New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Crain's New York

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.

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.