Press Coverage

New York Daily News
Erin Durkin

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.


CBS New York

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.



Jay Cassano

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."


Gotham Gazette
Shannon Ho

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.


Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid

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."


Gotham Gazette
Samar Khurshid

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.


Ben Kallos

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.


Michael Gartland

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.


Stephanie Colombini

"...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."


Allan Rosen

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.


Jeremiah Budin

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.] 


Main Street WIRE
Sara Maher

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.”


Christine Chung

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.”


Gotham Gazette
Kristen Meriwether

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.


Capital New York
Miranda Neubauer

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

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

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.
Gustavo Solis

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.”


Katy Toth

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.




“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

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

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

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

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

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.