Press Coverage

Corinnne Ramey
Josh Dawsey and Rebecca Davis O'Brien
 

Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat who leads the council’s governmental operations committee, said the report “confirms some of our worst fears” about the role city officials played in the deal.

The report raised a number of questions about the administration’s timeline and account of the deed removal.

 

Ricci Dipshan
 

“The law hamstrings case law over and over again, and sometimes that law goes against what everyone wants,” Kallos added.

But he admitted that elected officials are restricted in what they can achieve in office. “Everyone from the city council member to the U.S. president” is faced with the same problem: “wherever you go, somehow you don’t have the power,” he said.

“We’ve got a democratic government, and it’s broken in a lot of different ways,” Kallos warned, adding that one pivotal challenge is that “a lot of people aren’t really engaging most of the time, and what ends up happening is we’re not included in the decision-making process. … Democracy actually requires, and in many places demands, public input.”

 

DNAinfo.com
Shaye Weaver
 

"We are rebuilding the East River Esplanade brick by brick and dollar by dollar to connect 60th street to 125th street in one seamless park," Kallos said in a statement on July 11. "John Finley Walk from 81st street to 84th will receive the attention it needs to go from roadway to greenway."

 

Our Town
Jennifer Goodnow
 

City officials are trying to address at least one aspect of the problem. Councilman Ben Kallos, along with several colleagues, including Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, have introduced legislation that would permit artists or art groups to rent, at a reduced rate, city-owned or city-run spaces for after-hours rehearsals or performances.

The venues could include Beaux-Arts spaces such as Manhattan’s Surrogate’s Court lobby, which rises three stories and whose marble staircase and other features recall Paris’ Palais Garnier Opera House. The Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street and the Marriage Bureau in the Louis Lefkowitz Building on Centre Street could also become available.

 

The Real Deal
 

Council members Vincent Gentile and Ben Kallos will lead the hearing on Sept. 29, which will focus on how the city approved the lifting of a deed restriction on the Lower East Side nursing home earlier this year.

Following the lifting of the restriction, landlord Allure Group sold the property to Slate Property Group and its partners Adam America and China Vanke for a $72 million profit. The new owners plan to convert the building into luxury condos, though city agencies to date have prevented construction from starting. The Real Deal put together a video explaining the whole saga.http://therealdeal.com/2016/09/01/city-council-finally-schedules-hearing-on-rivington-scandal/

 

CBS 2
 

“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.

Often, the problem is that a private operations manager just orders the cars moved somewhere, treating drivers to the sinking feeling that comes with finding their cars have simply vanished.

 

Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid
 

City Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the committee on governmental operations, said in a phone interview that “All of these [reforms] should’ve happened before Election Day and if there’s an Albany special session it should be part of that agenda. The voters shouldn’t let their elected officials go back to Albany without getting this done.”

The City Council has consistently advocated for voting and election reform in its annual state legislative agenda, including early voting, instant runoff voting for citywide primaries, and public campaign financing at the state level. De Blasio has said he has concerns about instant runoff voting but hasn’t taken a full position. The mayor has consistently called for campaign finance reform, calling the city’s public matching system a gold standard that the state should follow. Cuomo has professed support for such a system but has not gotten one passed and enacted.

Kallos says he recognizes that the mayor hasn’t been able to prioritize election reform over other items on his agenda. “I think that we needed attention to this in 2014,” he said. “The mayor and I were able to advocate together for universal pre-kindergarten but election reforms weren’t on that list…I think that when we have so few people engaged in voting and such low turnout, people need to put good government on the same plane as things like universal pre-kindergarten.”

He emphasized that elected officials should look beyond their own self-interest and vote for election and voting reform, and that voters need to speak up. “Anyone who waited in line, anyone who had trouble voting, needs to make their voices heard to their elected officials,” Kallos said, “and Albany needs to finally make these changes even if it isn’t in the interest of incumbents…Ultimately in 2017, we will have a vote on the Constitutional Convention, and if Albany won’t act then the electors might.”

 

Editorial Board
 

The community group’s new zoning plan would curb building height in the East 50s along the East River at 260 feet, and the members are hoping to delay the Sutton Place project until their new zoning plan takes affect. That could affect the price at auction.

Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Council member who supports the proposal, which was spearheaded by Alan Kersh, a resident of the 47-story Sovereign across the street from for-sale site, told the Wall Street Journal that he wants “to stop the march of 1,000-foot towers into residential neighborhoods.”

Kersh’s apartment, at 425 East 58th Street, is 250 feet above ground, and his view would be blocked by Beninati’s tower.

Kallos has also helped block the demolition of the site. After an audit requested by Kallos, the DOB didn’t approve permits for work on the neighboring building, 426 East 58th Street, which is necessary for the demolition to proceed.

 

Joe Anuta
 

According to the Manhattan councilman sponsoring five of the bills—which are to be heard Wednesday by the Committee on Governmental Operations—the board is too frequently persuaded. In 2011, it approved 97% of applications, many of which were opposed by local community boards.

"We are taking away the rubber stamp from a government agency that used it far too often over the objections of residents," Councilman Ben Kallos, chairman of the committee, said in a statement. "Developers will have to be honest."

Making a false statement on an application would trigger a $25,000 fine, according to one of the bills sponsored by Kallos. Another would require the board retain a certified appraiser to pore over financial analyses to better vet applicants' claims of financial hardship. Other bills are designed to increase transparency and incorporate opinions from elected officials into the board's considerations. Together, the measures would more thoroughly scrutinize developer's claims of hardship and potentially make it harder to get a zoning variance from the board.

 

Editorial
 

City Council Member Costa Constantinides, Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, and state Senator Michael Gianaris on December 9th called for an end to the use of numbers 6 and 4 fuel oil in power plants. They were joined by the Astoria Houses Tenants Association, Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association, Ravenswood Houses Tenants Association, Jacob Riis Senior Center, Urban Upbound, American Lung Association, Asthma Coalition of Queens, and WeACT.

Ending the use of Number 6 and 4 oils would help reduce emissions produced by the plants in order to meet goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. They called on the power plant operators to demonstrate how they plan to comply with Local Law 38 of 2015, which requires that they phase out use of number 6 oil in plants citywide by 2020. They also called on the plant operators to phase out use of number 4 oil sooner than the scheduled 2030 phase-out. Numbers 6 and 4 oils are considered to be the dirtiest grades of oil available. They are linked to air pollutants that pose risk to public health, including particulate matter, nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide.

 

Christian Murray
 

“They’re not writing judicial-style decisions that provide findings of fact or issues of law,” Ben Kallos, chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, told the NY Press.

Singer said that the BSA does not oppose this but argues that it already takes into consider community board recommendations already.

Other bills include extending the time frame in which developers or the community could appeal a decision rendered by the BSA from 30 days to four months. The Real Estate Board of New York, an influential trade organization that represents the real estate industry, is opposed to it, arguing it could unfairly delay a developer from starting construction. Such delays, the trade group argues, could be costly.

One of the bills would impose a $25,000 fine for a material false statement during the application process. Currently it is not illegal to make inaccurate statements or put forward incorrect drawings, Kallos told NYPress.

 

Jonathon Sizemore
 

The site for the skyscraper forms an L-shape, wrapping around several existing buildings and fronting both Third Avenue and 88th Street. Last year the developer carved out a lot measuring four by twenty-two feet on the development’s 88th Street front. Doing so allowed the owner to avoid strict zoning requirements, including height limits for narrow buildings between two low-rise buildings. The move also allowed the owner to designate space on the side facing 88th Street as a required rear yard, when in practice it would serve as an entrance to the skyscraper. The Department of Buildings approved the carve-out.

In May 2016, after construction had begun, the scheme came to the notice of Council Member Ben Kallos who, with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, requestedthat Buildings immediately stop construction at the site for a review. Together, they called the 88 square-foot lot “the smallest created in modern times” and “unbuildable” with “no legitimate purpose.” Buildings stopped construction at the site shortly after.

Working with the City, the developer proposed increasing the carved out lot to ten by twenty-two feet. On October 27, 2016, Buildings approved the increased size, stating that the agency considered the now larger lot “developable.”

 

Editorial
 

“New York City is in the midst of a homelessness crisis that is severely impacting our most vulnerable residents, currently 23,365 children are living in our city’s shelter system,” said Councilmember Ben Kallos. “We should be doing everything we can to prevent more families from ending up in already crowded shelters. The Home Stability Support program will be a much-needed lifeline for families who are on the brink of losing their homes and ending up on the streets or in a shelter. New York State should adopt this proposal as a part of a serious plan to end this crisis in our state and city.”

 

Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid
 

For City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, and City Council Member David Greenfield, a committee member, those delays in audits are just one reason that they believe the CFB’s system is flawed and in need of change. In December, Kallos, Greenfield, and other Council members ushered through nearly two dozen campaign finance related bills, some of them tweaks to how the Campaign Finance Board operates. Several of the measures were based on recommendations from the CFB, others were seen as addressing problems with the CFB identified by Council members and their consultants.

The Friday hearing did touch on the CFB’s budget needs for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 and in which there will be a citywide election with a primary in September and a general election in November. These city elections account for a massive increase to $56.7 million for the 2018 fiscal year from last year’s CFB budget of $16.17 million.

About half of the proposed budget, $29 million, is allocated to the public matching funds program, which provides participating campaigns with 6-to-1 matches of small contributions up to $175. Another $11 million will go to printing and distributing a voter guide for the upcoming election.

But Kallos seemed more concerned that the board was spending more money, and time, on auditing campaigns than the money they received from resolutions of those audits. When Loprest told the committee that the CFB’s candidate services unit has seven full-time employees and the audit unit has 26, Kallos insisted that the CFB should dedicate more resources to candidate services and campaign liaisons, so campaigns can preemptively steer clear of missteps in navigating a complex campaign finance system, and avoid fines and penalties down the line.

 

Brendan Krisel
 

The politicians attending Tuesday's rally agreed. A number of local representatives — Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Ben Kallos, State Senators Liz Krueger and Jose Serrano and State Assemblymembers Dan Quart and Robert Rodriguez — submitted a letter to NYCHA containing more than 30 questions about the plan.

"Funding for NYCHA repairs should not come on the backs of NYCHA residents, especially children who will be losing their light, air and playground for little in return," Kallos said in a statement.

On May 17, NYCHA announced that Fetner Properties won a bid to construct a 47-story apartment building on the site of the Holmes Tower playground. The new building would contain hundreds of apartments (estimated at 350 by area politicians), half of which would be offered at market rates and half at affordable rates. But politicians and residents have argued that the affordable rates would actually be unaffordable for public housing residents.

Residents also argued against the size of the building. Taylor said Tuesday that the new building will tower over the rest of the Holmes Towers, with new residents effectively looking down on the NYCHA residents.