Press Coverage

Michael Scotto
09/28/2017
 

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.

 

Our Town
Carson Kessler
09/27/2017
 

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.”

 

Allison Fox
09/26/2017
 

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.

 

NBC News 4 New York
Roseanne Colletti
09/26/2017
 

Children at one New York City school testified in City Council chambers against the use of pesticides in parks. Roseanne Colletti reports.

 

Erin Logan
09/26/2017
 

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.

 

Michael Gartland
09/24/2017
 

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.

 

 

NBC News 4 New York
Rana Novini
09/20/2017
 

Free babysitting could come to New York City's public meetings. Rana Novini reports.

 

Brendan Krisel
09/20/2017
 

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.

 

Mara Gay
09/19/2017
 

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.

 

Anthony Capote
Lisa Herndon
Michael Hinman
Tiffany Moustakas
09/15/2017
 

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.

 

Elisabeth Sherman
09/08/2017
 

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.”

 

Todd Zwillich
09/08/2017
 

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.

 

New York Times
Sean Piccoli and Elizabeth Harris
09/07/2017
 

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.”

 

Ray Downs
09/07/2017
 

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."

 

Editorial Board
08/17/2017
 

There’s a reason they’re called lawmakers.

As we continue our breakdown of the best and worst New York City Council members, one of the most obvious factors in assessing each lawmaker’s performance is the number of bills they’ve had signed into law.

To measure this, we tallied bill introductions but left out resolutions, which have little real weight. Only a lawmaker who was the prime sponsor of a bill qualified in this analysis. To reward effort, one criterion was the number of bills introduced. And to reward effectiveness, the other legislative criterion was the number of bills signed into law. For these criteria, we used data from calendar year 2016.

 

Jon Lentz
08/15/2017
 

Just behind Mark-Viverito and Matteo was City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who missed just one of his 83 meetings last year; City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who missed only two of 115 meetings; and City Councilman Ben Kallos, who was absent from two of 105 meetings.

To track attendance, we counted all the meetings that each member was obligated to attend in calendar year 2016, including committee and subcommittee meetings, and then determined how many he or she missed. (City Councilman Bill Perkins was left out of the analysis since much of the data we used is from 2016, when Inez Dickens still held his Harlem seat.)

Any time a member had two meetings scheduled at the same time, we didn’t count the conflict as an absence. But other absences – for medical reasons, jury duty or funerals – were included.

This may strike some as unfair, but an extended absence can affect performance – and in some cases, it appeared to correlate with lower scores on other measures, like introducing and passing bills.

Yet one representative who missed substantial time due to medical leave nonetheless performed well on the other measures. City Councilman Jumaane Williams missed 15 days for medical reasons, but came in at No. 2 in our overall rankings.

 

Jon Lentz
08/15/2017
 

Just behind Mark-Viverito and Matteo was City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who missed just one of his 83 meetings last year; City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who missed only two of 115 meetings; and City Councilman Ben Kallos, who was absent from two of 105 meetings.

To track attendance, we counted all the meetings that each member was obligated to attend in calendar year 2016, including committee and subcommittee meetings, and then determined how many he or she missed. (City Councilman Bill Perkins was left out of the analysis since much of the data we used is from 2016, when Inez Dickens still held his Harlem seat.)

Any time a member had two meetings scheduled at the same time, we didn’t count the conflict as an absence. But other absences – for medical reasons, jury duty or funerals – were included.

This may strike some as unfair, but an extended absence can affect performance – and in some cases, it appeared to correlate with lower scores on other measures, like introducing and passing bills.

Yet one representative who missed substantial time due to medical leave nonetheless performed well on the other measures. City Councilman Jumaane Williams missed 15 days for medical reasons, but came in at No. 2 in our overall rankings.

 

Jon Lentz
08/15/2017
 

Just behind Mark-Viverito and Matteo was City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who missed just one of his 83 meetings last year; City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who missed only two of 115 meetings; and City Councilman Ben Kallos, who was absent from two of 105 meetings.

To track attendance, we counted all the meetings that each member was obligated to attend in calendar year 2016, including committee and subcommittee meetings, and then determined how many he or she missed. (City Councilman Bill Perkins was left out of the analysis since much of the data we used is from 2016, when Inez Dickens still held his Harlem seat.)

Any time a member had two meetings scheduled at the same time, we didn’t count the conflict as an absence. But other absences – for medical reasons, jury duty or funerals – were included.

This may strike some as unfair, but an extended absence can affect performance – and in some cases, it appeared to correlate with lower scores on other measures, like introducing and passing bills.

Yet one representative who missed substantial time due to medical leave nonetheless performed well on the other measures. City Councilman Jumaane Williams missed 15 days for medical reasons, but came in at No. 2 in our overall rankings.

 

Joy Lentz
08/13/2017
 

NO. 4: BEN KALLOS

Representing Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, Kallos has positioned himself as a reformer. As chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, he has proposed numerous good government measures and pushed for greater transparency.

Attendance: 98.1% (No. 5)
Bills introduced: 17 (No. 5)
Bills enacted: 9 (tie for No. 4)
Constituent response: 17 hours, 26 minutes (No. 14)
Communications response: 53 minutes (No. 10)
Google results: 54,700 (No. 9)
Twitter followers: 4,005 (No. 38)

 

Bobby Cuza
08/11/2017
 

But if experience matters, so does name recognition, which critics say creates an unfair advantage. The irony is that Council term limits and the city's robust public campaign finance system are designed to attract political newcomers, not professional politicians.

"The point of term limits is, we're supposed to have a citizen legislature," said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan.

 

Abigail Savitch-Lew
08/10/2017
 

Among those items passed are 11 of the 12 bills in the Stand for Tenant Safety package, which aims to address the use of construction as a type of tenant harassment. A large coalition of tenant and community organizations has been advocating for the bills since 2015. Members of the Progressive caucus also recently penned an op-ed calling on the Council to pass the package.

“Even as preserving and creating affordable housing has remained a focus of both the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the myriad loopholes landlords use in existing laws allow the number of rent-regulated apartments to dwindle. With both the cost of living in the city and rent continuing to rise, protecting the health and safety of tenants through legislation is the minimum of what can be done,” wrote Council members Antonio Reynoso, Donovan Richards, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos in Gotham Gazette on July 31.

The other seven bills include a package aimed at strengthening the city’s laws concerning harassment of all types and a bill that seeks to improve the city’s fine-collection by denying landlords with certain levels of debt the ability to obtain work permits (excepting for repairs necessary to correct dangerous situations).

 

Charter Communications
08/09/2017
 

Today, we joined New York City Councilmember Ben Kallos at the Personal Democracy Forum 2017 to discuss efforts to enhance broadband access and adoption, including Charter’s low-cost broadband offering that’s available to eligible New Yorkers and the Spectrum learning labs located in a growing number of communities across the City.

Charter’s Spectrum Internet Assist, is an industry leading, truly high-speed, low-cost broadband service for eligible low-income families and seniors. It empowers low-income families and seniors to access information about their communities, take classes and do homework, apply for jobs and access healthcare.

 

Vincent Barone
08/08/2017
 

The lawmakers also demanded answers for why capital construction costs so much. At $4.5 billion for three new stations, the Second Avenue subway’s first phase was the most expensive subway project in the world, according to transit experts.

“In other parts of the globe, when subway systems are being built or expanded, they do not remotely come close to the challenges we are facing here in New York City,” Hakim said. “You see it when you go by an open utility construction pit and you look in at the maze, the spaghetti of utilities.”

Still, several council members felt that New York was falling behind other cities.

“What does Russia know that we don’t?” asked Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos, who wondered why Moscow runs more trains per hour than the MTA.

Hakim pointed out that Moscow doesn’t run a 24-hour subway system. “Try to get the subway in Moscow at 2 o’clock in the morning; they’re closed,” she said.