More than 100 Upper East Siders turned out to celebrate this year’s OTTY Award winners in a ceremony at Mt. Sinai Hospital on March 16.
For more than a decade, Our Town has honored people in the community who have made the East Side a better place to work and live.
This year, 14 people were honored, at an awards ceremony emceed by NY1’s Roma Torre. In addition to the honorees and their families, the event was attended by local elected officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.
Elected officials on the East and West Side, who are sending a letter to the MTA brass about the changes, want a boost in service, not a reduction, at a time when buses bunch up and plod through streets.
"As people are complaining about bus service and are not using it as much because of how poor the service is, that's the least time you want to make it less and less desirable to get on," said Councilman Ben Kallos, who signed the letter with six other Manhattan lawmakers including U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.
That was the chant I heard go up from the crowd of parents and teachers gathered at one of the dozens of protests held at public schools all over New York City on Thursday. What is Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan? He offers increased funding, but only if his reforms on teacher evaluation and so-called merit pay are also adopted. An open letter from teachers to parents at the highly regarded Public School 321 in Brooklyn discussed the changes to the way teachers would be evaluated:
Councilmen Corey Johnson and Benjamin Kallos, fellow Manhattan Democrats, demonstrated with tenant groups ahead of the first 2015 meeting of the Rent Guidelines Board—and the announcement of three new de Blasio appointees to the nine-member panel charged with setting the annual increase for the city’s roughly one million rent stabilized apartments.
The Democrats chanted “fight, fight, fight, housing is a right” and “What do we want? Rollback!” with members of the Metropolitan Council on Housing and the Flatbush Tenants Council. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Kallos insisted that increasing property values, atrophying tenant wages and declining fuel costs justified a first-ever decrease in rents at regulated units.
Voter participation has been steadily declining for decades, and continues to find shocking new lows. Last November, New York was the fifth worse state in the country for voter participation, with a staggering 29.5 percent turnout. In New York City, the turnout was just above 21 percent.
"In this age of devastatingly low voter confidence in our elections," said George, "making voting easy and convenient for citizens is of critical importance."
Now, two bills introduced by members of the New York City Council aim to do just that.
Tuesday morning, the Committee on Governmental Operations, chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos, a Democrat from Manhattan, discussed two new pieces of legislation that could help re-engage thousands of voters in the election process.
"We want every eligible voter to register and cast a ballot," Kallos told Gotham Gazette. "Absentee ballots are essential to maximizing turnout."
Other members presented specific concerns: Jumaane Williams was troubled by funding levels for the NYPD, Jimmy van Bramer complained of insufficient money allocated for libraries—which Fuleihan indicated would be altered in the revised capital budget—and Ben Kallos questioned the growth and overall cost of the city's debt.
When cars are moved because of things like parades or movie shoots, drivers often have no clue where their vehicles are, and now one city lawmaker is looking to change that.
Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos is pushing a bill that would require the city Transportation Department to notify 311 and put information about relocated cars on its website.
Drivers would then be able to visit the website or call the city's helpline to find their cars.
That's the way it currently works when a car is towed to an impound lot for a normal parking restriction.
Kallos tells the Daily News he decided to introduce the bill after his disabled mother's car was towed several blocks from her home, and was covered in tickets once she found it.
Legislation proposed by a city council member Friday would help New Yorkers find their vehicles when they're towed because of temporary parking restrictions.
Councilman Ben Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, said cars that are towed for temporary parking violations -- like when a movie is being filmed -- are often moved blocks away without the owner's knowledge.
Kallos introduced the legislation so owners would no longer be left wondering what happened to their cars.
“Imagine arriving at your parking spot to find its gone, not knowing if it is stolen or towed, without being able to find out where it is, unless you’ve got the time to walk every block of your neighborhood,” Kallos said.
Efforts are underway to end the game of hide and seek that occurs when cars are towed to make way for parades, and other events.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, a happy ending may be in sight for New York City motorists whose cars are towed to the land of ‘who knows where’ to make room for parades, construction, and most often TV and movie shoots.
One city councilman is suggesting a common sense, and common courtesy solution.
“Anytime a car got towed, you’d be able to just call 311, go online, find your car. Not worry if it got stolen, where it got towed, just find it, move on with your life,” Councilman Ben Kallos D-Upper East Side, said.
Councilman Ben Kallos is expected to introduce legislation today that would allow residents to get information on the locations of vehicles towed due to temporary parking restrictions by accessing the Department of Transportation's website or calling 311.
Currently, according to Kallos, that is only possible for vehicles taken to impound lots for regular parking violations. When vehicles are moved to a surrounding block due to construction without the owners' knowledge, the police may have no record of it, Kallos said, and owners are told to search surrounding blocks or contact construction crews who may have left.
A Manhattan city councilman is looking to end the game of hide-and-seek that faces drivers whose cars are towed because of temporary parking restrictions.
A bill introduced Thursday by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) would let owners find out where their car was moved by calling 311 or consulting the Department of Transportation’s website.
Helping people find their towed cars is the idea behind a proposal being made in the city council.
Imagine this scenario: you park your car legally and when you come back, it’s gone!
“A lot of people first think their car got stolen,” City Councilmember Ben Kallos said.
Kallos said then imagine you see a temporary “no parking” sign, either resulting from a TV shoot or street fair.
“So you can either try to touch base with your precinct and see if they’ve got a list of where it might be, or you have to resort to walking around the neighborhood until you find your car,” Kallos told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.
If your car has been moved, Kallos wants the new location entered into a single database.
“Call 311, go on a website and you’d be able to find out where’s my car,” he said.
Kallos and James propose that Comcast fix the loopholes in Internet Essentials so that all low-income New Yorkers are eligible. But the most striking feature of their request is that Comcast should offer free broadband to all New York City public housing residents. Two weeks ago, California's equivalent of the PSC, the Public Utilities Commission, approved the merger with similar conditions such as expanding Internet Essentials to all low-income Californians and setting an enrollment quota for the program., Notably, California's conditions were lacking the requirement for free Internet in public housing. Even so, Comcast reeled at California's requirements, calling them intrusive and unrealistic.
"New York City is the landlord for nearly half a million New Yorkers living in 178,000 public housing units," says Kallos. "With the digital divide so big and income inequality being one of the primary causes, we need to make sure that every single New Yorker has access to the Internet. And that starts with our very low income living in public housing."
Council Member Ben Kallos, whose East Side district has been significantly affected by the subway construction, feels businesses need more than just easy access. "While the Second Avenue Subway will be beneficial to our residents, construction has been disruptive in our community, affecting small businesses and residents alike," he said. "Many small businesses have closed, and those that have stayed open have seen up to a 30 percent decline in revenues." Kallosproposed an idea for providing financial relief to these businesses through city grants, but his proposal has not seen movement.
Council Members Rosie Mendez and Ben Kallos were on hand Monday to support Garodnick's proposal. "There's a reason we're out here in the cold today - because we don't want, in the future, New York City retirees to be left out in the cold," said Mendez.
"Fiscal responsibility means setting aside funding for our health benefits when they accrue," Kallos said. "We can't leave a $92 billion health obligation debt to the next generation."
Council Member Ben Kallos has long been advocating for more efficient government, especially now as chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations. In the last few months, he said, the legislative process has sped up. "I think that we have a lot more legislation being introduced and a lot of legislation that's passing, and having the support of a drafting unit is really helping the Council adjust to a new pace of things where legislation and the legislative process and our city is really moving quickly so that it can be more progressive as soon as possible."
Kallos is on the same page as NYPIRG's Russianoff and Citizens Union's Fauss. "What's interesting is with everyone criticizing Albany, one of the things it does do right is it has a legislative bill drafting commission," Kallos said.
It is a City Council in transition, moving toward more transparent and efficient procedures. Kallos said he will continue to advocate for increased funding for the independent bill drafting unit until all bills can be drafted there. Till then, the existing committee counsels will continue to play a major role in the drafting process.
Before I became a City Council member, I was a civic technologist and activist seeking to make government better through technology. In one such action, I FOILed Albany voting records and posted them online for the public to see, prompting the legislature to follow suit. Because of this background, I am especially looking forward to helping other civic technologists create tools that will make government more transparent, efficient and engaging.
These tools have great potential to be tools that the next generation of citizens actually uses to engage with their local officials. The funding from Knight Foundation will allow me to assist teams in doing just that, with firsthand knowledge of how governments use technology.
A Manhattan councilman is calling on Mayor de Blasio to do more to combat illegal hotels, saying they pose a threat to tourists and neighbors alike.
In a Feb. 16 letter to the city’s Department of Information Technology, Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos urged the agency to provide more public information on complaints about illegal hotels and apartment owners that use sites like Airbnb and requested that 311 create a specific category for people to lodge complaints.
"...we're fighting tech with tech. If you're using Air BnB online and see you're building's on there, you should be able to use the 3-1-1 website to report someone's renting your building."
SBS supporters say M15 ridership would not have increased if passenger travel times were not reduced. If that were true, the corollary must also be true. That since ridership on the M15 was lower in 2013 than it was before SBS began, travel times must have increased with the introduction of SBS so it has not been successful. The logic cuts both ways.
The truth, according to the Straphangers Campaign, is that the M15 bus route with its SBS feature is the most unreliable route in the entire city. Local Councilman Ben Kallos stated that complaints regarding M15 service are among the heaviest grievances he receives.
EVERYWHERE—Council Member Ben Kallos unveiled a proposal today to add an illegal hotels complaint category to the city's 311 App in order to help the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications deal with those types of complaints more efficiently. A recent City Council hearing on Airbnb revealed that the city has a difficult time dealing with the volume of illegal hotel complaints it receives. [UPDATE: The DoITT is responsible for building the app, not for handling individual 311 calls.]
City Council Member Ben Kallos staged a State of the District event on Sunday, February 8, to highlight his accomplishments and present his goals for 2015.
Since his election in November 2013, said Kallos, he has proposed and gotten passed four local laws and two resolutions. With fellow Council Member Jimmy Vaca, he introduced and secured passage of a local law that mandates online publication of all items currently in the City Record. Two other laws “improve transparency, efficiency, and participation in our city;” the fourth will make City laws available online.
Kallos reported that he secured $35 million of the $110 million needed to complete the East River Waterfront Esplanade project, which is connecting two miles of public space along the East River.
He is also one of 24 Council Members involved in participatory budgeting, a process that allows community members to decide directly how tax dollars are spent. He allocated $2.7 million toward selected projects.
Said Kallos of the time remaining in his term, “With two years, 10 months, 19 days, 10 hours, 30 minutes and about 40 seconds left, we’ve got so much more to get done, in precious little time.”
In August, Governor Cuomo signed legislation lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16 years old and alloting up to two seats on each community board for 16 and 17-year olds. The legislation, originally introduced in 2008 by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), had many backers, including City Council member Ben Kallos of Manhattan and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Queens).
Kallos also believes young people bring a unique perspective to the discussion in local government, said spokesperson Sarah Anders. “Community boards are really the most local form of government,” said Anders. Kallos “believes that young people should have just as much of an opportunity to get involved.”
With the data available these days, there is no shortage of app ideas and app makers. In cities like New York, which have a robust civic technology community, hacknights to dive into government data and solve civic problems are held on a regular basis.
While the creation of apps, and the push by civic technologists for even more data, is common, getting those apps picked up and used by cities and citizens is a different story. There are a variety of roadblocks, many involving government regulations not designed for the 21st century.
Bureaucracy is set up to say "no" to disruption. Often, mechanisms are in place to protect a city from fraud and corruption. But in a time when technological advances far outpace the speed of government, innovation can be stifled and frustration rampant.
So how do you prepare the next wave of civic innovators to deal with the "no" machine? Furthermore, how do you create and design a project that will not only benefit citizens, but also get a "yes" from government and its constituents?
Until recently those answers have been hard to come by for people without government experience. But the GovLab at NYU is working to change that. On March 2 the GovLab Academy will offer an eight-week course on civic tech for local elected officials and their staff members. The class will meet online every other Monday and include one-on-one coaching sessions.
Councilman Ben Kallos is introdcuing a resolution on behalf of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Thursday that calls on Congress to pass legislation and the Federal Communications Commission to enact a policy that would protect net neutrality.
The proposal advocates addressing net neutrality by reclassifying broadband Internet as a common carrier.
The resolution has the support of council members Brad Lander, Costa Constantinides and Corey Johnson.
In a brief interview, Kallos noted that Brewer had first introduced similar legislation in 2007 when she was on the Council. He said that the renewed resolution came on the heels of nine council members jointly submitting comments to the F.C.C. last summer, and as "part of a wave across the country" supporting net neutrality proposals that F.C.C. chair Tom Wheeler articulated in a Wired op-ed last week.