New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Crain's New York

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.

Crain's New York Kushner's got company: Despite new laws, city fails to collect $1.5B in fines by Joe Anuta

Kushner's got company: Despite new laws, city fails to collect $1.5B in fines

"I was hoping for a lot more," said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who sponsored the series of bills along with former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

"It would be news to me if any agency was actually following this law," Kallos said.

The other two bills required agencies to be more precise in writing out the property and person responsible for the violations in an effort to prevent New Yorkers from weaseling out of tickets

Crain's New York So much development drama in quiet Sutton Place by Tom Acitelli

So much development drama in quiet Sutton Place

The project has a tortured history that began in 2015, when Connecticut developer Joseph Beninati bought a run of small apartment buildings and filed plans for a 950-foot condo tower. He later lost the site to lender Gamma Real Estate, led by Richard Kalikow.

During the protracted foreclosure process, a neighborhood group aligned with City Councilman Ben Kallos was able to gain approval for a rezoning that prohibited such a large structure there. Because Gamma had not started work on the 800-foot tower before the rezoning, Sutton 58 appeared to be kaput. But in late June, a city board granted the project an exemption. Now Gamma is building, and the neighborhood group is planning to sue.

Get the popcorn ready.

Crain's New York Councilman to push back on development with beefed up land-use staff by Joe Anuta

Councilman to push back on development with beefed up land-use staff

With as much as a 50% staffing increase, the City Council is prepping for a more active role in shaping development.

The City Council is getting closer to adding several land-use staffers as lawmakers push to take a more active role in shaping development in the five boroughs.

In March council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that he would increase the legislative body's budget by 27%, to $81.3 million. And now that the budget has been approved, the council has $1.8 million to spend on 21 staffers, up from nearly $1.3 million and around 15 people who worked in the division in the previous fiscal year.

City Councilman Ben Kallos is aiming to have one of the new hires work with the Committee on Planning, Dispositions and Concessions, which he chairs, to examine claims from developers and the city about how much affordable housing a particular development might be able to support. The implication is that the council would be able to squeeze more amenities or affordability out of certain projects if it had someone with the expertise to take a deep dive into a project's finances.

"The City Council has been outgunned by the real estate industry and the city's [Office of Management and Budget], the Department of City Planning and the [Department of Housing Preservation and Development]," he said. "Combined, those agencies have thousands of people at their disposal, and the council hasn't had enough staff to take on the onslaught of projects."

The council also has taken an interest in doing more proactive rezonings in areas such as Bushwick. And a spokesman said the additional headcount would help produce environmental-impact studies, for example, which are lengthy research documents about a land-use action's potential effect on a variety of conditions. Other members are pushing priorities that include incentivizing more grocery stores, increasing the number of affordable units for homeless households and, in several cases, blocking development projects proposed in their districts. However, it is still unclear exactly what the extra employees will do and when the positions will be filled.

 

Crain's New York Tackling the scourge of sidewalk sheds by Aaron Elstein

Tackling the scourge of sidewalk sheds

There's no law mandating when dormant sheds must be removed, but city Councilman Ben Kallos is trying to create one. In 2016 he introduced a bill that would require private landlords to take down a shed if no work were underway for seven days, with exceptions for bad weather. If a landlord refused to undertake repairs, in some cases the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development could step in and arrange to have the work done.

"It's a law of nature that what goes up must come down," Kallos said, "but not in New York when it comes to sheds."

Kallos' bill hasn't gotten any further than a single hearing in November, mainly because neither the Real Estate Board of New York nor the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group, wants the city meddling any further with sheds and construction work. Nor is the de Blasio administration—which already has its hands full managing public housing—interested in getting involved with costly, complex repair projects that come with potentially significant legal risk thanks to the state's scaffolding law, which holds building owners and contractors 100% liable for any gravity-related accident even if they are only partially at fault.

Crain's New York City board approves Sutton Place tower, but the fight is far from over by Joe Anuta

City board approves Sutton Place tower, but the fight is far from over

The 800-foot tower proposed for East 58th Street was first begun by Connecticut developer Joseph Beninanti, who took a huge financing gamble and ultimately lost the property to one of his lenders, Gamma Real Estate. During the foreclosure process, a coalition made up of nearby residents opposed to the soaring scale of the building and City Councilman Ben Kallos began advancing a rezoning proposal to cap heights in the area. The goal was to push through changes before Gamma completed the foundation work, which would have ensured that the project would be subject to existing zoning rules.