After pushback from the Upper West Side community and elected officials, the City Planning Commission announced Monday it will be reviewing a text amendment to limit voids: non-residential spaces in residential buildings created to augment the height of a building.
There are dangerous intersections in every neighborhood. The ones we dread crossing every day, the ones we take the long way to avoid, the ones where we ask loved ones to hold our hands while crossing.
These intersections are a perfect storm of outdated traffic design, millions of vehicles competing with pedestrians and cyclists to move around the city each day, drivers who flout the traffic laws, and the limits of asking 35,000 uniformed police and 3,000 traffic enforcement officers to police 6,000 miles of city roadways.
Residents frequently complain of dangerous drivers not receiving tickets, of police writing tickets for one moving violation but not others, or of an intersection that is made safe for only part of the day, during an officer’s shift.
A recent piece of local legislation, authored by Councilmember Ben Kallos and passed in January, mandates all noise mitigation plans be filed electronically, effective for all plans created after May 5th. “After years of getting noise complaints then asking the city to do something about it and requesting a copy of the noise mitigation plans, I started to think they didn’t exist. Now we will be able to see for ourselves, force developers to follow the plans, and turn down the volume on construction noise,” wrote Councilman Kallos in an email.
Kallos says he sees the impact of the law’s flaws. Across the street from his Council office, shedding has been in place for eight years despite a lack of work.
“Every day I see scaffolds where work is not happening at existing buildings,” he says.
Industry professionals tell City Limits privately that such delays could occur for legitimate and unavoidable reasons, such as a dysfunctional co-op board, delays in receiving city permits, new owners, a broke landlord who inherited an old walk-up, a building exchanging hands. Imposing a six-month limit, one architect warned, was “arbitrary” and could create a risk to public safety. And some wonder why a landlord would needlessly allow a shed to stay up if it was hurting their commercial tenants, who pay him rent.
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) says Kallos’ proposed law will inconvenience the developer and the public and bring further delays. “The bill is well-intentioned but there are too many unintended consequences, insists REBNY’s Carl Hum, senior vice president of the organization, which represents more than 13,000 building owners and professionals.
Kallos’s office tells City Limits that the bill was reintroduced in 2017 and that negotiations are continuing with the DOB, REBNY and the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), a trade group for residential building owners, which did not comment. “We have to negotiate with other people in the room,” Kallos says.
Kevin Dougan, director of the New York State Restaurant Group, supports the bill, as does the New York Hospitality Alliance. Dougan says that more than 600 of his members (mostly in Manhattan) report seeing a 40-percent slump in earnings because of the sheds, in an industry where profits are low as is.
In a 2016 sweep, the DOB says, it found that 98 percent of the sheds are necessary to protect the public, ordering the remainder to be removed. But that’s a number whose accuracy Dougan doubts, given the lack of inspectors. Kallos says the sweep did not determine whether work was active at each site.
City Limits Asphalt Green Installs New Eco-Friendly Filters in Olympic-Size Pool, With Support From City Council Member Ben Kallos by anatgersteininc
(New York, N.Y.) – New York City sports and fitness nonprofit Asphalt Greenreopened its Upper East Side Olympic-size swimming pool earlier this month, after a three-week shutdown to install new pool filters for the first time since it opened in 1993.
The eco-friendly, energy-efficient Neptune Benson Defender filters require less maintenance, and keep the water cleaner, filtering 2.6 million gallons per day. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos led the effort to secure City funding for the project, which cost $698,000.
“Council Member Kallos continues to be a valued supporter of Asphalt Green’s mission to help New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds live active, healthy lifestyles through sports and fitness,” said Maggy Siegel, Executive Director of Asphalt Green. “We are tremendously grateful for the Council’s funding for our new eco-friendly pool filters, which will make our water cleaner for the thousands of children and adults who use our pool each month.”
“Asphalt Green is one of my favorite places on the Upper East Side to exercise, and now it has likely the cleanest pool in all of New York City thanks to the new, state-of-the-art filters and renovation,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who provided $100,000 and advocated for an additional $513,000 from Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in discretionary funding for the improvements. “Asphalt Green is one of the unique neighborhood jewels that make the Upper East Side a special place to live, and that is why I am proud of the investment my office made to keep the facility running better than ever for residents and Olympians alike.”
Among those items passed are 11 of the 12 bills in the Stand for Tenant Safety package, which aims to address the use of construction as a type of tenant harassment. A large coalition of tenant and community organizations has been advocating for the bills since 2015. Members of the Progressive caucus also recently penned an op-ed calling on the Council to pass the package.
“Even as preserving and creating affordable housing has remained a focus of both the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the myriad loopholes landlords use in existing laws allow the number of rent-regulated apartments to dwindle. With both the cost of living in the city and rent continuing to rise, protecting the health and safety of tenants through legislation is the minimum of what can be done,” wrote Council members Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos in Gotham Gazette on July 31.
The other seven bills include a package aimed at strengthening the city’s laws concerning harassment of all types and a bill that seeks to improve the city’s fine-collection by denying landlords with certain levels of debt the ability to obtain work permits (excepting for repairs necessary to correct dangerous situations).
City Limits City Pushes to Regulate Low-Income Coops Amid Some Shareholders’ Opposition by Abigail Savitch-Lew
The council members, including Margaret Chin, Corey Johnson, Rosie Mendez, Daniel Garodnick, Ben Kallos, Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez, expressed concern that the regulatory agreement had been crafted without significant input from HDFC stakeholders, that the regulation was “one-size-fits-all,” that additional restrictions could hurt stakeholders’ leveraging ability, among other concerns.
City Limits Neighborhood Coalition Proposal is Most Comprehensive Zoning Plan Submitted by Community Group by Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein
The proposal would protect neighborhood aesthetics with height caps on new developments and provide additional benefits to affected communities. On January 21, 2016, the Department of City Planning received a zoning proposal from the East River Fifties Alliance, a neighborhood coalition led by City Council members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick, which is the most comprehensive residential re-zoning proposal to ever be submitted by a community group. The proposal seeks to safeguard the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan from the construction of skyscrapers. Council members Kallos and Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and New York State Senator Liz Krueger are also co-applicants on the proposal, which can be found here.
City Limits New York’s Garbage System Faces Mounting Challenges of Cost, Carbon and Equity by Cole Rosengren
Building state-of-the-art marine transfer stations, with the extra step of cranes putting containers onto barges, has become very expensive. The total construction cost for these stations is approaching $1 billion.
"The day the Solid Waste Management Plan was passed in 2006 it was already obsolete," says Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the neighborhoods around the 91st Street MTS.
He has joined a long line of local politicians that have taken up the cause. In a March 25 preliminary budget hearing at City Hall, he grilled DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia over rising construction costs.
Kallos and James propose that Comcast fix the loopholes in Internet Essentials so that all low-income New Yorkers are eligible. But the most striking feature of their request is that Comcast should offer free broadband to all New York City public housing residents. Two weeks ago, California's equivalent of the PSC, the Public Utilities Commission, approved the merger with similar conditions such as expanding Internet Essentials to all low-income Californians and setting an enrollment quota for the program., Notably, California's conditions were lacking the requirement for free Internet in public housing. Even so, Comcast reeled at California's requirements, calling them intrusive and unrealistic.
"New York City is the landlord for nearly half a million New Yorkers living in 178,000 public housing units," says Kallos. "With the digital divide so big and income inequality being one of the primary causes, we need to make sure that every single New Yorker has access to the Internet. And that starts with our very low income living in public housing."