New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Gothamist

Gothamist Politics As Usual: City Council Democrats Approve Elections Commissioners by Brigid Bergin

Politics As Usual: City Council Democrats Approve Elections Commissioners

Pepe-Souvenir, an attorney from Brooklyn, works as the Title IX Coordinator for CUNY’s Central Office and serves as president of the Haitian American Lawyers Association. Nominated by the current Brooklyn Democratic Leader, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, Pepe-Souvenir garnered 42 votes. Only City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer opposed the appointment, as a matter of principle. 

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Only two members besides Van Bramer bothered to explain their votes. Manhattan City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who has long-championed reform at the Board of Elections and is running for Manhattan Borough President, said his conversation with Pepe-Souvenir left him satisfied that she would work to overcome long lines, broken machines and would work to expand early and online voting. 

Gothamist City Council Hears Plenty Of Skepticism On NYC School Reopening Plan by David Cruz

City Council Hears Plenty Of Skepticism On NYC School Reopening Plan

"My school is not ready to reopen, we do not have the proper ventilation system, our school population increases every year. And we're not prepared for this upcoming school year. And I think that every other school is not ready to do so either," said Diep. "This is coming from a student who did, in fact, struggle with online learning, and was able to be privileged to have the choice between remote learning and the hybrid learning system."

Because the emergency hearing was technically to consider a resolution declaring schools remain unsafe to reopen, it did not obligate the city officials, including de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, to appear and testify. As a result, Councilmember Ben Kallos mockingly marked them down as "absent."

"They're getting an 'F' in today's pop quiz," said Kallos. "And that's just putting it lightly."

Miranda Barbot, a DOE spokesperson, said in a statement, “The resolution was primarily to push back the first day of school, which we already announced earlier this week. We will testify later this month.“

Gothamist A Day Of Virtual Action To Push Online Voter Registration Amid Coronavirus Outbreak by Brigid Bergin

A Day Of Virtual Action To Push Online Voter Registration Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The state bill grew out of a push for an online voter registration system here in New York City, led by City Councilmember Ben Kallos.  He said three years ago that he wanted to make registering to vote as easy as calling an Uber. His bill passed the Council and was signed into law by Mayor de Blasio in 2017. But the New York City Board of Elections has indicated it would not process the forms completed online through a system built by the New York City Campaign Finance Board, unless it is required by a change in state law. 

Kallos said it’s time for the state to act, not just to make registering to vote easier, but to reduce the risk to public health. 

“While we're telling everyone to just stay home, it's wrong to still require people to print out a voter registration form, fill it out by hand, get a postage stamp, go to a post office, expose themselves to mail it, when we could just as easily do it online,” he said. “And then, similarly, it's a little bit crazy that we would require very low-wage workers at the Board of Elections, often making minimum wage, to go in at a time like this and literally transcribe what people hand write into a computer, when we could just skip the step...let people enter it from home and keep everybody safe during the process.” 

Gothamist City Council Staffers Achieve Major Milestone In Union Push by Brigid Bergin

City Council Staffers Achieve Major Milestone In Union Push

“We will be the first unaffiliated legislative staff union,” said Wilfredo Lopez, legislative director for City Council Member Ben Kallos. “So we're excited and also scared by that prospect. But it's momentous.”

The group represents a subset of the roughly 600 staffers who work for the Council, and includes only full and part-time staff who work directly for one of the 51 members, plus certain members of the Finance division. Members of the central staff are not included in this initial unionization push, which launched its membership card campaign just two months ago.

Gothamist After Falling Facade Kills Woman, City Officials Propose Using Drones To Inspect Buildings by Elizabeth Kim

After Falling Facade Kills Woman, City Officials Propose Using Drones To Inspect Buildings

Concerns about the inspection process of the city's building facades heightened after Erica Tishman, a 60-year-old architect, was killed last Tuesday while walking in front of an office building on 7th Avenue. In April, The property owner, Himmel + Meringoff Properties, was cited by the DOB for failing to property maintain its terra cotta facade. Poorly maintained terra cotta facades have a history of causing fatal accidents in New York City. Over the years, the DOB has noted that the weaknesses of the material can be difficult to spot and require an up-close examination. Preservationists have maintained that most property owners fail to do sufficient upkeep of terra cotta.

Adams and Brannan, who held a press conference on Sunday on the steps of City Hall, argued that drones can be a cost-effective solution for property owners and the city. To date, Councilmember Robert Cornegy and Ben Kallos have pledged to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Gothamist Hudson River Park Takes Steps To Eliminate Disposable Plastics by Elizabeth Kim

Hudson River Park Takes Steps To Eliminate Disposable Plastics

The Hudson River Park Trust has announced an effort to dramatically reduce the use of disposable plastics by the park's vendors, restaurants, and other tenants, with the intent of becoming what the trust says will be the first public park in New York City to gradually move toward a “plastic free” environment.

Gothamist With Plastic Bags Banned, City Council Will Consider Paper Bag Fee by CLAIRE LAMPEN

With Plastic Bags Banned, City Council Will Consider Paper Bag Fee

On Tuesday, City Council members Margaret Chin, Brad Lander, Donovan Richards, Antonio Reynoso, Ben Kallos, and Keith Powers announced forthcoming legislation providing for a 5-cent fee on paper bags. Proceeds from every bag sold would be divided between the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, which would get 3 cents, and the city, which would use the remainder to buy reusable bags for New Yorkers (particularly low-income and elderly New Yorkers, who might have a hard time avoiding the fee otherwise).

Gothamist After Backlash From UES Residents & Officials, City Halts 'Building On Stilts' Over Fire Safety Concerns by Elizabeth Kim

After Backlash From UES Residents & Officials, City Halts 'Building On Stilts' Over Fire Safety Concerns

On February 15th, state Senator Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer, Council members Keith Powers and Ben Kallos, wrote a letter to the DOB citing its actions on the Upper West Side project. “Regardless of whether the void in the building proposed at 249 East 62nd Street is enclosed or open air as described to the press, we believe you must also refer this building to the FDNY.”

On Thursday, Kallos said the letter was intended to "call attention to the disparate treatment by the DOB between East Side and West Side." He said he was glad that the matter had been referred to the FDNY, noting that the measure "will ultimately keep residents safe."

Gothamist 'Building On Stilts' That Inspired City To Close Zoning Loophole May Get Built Anyway by Elizabeth Kim

'Building On Stilts' That Inspired City To Close Zoning Loophole May Get Built Anyway

City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, responded by saying that he was "horrified" that DOB's interpretation appeared to be at odds with that of City Planning. In the past he has asked City Planning to consider adding more height restrictions in certain residential neighborhoods.

Citing 180 East 88th Street and 200 Amsterdam, two other projects that opponents say have used loopholes to add building height, Kallos said, "It's DOB that has been willfully refusing to follow zoning regulations."

Similarly, Rachel Levy, the executive director of Friends, expressed disbelief and frustration at the DOB’s position.

Gothamist NYCHA Residents Excoriate The Agency's 'Desperate' Pitch For Privatization by Elizabeth Kim

NYCHA Residents Excoriate The Agency's 'Desperate' Pitch For Privatization

Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, and City Councilmember Ben Kallos both attended the hearing to oppose the project, and suggested that the issue may ultimately wind up in court. "I don't want to be specific but we're very serious about this project," Brewer added.

After the hearing, Gregory Morris, president and executive director of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, a nonprofit at the housing complex whose services includes a community center, after-school programs and daycare, issued the following statement:

"NYCHA residents of Holmes Towers/Isaacs Houses and Members of Manhattan Community Board 8 made clear last night that they were uninformed about the Fetner project, as well as deeply concerned about its legality and potential environmental hazards. As the primary provider of social services in the development for more than 50 years, the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center will continue to amplify the voices of public housing residents who have long been ignored and isolated. We will continue to stand with all stakeholders to ensure that this project is subject to the City's Uniform Land Use Review Process, as the preservation of public housing through private investment should never conflict with the preservation of human dignity."

On Wednesday night, after four hours of public testimony, NYCHA officials, who appeared both worn and frustrated by the outpouring of anger, stopped trying to sell the project and conceded the reality of the situation.