New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Curbed

Curbed Amendment to close zoning loophole ‘misses the point wildly,’ says city council committee by Caroline Spivack

Amendment to close zoning loophole ‘misses the point wildly,’ says city council committee

In a notable exchange with Council member Ben Kallos, who represents a swath of Manhattan’s east side, Hsu-Chen acknowledged that although the city tweaked the revision to cap voids at 30 feet it would support the council if it amended the modification back to the 25 foot cap.

“We would support the City Council modification,” said Hsu-Chen. “The city planning commission did take into consideration input from expert practitioners and made the modification, but we believe 25 feet would be sufficient.”

DCP acknowledged that its research did not identify buildings where an additional five feet would have been crucial for the function of a void, but said it opted to include the extra space to “future proof” buildings in case of innovations in equipment that require additional space. Though the agency did concede that additional zoning changes could be made later to accommodate such innovations.

The Tuesday review of the zoning change was the first leg in the final obstacle—the City Council—the revision must face before it can be enacted. Kallos told Curbed he anticipates a successfully push for the amendment to be scaled back to its original 25 foot cap.

“I believe we should have widespread support,” said Kallos. “I anticipate that amendment will be the case.”

Curbed Plans for ‘condo on stilts’ halted over fire safety concerns, says DOB by Caroline Spivack

Plans for ‘condo on stilts’ halted over fire safety concerns, says DOB

“Until they have been demonstrated to be safe, novel designs such as vast void areas must be evaluated by the FDNY,” the letter reads. “Due to the nature of such different design elements and any review processes surrounding aspects of this size, we feel it is critical to involve the FDNY prior to the approval of such building plans.”

Kallos said he is pleased with the “starting point” zoning amendment the city has brought forward, but is “very disappointed that the Department of Buildings has been engaging behind closed doors to close one loophole while it opens another” in terms of open air voids. He said it ultimately boils down to ensuring that first responders can access those living above excessive voids in case of an emergency.

“Tragedies happen, fires happens, and it’s going to be up to our first responders to rescue whomever is in this building. I don’t think it’s right to ask a first responder to climb 150 feet or more of steps just to get where people might be who need saving,” said Kallos.

Levy echoed the Council member’s concern and said the city has a duty to give these structures extra safety scrutiny.

Curbed Opponents of Amazon’s ‘unconscionable’ HQ2 deal rally in Queens by Dave Colon

Opponents of Amazon’s ‘unconscionable’ HQ2 deal rally in Queens

Numerous speakers also blasted the inclusion of a helipad in the construction of the campus, which was held up as a totem of what they saw as Bezos’ elite attitude, refusal to ride the subway, or spend a second longer in Queens than he might have to. City Council Member Ben Kallos of the Upper East Side went as far as comparing Bezos to a Bond villain.

Kallos was also the only speaker of the bunch to bring up a letter that he and many other lawmakers (including rally leader Van Bramer and Queens state Senator Mike Gianaris) signed last year asking Amazon to explore moving to New York City, an awkward juxtaposition with the day’s anti-Amazon sentiment. “A lot of us did sign a letter saying we wanted to have a conversation with Amazon, and I’ll be the first to say talking to tech companies is a good thing,” Kallos explained. “But we didn’t sign on the dotted line that we were signing away our tax dollars. They’re taking $3 billion out of your pockets and none of us get a say in that.

Curbed One of NYC’s oldest sidewalk sheds is finally taken down by Ameena Walker

One of NYC’s oldest sidewalk sheds is finally taken down

The sidewalk shed was one of nearly 8,000 around the city and was one of the city’s oldest. It was scaffolding like these that prompted City Councilman Ben Kallos to introduce a bill last November that aimed to require scaffolding to be taken down within six months of it having gone up. Kallos argued that some property owners opt to keep the sheds in place for extended periods of time to put off making costly facade repairs. In 2016, the Department of Buildings (DOB) found that the city was home to nearly 2,000 “dormant sheds” where repair work wasn’t being carried out on building facades that posed safety hazards. Even the DOB headquarters at 280 Broadway in Manhattan has had a sidewalk shed around it since 2008.

Curbed City clashes with community over Upper East Side playground’s future by Tanay Warekar

City clashes with community over Upper East Side playground’s future

“From every indication, jointly operated parks are treated like parkland,” said City Council member Ben Kallos, who represents East Harlem, and the Upper East Side, among other neighborhoods. “In fact, the Marx Brothers Playground went through New York State authorization as if it was, in fact, parkland. Seems like everyone involved, including the City and State, believe this playground was, in fact, a park. Government must eliminate the baseless distinctions between parks in order to protect our playgrounds and green spaces from overdevelopment,”

Curbed NYC takes aim at plastic with bills banning bags, bottles by Ameena Walker

NYC takes aim at plastic with bills banning bags, bottles

The bill must pass through the State Assembly and the Senate before it can move forward. Per the Times, the Assembly has been “generally supportive of a ban but not a fee,” however, the Senate has not weighed in yet on the proposal.

Last week, New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr., and Councilman Ben Kallos announced plans of their own to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of disposable plastic bottles at the city’s parks, beaches, and golf courses, reports the New York Times. The proposed ban hopes to encourage more people to rely on refillable bottles, and while sales of beverages in plastic bottles would be prohibited, park visitors would still be allowed to bring in their own plastic bottles.

“New Yorkers love convenience, especially because we are always running from one place to another, but this will make us pause and realize the impact that our actions are having on our environment,” said Espinal in a statement to the Times.

Curbed DDG’s Upper East Side tower gets hit with yet another lawsuit by Ameena Walker

DDG’s Upper East Side tower gets hit with yet another lawsuit

“The loophole being abused here is just an example of what residents have endured from overdevelopment in our city,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who is one of the parties of the suit.

In summer 2016, developers were hit with a stop-work order from the DOB over a four-foot lot that DDG carved out on the property in order to allow for a taller building. After the stop-work order, DDG increased the lot’s size and the DOB allowed construction to resume. However, community members continued to express opposition and proceeded with their third appeal at the time.

Curbed City Enacts Steeper Fines for Landlords Violating Privately Owned Public Space Rules by Emily Nonko

City Enacts Steeper Fines for Landlords Violating Privately Owned Public Space Rules

One such violator is Donald Trump, who helped bring attention to the issue in 2015 after a black marble bench vanished from the pedestrian atrium of Trump Tower and was replaced with an unapproved sales counter. It has since reappeared, but the Trump Organization was still fined $10,000. In response to the bench drama, three new bills to protect POPS were introduced in the City Council this year, sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick.

Other legislation from Council Members Kallos and Garodnick requires additional signage in all POPS detailing amenities and hours of operation, as well as a website for the public to find more information or to register complaints.

Curbed Sutton Place rezoning Could Move Forward, Along with Contested 800-foot Tower by Tanay Warekar

Sutton Place rezoning Could Move Forward, Along with Contested 800-foot Tower

The neighborhood rezoning already has the backing of several elected officials, most notably City Council member Ben Kallos, who represents the area. He has vowed to remove the City Planning-proposed clause when the project comes before the Council next month, so this tussle is far from over.

Curbed De Blasio’s Proposed Millionaires Tax Backed By More Than Half of City Council by Zoe Rosenberg

De Blasio’s Proposed Millionaires Tax Backed By More Than Half of City Council

The 27 City Council members who have announced their support for the project by way of a letter to the MTA board and its chairman, Joe Lhota, include Jimmy Van Bramer, Margaret Chin, Laurie Cumbo, Rafael Espinal, Ben Kallos, Brad Lander, Carlos Menchaca, and Jumaane Williams.