New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Coronavirus

StreetsBlog Hundreds of Activists Rally for More Space on the Queensboro Bridge — And DOT Agrees! by Gersh Kuntzman

Hundreds of Activists Rally for More Space on the Queensboro Bridge — And DOT Agrees!

undreds of protesters took over the south outer roadway of the Queensboro Bridge to demand a dedicated lane for pedestrians so that walkers in both directions don’t have to share a single path with two-way cyclists — and the Department of Transportation said it agrees with the demand.

But … it still can’t happen until 2022.

At the rally, politicians including Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ben Kallos — whose districts are connected by the fabled span — and State Senators Jessica Ramos and Mike Gianaris made the same demands that activists and pols have been making for years: That booming bike and pedestrian use of the bridge — coupled with declining driving — made it essential to convert the southernmost car lane (which is conveniently already separated from other car lanes on the bridge) into a pedestrian-only lane. Cyclists would then split the north outer roadway.

 

“We don’t need the money to do this,” said Van Bramer, who, with Kallos, has promised to fund the security fencing that the DOT says it must construct. “We need the political will.”

In a statement, the DOT agreed with Van Bramer.

“We couldn’t agree more: adding bike and pedestrian capacity to our bridges is a great idea,” said agency spokesman Brian Zumhagen. “We’re completing urgent safety upgrades to the Queensboro Bridge, a 100-plus-year-old structure, and we need extra lane capacity to get it done. We also have to evaluate every project in the context of our historic budget crisis. But conversations are ongoing on moving this project forward, and we’re grateful for the community’s enthusiasm for it.”

That full-throated endorsement is more of a sore-throated kind: the repair work on the Queensboro Bridge won’t be finished until 2022, as DOT has said. But the agency has also been caught making other excuses that have contradicted previous explanations for why the additional space could not be made, as Streetsblog has reported.

As a result, the bridge configuration will remain nine lanes for automobile traffic, one-half lane for pedestrians and one-half lane for cyclists. That formula was mocked in one protester’s sign (right).

After the speeches, scores of pedestrians walked over the bridge, enjoying, for the first time since the roadway was seized from pedestrians for cars in the 1990s, spectacular views of Manhattan and booming Long Island City.

Meanwhile, on the north outer roadway, conditions continued to be dangerous and unnerving for all users. The roadway — a single car lane — has since 2000 been serving as the lone route for cyclists and pedestrians. But the narrow pathway has become a victim of the city’s own Vision Zero strategy of encouraging cycling and walking, former city transportation official Jon Orcutt ruefully pointed out.

“The bike boom is a fulfillment of years of city policy, but when it happened during the coronavirus, the city wasn’t ready” with more safety infrastructure, said Orcutt, who was one of two members of the so-called QB6 — six protesters who got arrested in 1990 at a similar rally to create more space on the bridge — on hand on Sunday. Charles Komanoff also attended and spoke about how basic transport is an essential equity issue.

At the time Komanoff and Orcutt were arrested, the rallying cry was “Just One Lane,” Orcutt reminded. “Now, it’s ‘One More Lane!'”

Here’s a mega slideshow of the best images from the day:

Wall Street Journal New York City Council Introduces Bills to Aid Restaurants in Coronavirus Recovery by Emma Tucker

New York City Council Introduces Bills to Aid Restaurants in Coronavirus Recovery

Councilman Ben Kallos on Wednesday is expected to introduce two additional bills intended to support small businesses during the pandemic. The first one would streamline the process for restaurants to obtain a sidewalk-cafe license or renew one if it was previously approved. It would also allow for licenses to be transferred if the establishment undergoes a change of ownership.

Mr. Kallos, a Democrat who represents parts of Manhattan, also plans to introduce a bill that would establish a low-interest small grants and loans program that would provide restaurants with up to $250,000 in funds to bring their restaurants into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Mr. Kallos said the funds could be used for infrastructure changes, as well as ventilation improvements and other public health measures to assist those who are at greater risk for developing serious complications of the coronavirus.

“Accessibility can be a challenge because there are so many old buildings that were built prior to the ADA,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the city’s hospitality alliance, a nonprofit association representing restaurants and nightlife establishments. “This bill could provide the much needed support to assist them in becoming more accessible.”

FOX 5 WNYW Confusion, anger as more NYC homeless are shuffled around city by Dan Bowens

Confusion, anger as more NYC homeless are shuffled around city

“These are human beings and they should not be getting tossed around from community to community,” said City Councilmember Ben Kallos.

Mayor de Blasio’s office and the Department of Homeless Services did not return a request for comment, however, the Legal Aid Society says it will not rest until the city builds a culture of transparency with its shelter residents. 

The Legal Aid Society has also threatened to sue the city unless mayor de Blasio meets their demands, including meeting with every family individually to determine their needs, help them relocate, and give them enough notice to leave.

Letter to Mayor and Schools Chancellor Proposing Remote Learning Centers

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dear Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza, and President Grillo,

As you prepare to open New York City public schools in September offering parents the option of staggered schedules or remote learning, I urge you to explore bolstering this blended learning model with remote learning centers for children who cannot stay at home.

Remote learning centers could be temporarily established by utilizing closed private and parochial schools or finding a new use for existing public spaces such as libraries or youth, senior and community centers. In neighborhoods where these existing schools or public spaces are already in use or provide insufficient space, we can look to the countless empty storefronts, houses of worship, or other temporarily closed or partially closed businesses. Remote learning centers established in these spaces would be supervised, required to follow social distancing measures, and would provide a safe space with a computer and an internet connection. Most importantly, they would provide a space for students whose parents cannot watch them at home to do remote learning, on days when they are not scheduled for in-person instruction at their school, or even full time if attending school requires a dangerous commute.

 

New York Times Public Spaces Weren’t Designed for Pandemics. N.Y.C. Is Trying to Adapt. by Matthew Haag

Public Spaces Weren’t Designed for Pandemics. N.Y.C. Is Trying to Adapt.

Some Upper East Side residents have called for one-way sidewalks. “The stressful part of going anywhere is getting there, because the sidewalks are so narrow,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents parts of the neighborhood and Roosevelt Island. “There’s no room for distancing, especially when people are walking toward you.”

Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio proposing $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet

Monday, June 15, 2020

As we face unprecedented times and a budget that must-see painful cuts, we should look for possible waste and opportunities for revenues and savings. I have proposed $15.24 billion in potential savings and revenue for our city’s budget in order to invest $827 million in spending on programs that support children, families, seniors, and our planet that will reduce costs and generate revenues. 

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.”

6sqft NYC politicians call for outdoor restaurant seating on sidewalks, streets, and parking spots by DANA SCHULZ

NYC politicians call for outdoor restaurant seating on sidewalks, streets, and parking spots

 

Today, NYC Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers joined Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in addressing a letter to Mayor de Blasio requesting that “the city immediately grant temporary permission before Memorial Day Weekend for bars and restaurants to use sidewalks and streets to serve patrons safely for everyone’s benefit.” Despite warnings from the NYPD, the letter says that residents on the Upper East Side were “congregating outside the establishments without face coverings or respecting social distancing, putting essential workers, themselves, and those passing by at risk.”

Therefore, the letter asks the mayor to open certain stretches of parking spaces and streets for outdoor service and seating. Due to the scene in the neighborhood this past weekend, the officials are asking that the following Upper East Side locations be rolled out prior to this weekend:

  • Second Avenue from 49th to 53rd Street, 55th to 58th Street, 66th to 70th Street, 73rd to 79th Street, and 81st to 92nd Street.
  • First Avenue from 49th to East 64th Street, 68th Street to 69th Street, 73rd to 78th Street, 81st to 84th Street, and 87th to 89th Street.
  • York Avenue from 75th to 79th Street and 84th to 86th Street.