New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Crain's New York

Crain's New York Yang draws renewed attention to proposed sidewalk shed legislation by Natalie Sachmechi

Yang draws renewed attention to proposed sidewalk shed legislation

Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos has been proposing legislation since 2016 that would force building owners to make necessary repairs to facades within six months of an inspection before the city steps in.

In addition, building owners would have to dismantle safety sheds within seven days after the work is completed.The sheds are unsafe because they can kill people if they collapse, Kallos said.

In 2018 scaffolding fell outside a Starbucks in Brooklyn, injuring three people.

The sheds look terrible, Kallos said, and they hurt small businesses by obscuring storefronts.

“The only solution is for building owners to actually have to make repairs in days, not years, under legislation I've proposed,” said Kallos, a Democrat. In addition, he would require building owners to pay for twice-yearly scaffolding inspections if their sheds have been up for longer than one year. 

Crain's New York Five steps to save small business during the pandemic by Ben Kallos Teresa Ghilarducci

Five steps to save small business during the pandemic

The government is shutting down the city’s small businesses to slow the spread of coronavirus and flatten the curve. As we take this drastic step to save the patients needing serious medical attention, we must do our part to save our vulnerable small businesses and our economy.

Five steps can help save small businesses during this pandemic-induced recession, inspired by student loan policies designed to relieve and manage debt. Many of us with student debt knew that if we had difficulty finding that first job, had a gap between jobs, or worse, we could defer payments until things got better. The federal government allows loan forgiveness if you make career choices benefitting the public.

While big corporations, government, and the information economy may survive, according to the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis there are 461,000 small businesses employing 4.1 million people endangered by the economic crisis. Bold and urgent steps can help save our city’s mom and pop shops and their workers.

Many small business owners need or will need relief from paying rent, assurance they won’t get evicted, and payroll support until they can reopen. As the federal government debates its next move, New York City can take these five steps to save small businesses:

  1. Stop Commercial Evictions
  2. Defer Property Taxes
  3. Defer Commercial Rent Payments
  4. Defer Mortgage Payments
  5. Guarantee Jobs and Healthcare for Workers

As Congress again uses American tax dollars to help banks with zero percent interest rates, we need something back. Big banks getting federal help should be required to defer mortgage payments for commercial and residential landlords whose tenants are impacted by the coronavirus. Similarly, New York City could also defer its property tax collections.

Commercial and residential landlords who claim deferrals from mortgage and tax payments should be required to defer rent payments from affected tenants affected. For its part, New York City should also stop commercial evictions, which is already has done

Crain's New York Facade safety crackdown could boost sidewalk-shed reform bill by Ryan Deffenbaugh

Facade safety crackdown could boost sidewalk-shed reform bill

Department of Buildings officials pledged to hold building-owners "feet to the fire" after designer Erica Tishman was killed by a falling chunk of debris in Times Square last month. 

Councilman Ben Kallos praised the department's actions but warned against reliance on scaffolding.

"Ultimately the solution isn't just to put sidewalk sheds everywhere," Kallos said. "We need to get to a place where folks are actually doing the work to maintain their buildings."

Crain's New York De Blasio makes push for city-run universal retirement program by Will Bredderman

De Blasio makes push for city-run universal retirement program

The bill, sponsored by Queens Councilman I. Daneek Miller and Manhattan Councilman Benjamin Kallos, would apply to any private sector employer of 10 employees or more. Kallos promised at the event that it would cost businesses nothing, though they would be responsible for making the deductions from their payroll and giving the set-aside funds to the city. 

The legislation would automatically dock 3% of an employee's income, although the individual could choose to subsequently adjust that figure or opt out of the program entirely. De Blasio estimated that the new retirement system would have a "small initial start-up cost" of $1.5 million to $3 million annually for the first three years, after which it would sustain itself off investment earnings.

Crain's New York Make Retirement Savings Plans Accessible to All New Yorkers by Ben Kallos, I. Daneek Miller, Beth Finkle

Make Retirement Savings Plans Accessible to All New Yorkers

At 73 years old, Kitty Ruderman enjoys being retired. She volunteers with a number of nonprofits, including AARP, advocating on behalf of folks like herself. She’s grateful to have no major health issues draining her energy or her bank account. But with her rent higher than her Social Security income, she’s worried. If her cost of living doesn’t go up – if she doesn’t get sick, if her rent doesn’t increase, if she has no new expenses – she estimates that she can maintain her current lifestyle for another 10 years. After that, she doesn’t know.

Middle- and low-income New Yorkers increasingly struggle to pay the bills and even seniors like Kitty, who worked for decades saving for retirement, are among those hit hardest by the City’s affordability crisis.

The most recent data show that more than one third of New Yorkers between the ages of 50 and 64 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. Most of these folks are disproportionately people of color.  White 50-plus New Yorkers’ retirement incomes are almost double that of black, Asian and Latino New Yorkers, and the majority of 50-plus New Yorkers of color are likely to retire with incomes near the poverty threshold.

Crain's New York Sidewalk shed surrounding 280 Broadway is coming down after 11 years by Aaron Elstein

Sidewalk shed surrounding 280 Broadway is coming down after 11 years

What goes up must come down. But when that happens is up in the air when it comes to sidewalk sheds, the ugly steel-and-wood structures that swallow up hundreds of miles of sidewalk space across the city.

Crain's New York Hospital for Special Surgery to revive FDR Drive project by JONATHAN LAMANTIA

Hospital for Special Surgery to revive FDR Drive project

Hospital for Special Surgery is moving ahead with a $300 million project to add patient rooms and physician offices by building above the FDR Drive. The plan is more than 10 years in the making and has been saddled with lawsuits from neighbors opposing it.

Crain's New York City Council approves bill targeting sugary drinks by JONATHAN LAMANTIA

City Council approves bill targeting sugary drinks

Restaurants that disobey the law would be subject to monetary penalties.

Public health advocates and the city Health Department supported the bill during a City Council hearing last month. The Health Department has described reducing the consumption of sugary beverages as a top agency priority. Nearly 1 in 5 children ages 6 to 19 are obese citywide.

"We know this change will do a lot to keep sugary drinks away from our children, helping them avoid childhood obesity and grow up to be healthy adults," Councilman Ben Kallos, the bill's sponsor, said in a statement.

Separately, the council approved a bill that would allow for the removal of a physician's name from a patient's birth certificate if the doctor's license has been surrendered or revoked for misconduct. The bill was introduced following BuzzFeed News' story on a patient who had been sexually abused by the OB/GYN who delivered her children. 

Crain's New York New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules by Editorial Board

New York looks into voids used by builders to bend height rules

Loophole closing

An amendment filed by the planning department at de Blasio’s request would limit mechanical spaces to a height of 25 feet, and require multiple mechanical floors to be at least 75 feet apart. Otherwise, they would count toward the building’s floor area as set by zoning rules, which determine how tall a building can be.

Kallos worries that without intervention, the mechanical voids will just keep growing—to 300 or 400 or 500 vertical feet of dead space. The practice is especially noticeable on Billionaire’s Row—a strip of super-luxury condo buildings just south of Central Park. Mechanical voids make up about a quarter of 432 Park Ave., Manhattan’s tallest completed condominium tower, according to Kallos. The building’s minimalist boxy design can be seen from every borough.

Crain's New York City fast-tracks crackdown on buildings on stilts by Joe Anuta

City fast-tracks crackdown on buildings on stilts

The de Blasio administration is accelerating plans to tighten a loophole that allows developers to boost the height of luxury apartment buildings, according to multiple sources. A tower on the Upper East Side proposed by Extell Development Co. is directly in regulators' cross-hairs.