New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos


NY1 City Scaffolding Permits Up By More than a Third In 2.5 Years by MICHAEL HERZENBERG

City Scaffolding Permits Up By More than a Third In 2.5 Years

After Tishman's death, the city hired additional inspectors, increased fines and in January, mandated that another 220 buildings put up sheds.

“That was a reaction to someone losing their life, and in that regard, I think we should pull out every measure that we can to make people safe," said Brooklyn City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr., "but there’s another measure that can be even more effective and efficient.”

The Democrat sponsored legislation requiring the city to explore allowing building owners to use drones to complete required facade inspections. Quicker inspections could reduce the need for sidewalk sheds. His bill is awaiting the mayor's approval.

“We actually need building owners and landlords to take care of their buildings," said Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos. "Right now, what happens is, they look at the side of the building, they see a loose brick and then just they put up the scaffolding, and it stays there for years.”

For example, a sidewalk shed on 115th Street in East Harlem has been up for more than 11 years.

“They haven’t done nothing. It’s still like now the same,” a neighbor told NY1.

NY1 Only 30K Childcare Seats Will Be Ready When Schools Reopen by Kathleen Culliton

Only 30K Childcare Seats Will Be Ready When Schools Reopen

The 100,000 free childcare seats the city promise New York public school parents won't become entirely available until December, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday. 

Only 30,000 Learning Bridges childcare slots will be available when schools reopen on Sept. 21 and only 70,000 in October, de Blasio said. 

"Starting something from scratch is a huge endeavor," de Blasio said. "The goal was 100,000 and we'll get to 100,000." 

De Blasio announced in July that the city would provide childcare options to help parents of blended learning students rejoin the workforce in the fall.

"So many parents have also said that they can't make it work if they don't get more childcare," de Blasio said in July. "The goal will be to start by serving 100,000 kids and giving those families, those parents that balance in their life, that relief, that support, but then we aim to go farther."

Council Members Brad Lander and Ben Kallos — who said in July need could be as high as 533,000 seats — both said they were disappointed Learning Bridges would reach less than a third of those initially projected. 

“It is a gigantic task to create a whole new program to serve tens of thousands of families, especially as the child care industry craters from lack of support, and I’m glad the administration has committed to doing so," Lander said. 

"But on the other hand, if you are a teacher who had to be at work today and had no child care options, it's too little too late."

Kallos, less reserved in his criticism, said he was extremely frustrated that City Hall never responsed to his repeated offers to help locate childcare facilities. 

"This is nowhere near enough," Kallos said. "I should be surprised, but I'm not.  I'm angry because all these families were counting on us. I don't know how we're going to open [schools] this month at this point.  

The Education Committee member also argued the lack of childcare would only worsen problems sure to arise from the DOE's complicated blended learning schedule. 

"Parents are forced to chose between having a job and taking care of their kids because, right now, you cannot do both," Kallos said. "Where are the parents, children and families supposed to be?"

On Tuesday, two days before classrooms were initially slated to reopen, Youth Services Deputy Commissioner Susan Haskell updated New Yorkers on the program, which will provide childcare and meals on remote learning days for students from preschool to grade eight.

Preschoolers' days will include play, social skills development and early learning while lower and middle school students will get remote learning support, art classes and exercise time. 

Parents who have expressed interest on the DOE website will be automatically enrolled and others can apply here.

"We want to assure parents," Haskell said. "Activities will be offered in a safe and welcoming environment."

During Tuesday's press conference, DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza also informed parents about 2,800 out of 64,550 public school classrooms were deemed too unsafe to reopen. 

"There are little things that need to be done," Carranza said. "But keeping our promise, we said everyone would have functioning ventilation." 


NY1 Construction Accident Raises Questions About Oversight of Buildings by Rocco Vertuccio

Construction Accident Raises Questions About Oversight of Buildings

In December, a woman walking near Times Square was killed when part of a building facade fell.

The City Council then considered legislation to allow the Department of Buildings to use drones to inspect building facades more quickly, but the bill stalled.

“It seems not a day goes by that another piece of a building falls on somebody,” said Manhattan City Council member Ben Kallos. 

Building owners often erect sidewalk sheds to protect passersby from debris that may fall from unsafe buildings, but some fail to quickly repair the unsafe condition. Kallos proposed legislation that would allow the city to impose tougher fines in such cases and charge the owners for repairs.

“There shouldn’t be a place where any part of a building is falling on anybody,“ said Kallos. 

NY1 Some Have Outside-the-Box — and Outside-the-Classroom — Ideas for Returning to School by Jillian Jorgensen

Some Have Outside-the-Box — and Outside-the-Classroom — Ideas for Returning to School

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he's considering child care options for working parents this fall, but has provided no details. Councilman Ben Kallos has an idea.

"Any New Yorker can tell you, if they walk outside their door there’s an empty storefront. Can we turn some of those empty storefronts into distance learning centers and have a place where folks can drop off their kids from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.?” Kallos asked.

The education department says it has been discussing plans in focus groups with principals, teachers, parents and health experts, and will announce child care options in the coming days.

NY1 With 20 Catholic Schools Closing, Elected Officials Push for City to Scoop Up the Spaces for Public School Students by Jillian Jorgensen

With 20 Catholic Schools Closing, Elected Officials Push for City to Scoop Up the Spaces for Public School Students

Twenty Catholic schools across the five boroughs are closing. Now, some elected officials want the city to scoop up their space for public school students.

“When I became aware that a number of Catholic schools in New York City were closing due to financial issues, I immediately contacted senior DOE officials," said City Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee. "I am told that conversations are underway between the DOE and the Archdiocese about utilizing that space.”

The city’s public schools face a space crunch; coronavirus precautions mean maximum class sizes will be cut by more than half. Most students will have to learn in school and at home on alternate days. 

Students in the most overcrowded schools may see the inside of a classroom just once a week.

Treyger and Councilman Ben Kallos have called on the city to explore leasing the soon-to-be vacant Catholic school space to help.

“This is the time for government to be stepping in and reopening these sites, whether as public schools in their own right or a distance learning center, or even for childcare," Kallos said.

NY1 Proposal to Change Social Media Policies at Tourist At­trac­tions by Pat Kiernan

Proposal to Change Social Media Policies at Tourist At­trac­tions


Proposal to Change Social Media Policies at Tourist At­trac­tions

PUBLISHED 9:38 AM ET MAR. 21, 2019


Next time you take a picture at a tourist attraction, you may want to read the fine print first. 

The most recent installation to pop up in the city is the Vessel at Hudson Yards. 

It's already caused a social media frenzy, with New Yorkers and tourists alike snapping selfies in front of the 150 foot-tall, honeycomb-like structure. 

But, critics are questioning a policy that grants the owners of the Vessel access to content taken at and of the site. 

After backlash, they softened the original language to make it clear visitors own their photos, but that the Vessel retains the right to re-use those images.

Councilman Ben Kallos says this issue has shone a light on the issue of ownership in the age of social media.

He is now proposing legislation to ban tourist attractions from forcing visitors to give up ownership of their photos or identities.

NY1 City Council Passes School Bus Reform, Includes GPS Tracking for Buses by LINDSEY CHRIST

City Council Passes School Bus Reform, Includes GPS Tracking for Buses

"We now have legislation that takes lessons from cities like Boston, where parents get bus routes weeks ahead of the school year, in time to challenge routes as well as from the Chancellor's home city of Houston, where since 2015 parents have had access to GPS apps, so they know where the buses are," City Councilman Ben Kallos said.

In September, bus problems began before the first school bells rang, when many kids were not picked up for the first day of classes. Other children rode for hours, arriving late to school. By the end of the month, the city had received 130,000 complaints about the school buses, significantly up from previous years, when bus problems had also plagued the start of school.

NY1 City Officials Face Mounting Criticism Over Snow Response by Spectrum News Staff

City Officials Face Mounting Criticism Over Snow Response

Cleanup efforts are underway across the Big Apple after the first snowfall of the season downed trees and brought the Thursday evening commute to an icy halt.

It was the biggest snow storm in November, a record for the most snow for the day.

All five boroughs were hit hard with some areas seeing as much as six inches of snow.

NY1 Councilman Targets a Blight on the City - Thousands of Buildings Surrounded By Scaffolding, Sometimes for Years by Michael Scotto

Councilman Targets a Blight on the City - Thousands of Buildings Surrounded By Scaffolding, Sometimes for Years

They are a common sight around the city -- scaffolding surrounding buildings. But once they go up, many scaffolds do not come down for years -- creating eyesores and quality-of-life problems in their neighborhoods. One Councilman is trying to change that. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report:

When Fernando Salomone opens the door to his fire escape, he often finds trash spread across the top of scaffolding surrounding the building next door.

"You see fresh food. There's a sandwich over there, diapers over here," he said, examining the scaffolding.

Salomone says it's been a problem since he opened his gym on Broadway and West 104th Street nearly three years ago. Sometimes it is so bad, he leaves his windows closed to keep out mice and the smell of rotting trash.

"I'm on Broadway, it should be clean," Salomone said. "If I throw garbage from the window, they will give me a ticket, right?

"No one does anything with this garbage."

The scaffolding surrounds a city-owned building that is used as a homeless shelter. It went up four years ago to prevent parts of the deteriorating facade from falling onto the sidewalk. But since then, the city hasn't done anything to repair that facade.

"I think the city should be embarrassed about any scaffolding around any city building," City Councilman Ben Kallos said.

This scaffolding highlights a citywide problem of landlords erecting sidewalk sheds and not taking them down.

One building has had scaffolding since 2006. Another in East Harlem has had one for ten years, as has a building in Chelsea, all of which are seen in the video above.

Kallos has proposed legislation to end the nuisances and eyesores of perpetual scaffoldings.

"Anytime somebody puts up the scaffolding, they have to immediately start work or take it back down, and if they can't afford to do the work, the city would end up doing for them and charging for them later," Kallos said.

There are 7,800 active sidewalk shed permits, half of which are in Manhattan.

A law requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to erect scaffolding every five years to inspect the facades.

Landlords who don't make the repairs in 90 days face fines of $1,000 a month. But some choose to leave the scaffolding up and pay the fines to avoid costly facade repairs.

The de Blasio administration said it is reviewing Kallos's bill.

As for this sidewalk shed on Broadway, it is expected to come down soon, but it will then be replaced with another sidewalk shed. Once that happens, work will finally begin on the building, with repairs to the façade expected to be completed in 2019.