New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

TAPinto

TAPinto East Side Group Says R8B Zoning Has to Be Preserved by Marc Bussanich

East Side Group Says R8B Zoning Has to Be Preserved

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5) attended Tuesday’s meeting, citing the concerns of the community and noting, as he did in a statement to the Eastsiders for Responsible Zoning two weeks ago, that the Blood Center does very important work and can expand without a massive rezoning.

“This is why we insist that the Longfellow proposal, which would make the building as tall as a 33-story residential tower, is excessive and if allowed to go through unchecked will change our neighborhood forever. Every East Sider who could be affected by this proposal should be showing up to every Community Board and Department of City Planning meeting on the project,” said Kallos. 

TAPinto City Council Passes Bill to Ban Toxins in Parks by Marc Bussanich

City Council Passes Bill to Ban Toxins in Parks

New York, NY—The City Council, on Earth Day, passed unanimously Council Member Ben Kallos’ bill to ban toxic pesticides in parks, playgrounds and public spaces.

It’s a hard-earned victory as the Council Member first introduced the bill, which is sponsored by 31 other Council Members, back in 2015, so the passing of the bill on Earth Day is more than just symbolic.

At a press conference earlier today at the Stanley Isaacs Playground on East 96th Street and 1st Avenue, just before the council voted unanimously, Kallos stood with the Council Speaker, Black community and think tank leaders and environmental advocates to say that the bill bans all city agencies from spraying highly toxic pesticides such as glyphosate.

Kallos also noted it is the most far-reaching legislation to implement pesticide-free land practices in New York City Parks and public spaces.

TAPinto East Siders Welcome Funding for Esplanade Repairs by Marc Bussanich

East Siders Welcome Funding for Esplanade Repairs

Councilman Ben Kallos, who co-chairs the East River Esplanade Task Force with Rep. Maloney, said that since he’s been the co-chair, there has been approximately $872 million invested in the East River Esplanade going back to 2014 for repairs and infrastructure upgrades.

“At this point, we’re more than three quarters of a billion in, some money is moving. Now the challenge is: start the work now,” said Kallos.  

TAPinto Community Board Committee Votes to Oppose NY Blood Center Proposal by Marc Bussanich

Community Board Committee Votes to Oppose NY Blood Center Proposal

New YorkNY—The opposition to the New York Blood Center’s proposal to build a massive 16-story, 600,000-square foot campus on the Upper East Side is growing, as the Zoning and Development Committee of Community Board 8 voted yesterday by a margin of 16-1 to oppose the project.

First the committee heard presentations from several speakers before they voted. First up was Marty Bell, who during a Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) last week made quite clear that he is opposed to the project. He believes that the Blood Center can easily build a new building within its existing footprint compared to building a new 16-story tower whereby it will only occupy the first five floors.

TAPinto UES Residents Voice Opposition to Proposed New York Blood Center Campus by Marc Bussanich

UES Residents Voice Opposition to Proposed New York Blood Center Campus

New York, NY—The New York Blood Center has big ambitions to build a brand-new campus with a 16-story building to replace its current home on East 67th Street. But some long-time residents are opposed to the project, with one of them saying that the massive redevelopment poses an existential threat to the quality of life on the Upper East Side.

The residents had a chance to weigh in on the issue during a recent Zoom meeting with Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), who represents the district. The Councilman heard from approximately 10 residents, who each expressed different reasons why they are opposed to the proposed 600,000-square foot campus.

For example, Adam Kaye lives at 301 East 66th Street on the 14th Floor facing east, and he expressed astonishment that his open-air views will be compromised.

“I’m an owner, this is something that we extensively looked into what the zoning was, what the maximum height was in the area before we bought, and never in a million years did we think that someone would build such an egregious monstrosity on a block on the Upper East Side,” said Kaye.

He also expressed concern about the obstruction of sunlight to nearby St. Catherine’s Park, saying that part of the reason why he and his wife purchased their property was so that his two children could have access to an open-air park with plenty of sunlight.

“I can’t understand how any council member or any zoning person will allow something like that to happen in a playground that is so vital to the neighborhood; it’s the only open-air park space that we have. The core question is, what can be done to stop it,” Kaye said.

Paul Graziano was just hired by the co-op board at 301 East 66th Street to be its planning, zoning and land use consultant in response to the Blood Center’s proposal. He noted that there has never been a violation or a request for a rezoning within any R8B zone (a high-density residential zoning district found mostly in Manhattan on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side) since the adoption of the R8B zone on the UES in 1985.

In fact, he said, the adoption of additional R8B zones in Manhattan seemed to indicate that it was a long-standing position by the city and elected officials to protect mid-block areas. 

“This precedent would open the door not just for creating a disaster on this block, which is clear from the proposal, but I think it opens the door to this happening everywhere else. And, unlike the statement [by the city] that this is an exception, that this is the only site where this could happen, that is not true,” said Graziano.

Perhaps the most vociferous opposition came from Marty Bell, who lives at 315 East 68th Street. While saying that the project represents an existential crisis to the quality of life on the UES, he channeled his frustration towards Councilman Ben Kallos, whom Bell said isn’t doing enough to stop the project.

“The way all you ever talked about was sort of wishy-washy about St. Catherine’s [Park]…this building, you should be screaming from the ramparts to stop this building,” said Bell.

Bell continued by saying that he felt that the Blood Center wouldn’t be going ahead with the project unless “they felt they had you in their pocket.”

That prompted Kallos to calmly reply that he appreciated Bell’s remarks, but they weren’t accurate.

“I understand why you could come to the conclusions you have come to, but I will say that nothing could be further from the truth,” said Kallos.

Kallos then noted that the New York Blood Center isn’t even seeking input from elected leaders.

“This is not something that I can just simply come out and say I am against and the project [stops]. They are choosing to move forward without support from any local elected officials,” said Kallos.

“At this point, whether you support or oppose, or you have changes to the proposal, it’s going to be something that you are going to have to fight for.”

The city is in favor of the project because, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration views public health and the life-science industry as the cornerstone of the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

In addition, the New York Blood Center says it needs the new campus to add more space for its research and to expand the number of companies it incubates in its offices.

TAPinto Isaacs Center Distributes Over 400 Turkeys to Families by Marc Bussanich

Isaacs Center Distributes Over 400 Turkeys to Families

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) said that one of the best aspects about his position is representing the residents at Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers.

“Ever since I’ve been the council member, we’ve brought the funding for these turkeys to make sure that everybody can have a Thanksgiving. I’ll just say that in partnership with Greg Morris here at the Isaacs Center, we’ve increased the distribution to 400 this year—I’d like to thank Assemblyman Dan Quart, Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez and Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

TAPinto Roosevelt Island Parents Rally Virtually for Remote Learning Center by Marc Bussanich

Roosevelt Island Parents Rally Virtually for Remote Learning Center

New York, NY—Families of students who attend P.S./I.S. 217 on Roosevelt Island have no option on the island to send their children to a remote learning center because a long-standing childcare provider that applied to provide 45 seats was denied by the city. That’s why they joined a virtual rally earlier today with elected officials to ask the city to reconsider.

...

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) hosted the rally, as he has been a leading advocate for expanding the number Learning Bridges seats. In fact, he wrote a letter to the Mayor first proposing the idea of remote learning centers for families who needed child care while students were learning remotely.

TAPinto New Bill Would Raise Wages of Human Services Workers by Marc Bussanich

New Bill Would Raise Wages of Human Services Workers

New York, NY—Human service providers would be able to pay their workers more money based on a new bill introduced today in the City Council by Councilman Ben Kallos.

Earlier today he was distributing face masks and hand sanitizer in Yorkville outside the Isaacs Center, a 50-year human services provider whose mission is to ensure that children are prepared to thrive in high school, young adults boost their earnings, and that seniors thrive as they age.

But the human services sector, which employs approximately 200,000 New Yorkers, pays low wages. According to a report published by a coalition of human services providers, the average pay is less than $30,000 annually.

 

TAPinto City Trying to Ramp Up More Child Care Options On Remote Learning Days by Marc Bussanich

City Trying to Ramp Up More Child Care Options On Remote Learning Days

New York, NY—New York City schoolchildren are now back in school, alternating between in-person and remote learning during the school week. On the days there is remote learning, parents have had to scramble to figure out child care options for their young children. A new program by the NYC Department of Education provides free childcare options, but a limited number of seats are currently available in Community Board 8’s district.

Last week, CB 8 hosted a webinar on the urgent need for child care that featured numerous officials, including speakers from NYCDOE, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as Council Members Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Keith Powers (D-Manhattan).

Learning Bridges, the new NYC Department of Education program, provides free child care options for children from 3-K through 8th grade on days when they are scheduled for remote learning.

TAPinto 40 Pre-K Seats Now Available for French Dual Language Program by Marc Bussanich

40 Pre-K Seats Now Available for French Dual Language Program

New York, NY—Council Member Ben Kallos led a ribbon cutting to announce the availability of 40 Pre-K Seats for a French dual language program that will serve members of the Francophone community on the East Side.

According to Council Member Kallos, the New York City Department of Education will operate the classes using a side-by-side instructional model where it will have one Early Childhood-certified teacher who is fluent in French and who has or will work towards a bilingual extension, alongside a second Early Childhood-certified teacher.

Classes started at the Pre-K Center at 355 East 76th Street on September 21.

Kallos was joined at the ribbon cutting by parents, teachers, school administrators and the French Consulate General to New York, each of whom had an opportunity to say a few words during the press conference about how grateful they are that the DOE recognized the need and agreed to make the seats available.

The ribbon cutting preceded a multi-year effort of activism by numerous parents in the neighborhood, which Kallos recounted in his opening remarks. He talked particularly about one parent, Stephane Lautner, who first reached out to the president of the Community Education Council District 2, Maud Maron, to discuss the possibility of making seats available for a French dual language program.