New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

NY1

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.

NY1 Number of state lawmakers look to trade jobs in Albany for City Council seats by Bobby Cuza

Number of state lawmakers look to trade jobs in Albany for City Council seats

But if experience matters, so does name recognition, which critics say creates an unfair advantage. The irony is that Council term limits and the city's robust public campaign finance system are designed to attract political newcomers, not professional politicians.

"The point of term limits is, we're supposed to have a citizen legislature," said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan.

NY1 These Manhattan Residents Call for City to Limit Some Mega Towers by Michael Scotto

These Manhattan Residents Call for City to Limit Some Mega Towers

"I think every New Yorker is tired of super tall towers going in that have no place in residential neighborhoods, and for the first time residents have banded together and fought back," Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos said.

NY1 Building Owners Could Soon Be Facing Deadline for Taking Down Scaffolding by Roma Torre

Building Owners Could Soon Be Facing Deadline for Taking Down Scaffolding

Sometimes it feels like once scaffolding goes up in the city, it stays up forever. But building owners could soon be facing a deadline for taking it down.

Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos is pushing a bill that would put strict limits on how long scaffolding can be installed on city buildings.

The story was first reported by The New York Times.

The measure would give building owners up to six months to finish repairs so the scaffolding can be removed. 

If the repairs aren’t completed in time, the city would finish the work and charge the owner.

The city requires scaffolding to protect pedestrians from falling debris during repair work.

Supporters of the bill say the structures are ugly and hurt business. 

Critics say building owners don’t always have the money on hand to make expensive repairs.

NY1 NYers, Council Members Discuss Ways to Improve Buses in Light of Drop in Ridership by NY1 News

NYers, Council Members Discuss Ways to Improve Buses in Light of Drop in Ridership

"Why can't we just pay with our cellphones like you can in so many other places? Why can't you just tap and go as you get on every single entrance of the bus?" said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan.

 

NY1 Second Election Official Suspended Amid Investigations Into New York Primary Voter Purge by Grace Rauh

Second Election Official Suspended Amid Investigations Into New York Primary Voter Purge

Resolutions passed by the council Thursday advocate for no-excuse absentee voting, and would allow people to register with a party up to 10 days before an election.

"For me, voter empowerment and barriers to registration is something I've been working on for nearly a decade," City Councilor Ben Kallos of Manhattan said. "In fact, it's one of the issues that brought me into government."

Meanwhile, the board failed to accomplish what it set out to do at its meeting Thursday: certify the citywide results from last month's primary.

Instead, that was postponed because officials from the Manhattan office failed to show up for the official vote.

NY1 Annual Hope Count to Document Number of City's Homeless by Michael Scotto

Annual Hope Count to Document Number of City's Homeless

The Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services will provide support for meals, legal services, supportive housing and other programs benefiting the city's homeless.

Council Member Ben Kallos tells NY1 it's meant to help New Yorkers struggling to stay afloat. 

"These are actually services for anyone who's homeless, at risk, or even just hungry. And so, we have between the churches, synagogues, and non-profits we have meals, lunch and dinner, even sometimes breakfast. We also have food pantries," said Kallos. "One of the things that we're really focused on is trying to find additional beds so people have a choice." 

The taskforce is comprised of a handful of religious centers, non-profit groups, the Department of Homeless Services and Human Resources Administration.