New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Post

New York Post Devine: How the scourge of scaffolding is ruining New York City by Miranda Devine

Devine: How the scourge of scaffolding is ruining New York City

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, has been trying for three years to fix the problem. But his two proposed bills have been languishing in the Committee on Housing and Buildings since Jan. 24.

He attributes the delay to “overwhelming opposition by the real-estate industry,” including the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents more than 13,000 building owners.

The worst offenders are rental buildings where landlords leave scaffolding in place indefinitely because the $1,200 a month it costs to rent the structure is cheaper than doing a $200,000 repair on the building.

Kallos says he can walk between his home on 92nd Street and Third Avenue and his office at 93rd and Second almost entirely under sidewalk sheds, one of which has been there since before he was elected in 2013.

“As a New Yorker, one of my pet peeves is sidewalk sheds everywhere when I don’t know what just dropped on my head and what they attract, whether people using them as a makeshift shelter or just having negative consequences on our quality of life,” he says.

It is politicians who have created this mess, piling regulation on top of regulation in a knee-jerk response to isolated incidents.

The problem began in 1980, as a well-meaning response to a tragedy on the Upper West Side. Grace Gold, 17, a Barnard College student, was killed by a falling piece of masonry that came loose from a building at Broadway and West 115th Street.

New York Post Condo owner busted for building ‘Being John Malkovich’-like 4th 1/2 floor by ernadette Hogan, Rich Calder and Elizabeth Rosner

Condo owner busted for building ‘Being John Malkovich’-like 4th 1/2 floor

The real estate market in New York has never been this tight.

A Lower East Side condo owner turned his small apartment into a mini-village — by converting it into an illegal duplex with 11 sub-units that had ceilings as low as 4 ¹/₂ feet high, officials said Friday.

The illegal micro apartments at 165 Henry Street are so cramped that condo owner Xue Ping Ni even put up bubble wrap as protection to keep residents from hitting their heads on the many low-hanging pipes.

The bizarre arrangement in Ni’s apartment No. 601 — which was raided and shut down Wednesday night by the city Buildings Department — was compared to something out of a movie.

“This is like the room out of the movie ‘Being John Malkovich,’” said Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos — a nod to the “7th 1/2 floor” Manhattan office in the 1999 indie flick.

“It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life.”

It wasn’t clear how much rent Ni was charging for the tiny units. But the residents there were stacked like sardines, as the 11 windowless units were all carved out of the upper-areas of Ni’s single 634-square-foot condo on the building’s 4th floor.

The condo, where nine people were living, also had an illegal bathroom, inspectors said.

The tenants were relocated from the nightmarish fire hazard, when Buildings Department inspectors raided the place in response to a 311 complaint, according to residents and city officials.

A vacate sign on an apartment door in 165 Henry St. on the Lower East Side.William Miller

Inspectors hit Ni with more than $144,000 in fines for failing to have sprinklers, along with proper electrical, structural and plumbing permits.

When The Post visited the building Friday, a reporter observed apparent additional changes to the apartment above Ni’s.

In the second apartment, No. 701 — which Ni has listed in the past as his address — air conditioning units were set up on both the top and bottom of floor-to-ceiling windows in an arrangement that appeared similar to the unit below it.

By 10:30 p.m. on Friday, officials in blue Buildings Department uniforms were back at the property — as seven tenants from No. 701 left carrying luggage or bags.

That apartment, too, had been illegally converted — into 9 single room occupancy units, a DOB spokesman confirmed early Sunday.

Vacate orders were issued for those additional tenants, who were offered immediate relocation assistance by the American Red Cross, the spokesman said.

The units lacked light, ventilation, fire protection systems and proper egress, the spokesman said, declining to confirm whether Ni was the apartment owner.

One departing tenant who didn’t want to be named told The Post Friday night that he and the others had just been ordered to vacate their tiny units in No. 701.

He said the landlord — whom he would not name — had charged him $600 a month for his cramped space, where he’d lived  for the past two months.

He couldn’t say how many tenants shared apartment No. 701 with him. “I don’t know exactly how many,” he said, as he walked away carrying two large suitcases. “But there was a good amount.”

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NYC Department of Buildings

Kallos had called on DOB to investigate No. 701 too — and ASAP — with or without receiving a formal complaint.

“I’ve never seen air conditioners stacked atop one another like that — five air conditioners in three windows,” said Kallos, upon reviewing a photo of the building’s exterior.

“I can’t imagine needing that much air-conditioning in one apartment, so if someone sees this on the street, that should be more than sufficient for the Department of Buildings to also investigate that apartment.”

Another resident of the complex said short-term tenants were constantly coming and going.

“It was revolving door of people,” said a woman who pays $2,800 per month for her one bedroom apartment on the sixth floor. She has long suspected the building was dangerous.

“There use to be a lot of evacuation [vacate] notices. I just asked [management] if the building is safe because we’re paranoid and they said nothing about it,” the resident said. “The units are all set up real differently. This used to be a rabbinical school.”

Officials slammed the set-up as a life-threatening hazard.

“Every New Yorker deserves a safe and legal place to live, which is why we’re committed to routing out dangerous firetraps and ordering the landlords to make these apartments safe,” DOB spokesman Andrew Rudansky said.

“Tenants living in truncated and windowless dwelling units like this poses an extreme hazard to their safety, as well as the safety of their neighbors, and first responders – a hazard that cannot be tolerated in our city.”

Catherine Keener and John Cusack in “Being John Malkovich”©USA Films/Courtesy Everett Col

He added, “We are holding this landlord accountable for their egregious failure to keep the building safe and livable for tenants.”

In city records, the complex is listed as a 5-story building with 27 legal apartments.

Ni couldn’t be reached at the building for comment Friday.

In the fantasy film “Being John Malkovich,” a failing puppeteer played by John Cusack discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich while interviewing for a job on the “7 1/2 floor” of an office on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.






New York Post City school buses can now use cameras to catch reckless drivers by Bernadette Hogan

City school buses can now use cameras to catch reckless drivers

ALBANY — City school districts will soon be allowed to attach camera technology to yellow buses aimed at capturing reckless drivers who whiz past stopped buses, according to a bill Gov. Cuomo signed Tuesday.

Right now only a cop can ticket offenders for $250 a pop, but the legislation grants law enforcement the ability to capture, record and transmit evidence of offenders from the bus itself.

New York Post De Blasio suggests mandatory composting, offers few details by Julia Marsh

De Blasio suggests mandatory composting, offers few details

Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed mandatory composting during his Earth Day announcement, but in September, he temporarily shelved expansion of a pilot project to recycle food scraps due to low use.

The project more than doubled curbside composting collection from 13,000 tons in fiscal year 2017 to 31,000 tons in 2018, according to the Department of Sanitation. But the city generates 14 million tons of garbage a year, about one-third of which is food waste, so the increase in composting made only a tiny dent in landfill reduction.

New York Post It’s time for the City Council to stop playing thought police by Post Editorial Board

It’s time for the City Council to stop playing thought police

When it comes to tolerating dissent or even unapproved wave-making, the New York City Council is starting to look a bit like the old Soviet Politburo.

The latest: Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) saw his land-use subcommittee shut down, apparently because he’d been asking too many uncomfortable questions about the mayor’s affordable-housing and tax-break deals.

Kallos himself didn’t suffer. By all accounts, he’s happy that he wound up being elevated to helm the Contracts Committee, where his brand of oversight won’t ruffle colleagues’ feathers.

New York Post Councilman: NASCAR is more transparent than New York politicians by Rich Calder

Councilman: NASCAR is more transparent than New York politicians

A Manhattan lawmaker says NASCAR provides more information about its sponsors than politicians do about their contributors, so he’s introducing legislation that would require pie charts showing where each candidate in a city race gets their money.

Councilman Ben Kallos said his bill would yield the “most transparent” information ever for voters in New York City.

The information would be easily readable in pie chart form and delineate special interest contributions, including contributions from real estate developers and lobbyists. The data would be made available by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, both online and in official voter guides mailed before elections to all voters.

New York Post New bill would ban soda as default drink in kids’ meals by Rich Calder

New bill would ban soda as default drink in kids’ meals

Kids who enjoy soda with their happy meals might not be too sweet about a new bill approved by the City Council on Thursday.

The legislation drafted by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) makes water, milk and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice the “default beverage option” in all kids’ meals served at restaurants.

Kallos said his bill’s goal is to tackle childhood obesity.

“Healthy drinks with kid’s meals will be the new normal in New York City no matter where our kids are eating,” he said.

The new law is not an outright ban. Parents could still request soda or other sugary beverages when placing their order.

It would apply to all restaurants that serve kids’ meals.

Unlike former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban sales of large sodas at food outlets and movie theaters, the bill has the support of the American Beverage Association.

New York Post De Blasio isn’t sold on proposed sugar law for chain restaurants by Rich Calder

De Blasio isn’t sold on proposed sugar law for chain restaurants

The de Blasio administration is sour on legislation that would require chain restaurants to list products with added sugar because it could be difficult to enforce, a city official said Monday.

New York Post New law proposes school bus cameras to catch unsafe motorists by Bernadette Hogan

New law proposes school bus cameras to catch unsafe motorists

Cameras are just about everywhere and now a Manhattan legislator wants to add them on school buses

Motorists are supposed to hit the brakes when confronted by a stopped school bus.

But an estimated 50,000 a year statewide ignore the safety regulation.

New York Post Bill would require NYC developers to disclose relationships with politicians by Rich Calder

Bill would require NYC developers to disclose relationships with politicians

Developers who want to do business with the city would be required to publicly disclose previous relationships with government officials under a bill being introduced Wednesday at the City Council.

“Well-connected developers should not be getting sweetheart deals on the taxpayers’ dime,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the bill’s sponsor.

Under the bill, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development would be required to give the Council the “compliance package” submitted by prospective developers for mandatory background checks.