New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Manhattan Express

Manhattan Express In E. 58th St. Tower Fight, Debate Over Who’s Ahead by Sydney Pereira

In E. 58th St. Tower Fight, Debate Over Who’s Ahead

An Upper East Side community group is claiming a small victory in its legal battle against a tower under construction on E. 58th St. But that victory, the developer counters, is nothing more than a mere coincidence due to the project’s construction timeline.

Manhattan Express UES Electeds Press For More Local Pre-K Seats by Sydney Pereira

UES Electeds Press For More Local Pre-K Seats

Since the city’s rollout of universal pre-k, Upper East Side pols have been critical of how few seats there are in the area. A WNYC report in 2014 found that just 123 pre-k seats were located in Yorkville, Lenox Hill, and Roosevelt Island, though some 2,118 four-year-olds lived in those neighborhoods.

The issue, in part, is due to how School District 2 stretches from the Upper East Side through the southern tip of Manhattan.

“That is obviously a problem,” said City Councilmember Ben Kallos, “if a seat in the Financial District is being counted toward a child in East Harlem.”

Councilmember Keith Powers said the boundaries of school districts should probably be revisited.

When your pre-k is three miles away, he said, “it creates false expectations for the school system when you have school seats available, but they’re so far for families.”

Since last September, hundreds of seats have been added at Third Ave. and E. 95th St., as well as on E. 57th St. and E. 82nd St. Next fall, a fourth pre-k is expected to open on E. 76th St. with another 180 seats — bringing the total of new seats to more than 450 in two years.

Manhattan Express Losing Battles, Supertall Opponents Hope to Win the War by Sydney Pereira

Losing Battles, Supertall Opponents Hope to Win the War

Councilmember Ben Kallos called the buffer lot a “sham zoning lot,” created so that developers could skirt the zoning rule known as “tower-on-a-base” that would have constrained the building’s height and design had it legally fronted on E. 88th St. In 2015, DDG Partners sold the buffer lot for $10 to a legally separate company, though both entities were under the same name and developer address, Kallos said.

One factor debated by the BSA commissioners last week was whether the tiny lot could conceivably be sold and built upon in the future. Kallos argued no, explaining the lot is adjacent to what is expected to be the building’s main entrance. Though the building has a Third Ave. address in city records, its condos have been advertised as being on E. 88th St.

“The developer never bothered to hide that the unbuildable lot is a sham,” Kallos said in his testimony to the BSA. “Under the terms of federal and state laws, this transaction would likely be considered a fraudulent conveyance in a foreclosure or bankruptcy proceeding.”

Manhattan Express City Greenlights Sutton Place Megatower by Sydney Pereira

City Greenlights Sutton Place Megatower

City Greenlights Sutton Place Megatower

Added by paul on June 28, 2018.
Saved under City HallPoliticsReal Estate
Tags: Bill de BlasioKramer Levin Naftalis & FrankelBen KallosNYC Department of TransportationNYC Department of BuildingsNYC Board of Standards and AppealsMichael Hiller3 Sutton PlaceGamma Real EstateMargery PerlmutterEast River 50s AllianceJonathan KalikowErrol Louis


An East River 50s Alliance rendering of the impact of the 3 Sutton Place megatower on the neighborhood skyscape. | Via

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | A city agency has given the go-ahead to developers building a 64-story tower on the Upper East Side. The Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) decision arrives after years of advocacy against the tower — including a community-based rezoning effort led by the East River 50s Alliance (ERFA) in an attempt to halt the project.

The board’s June 26 decision in favor of the developer effectively exempts the tower at 3 Sutton Place — also known as 430 East 58th St. — from a 10-block stretch of rezoning in the East 50s.

“They [the developers] trumped the democratic process,” Michael Hiller, ERFA’s lawyer, said after a public hearing last Tuesday, June 19, anticipating that the BSA decision would favor the  developer. “I just think that’s outrageous.”

ERFA plans to take the decision to court. The organization said in a statement that the BSA decision was no surprise.

“The East River 50s Alliance will now take the community’s fight against this monstrous, out-of-place megatower to the courts and away from a city agency,” the group said in a statement. “Unfortunately for the community and the City at large, the [BSA] abrogated its responsibilities under the Zoning Resolution, including especially its obligation to independently assess the invalidity of ill-gotten, after-hours work variances and alleged street closure permits that allowed the tower’s developer to engage in a race to complete the foundation. The Board committed multiple errors of law based upon a misapprehension of what the Zoning Resolution provides.”

The developer, Jonathan Kalikow of Gamma Real Estate, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

City Councilmember Ben Kallos at a 2016 rally held by the East River 50s Alliance in support of the neighborhood’s rezoning initiative. | Photo by Jackson Chen

The decision hinged on whether substantial foundation work on the site at 3 Sutton Place had been completed by Nov. 30, 2017 — when the Sutton Place rezoning was approved by the City Council. Opponents of the Gamma Real Estate tower, including East Side Councilmember Ben Kallos, said the permits to close the streets and work after hours from the Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation were fraudulent. To obtain these permits, there had to have been a public safety threat to leaving the construction incomplete, but Kallos and ERFA activists insist there was no public safety threat justifying the permits.

“I think after-hours variances are a bane in the existence of every New Yorker who wants to get a good night’s sleep or enjoy their weekend,” Kallos said. “It’s bad enough that the Department of Buildings is granting them for the wrong reasons.”

If the DOB gives out such variances “like candy,” the councilmember argued, the BSA vote could have at least sent the message that such variances cannot be used to fast-track foundation work.

“I’m disappointed by the fact that they said this was for public safety but by closing the street it actually endangered people’s safety,” Kallos added.

Manhattan Express East 90th Street Pier Is UES’ Latest Park by Jackson Chen

East 90th Street Pier Is UES’ Latest Park

In terms of funding for these waterfront projects, $35 million has been secured from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $10 million from Rockefeller University, $6 million from the City Council, and an additional $2 million from Councilmember Ben Kallos.

“We are dedicated to getting every single square inch of park space that we can,” Kallos said. “Because even with this addition, this district is still going to rank amongst the bottom according to New Yorkers for Parks in terms of the Open Space Index.”

Manhattan Express Parks Department Now Open to Returning Queensboro Oval to Public Control by BY JACKSON CHEN

Parks Department Now Open to Returning Queensboro Oval to Public Control

City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who has been a fierce proponent of CB8’s mission to end private management of the park, said he is ready to allocate funds for this cause.

“I have already represented to the parks department that I would be interested in investing capital funding from my office,” Kallos said, adding there was additional money available from Borough President Gale Brewer and the state.

“I am willing to put my money where my mouth is in investing in this park,” Kallos said.

CB8 has brought up the idea of establishing a conservancy for the park that would raise money for maintenance and other expenses.

The parks department has indicated that if it decides to revert the Queensboro Oval to public management, it would take more than three years to create a fully accessible park.

Kallos insisted that in that scenario, the park should not go unused. Sutton East, he said, could remain in the space during the months it has a license to run its tennis facility provided that it return the park to its original condition during the summer months –– as its license currently requires.

Manhattan Express Pols Rally to Cause of Returning Queensboro Oval to the People by Jackson Chen

Pols Rally to Cause of Returning Queensboro Oval to the People

And Maloney isn’t the only outspoken ally of the park, as Borough President Gale Brewer, City Councilmember Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Rebecca Seawright have also joined the call for de-privatization.

For Kallos, it was his first time in the Queensboro Oval because, he said, Sutton East’s tennis bubbles made the space inaccessible for a majority of the year.

In crunching the numbers, the councilmember compared the $80 to $225 per hour costs of playing at Sutton East Tennis Club to the city permits that have tennis fees of just $200 a year (though the Parks Department has noted the availability of free and reduced programming at the facility).

“This space is on an order of magnitude more expensive by 15 times than a comparable space run by the Parks Department,” Kallos said. “Worse yet, this is what the space looks like when they gave it back… an empty lot with dirt.”

Manhattan Express Keeping Manhattan’s Construction Boom Safe for New Yorkers by Jackson Chen

Keeping Manhattan’s Construction Boom Safe for New Yorkers

Councilmember Ben Kallos said the city is currently experiencing a construction boom, similar he said to the pre-recession one he witnessed while working as chief of staff to former East Side State Assemblymember Jonathan Bing.

In 2008, two crane collapses on the Upper East Side happened less than three months apart. According to Department of Buildings accident records, an incident on March 15 of that year left seven people dead and 22 injured after a tower crane collapsed at 303 East 51st Street. Shortly afterwards, on May 30, another crane collapsed at 335 East 91st Street, leaving two dead and one injured.

Manhattan Express CB8’s Last-Ditch Effort to “De-Privatize” UES’ Queensboro Oval by JACKSON CHEN

CB8’s Last-Ditch Effort to “De-Privatize” UES’ Queensboro Oval

“We don’t have enough parks in the district,” Kallos said. “We have some of the lowest numbers of parks space per capita. Any place we have park land, we need to be using it as park land for the entire community.”

According to a study done by a parks advocacy organization in 2013, Kallos’ District 5 ranked the fifth worst in the ratio of land area to parks space out of all 51 Council districts.

In the New Yorkers for Parks’ study, the district falls far short of the standards set out by the group, which call for 2.5 acres of total open space per 1,000 residents. Kallos’ district scored only 0.47 acres of open space per 1,000 residents.

The group’s study also noted that the balance between public use as a ball field and private use as tennis courts shifted in 2012 to the advantage of the courts’ operator, when it secured an additional six weeks of time that keeps the bubble in the park into June.

To combat what they deem a slow creep of private use, Kallos said he would be working with the community board by reviewing the current contract with Sutton East, making sure the contract isn’t renewed, and trying to secure city funds to revert the park into public space year-round.

“In order for this to work, we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention between now and 2017 and make sure this contract doesn’t get renewed,” Kallos said.

Manhattan Express Free Wi-Fi Comes to MTA’s Lexington Avenue Stations by JACKSON CHEN

Free Wi-Fi Comes to MTA’s Lexington Avenue Stations

"Subway delays, making you late to a meeting with no way to tell anyone, was a part of being a subway rider,” he said. “But now you’ll be able to get in touch and get work done.”

According to the councilmember’s office, Kallos has been advocating for expanded Wi-Fi service for his district since last year’s City Council’s budget hearings.