New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Our Town

Our Town City Says 'Oui' to French Lessons for Pre-K by Emily Higginbotham

City Says 'Oui' to French Lessons for Pre-K

The Department of Education announced that it will launch a French dual-language program this fall at the pre-kindergarten center on the Upper East Side to cater to the Francophone community in the city.

A group of French-speaking parents, including immigrants from Canada, Africa and France, began spearheading a campaign two years ago to attain bilingual education for their children, and have worked closely with City Council Member Ben Kallos, Education Attaché of the Embassy of France Fabrice Jaumont, Community Education District 2 President Maud Maron, Deputy Chancellor of Early Childhood and Student Enrollment Josh Wallack, and the Community Education District Superintendent Donalda Chumney to bring it to fruition.

French is the third most common spoken language in the UES neighborhood, according to a report from Business Insider.

“I hear so many languages spoken in my district from every corner of the world and now we are working with the Francophone community to address a need in the neighborhood as we hope to increase the overall diversity of our schools,” said Kallos.

Our Town Cutting Supertalls Down to Size by Emily Higginbotham

Cutting Supertalls Down to Size

Politicians, community advocates and developers are looking to the future of Manhattan development following an unprecedented court ruling this month ordering the removal of 20 floors from a nearly finished Upper West Side tower. One lawmaker is already at work to use the decision to cut the height of another supertall across town.

Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents part of Midtown and the Upper East Side, was one of the several elected officials who turned out to celebrate Judge Franc Perry’s decision to revoke the building permits for the 59-story tower at 69th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Quickly, Kallos, who is running for Manhattan Borough President when Gale Brewer leaves the post in 2021, got his wheels turning and saw that Perry’s ruling opened a window to reargue the legality of the 847-foot Sutton Tower being constructed at 430 East 58th Street in his district.

“In both cases, I think what we have in common is if you have a Department of Buildings and a city that is complicit in allowing people to break the law, whether or not people can profit off their crimes,” said Kallos. “What jurisprudence typically says is, no. If you do something wrong, you shouldn't get to profit from it.”

Our Town Finally, Sutton Place Park — almost by Leida Snow

Finally, Sutton Place Park — almost

You could practically hear the neighborhood’s sigh of relief. “I’ve lived near here all my life,” one woman exulted, at the unofficial opening of Sutton Place Park (SPP) overlooking the East River. “I was brought up here. And there were times I thought the construction would never end.”

Our Town OTTY 2019 Honoree: Writing laws for everyone by CHRISTOPHER MOORE

OTTY 2019 Honoree: Writing laws for everyone

East Side Council Member Ben Kallos says his answer is “cheesy.”

The 38-year-old rising star in Manhattan politics has been asked about his greatest accomplishment. He points first to the little girl that he and his wife welcomed last year.

“My daughter is the end-all and be-all of my life. And to the extent that’s an accomplishment, it starts and ends there—just to have the privilege of being a father. But I think that’s just a personal milestone,” he says, speaking at his desk in his East 93rd Street office. Snow falls on the other side of the window. He’s wearing a blue suit, white shirt and no tie, talking easily and without the requisite staff members that so often sit in on a politician’s interview.

“I take paternity leave pretty seriously and family leave pretty seriously,” he adds, “and I admit I’ve been a little bit of a bully with any men that I know who aren’t taking leave because I think both partners regardless of gender should be taking an equal and active role in the child-rearing process.”

Our Town "Condo on stilts” paused by Michael Garofalo

"Condo on stilts” paused

“In the event of an emergency, first responders are going to be called upon to run up hundreds of feet of empty building to rescue people in these apartments.”

Council Member Ben Kallos

 

As the city prepares to tighten restrictions on developers' use of mechanical voids — large, empty spaces within buildings that primarily serve to inflate the height, views and market value of the floors above — a planned Upper East Side tower frequently cited by critics as among the most egregious examples of the practice is in limbo as the Department of Buildings evaluates void-related objections concerning the project.

 

Our Town Writing laws for everyone by CHRISTOPHER MOORE

Writing laws for everyone

Kallos’s district includes the Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island and East Harlem. For his first three years on the council, he was the chair of the council’s Government Operations Committee, where he tackled more than the campaign finance issue. He also focused on using technology to aid access to government and took aim at patronage. He helped get rid of outside income for council members, and to end the practice wherein the council speaker had the discretion to give “lulus,” or specific financial disbursements.

What has he not done? He hasn’t stopped the city’s plan for a marine transfer station in the area. “Doesn’t mean I have given up yet,” he says.

One big surprise when he got to the council: the corruption. He remembers being told that he needed to “go along to get along” and hearing advice against making any waves. “These are all the things that you might read about in a book,” he says.

Our Town EXCLUSIVE: 640 new school seats for UES by Michael Garofalo

EXCLUSIVE: 640 new school seats for UES

The city aims to add 640 new public school seats on the Upper East Side as part of its upcoming $17 billion five-year school capital plan.

Plans for expanding the neighborhood’s school capacity appear in the School Construction Authority and Department of Education’s proposed capital plan for fiscal years 2020-2024. The 640 Upper East Side seats are among the 2,794 new seats the plan calls for in School District 2, which includes the Upper East Side, Midtown, Chelsea and much of Lower Manhattan.

An SCA and DOE spokesperson did not comment on whether the city has identified potential sites for the 640 new seats. But Council Member Ben Kallos, who advocated for the agencies to expand school capacity in his Upper East Side district, said that the added seats will most likely be located in a new school.

“My preference is for one large school,” Kallos said, adding, “Based on the work I’ve been doing with the SCA to find a location for this school, I believe that there will be a site large enough to accommodate all 640 seats, if not more.”

The 640-seat Upper East Side project will cost an estimated $92.85 million, with an expected completion date of March 2025, according to the proposed capital plan. The city hopes to start design work by Sept. 2020 and begin construction by Dec. 2021.

Our Town The newsletter that saved a life by Doug Feiden

The newsletter that saved a life

The 10 scariest words in the English language, Ronald Reagan used to joke, are these: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

Kathleen L. Steed embraces a very different world view. Officialdom, she believes, can offer comfort, company, support and holiday cheer.

And every once in a while, it can even rescue you from mortal peril.

“The word ‘miracle’ is overused and overworked,” said the 73-year-old Yorkville woman, a retired private investigator and hospital fundraiser.

“But this really is a story about a miracle,” she added.

It surfaced on Dec. 13 at the annual holiday party of Upper East Side City Council Member Ben Kallos as some 70-plus constituents mingled in his district office on East 93rd Street.

Over baked ziti from the Italian Village Pizza on First Avenue and gallons of apple cider and other nonalcoholic beverages, Steed buttonholed Josh Jamieson, the communications director for Council District 5.

“Your newsletter saved my life,” she said simply.

Jamieson said he was stunned.

Thus began a conversation between a pair of newsletter aficionados.

Jamieson has worked for Kallos for nearly three years, and his duties include writing, editing and curating most of the document, which reaches thousands of constituents online and in a hefty print edition that can range from 30 to 50 pages.

It’s so comprehensive and labor-intensive that he’s regularly on the receiving end of good-natured ribbing from Kallos and Jesse Towsen, his chief of staff, over both the newsletter’s length and its encyclopedic scope.

A recent issue, for instance, was chockablock full with listings for UES events, lectures, exhibits, book groups, support groups, writing circles, yoga workshops, dance rehearsals, ballet workshops, exercise classes, cooking classes, legal clinics, medical services and homeless services.

Not to mention the screenings of “Casablanca,” symposium about the 1830s, drag queen story hours and discussions of the U-boat attacks on allied shipping in the North Atlantic during World War II.

Steed, who has lived in the same rent-stabilized, walk-up apartment on Third Avenue since 1977, is every elected official’s dream: She’s a self-professed “information junkie” who actually reads all their newsletters. Voraciously.

As an active senior who lives alone and likes to keep busy, she can often be found at gatherings, parties and other activities for the elderly that she’s spotted in the newsletters of Kallos, state Senator Liz Krueger, state Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, as well as nonprofits like the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and Health Advocates for Older People.

Of those six community newsletters, Kallos’ is by far the longest, while Krueger’s is a close second, Steed said. “Sometimes,” she confessed, “I don’t read it all the way through ... I just scan it!”

Nonetheless, she made it to page 46 of the 49-page July newsletter and focused on an event listing: “In honor of World Head and Neck Cancer Day,” it said, “please join us for free head and neck cancer screenings offered through Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.”