slice from real estate, and voters will know who the politician really serves. I’ve already included logos from labor union endorsements in mail to voters in my district, in fact most do. I believe with 869,000 union members in New York City having a nice slice from labor would become a benchmark to determine candidates in public service for our working families,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.
“Council Member Kallos’ bill will increase public awareness and education about where money is coming from to fund candidates for City office. A more aware public makes a big difference in having our campaign finance laws enforced and supported,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The City’s zoning laws are now instantly accessible to New Yorkers. On February 6, 2019, Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago announced the release of the City’s digital Zoning Resolution online platform. The online platform will serve as a green replacement for the 1,570-page physical copy of the Resolution, which will no longer be printed to save money, increase government transparency, and fight climate change. It will also be a more interactive replacement for the static PDFs currently on the City Planning website. The platform will make the City’s Zoning Resolution more accessible for New Yorkers.
City Land New Book Highlights Yorkville’s Historic Developments and Immigrant Roots by Samantha Albanese
The book provides historical research and photographs from various institutional archives in the City, which are placed alongside contemporary photographs of the neighborhood to show the progression throughout the years. Council Member Ben Kallos and the Department of Cultural Affairs provided funding for the project.
“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.