New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News

New York Daily News P.C. Richard & Son says City Hall should be in the hot seat for their ‘Get Cool NYC’ program by Rich Calder

P.C. Richard & Son says City Hall should be in the hot seat for their ‘Get Cool NYC’ program

City officials claim P.C. Richard & Son failed to live up to its longtime slogan, “Richard IS Reliable,” by abruptly reneging on a nearly $10 million “emergency” contract in June to both supply and install 30,000 air conditioners in homes of low-income New Yorkers at least 60 years old by late July.

“P.C. Richard advertises itself as being reliable, but New York City couldn’t rely on them in our time of need,” quipped Ben Kallos, Manhattan NYC Councilman who chairs the Committee on Contracts.

However, company officials told the Daily News the deal went sour after just two weeks once P.C. Richard realized it could only install about 125 a day because most of the information city agencies provided for scheduling work was wrong and led to big delays. They claim the misinformation included providing the chain with faulty addresses and phone numbers for residents getting the units as well as assigning air conditioner models to homes that were not compatible.

New York Daily News As layoffs loom for city workers, NYC pays $163M to corporate consultancies by Shant Shahrigian

As layoffs loom for city workers, NYC pays $163M to corporate consultancies

In the face of staggering tax revenue shortfalls, this year’s $88 billion city budget inflicted painful cuts to numerous city agencies — including about $770 million to the Education Department, according to the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget. Meanwhile, contracts were trimmed by just over $300 million, to $17 billion, after ballooning for years.

The city should cancel contracts with multinational businesses like Deloitte and review the rest of the contracts with an eye to trimming or eliminating them, says NYC Councilman Ben Kallos, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Contracts.

“Before we start threatening to lay off and reduce wages for city employees, we should trim the fat and cut these bloated consulting contracts,” Kallos told The News.

New York Daily News Abrupt funding cut from Mayor de Blasio pulls rug out from under NYC nonprofits, critics say by Shant Shahrigian

Abrupt funding cut from Mayor de Blasio pulls rug out from under NYC nonprofits, critics say

Last week, de Blasio informed nonprofit leaders that funding for indirect costs would be cut by $20 million, down to $34 million.

“We recognize that this cut comes at a time that is also challenging for our city partners as they deliver services during COVID-19 re-opening,” Hizzoner wrote service providers last week, adding that the city was making “an effort to recognize all of these providers and respond equitably.”

That’s not good enough for Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts.

“Mayor de Blasio has the money and he needs to pay up,” he told The News. “These are nonprofits that helped our most vulnerable during the pandemic. Now he’s not only going to hurt them, but the New Yorkers that need the help more than ever.”

New York Daily News Is the NYC Board of Elections ready for November’s presidential election? by Shant Shahrigian

Is the NYC Board of Elections ready for November’s presidential election?

The city Board of Elections, which launched a Herculean, last-minute effort to conduct the vote amid fears of spreading the virus, got mixed reviews for its handling of the ballot — and its outlook for the fall.

“I have no confidence in the November election,” NYC Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) told the Daily News. “There’s a possibility that the absentee ballot is restricted again because we have one of the most backward laws in the country.”

He faulted the BOE for failing to follow a 2016 law he authored requiring the board to track absentee ballots from request to receipt — one of the issues at the heart of discounted ballots in June.

“We can cut their funding,” Kallos said of the board’s intransigence. “But in this case, cutting funding to the Board of Elections would only result in worse elections.”

New York Daily News NYC Council member suggests using empty storefronts, shuttered private schools for remote learning childcare by Michael Elsen-Rooney


NYC Council member suggests using empty storefronts, shuttered private schools for remote learning childcare

As city parents scramble for alternate childcare arrangements with the prospect of part-time school hours this fall, one city lawmaker says they could start by tapping hundreds of empty storefronts and shuttered Catholic schools.

City Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) wants to use spaces like vacant community centers, libraries and closed private schools as childcare centers where students can work on remote learning with adult supervision on days they’re not allowed in their schools.

“Families are looking for certainty,” Kallos said, “and the possibility of having to stay home several days each week to care for young kids “throws out any notion of stability in anyone’s life.”

“We may be able to address this crisis with an expanded version of the ‘emergency childcare centers’ that the City opened in the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, by opening remote learning centers,” Kallos added in a letter to Mayor de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

City officials announced this week the majority of the 1.1 million public school students would spend between one and three days a week in their classrooms this year to keep numbers down and maintain social distance. The decision means headaches for working parents forced to find child care.

More than 300,000 families - close 50% of those with kids in Pre-K or elementary school said they’d need help with child care on days their kids are home from school, an Education Department survey revealed.

Kallos says the city could start the gargantuan task of erecting a shadow childcare system by identifying vacant spaces — including businesses that shuttered both before and during the pandemic.

“We should be leaving no stone unturned,” he said.

Kallos cites a spate of closed Duane Reades and Chase Bank, along with recently-shuttered Catholic schools, as possible examples, noting the Citywide Administrative Services Department surveyed empty properties during the pandemic to scout for medical space and should have a database of suitable locations.

 

New York Daily News Open textbooks, in more ways than one: Save money and increase educational diversity with high-quality, up-to-date, learning options by By BEN KALLOS and CLAYTON BANKS

Open textbooks, in more ways than one: Save money and increase educational diversity with high-quality, up-to-date, learning options

Facing $800 million in proposed cuts to public schools, New York City is slated to continue spending $84 million a year on textbooks. That number is staggering, especially given that many of the textbooks are older than the teachers using themlargely Eurocentric and in some cases dictated by partisan politics. We can make these learning materials more reflective of New York City’s diversity and put limited resources to better use by adopting open textbooks.

More commonly known as “open educational resources” (OER), open textbooks are free for educators to use, customize to their students’ needs and backgrounds and share with others. Open textbooks are freely available from nonprofit groups like CK12OER Commons and OpenStax, and many are peer-reviewed and vetted for quality.

New York Daily News NYC may fire 22,000 city workers to make up for massive revenue shortfall: Mayor de Blasio by Shant Shahrigian

NYC may fire 22,000 city workers to make up for massive revenue shortfall: Mayor de Blasio

The city may fire as many as 22,000 employees in order to make up for staggering revenue shortfalls, Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday.

“We have to talk about the last resort. The last resort would be layoffs and furloughs,” he said at a press conference.

“The last resort would be the thing I don’t want to do and none of us should want to see happen — taking away the jobs of city workers,” he continued, “who we depend on, and their families depend on them for their livelihood, but we are running out of options here.”

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Councilman Ben Kallos, who recently outlined billions of dollars in cuts to pork spending, rejected the mayor’s proposal to fire city workers.

“It is outrageous to fire dedicated city employees who make next to nothing just so we can keep bloated contracts with big corporations,” the Manhattan Dem told the Daily News.

New York Daily News With NYC in budget crisis, Manhattan pol wants to cut pork, free up nearly $1B for vital services by Shant Shahrigian

With NYC in budget crisis, Manhattan pol wants to cut pork, free up nearly $1B for vital services

With New York in a budget crisis the likes of which it hasn’t seen in decades, a City Council leader says now is the time to open the books, eliminate wasteful spending and save some serious cash for schools and other causes.

The city should end billions of dollars in tax exemptions and other funding for developers and cancel huge contracts with big firms doing vague jobs, Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts, wrote Mayor de Blasio on Monday night.

He identified up to $15 billion in possible cuts and savings, saying nearly $1 billion of that could go to schools, social services and other causes that are facing steep cuts in the wretched economic climate.

New York Daily News New Yorker voters overwhelmingly request mail-in ballots to NYC Board of Elections ahead of primary by SHANT SHAHRIGIAN

New Yorker voters overwhelmingly request mail-in ballots to NYC Board of Elections ahead of primary

To qualify for a mail-in ballot, voters were encouraged to indicate they have a “temporary illness” even if they’re just afraid of catching coronavirus.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) said the state should dispense with the requirement.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with coronavirus and instead of having this temporary illness checkoff that a lot of residents have objected to because they're not sick, we need to go to full vote by mail,” he said.

Early voting runs through Sunday, June 21. While the last day to request a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, June 16, voters have until Tuesday, June 23 to put their ballot in the mail.

New York Daily News How the coronavirus is exacerbating the education opportunity gap by Kirsten John Foy, Tai Abrams

How the coronavirus is exacerbating the education opportunity gap

As students, parents and teachers across New York City have had to adjust to remote learning as never before, there is a palpable sense of anxiety over whether students are being given the best opportunity for success under the current circumstances.

Particularly for low-income students and those who do not have access to technology or reliable wi-fi, remote learning can be a significant challenge. Given the historic inequities in our public school system and with likely school closures for the rest of the year sure to cause major academic disruptions, now is the time for the city to enact systemic changes to ensure disadvantaged students do not fall even further behind.

One area that requires specific attention is the city’s specialized high schools. These elite institutions can provide an answer to the setbacks many students face this academic year. But they also remain out of reach for many students of color.

We’ve heard the de Blasio administration say that the best long-term way to increase diversity in NYC’s specialized high schools is by entirely eliminating the entrance exam known as the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).

But students tutored by the Education Equity Campaign (EEC) during this admissions cycle proved that theory to be flawed. There is indeed another way to help students achieve educational success: comprehensive tutoring prep that focuses on raising skill level and increasing students’ confidence.

As two people of color who graduated from specialized high schools, we have dedicated our careers to social justice and education.

We believed the mayor’s original approach did little to actually help our children meet the standards for which they are capable. That’s why, alongside EEC founders Ronald S. Lauder and Richard Parsons, we embarked on a pilot program to offer free test prep to prepare disadvantaged students who otherwise would not have access to the extracurricular support necessary for success on the SHSAT.

The results speak for themselves.

This year, 12,422 Black and Latino students sat for the SHSAT. Of those, 470, or 3.8% were offered admission. In contrast, of the 197 students enrolled in EEC’s 7-week programs, 31 were accepted into a specialized high school. That’s 15.7%. Put another way. students of color in EEC programs were more than four times more likely to secure admission than their peers citywide.

And the EEC program only ran for seven weeks. If 31 students were able to achieve success after only a seven-week program, imagine the results if the city directed this support to more students of color.

Let’s be clear. Much more needs to be done. The demographic diversity of students offered acceptances this year is consistent with the dismal numbers of years past. It’s unacceptable that African American students made up only 4.5% of the total acceptances offered and Latino students received 6.6% of the acceptance pool for next year.

However, systemic problems require systemic solutions. That is why we are continuing our advocacy campaign by supporting a coalition of city and state lawmakers who are introducing legislation to bring programs like EEC’s to scale so that all students have access to the best educational opportunities.

For instance, state Sen. Leroy Comrie is sponsoring a bill that would create 10 new specialized high schools to remedy the fact that there are now only 15,000 spots available for 360,000 high school students. The bill would also establish a pipeline for success by expanding gifted and talented programs in communities so that students have access to quality education from the moment they enter the public-school system.

Complementing the state effort, we have also partnered with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and City Councilmen Ben Kallos and Robert Cornegy to require the Department of Education to come up with a plan to provide every middle school student with free test preparation and to automatically enroll students in the SHSAT.