“The BSA is the most powerful city agency that no one has ever heard of,” said New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents District 5 (the east side of Manhattan from Midtown up to East Harlem). “It literally has the power to change how neighborhoods are planned without going through the regular city planning process.”
Kallos, who sponsored five of the nine bills in the BSA legislative reform package that the City Council passed in May, said his interest in the body goes back more than a decade to his time as a member of Manhattan’s Community Board 8 and concerns that arose as he witnessed his Upper East Side neighborhood “turn from a residential neighborhood into a commercial and hospital district.”
“I watched a parade of applicants come in and build buildings that could never be built under the current neighborhood plan,” he recalled.
Alongside Kallos, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, the reforms drew bipartisan support from Democratic Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Republican Minority Leader Steven Matteo, as well as Democratic council members Karen Koslowitz and Donovan Richards.
A fresh proposal, drafted with input from members of the city planning department, is scheduled for public hearing on Oct. 18, paving the way for a possible approval by the city council in November, said Ben Kallos, a councilman who is one of the applicants seeking rezoning.
“All along, this has been a race to the finish,” Kallos, the councilman, said in an interview. “I hope to vote on it as soon as possible. Communities want a say in how their neighborhoods are developed.”
There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.
“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council, which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”
Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.
“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.
Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.
“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.
While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”
Meanwhile, ERFA proposed its rezoning plan to limit the heights of buildings and create a new inclusionary housing zone that would allow developers to build up to 350 feet if they include affordable units in their projects. The proposal has garnered the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos and state Sen. Liz Krueger, but it has not yet received the crucial approval from City Planning.
Kallos, who helped co-found ERFA, said the group is made up of more than 2,000 people across 45 buildings in the area. The Council member said the rezoning effort is spurred by the fact that construction in his district is rampant and residents are seeing very little affordable housing created in the area.
"You can literally walk anywhere in my district and see one construction site from another construction site,” said Kallos, who told TRD that he wanted to step in to prevent “another 432 Park Avenue” from towering over the city. “People in my district are getting development fatigue.”
How New York City hopes to end the stigma associated with 'lunch shaming' by feeding every student for free
Giving out lunch based on this criterion has led to what some observers have branded as "lunch shaming." As a result, many kids chose to skip lunch to avoid bullying.
New York City Council member Ben Kallos knows that effect all too well. He grew up in the Upper East Side section of Manhattan, which is known to be very wealthy, and attended the Bronx High School of Science. However, he stood out among his classmates.
"Not only did I come from a single parent household, but a multi-generational household, which meant I was eligible for free or reduced lunch," Ben Kallos, NYC Council member told CNBC's "On the Money."
He added that every day his friends would go out and buy lunch instead of staying in the cafeteria. So he had to make a choice between friends and food.
"I would tell them I wasn't hungry, when the truth is, I was starving," Kallos said.
"Every single child will be treated the same. No one will have to worry if their family can afford it…and we'll actually be giving kids an even start to life," said Kallos.
UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The Olympic-sized pool at Upper East Side fitness center Asphalt Green has reopened after a three-week project to install a new water filtration system, the center announced this week.
The 50-meter pool has serviced more than nine million New Yorkers since it opened in 1993, but was using its original water filters, a spokesman for Asphalt Green told Patch. Upper East Side City Councilman Ben Kallos secured more than $600,000 for new Neptune Benson Defender filters for the pool.
The new system will keep the pool cleaner and require less maintenance by filtering a whopping 2.6 million gallons of water per day, an Asphalt Green spokesman said.
New York City Council District 5 representative Ben Kallos first discovered news of Bauhouse’s planned development from a local resident while attending an Easter egg hunt in April 2015.
“Somebody in the neighborhood [said to me], ‘Did you know there is going to be a tower? Somebody wants to put up 1,000 feet here,’ ” Kallos told CO. “And I’m like, ‘You mean at 432 Park?’ They said, ‘No, [East] 58th Street and Sutton [Place].’ I said, ‘There’s no way. Is this an April Fool’s Day joke?’ ”
By January 2016, the ERFA—backed by Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer as well as State Senator Liz Krueger and Councilman Dan Garodnick—had formed and filed its first rezoning application with the Department of City Planning, looking to cap the height of the building and also secure a section of the residential development for affordable housing units.
This April, CO reported that Gamma had spent the previous few months demolishing the three tenement buildings that had previously occupied the site. The company is now prepared to go forward with the tower’s construction, according to Kalikow. But, the surrounding community, two years into a fight against super-tall neighboring commercial buildings, is determined to halt the project.
Brewer first met with Bauhouse to discuss the site, prior to Gamma taking it over and recalled, “We met with [Bauhouse], and I’ll admit I said, ‘This is an awfully tall building. Do you know what you’re doing?’ I think I said, ‘You have to be kidding me?’ ” she said.
Kallos, Krueger, Garodnick and a representative of Brewer met with Kalikow on May 11 to discuss controversies surrounding the site, including the community’s firm opposition and how steep a climb Gamma would have to complete the project.
“[We told them] we’re not Beninati: We know what we’re doing, and we’re building for New York buyers because this is a New York enclave,” Kalikow said. “They said, ‘We don’t care, it’s too high.’ ”
Kallos said that during the meeting, he flagged the height of the building and warned Kalikow that it might be in Gamma’s best interest to scale down the project to fit the neighborhood’s context or use its air rights elsewhere.
Kalikow interpreted that as a threat and that Kallos was “going to do something with these tenants to hurt us,” he said.
The councilman said he simply brought forth community concerns.
“I offered them options such as using their air rights in other parts of the city,” Kallos added. “We also talked to them about the fact that the rezoning we were proposing would actually give them additional floor area ratio on site—that wasn’t on site and already there—in order to build affordable housing. It was not a threat; it was a specific explanation of the fact that I had hoped that we could work together.”
One of the ways Kalikow believes Kallos followed through on what he thought was a “threat” was through the community’s increased use of 311 calls this past summer, specifically around the Fourth of July weekend, which invited greater scrutiny on the site. (The city must log and address each complaint as it relates to construction safety.)
“I am proud of it,” Kallos responded cheerfully to Kalikow’s accusation that he urged residents to call 311. “Every day I get complaints from residents about construction noise. Any person who is being bothered by construction at [the Sutton Place development] or at any site in my district, I ask them to call 311; I ask them to reach out to me personally. I’m proud.” (When asked about a stop-work order issued on June 28 by the New York City Department of Buildings, Kallos said, “I wish I could take credit for that stop-work order. The DOB was doing their job. It actually took us some time to figure out what happened.”)
Asphalt Green Installs New Eco-Friendly Filters in Olympic-Size Pool, With Support From City Council Member Ben Kallos
(New York, N.Y.) – New York City sports and fitness nonprofit Asphalt Greenreopened its Upper East Side Olympic-size swimming pool earlier this month, after a three-week shutdown to install new pool filters for the first time since it opened in 1993.
The eco-friendly, energy-efficient Neptune Benson Defender filters require less maintenance, and keep the water cleaner, filtering 2.6 million gallons per day. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos led the effort to secure City funding for the project, which cost $698,000.
“Council Member Kallos continues to be a valued supporter of Asphalt Green’s mission to help New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds live active, healthy lifestyles through sports and fitness,” said Maggy Siegel, Executive Director of Asphalt Green. “We are tremendously grateful for the Council’s funding for our new eco-friendly pool filters, which will make our water cleaner for the thousands of children and adults who use our pool each month.”
“Asphalt Green is one of my favorite places on the Upper East Side to exercise, and now it has likely the cleanest pool in all of New York City thanks to the new, state-of-the-art filters and renovation,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who provided $100,000 and advocated for an additional $513,000 from Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in discretionary funding for the improvements. “Asphalt Green is one of the unique neighborhood jewels that make the Upper East Side a special place to live, and that is why I am proud of the investment my office made to keep the facility running better than ever for residents and Olympians alike.”
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.
Parents interested in participating in local government might soon receive free child care provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos.
Raised by a single mother, Kallos hopes the option of child care will eliminate barriers to participation by parents, and in turn increase women’s involvement in government. Women make up less than 25 percent of the New York City Council.
“I think people feel like democracy is broken,” said Kallos, who offers free child care at his annual events. “If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City, it means offering free child care when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”
The idea was brought to Kallos by several parents in the district, including Community Board 8 member Sarah Chu, a new mother.
“Before I became a parent, I often wondered why more parents didn’t attend our meetings,” said Chu. “Parents have a clear and present interest in the democratic process on behalf of their children. Adopting this legislation is important because it tells parents that their engagement in civic life is necessary and valued.”
Dozens of young students learned a real-life civics lesson Tuesday, performing a skit in front of the City Council’s Committee on Health and advocating for a bill that would ban more pesticides from being used in city parks and public spaces.
The children, from PS 290 on the Upper East Side, got to see firsthand how grassroots legislation can come to be — the bill, Intro 0800, started in 2014 when they were learning about pesticides in school and were visited by a local City Council member.
“To me, this is the essence of education,” Paula Rogovin, a kindergarten teacher at PS 290, said. “This started with a study about tomatoes and watermelon in our school ... the only thing we can do is to get them to be proactive, to get them to do something about it.
Children at one New York City school testified in City Council chambers against the use of pesticides in parks. Roseanne Colletti reports.
It was first introduced in May 2015. Council Member Ben Kallos was one of its sponsors, and some of the children have been in the chambers advocating before.
“We protested a little bit,” Savann Basen said.
Kallos said his goal is to use only biological pesticides that come from natural materials instead of synthetic materials. He said what’s most concerning is the herbicide spray called Roundup.
“The World Health Organization found that it was a carcinogen, so we introduced legislation right away,” he said.
Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos said he protested the price surge to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which inked the deal, but was told it can’t be renegotiated.
“There is something wrong with the way we buy things as a city,” Kallos griped. “We never should have to pay more through a contract than if we bought it on the open market.”
Kallos said he had 284 of the domed, green trash cans installed on neighborhood sidewalks since taking office in 2014. At the time, they cost $545 a pop under a different contract.
The cans were such a hit that Kallos said he planned to order more — until he learned the new cost, $969.
Free babysitting could come to New York City's public meetings. Rana Novini reports.
The space will be leased to the School Construction Authority, which will fully renovate the building, a DOE spokesman said. Specifics on the design and construction process are not yet finalized, and it's unclear how much of the building will house the pre-K facility, the spokesman told Patch.
(For more Upper East Side news, subscribe to Patch to get a daily newsletter and breaking news alerts.)
The new 180-seat center is a product of efforts made by Upper East Side officials to put pressure on the city to expand universal pre-K to the neighborhood, City Councilman Ben Kallos said. After two years of pre-K growth on the Upper East Side the number of seats dropped in 2017, which spurred Kallos to call on the aid of the city comptroller, public advocate, borough president and other neighborhood elected representatives to demand more seats from City Hall and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
It’s really hard to get parents to come to community-board meetings,” he said in a phone interview. “Along with that comes a lack of diversity in the people I see involved in government and politics.”
There isn’t yet a cost estimate for the legislation, Mr. Kallos said. The measure would require the city to provide child care upon request through the Administration for Children’s Services, the child-welfare agency.
Councilman Ben Kallos doesn’t represent the Bronx, but he bets he knows what the views are like.
“We are in the unfortunate situation where if I am standing under one scaffolding in the city, I can look around and see another set of scaffolding,” said Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and Midtown. “There’s scaffolding everywhere — there is literally hundreds of miles of it.”
Yet, sidewalk sheds are nearly impossible to enforce, Kallos said, because the law only requires scaffolding to be put up and for landlords to have a permit for it. There’s nothing in the law that dictates when such scaffolding needs to come down.
“There is scaffolding in this city that is almost old enough to vote,” he said. “It is a problem all over the city.”
The existing law, according to Councilman Andrew Cohen, creates an environment like the one that allowed sidewalk sheds to stay in front of the historic Tracey Towers at 20 and 40 W. Mosholu Parkway S., for four years.
“That recently came down, and that was transformative,” Cohen said. “It was unsightly and, you know, disruptive. There was a celebratory mood at Tracey Towers when the scaffolding came down, that’s for sure.”
Yet, there could be hope for people sick of living with sidewalk sheds. Last year, Kallos introduced a bill to city council placing time limits on how long scaffolding can be left in front of buildings.
The bill proposes a hard, six-month deadline for sidewalk sheds, requiring workers be present six days a week, and that work not stop for more than seven days at a time while such scaffolding is in place.
If a landlord can’t afford — or worst yet, doesn’t want to do — the work, Kallos said the city would step in and bill the landlord later.
“Deadlines are good things — it’s how things get done,” Kallos said. “It’s how every other part of the private sector works.”
Yet, it’s not how things get done in city council. Debate hasn’t opened on the bill yet because he needs 30 council members to sign on. His tally so far? Just two — Ydanis Rodriguez, whose district dips into Marble Hill, and Karen Koslowitz in Forest Hills.
One of the bill’s biggest enemies, Kallos said, could very well be the real estate lobby — groups like the Real Estate Board of New York, and the Rent Stabilization Association. In fact, when the bill was first proposed, Real Estate Board senior vice president Carl Hum called it “ill-conceived.” RSA representatives blasted the bill because it doesn’t account for the financial burden landlords would have to shoulder to pay for the work in these shorter spurts of time.
Cohen has a different idea, however. He thinks Kallos’ bill is too stringent, and although he is open to changing the way sidewalk sheds are regulated, he prefers a system with fees instead of hard deadlines.
The New York City Council has been a vocal supporter of enacting the free lunch program; many members cited stories of students who would rather skip lunch than admit to their fellow students that they couldn’t afford to buy it, including Councilman Ben Kallos, who recounted his past struggles as a student at Bronx High School of Science.
“I had to choose between friends and food,” he said. “I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did.”
New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced this week that the city's 1.1 million public school students will receive free lunch. This program comes as the city changed the way it reports its data to the Washington, making it eligible for the lunch expansion at no additional cost to taxpayers.
While individual families are set to save roughly $300 a year on school lunches, the issue touches on much more than cost. Incidents of "food shaming" have been reported at schools around the country, as students are often targeted on the lunch line for their family's inability to pay off their meal debt.
Could this new program serve as a model to districts around the country? New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents New Yorkers in the Upper West Side and Roosevelt Island, joins The Takeaway to discuss the importance of ensuring that every student receives lunch at school.
This segment is hosted by Todd Zwillich.
Breakfast had already been free systemwide, school officials said, and the city’s stand-alone middle schools had a universal free-lunch pilot in place since 2014 that fed an additional 10,000 children who would not necessarily have qualified for free or discounted lunches, officials said.
Among the parade of speakers at Wednesday’s announcement was City Councilman Ben Kallos, who recounted his own experience with the stigma of subsidized school meals.
He grew up on the Upper East Side and, like many of his neighbors, attended Bronx High School of Science. But his mother’s income in his single-parent household was low enough that he qualified for reduced-price lunches — a fact he tried to hide from his peers by not eating.
“I had to choose between friends and food,” Mr. Kallos said. “I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did.”
However, many schools still enact an array of measures to get students to pay for their lunch. In Alabama last year, a third-grader who couldn't pay a lunch bill was given a stamp on his arm that said, "I need lunch money," reported AL.com.
New York City councilman Ben Kallos said he remembers the stigma he felt as a child when he couldn't afford lunch.
"I had to choose between friends and food," Kallos said. "I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did."