New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News

New York Daily News Petition gathering makes no sense during COVID outbreak, say NYC Council Members by Shant Shahrigian

Petition gathering makes no sense during COVID outbreak, say NYC Council Members

The coronavirus outbreak gives renewed importance to a bill ending the petition-gathering part of qualifying for local elections, says Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).

Under a bill he introduced in 2016, the city would end the requirement for candidates for City Council and other offices to gather signatures of support in order to run.

Instead, Kallos says raising enough cash to qualify for matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board should suffice.

“On the list of bad ideas to do during a pandemic is running around asking people to sign a piece of paper so that folks can get on the ballot,” Kallos told the Daily News on Monday.

“We’re going to have hundreds of people running for City Council in 2021,” he continued. “The idea that we’re going to have millions of people touching the same pens, signing the same petition boards — it’s looking for trouble, even if we do it safely.”

New York Daily News NYC bill would put yellow taxi and Uber hails in a single app, offering possible help to struggling industry by Clayton Guse

NYC bill would put yellow taxi and Uber hails in a single app, offering possible help to struggling industry

New York City’s ailing taxicab industry may get a boost if a proposed bill gets a green light from the City Council.

The legislation would require the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to establish a “universal e-hail app” to let riders order from a single app any for-hire vehicle — including taxis and cars that normally drive for Uber or Lyft.

ntroduced by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the bill is like one he pitched in 2014, before Uber raked in a majority of the city’s ride hails.

But with e-hail companies like Uber and Lyft getting three times the rides as yellow and green taxis before the pandemic — and more than eight times the rides as of September — Kallos said it’s high time to level the playing field.

New York Daily News NYC Council bill would raise wages for human services workers by Shant Shahrigan

NYC Council bill would raise wages for human services workers

Nonprofits that get city contracts to provide human services would have to give their employees raises, under a bill set to be introduced in the City Council on Thursday.

The legislation would help facilitate a “worker-led recovery” from the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the bill’s prime sponsor.

New York Daily News A bridge to a better transit future by Amanda Schachter

A bridge to a better transit future

Cyclist and pedestrian access on the Queensboro Bridge isn’t just a leisure-time amenity connecting Manhattan and Queens locales. The North Outer Roadway is a vital interborough axis for essential delivery workers on e-bikes, heading to and from Manhattan from neighborhoods as far as Flushing and Jamaica. With round-the-clock flow, the afternoon rush hour gives way to a second peak around midnight, after restaurant closing times.

That the North Outer Roadway has avoided serious crashes so far is a testament to micromobility and biking’s forgiving nature. Cycling and scootering, even alongside pedestrians, can function because of clear sightlines and the ability to change direction and stop short — until crowding and higher speeds make it impossible.

Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Ben Kallos have promised immediate funding to build safety fencing on the South Outer Roadway, but NYC DOT says that the earliest they can work on this is 2022. That means the city is forcing people to share a narrow 30-block sidewalk with racing motor scooters for two more years.

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.