New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Times

New York Times Car Lanes to Become Bike Lanes on 2 Major New York City Bridges by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Winnie Hu

Car Lanes to Become Bike Lanes on 2 Major New York City Bridges

City Councilmen Ben Kallos and Jimmy Van Bramer, whose districts include either end of the Queensboro Bridge, have fought for years for a separate bike lane. They have held several rallies and recently marched across the bridge during the pandemic.

“This news couldn’t have come sooner as more people rely on bikes during the pandemic,” Mr. Kallos said. “The single shared lane on the Queensboro Bridge has gotten more crowded and dangerous.”

New York Times Make the Queensboro Bridge Car-Free by Ben Kallos, Danny Harris, Ken Podziba

Make the Queensboro Bridge Car-Free

To the Editor:

Re “A Proposed Link for Manhattan and Queens, for Bikes and Pedestrians Only” (news article, June 25):

As much as we appreciate big-picture thinking about bike infrastructure, we favor more immediate action to make the Queens-Manhattan bike trip safer and less crowded.

The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge’s south roadway should be made into a walkway, with the north roadway converted to a two-way, bicycle-only path. This approach is supported by Manhattan and Queens elected officials and community boards and could be executed with minimal cost and put into effect immediately.

In the best circumstances, a new bridge could take more than a decade to build. It would face input from parties ranging from the U.S. Coast Guard and state environmental regulators to Roosevelt Island residents rightly concerned about being passed over by yet another structure.

New York Times De Blasio and Council, Facing Fiscal Crisis Over Virus, Agree on Budget With Big Cuts by Dana Rubinstein, Jeffery C. Mays

De Blasio and Council, Facing Fiscal Crisis Over Virus, Agree on Budget With Big Cuts

The budget is expected to be passed on Tuesday by the full 51-member City Council, although it is expected to garner more than a dozen “no” votes, split between council members who oppose cutting police funding at a time when crime is rising and those who think the police cuts do not go far enough.

Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, said he planned to vote no on the budget, in part because he said the police cuts were insufficient.

“It is worse than it was before,” Mr. Kallos said in an interview.

“We are not seeing a meaningful reduction in head count and the changes that people are literally marching in the streets for,” he said. “I don’t think anyone marching for Black Lives Matter is doing it to see school safety agents moved from the N.Y.P.D. budget to the schools budget.”

New York Times Public Spaces Weren’t Designed for Pandemics. N.Y.C. Is Trying to Adapt. by Matthew Haag

Public Spaces Weren’t Designed for Pandemics. N.Y.C. Is Trying to Adapt.

Some Upper East Side residents have called for one-way sidewalks. “The stressful part of going anywhere is getting there, because the sidewalks are so narrow,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents parts of the neighborhood and Roosevelt Island. “There’s no room for distancing, especially when people are walking toward you.”

New York Times 25 Million Applications: The Scramble for N.Y.C. Affordable Housing by Matthew Haag

25 Million Applications: The Scramble for N.Y.C. Affordable Housing

[F]or many New Yorkers, the most desirable jackpot is not the New York Lotto, but to be selected in the city’s extraordinarily competitive affordable-housing lottery. Tens of thousands of people, and sometimes many more, vie for the handful of units available at a time. Since 2013, there have been more than 25 million applications submitted for roughly 40,000 units....

While the lottery website’s user interface will have an entirely new design, the most significant changes are under the hood. After applicants create profiles stating their household size and household income, which together determine a person’s eligibility, they will be shown apartments that they are most likely to qualify for.

That is a significant change from the old system, in which applicants typically applied to every building on the lottery site without knowing if they were even eligible. That process led some units to receive more than 100,000 applicants, most of whom would never find out that they were ineligible from the beginning.

There were other major problems too, like the site randomly crashing and freezing. City officials said the entire lottery system has been upgraded to improve its usability and stability.

“One of the biggest frustrations was people not hearing if you were accepted and not hearing if you were rejected,” said Luis Daniel Caridad, an assistant director at GOLES, an organization on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that helps people apply for affordable housing. “We’ve been told that it has been fundamentally changed, and we are hopeful.”

For years, the housing lottery only included newly constructed units. When someone moved into one and then left, the vacated apartments did not return to the lottery. Buildings kept their own waiting lists, leading to allegations to those with political connections or who paid bribes could cut in line.

Some of those vacant units will now be entered in the lottery, allowing everyone to be made aware when they become available. Councilman Ben Kallos, who wrote the legislation that requires past rentals to return to the lottery, said the change would eventually bring thousands of units back into the lottery every month.

“Before this, you had waiting lists and you had folks who might be politically connected with an official who knew buildings that had affordable housing,” said Mr. Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “This means that all the vacant units in the system will be re-rented quickly.” ...

New York Times Facades on 1,400 Buildings in New York Are a Threat to Pedestrians by Mattew Haag

Facades on 1,400 Buildings in New York Are a Threat to Pedestrians

The warning from the New York City building inspector was blunt. The facade of the apartment building in the Bronx was crumbling and a corner was separating. The playground outside a day care center in the building had to close immediately.

That was in 2001. Nineteen years later there is still a three-foot gap in the brick facade and the playground, for the center’s 50 children between 2 and 4 years old, is still off limits.

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.”