New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Our Town

Our Town Outdoor Cafes for Social Distancing by Jason Cohen

Outdoor Cafes for Social Distancing

After numerous people on the Upper East Side disobeyed social distancing last weekend and converged in front of bars, elected officials are trying to come up with a solution.

On May 18, Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking to grant temporary permission before Memorial Day weekend for bars and restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to serve patrons safely for everyone’s benefit.

The elected officials were quite angry with the recent behavior on the UES and hope that if the city approves these plans, it will prevent those actions.

“Rather than rely on enforcement or fine individuals and small businesses that may already be hurting financially from the pandemic, we should adapt our city’s streets to allow for and encourage safe practices,” the letter states. “Without granting businesses a better option, we are afraid restaurants and bars may just take the risk and pay whatever violations may be issued as a cost of doing business rather than shutter their doors permanently.”

Our Town On the Front Line of Testing by Emily Higginbotham

On the Front Line of Testing

Connecting to Health Care Providers

In making that possible, Mason has been working with Council Member Ben Kallos to identify ways to distribute the test throughout the city. Kallos said he’s been connecting Mason to health care service providers throughout the New York, including City Med.

“They have something like 200 locations all over the city of New York as well as the metropolitan area,” said Kallos. “So we were working with them on having a situation where City Med could be a place to go and get rapid testing while [patients] waited, and that we could take one of the exam rooms and turn it into a lab processing room where we could be testing several hundred people an hour.”

Kallos said he’s been disappointed by how much time the United States lost by not having testing ready by the time the outbreak was declared a pandemic.

“I think the key thing here is when the President was saying we don't need testing, when my colleagues in this government were saying we don't need testing, I knew that the only way we were gonna get out of this crisis is with access to testing to everyone,” said Kallos, who is running to replace the term-limited Gale Brewer as Manhattan Borough President in 2021. Notably, Kallos’ opponent in the race, fellow Council Member Mark Levine, who chairs the health committee, had been calling on New Yorkers who were not extremely ill to stay home and not get tested for the virus to avoid overwhelming the city’s health care resources. “But that being said, we have the brightest minds on the planet here in my district, and in the city, and I'm certain that between Dr. Mason and others in our city and in our country that will be able to shore up the kind of testing that you need to get back to work and back to normal as soon as possible.”

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.