New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Times

New York Times Why Workers Fear Moving 50 Criminally Insane Patients by Annie Correal

Why Workers Fear Moving 50 Criminally Insane Patients

Why Workers Fear Moving 50 Criminally Insane Patients

The state plans to relocate the patients of Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, but its new home was not built with prisoners in mind.

State officials plan to move 200 inmates from Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, on Wards Island, to a facility nearby. Many workers at Kirby are concerned about safety issues.

State officials plan to move 200 inmates from Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center, on Wards Island, to a facility nearby. Many workers at Kirby are concerned about safety issues.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center in New York City has long been a place of mystery, with little known about what goes on behind the razor-wire fences.

As a result, the state-run facility for the dangerously mentally ill — located on Wards Island in Manhattan — has gone all but unnoticed for decades, despite having held some of the city’s most notorious criminals, including serial killers and cannibals like Daniel Rakowitz, the so-called Butcher of Tompkins Square Park.

But recently, employees have been speaking up, painting a picture of what goes on in Kirby’s wards. State officials are planning to close Kirby and move its entire population — a decision that has created something close to panic among some of the staff, who say the new quarters are not safe for patients or employees.

Kirby is a maximum-security facility that holds mentally-ill patients who have been charged with a crime. Some have been granted an insanity plea by a judge; others are pretrial detainees accused of felony crimes but found unfit to proceed to trial.

The move will transfer the facility’s more than 200 prisoners from a fortresslike building with bars on the windows and cement walls and ceilings into a unit of Manhattan Psychiatric Center, a civilian hospital close by on Wards Island.

Officials say the move, planned for January, is necessary because Kirby’s building has grown outdated. They say patients will be placed in a refurbished section of the hospital, securely separated from civilian patients. But staff members are arguing that the hospital was never designed to handle a population with a criminal background, and say it presents all manner of risks.

“These are not normal mental patients,” said Catherine Mortiere, a forensic psychologist at Kirby. “They are some of the most violent inmates in the state.”

The state Office of Mental Health called Kirby’s building “antiquated.” It said it is also for the same reason rebuilding Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Center, which is north of New York, near Middletown.

“The safety and security of our staff and the people we serve are O.M.H.’s top priority,” a spokesman said in a statement. “When our facilities become outdated, we work to refurbish, rebuild and update them in order to utilize the best practices and state-of-the-art safety features to ensure the well-being of our patients and staff.”

The prospect of the move has caused upheaval at Kirby. The union representing its clinicians is filing a lawsuit in hopes of securing a temporary injunction from a judge; guards and former guards have created an online petition calling on the state’s mental health commissioner and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to “do the right thing and halt this move” to ensure their safety.

Stephen Harkavy, the deputy director of Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which represents the patients, said the new area will be inspected before patients are moved. “A lot of these concerns are premature, until that happens,” he said. “If they find changes need to be made, I would assume they will implement them.”

Mr. Harkavy, who said he worked at Kirby for about a decade, added: “I believe the fears about patients are overstated. I never felt unsafe.”

But several employees — who insisted that their names not be used because they said they feared reprisals — described Kirby as a singularly dangerous place to work, in the best of circumstances.

New York Times ‘It Was Horrible’: Man Killed In Gruesome Brawl at Homeless Shelter by CHRISTINA GOLDBAUM

‘It Was Horrible’: Man Killed In Gruesome Brawl at Homeless Shelter

“There is a real problem here and we need to do something before another life is lost,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, chairman of the City Council’s contracting committee. Mr. Kallos, a Democrat, says he plans to call on Monday for a Council hearing regarding Acacia’s practices. “One of the hardest problems is that the people in these shelters and making these reports are those who the system and society might not treat as credible,” Mr. Kallos said. “But in light of what happened yesterday, that seems less and less the case.”

 

New York Times 1.5 Million Packages a Day: The Internet Brings Chaos to N.Y. Streets by Winnie Hu

1.5 Million Packages a Day: The Internet Brings Chaos to N.Y. Streets

Trucks, trucks and more trucks

As the delivery armada has ballooned, so, too, have the complaints.

Four delivery companies — FedEx, FreshDirect, Peapod and UPS — accumulated just over 515,000 summonses for parking violations in 2018, totaling $27 million in fines, according to the city. In 2013, those same companies received roughly 372,000 summonses and paid $21.8 million.

After one idling FreshDirect truck drew numerous complaints, Ben Kallos, a City Council member who represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said he contacted the police. It was towed away, only to have other trucks soon take its place.

“It’s kind of a game of whack-a-mole,” Mr. Kallos said. “They operate somewhere until we get complaints and then they move.”

Images and videos of delivery trucks blocking bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks are easy to find on social media. In some neighborhoods, Amazon’s ubiquitous boxes are stacked and sorted on the sidewalk, sometimes on top of coverings spread out like picnic blankets.

“They are using public space as their private warehouse,” said Christine Berthet, who lives in Midtown Manhattan. “That is not acceptable. That is not what the sidewalk is for.”

The total number of trucks on tolled crossings into New York City and within the five boroughs rose about 9.4 percent in 2018, to an estimated 35.7 million, from 32.6 million in 2013, according to transit data.

That increase in traffic has made the interchange of Interstate 95 and New Jersey Route 4, about a half-mile from the George Washington Bridge, the country’s most gridlocked stretch of highway for trucks, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.

“There is just not enough room for all the trucks that need to make deliveries, the cars that need to get past them and the people who live here,” Mr. Kallos said.

New York Times Towers Crowd Yorkville by Joseph Burger

Towers Crowd Yorkville

“Everyone in the city who cares about the cultural identity of their neighborhood should be watching Yorkville as a warning sign,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, a grandson of Jewish Hungarian immigrants whose district includes Yorkville. “The last thing a residential neighborhood needs is more glass towers for billionaires.”

New York Times New York Is a Noisy City. One Man Got Revenge. by Winnie Hu

New York Is a Noisy City. One Man Got Revenge.

Mr. Edison asked that the exact amount not be disclosed because he had signed a confidentiality agreement.

Mr. Edison said he gave half the money to a local soup kitchen and several nonprofit groups. “I don’t think you should make money on the suffering of other people — a lot of people around here were upset by the noise,” he said.

Mr. Mihalis declined to comment and Mr. Cohen and lawyers who handled the settlement did not respond to requests for comment.

City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and is also a lawyer, said Mr. Edison was pursuing an unusual legal route.

Small claims court is typically the last resort for settling disputes over specific monetary damages — not a venue for fighting quality-of-life issues.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that he was able to win some small victory,” he said.

Jack Grant, a longtime friend of Mr. Edison’s, said Mr. Edison does not back down. “When he believes in something, Mike will stick to it until it gets done,” he said.

New York Times The Pros and Cons of New York’s Fledgling Compost Program by Lisa M Collins

The Pros and Cons of New York’s Fledgling Compost Program

Council Member Ben Kallos represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The 168,000 residents in his district, the second largest in the city, mostly live in high rises. Mr. Kallos has proposed a measure that would mandate the mayor’s Zero Waste initiative to include targets and updates. The measure failed, and the effort to bring residential composting to his district has been frustrating, he said.

“We’ve worked with a number of residents and buildings to get composting,” Mr. Kallos said. “But I’ve yet to hear of any successes. I’ve never seen any brown bins in my district and I’d be surprised if there are any.”

New York Times The New York Area Was Nearly Paralyzed by 6 Inches of Snow. What Went Wrong? by Emma G. Fitzsimmons

The New York Area Was Nearly Paralyzed by 6 Inches of Snow. What Went Wrong?

Thousands of commuters were stranded outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, the busiest bus station in the country, after more than 1,100 scheduled buses were canceled. The line of people stretched a full city block.

New York Times End the School Bus Nightmares for New York Families by Kim Sweet

End the School Bus Nightmares for New York Families

On a bitterly cold day last winter, Sumaya’s mother placed her on her school bus in Brooklyn. Later that morning, her mother received a frantic call. Sumaya, a nonverbal 13-year-old with autism, had been found at a school far from the one she attended. The bus driver had left her, unsupervised, outside the wrong school. Luckily, instead of wandering off to the park across the street, Sumaya had walked into the school building, where she covered her ears and screamed repeatedly, until a staff member found her. A search of Sumaya's backpack turned up a notebook with her mother's phone number. Her mother still has nightmares about how differently the day could have ended.

New York Times 320,000 High Schoolers to Get Free Water Bottles. The Goal? 54 Million Fewer Single-Use Drinks by James Barron

320,000 High Schoolers to Get Free Water Bottles. The Goal? 54 Million Fewer Single-Use Drinks

Displacing single-use bottles is an issue that Mark Chambers, the City Hall official in charge of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, said was related to a fundamental question of urban life: “How do we change our relationship to waste?”

Obviously, it is a question that has come up often as the country has debated pollution and environmental consciousness has surged. In April, Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr., a Democrat from Brooklyn, and Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat from the Upper East Side, proposed a ban on selling disposable plastic bottles in city-run parks, golf courses and beaches. The measure would cover soft drinks and juices as well as water. Other proposals would ban plastic straws that can be used only once, or plastic bags.

Mr. Chambers sees Bring It and the S’well bottles as “a great opportunity for us to make a strong public statement around why this matters” — and it is a statement that can be made without having to wait for a City Council vote.