Press Coverage

Capital New York
Miranda Neubauer
02/12/2015
 

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.

 

New York Observer
Jillian Jorgensen
02/12/2015
 

Without the satisfying pull of a lever or the little sticker that says “I voted,” mailing in an absentee ballot can leave a voter a little uncertain this his choice will actually count—and Councilman Ben Kallos is looking to change that.

Mr. Kallos is introducing legislation today that would require the Board of Elections to provide a secure website through which New Yorkers could track their absentee ballot—from the moment the city receives the request for a ballot until the moment the vote is counted.

“The tracking system we’re asking for is something the Board of Elections should have in place for their own internal tracking purposes, and we’re asking them to have it in place not only for themselves but for the general public,” Mr. Kallos told the Observer.

One in five Americans votes via absentee ballot, but last year some 250,000 of those ballots were rejected, Mr. Kallos said. Others never get the ballots, or are told they don’t qualified. And still those who mail them in are often left to wonder if they got lost in the mail on the way to the Board of Elections.

“This tries to fix all that,” Mr. Kallos said.

 

 

Jay Cassano
02/09/2015
 

When you hear about big data, you might think of nefarious data brokers selling your browsing history or governments demanding logs of your phone's GPS coordinates. But the data that overwhelms our modern world is just as often being used for good and can improve our lives in completely banal ways we don't even notice—like making the buses run on time.

At least that's what New York City Council Member Ben Kallos is hoping open data from the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) could do.

Kallos represents Manhattan's Upper East Side and his constituents, like most New Yorkers, complain that MTA buses are frequently late (read a previous Fast Companyprofile of Kallos here). But when Kallos forwarded complaints to the MTA, the agency would respond that the problems don't exist and a particularly vocal subset of his constituents must be exaggerating.

 

DNAinfo.com
Gustavo Solis
02/06/2015
 

Civitas’ study also outlines long-term projects that would dramatically change the look of the East River Esplanade.

Those plans include reconstructing Pier 107 into a large multi-use cove-like structure that sticks out into the East River and turning the pedestrian bridge that connects Thomas Jefferson Park to the Esplanade into a land bridge that is integrated with the two parks.

"I definitely think this is the start of something special,” Bologna said. "If we all work on this together we can create an amazing waterfront park."

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who hosted the unveiling of the study, lauded Councilman Ben Kallos and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for securing $35 million for immediate repairs.

But more needs to be done to bring the East River Esplanade up to par with waterfront parks on the west side, she said.

“I know to the credit of the mayor he put in some money but we need much more,” she said. “It’s small steps, that’s how it starts.”

 

Our Town
Ben Kallos
02/03/2015
 

Here is how you can help: If you see someone sleeping on the street whom you think is homeless, please call 311 within one hour and ask for them to dispatch a “homeless outreach team.” The operator will connect you with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) who will ask about where you saw the person, what they looked like, and offer you a call back to report on the status of your call. The whole process should take less than five minutes.

 

Katy Toth
01/29/2015
 

When City Councilman Ben Kallos proposed a taxi-hailing app that would allow New Yorkers to summon yellow and green cabs from their phones, he hoped to help city-licensed taxis compete in a market increasingly impinged upon by ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Ironically, his plan already has the support of at least one rideshare start-up, and it's the city's biggest cab drivers union, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, that remains lukewarm on the proposal.

Some cities have banned apps that allow people to hail rides online. Kallos is suggesting an approach that's more carrot and less stick.

"Uber disrupted the marketplace," he says. "When you turn on your phone to hail a vehicle, if it works, you keep using it. And people want to be able to hail yellow-and-greens."

That's why Kallos proposed a bill in City Council in mid-December that would require the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission to create its own e-hailing app; cab drivers could choose to opt in and use the app if they wanted to pick up more riders. Along with the app, the TLC would also be asked to create an API, or application program interface, which would allow third-party apps to use the city's information on local cabs.

 

 

Admin
01/24/2015
 

“The safety and affordability of our city must be protected. We need to ensure that AirBnB is not putting profit over people by allowing unsafe or illegal practices that threaten New Yorkers and the affordability of our neighborhoods. Thanks to the proactive leadership of Chair Jumaane Williams and others, the New York City Council can ask the hard questions about what the sharing economy really means for residents,” said NYC Council Member Ben Kallos.

 

Sarina Trangle
01/22/2015
 

New York City Councilman Ben Kallos plans to introduce legislation today aiming to ensure that city high schools fulfill their legal mandate to distribute voter registration forms to graduating students, in part by instituting a tracking system to be used by the Department of Education.
 
Kallos, who will be joined by Council Members Linda Rosenthal and Fernando Cabrera, said the Young Adult Voter Registration Act already directs both public and private high schools to have voter registration applications available on campus and to hand them out with diplomas upon graduation, but that it has gone largely unimplemented since its passage in 2004.
 
Under his legislation, schools would maintain a stash of voter registration forms in several languages and distribute them to students. The Department of Education would then be required to track how many forms make it back to the city's Board of Elections each year, and to submit annual reports to the City Council. 
 
“The current law just requires that they put voter registrations with diplomas and mail it to the kids. One hundred thousand go out a year, and 100,000 kids do not register to vote,” Kallos said, also noting that in the time since he began helping students register to vote in 2012, he has never called a campus that reported having forms on hand. “We’re just trying to improve it and make sure we’re actually following it,” he said.
 

 

Ivan Pereira
01/22/2015
 

A City Council member will introduce a bill Thursday that would help New Yorkers avoid being discriminated against for being on the "tenant blacklist."

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) said there have been too many cases where a prospective home buyer would be denied a lease by a landlord because they were involved in a housing court dispute. The councilman said many of these landlords would request a report about the applicant's history from a service that has access to the court's index number database, but wouldn't go into detail about the circumstances.

"Someone who had a perfectly strong credit score would be denied by the fact that they are in landlord tenant court, even if they were on the right side," he said.
 

 

Capital New York
Miranda Neubauer
01/22/2015
 

Councilman Ben Kallos on Thursday reintroduced two pieces of legislation on behalf of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer aimed at ensuring that New Yorkers' personal information is protected in interactions with city agencies.

The first piece of legislation, related to personal information privacy, directs agencies collecting personal information to inform individuals about the legal framework for gathering personal information, the purpose of gathering it and how it will be used, codifies that agencies may not use data for purposes without an individual's permission and that agency officials should only have access to that personal information that is necessary for their duties, and directs agencies to ensure the security and confidentiality of systems containing personal data.

The second piece of legislation, related to personal information security, directs all agencies maintaining personal information records to implement a security program that details administrative, technical and physical safeguards protecting that data.

Brewer originally introduced the first piece of legislation in 2010, and the second in 2011, but timing issues prevented them from moving forward, she said.

In an interview, Kallos said the legislation was intended as a proactive measure, especially in light of increasing reports of data breaches in the private sector.

"A lot of people aren't paying attention to what data they are sharing," he said. "City agencies should only be collecting information that is necessary for their task.... If someone is applying for SNAP benefits...the only people who need to know that are them and the person [they] are applying to."

He said the legislation would not prevent the gathering of anonymized, aggregated data for research purposes, and that it was mandating measures that the city "should be engaged in anyway."

 

Rebecca Fishbein
01/22/2015
 

It's a little-known fact that renters who end up in housing court can find themselves on a dreaded "tenant blacklist," making it difficult to procure a NYC apartment in the future. Now, thankfully, several City Councilmembers are taking steps to kill the list once and for all, so go ahead and skip a rent payment when your landlord shuts your heat off, you deserve it.

Though the city stopped permitting housing court to identify tenants sued for eviction by their names and addresses in 2012, private companies have been able to gather that identifying information through public records, which they can then sell to landlords screening prospective renters. This is a problem, particularly because you don't have to be convicted in such a case to end up on this list—in fact, people who've been taken to court by mistake can still end up on the list.

But legislation sponsored by City Councilmembers Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, Alan Maisel, and Mark Levine aims to curb all this by amending the city's administrative code, making it impossible for landlords to reject an applicant based on whether or not they were "a party in past or current landlord-tenant action or housing court proceeding." Landlords would still be able to screen tenants who are evicted or fail to satisfy the terms of a court order.

 

New York Daily News
Erin Durkin
01/19/2015
 

With President Obama set to tout a proposal for free community college education in Tuesday night’s State of the Union, some local pols are pushing for the city to take matters into its own hands with free tuition at CUNY schools.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said instead of waiting for Washington to act, the city should eliminate tuition at its seven community colleges. He sent a letter to the Independent Budget Office asking them to determine how much it would cost.

“When you look at the political reality in Washington and the challenges that they are going to face in the upcoming legislative cycle, this relief is needed now and we really can’t wait for the infighting that’s taking place in DC,” Adams said.

Tuition for 77,000 community college students is now $4500 a year - but Adams noted free tuition used to be standard practice at CUNY schools.

Another proposal by Councilman Ben Kallos would have the city repay 10% of CUNY grads’ loans for every year they remain living in the city - so if they stay here for ten years, they’d get the education free.

“One of the largest hurdles we’re seeing to a productive America is everyone graduates ready to enter the market under a crushing amount of debt,” Kallos said.

 

MAtthew Abuelo
01/14/2015
 

On September 20th of this year, one of the biggest fights over housing will take place at City Hall as the New York City Council hears arguments for and against the hotel service providers, Airbnb’s operations in residential buildings. Share NYC Better has already stated they expect to fill the council chamber with both Hotel workers union members and tenant advocates.
The biggest concern for the consortium of groups is that the industry’s practices are driving up rents in many buildings, leading to increased warehousing of already scarce rent regulated apartments. These businesses lead to security troubles in apartment units due to the constant flow of traffic coming in and out of these buildings. The biggest danger, however, are the serious fire safety hazards posed by illegal hotel operations.

Commercial hotels and residential buildings have two very different standards when dealing with fire protection; standards for hotels are much more strict. Commercial hotels must have on-site fire marshals on top of a sprinkler system along with clearly stated maps throughout each floor and multiple exits on each floor. Doors must swing “out’ to allow for rapid egress. Doors in residential buildings swing inward – partly to safeguard against burglaries. The lack of these safety requirements in residential units are something which the head of Airbnb has refused to address in any meaningful way. Councilman Ben Kallos has alluded that the company may be putting their own profit ahead of the safety of tourists according to the New York Post. But Airbnb whose upper hand always has been on the side of financial resources is now attempting to reach out to younger and in some cases more liberal millennials by circulating petitions on such sites as change.org and cause.com under the auspices of helping students and middle class tenants stay in their homes.

 

Gotham Gazette
Kristen Meriwether
01/13/2015
 

Few things are more annoying than waiting for a bus when the weather isn't good. You're cold, you're wet, and the bus schedule said it would arrive at 9:05. It's 9:21. Where's your bus?

Technological advancements have given New York City straphangers some relief with the Real-Time Bus app, which allows users to see how far away their bus actually is. More recently, a collection of city council members used discretionary funding towardmore countdown clocks for additional bus stops, an especially useful tool for those without smartphones.

But what if your bus is always late? Sure, it's good to know how long you will have to wait (and maybe have time to grab a cup of coffee nearby to warm up) - but is anyone actually doing anything about it?

When Council Member Ben Kallos took office in 2014, he said slow or unreliable bus service was among his constituents' chief complaints. Kallos' district spans much of the Upper East Side and includes bus-heavy 1st and 2nd Avenues. The new council member began forwarding complaints to the MTA, but wasn't finding the relief he or his constituents were looking for.

 

Bruce Golding
01/12/2015
 

City Council members want to grill the subletting service Airbnb about fears renters could die in a fire while struggling to flee an unfamiliar apartment.

“We need to ensure Airbnb is not putting profit over people by allowing listings that cram too many tourists into apartments far too small to guarantee their safe escape from danger,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side).

The council’s Housing and Buildings Committee has scheduled a Jan. 20 hearing over “short-term rentals” arranged through Airbnb and other sites.

In a recent affidavit, an FDNY official said that, unlike hotels, apartments being illegally used for “transient occupancy” don’t offer visitors a “detailed fire-safety and evacuation plan.”

An Airbnb spokesman said the company was “eager to participate” in the hearing, and insisted, “We take safety seriously.”

 

Capital New York
Miranda Neubauer
01/08/2015
 

City Council members hope to improve public engagement with the legislative process through tech, as civic technologists aim to expand and step up their efforts.

Councilman Ben Kallos, chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, said he planned to focus on implementation of the laws requiring online publication of the city's laws and of the City Council technology plan that was part of rules reforms passed last year.

"We've already gotten so much more accomplished in the first year than anyone may have ever expected and I think a lot of the focus in 2015 will be around implementation, beta-testing and learning from our first roll-outs and implementations," Kallos said.

In connection with those efforts, Kallos suggested that the Council could look toward the model of the State Senate's web platform, new tools for engaging with constituents and public-private partnerships incorporating other cities and civic technology groups.

 

Brennan Center
01/08/2015
 

New York – New York City Councilman Ben Kallos (D) introduced a bill to create an early voting program for local elections. The city’s Board of Elections is also working to expand a pilot program to count votes faster on election night.

 

Our Town
DANIEL FITZSIMMONS
01/06/2015
 

Councilmember Ben Kallos had a good year.

Of the 70 bills passed by the City Council in 2014, three were his -- impressive given that Kallos has 50 other colleagues on the council. The committee on governmental operations, of which he is chair, passed another four bills.

Not bad for a first-year council member who two years ago was regarded as a long shot to represent the Upper East Side behind former State Assemblyman Micah Kellner, whose campaign collapsed in the summer of 2013 after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him.

Kallos surged ahead and won the election handily. He’s since used his background in technology and his sense that government should be as transparent as possible to pass legislation that aims to help New Yorkers better navigate city bureaucracy.

- See more at: http://ourtownny.com/local-news/20150106/one-year-in-for-councilmember-kallos#sthash.LBm1c8Nt.dpuf

 

Flo Kelly
01/01/2015
 

Ben Kallos, City Councilman 5th District. To increase representation, Mr. Kallos began by encouraging people who live in our area of his district to sign up for vacancies on CB6 Committees or in his office. He addressed various issues of concern, including bike infractions, the expansion of Citibikes and new bike paths and the Homeless. He stressed the importance of calling 311 to create a record of a complaint with as much detail as possible. If you are not satisfied that your complaint is being addressed, call him with the details, so his office can follow up with the appropriate City department. He is working on improving Internet service (especially for the lowincome population), visiting schools and obtaining new yellow/ green Taxi Apps to compete with Uber. He chairs the Governmental Operations Committee and works on fair elections, campaign finance reform, the Tax Commission and is trying to trim the number of City employees to rid it of patronage. He is available to meet with any group of 10 or more. His door is open.

 

Gail S. Haft
01/01/2015
 

Winter is here, and I am pleased to report that traffic agents are back on duty at 57th St. and First Avenue, one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections on the east side. Many thanks to Senator Liz Krueger and Councilmember Ben Kallos for this action. It is reassuring to our residents when they see the bright yellow vests worn by the traffic agents , and knowing that we have better safety when we cross 57th Street and First Avenue.

Bike messengers continue to pose problems for our residents. They ride on sidewalks, go through the lights, and ride the wrong way. We are working with Councilmember Kallos to improve these problems. Please call 311 to report any bike related incidents. Our office will be sending letters out to merchants who have food deliveries in the neighborhood, reminding them about the bike rules.

I hope everyone has a safe and healthy winter season. We'll have more news in the spring.

—Gail S. Haft, Chair Government Committee

 

Council Member Daniel Dromm
12/26/2014
 

Term limits are important to ensure democracy. That’s why I am proposing to limit community board members to serving six, two-year terms for a total of 12 years.

I recently introduced legislation, co-sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos from Manhattan, that would set term limits for community board members at six two-year terms or 12 years in total.

Members currently serving on boards would not be affected by this legislation. Only new members elected after April 1, 2016 would be limited. In any government or decision making body it is important to be challenged and checked by new points of view.

I have great respect for our neighbors that have volunteered on community boards for decades but I believe that communities change and so should community boards. A larger turnover of members will ensure that new ideas, cultures and backgrounds will be represented.

 

Thornton McEnery
12/19/2014
 

 

City government's most obscure commission assembled for the third time in its 25-year history Thursday. A data-transparency panel, it gathered on less than two days' notice, but plans on getting together more often.

Public Advocate Letitia James convened the Commission on Public Information and Communication for the first time since her predecessor Bill de Blasio did in May 2012. All but one member of the incomplete committee was new to COPIC, making it a fresh start for the body, which was written into the City Charter in 1989 to improve dissemination of public data.

Chaired by Ms. James and made up of members including Manhattan City Councilman Ben Kallos (who was elected Wednesday afternoon by his colleagues to serve on the committee), the city'snewly named chief analytics officer, Amen Ra Mashariki, and representatives from city agencies such as the Department of Records and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, COPIC's re-entry into the public was made cautiously.

Ms. James opened the meeting by enumerating the panel's possibilities, stressing its role of "balancing between privacy and the public’s right to know" and pointing to examples like how it can push for more searchable data on city websites and the future application of body cameras worn by police officers.

 

 

Andrew J. Hawkings
12/18/2014
 

 

Never mind Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision Wednesday to ban hydrofracking statewide. And ignore the absence of natural-gas reserves in the five boroughs. The City Council will move ahead with its own moratorium on the controversial drilling process.

The bill was initially conceived as an endorsement of local fracking bans in such upstate communities as Otsego County's Middlefield and Tompkins County's Dryden.

"Whereas before, the bill was an expression of solidarity with these municipalities and an attempt to pressure the state to move forward, it is now an expression of support of the governor's action," explained a spokeswoman for Councilman Ben Kallos, who is co-sponsoring the legislation.

But Mr. Cuomo's decision to heed the advice of his commissioners on health and environmental conservation to prohibit fracking rendered the council's gesture moot, which it was anyway because there is no gas-rich shale under the city. Mr. Kallos' spokeswoman said that the bill would be reworked in the coming days to reflect the new reality, but could not say how exactly. —AJH

 

New York Daily News
Erin Durin
12/17/2014
 

 

New Yorkers would be able to cast ballots in municipal elections early — really early — under legislation that is set to be introduced before the City Council on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), would open select polling places for two weeks leading up to election day for elections for mayor, council and other city offices but not for state or federal elections. The bill would apply to both primaries and the general election.

The city would have to open at least 51 polling sites — one in each City Council district — from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each weekday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, until the Friday before the election.

 

John Toscano
12/17/2014
 

 

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley was joined by other councilmembers and other advocates last week on the steps of City Hall, issuing a rallying call to the city’s Fire Department to hire more women firefighters.

Currently, Crowley said, there are only 44 female firefighters serving in the FDNY, comprising less than one percent of a 10,500-member workforce.

Where's theThe rally included Crowley (D–Glendale), the chair of the Council’s Committees on Fire and Criminal Justice and also co-chair of the Women’s Caucus; the United Women Firefighters; Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal, Laurie Cumbo and Ben Kallos, and other advocate