The City Council is trying to drag the Board of Standards and Appeals—the agency that decides zoning changes for many New York City developments—into the 21st century. The council’s Government Operations committee spent yesterday afternoon discussing bills that would force the agency to post zoning applications and decisions publicly, create a map of those decisions, and keep community boards and council members in the loop on applications.
The Board of Standards and Appeals consists of five commissioners appointed by the mayor. City law requires that the board must include one registered architect, one professional engineer, and one urban planner. While many pieces of the city’s land use process can be obscure, the BSA has steadfastly resisted oversight and transparency. Every year, dozens of developers file applications with the agency, seeking a minor change or exemption from zoning rules based on a “financial hardship.”
The plague of pointless scaffolding encrusting Downtown sidewalks for years on end may finally have a cure.
Property owners would have six months to shore up their aging buildings and then take down sidewalk sheds, or else face “heavy penalties” under a new bill introduced by Councilmember Ben Kallos.
Area residents living under the shadow of the sidewalk sheds that have loomed over Downtown for years were overjoyed upon learning that the Upper East Side legislator is attempting to tackle the root of so many of Downtown’s quality-of-life issues, according to the president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association
“I think this is a great starting point, and it’s laudable that someone is doing this,” said Patrick Kennell.
The bill gives landlords three months to complete construction that requires scaffolding or sidewalk sheds for the job, along with an option to apply for an additional three-month extension. After that period expires, however, the city would be entitled to step in to complete any remaining work and take down the scaffolding, before kicking the bill back to the property owners for any costs incurred by the city — likely in the form of liens or by garnishing landlords’ rent earnings, according to Kallos spokesman Josh Jamieson.
The governmental operations committee is headed by Council Member Ben Kallos, who is more knowledgeable about the campaign finance system than Council Member Alan Maisel, the chair of the standards and ethics committee -- somethign Maisel acknowledged in a prior interview with Gotham Gazette. Kallos has expressed concerns about some of the second package of bills, including around bill details and process.
Ten bills will be aired for public opinion to place restrictions on and revamp the processes of the Board of Standards and Appeals. On December 6, 2016, Council Member Ben Kallos introduced five new bills regarding the oversight and operations of the Board of Standards and Appeals at the City Council’s stated meeting. The Board of Standards and Appeals, which was originally created to be an independent board tasked with granting “relief” from the zoning code, is empowered by the Zoning Resolution and primarily reviews and decides applications for variances and special permits.
The City Council will discuss 10 bills Wednesday aimed at tightening the rules that allow property owners to bend zoning regulations.
Council member Ben Kallos is sponsoring the proposed bills that will target the Board of Standards and Appeals, Crain’s reported. The board is able to approve applications from landlords who argue they need to surpass zoning laws in order to make a profit from a development. In some cases, according to the publication, owners ask that a height restriction be relaxed so that revenue-generating apartments can be built. In other circumstances an owner may say that a lot is oddly shaped and it is therefore impossible to conform to zoning laws.
In 2011, the board approved 97 percent of applications that came before it, many of which had been opposed at the local council level. Kallos believes the board is too lenient.
New York City Councilman Ben Kallos explained, “New Yorkers want to get where they are going fast. Everyone hates traffic jams, especially when they are for road work, but no one is actually there doing the work. It’s about making sure we are only impeding traffic and causing traffic when we absolutely need to.”
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, is an avid social media user who often solicits questions through Twitter during committee hearings. He’s well aware of the intersection of technology and governance and the issues that can arise with an elected representative’s use of social media. “Its pretty confusing to the public because they don’t know who to tweet sometimes,” he said of his own experience with separate accounts for official and campaign purposes. “So I have to spend double duty making sure I’m managing both, paying attention to both and ensuring that whether a constituent tweets my campaign or government [account], they get the services they need.”
He said officials should generally ensure that the distinctions between accounts are clear and they “respond from the right places and retweet from the right places.”
“It can be a little bit of a minefield,” Kallos said, “but you just have to be extra cautious.”
A bill introduced in City Council on Tuesday gives a timeline for when scaffolding has to come down or the building owner has to pay up.
The bill would set a 90-day deadline for building owners to fix a dangerous condition, according to Kallos' office. Another 90 days could be requested if an extension is required.
After the deadline, the city would finish the construction work or repairs and the building owner would have to foot the bill.
But sidewalk sheds have been known to overstay their welcome, like a drunken uncle, sometimes sticking around for a dozen years or more, providing magnets for drug dealers, homeless people, trash, and worse. To remedy the situation, city councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, proposed a new law on Tuesday that would give building owners three months, with the possibility of a three-month extension, to make repairs and remove scaffolding and sidewalk sheds, the New York Times reports. If the work is not completed in that time, the city will step in to do it, and charge the owner for the work.
City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and parts of Midtown, proposed a new bill to wage war on the city's nearly 9,000 units of scaffolding — also known as sidewalk sheds — by placing strict regulations on how long scaffolding is allowed to stay up and by punishing people who opt to leave scaffolding up rather than finish inspections and construction projects.
If passed, the bill would require building owners take a scaffolding unit down within 90 days of its construction, according to a press release from Kallos' office. If needed, building owners could receive a 90 day extension to fix a dangerous condition.
Construction sties that block roads and snarl traffic when no actual work is going on would face fines under a bill being introduced Tuesday in the City Council.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos, would require that roadblocks like traffic cones, barrels and Jersey barriers only be set up in the street for one hour before and one hour after work is underway.
Kallos (D-Manhattan, photo) said drivers often encounter traffic backups caused by construction barriers and road closures, only to find the site empty.
“New Yorkers want to get where they are going fast. Everyone hates traffic jams, especially when they are for road work, but no one is actually there doing the work,” he said. “It’s about making sure we are only impeding traffic and causing traffic when we absolutely need to.”
Sidewalk sheds, the unattractive steel-and-wood structures that pop up anytime a building is being built, repaired or has been deemed unsafe, have spread across the city like kudzu during the past decade. As Crain's described in a cover story earlier this year, approximately 190 miles of them are devouring sidewalk space, cutting off sunlight and hurting businesses trapped underneath.
But at long last, there may be relief for exasperated New Yorkers.
On Tuesday, City Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill that would require sheds to be taken down if no work is done on the building above for seven days, with exceptions for weather and other issues. The legislation would close a loophole that allows landlords to keep dormant sheds up forever, so long as the city's Department of Buildings grants a permit, which it routinely does. The bill would also let the city do the work and bill the property owner.
Laurent Delly, who has lived near a shed that has stood since 2004 at the corner of West 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue, called the bill great news for the city. "We would be pleased with a tangible solution to this chronic issue, which has affected all of us as New Yorkers for years," he said.
Sometimes it feels like once scaffolding goes up in the city, it stays up forever. But building owners could soon be facing a deadline for taking it down.
Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos is pushing a bill that would put strict limits on how long scaffolding can be installed on city buildings.
The story was first reported by The New York Times.
The measure would give building owners up to six months to finish repairs so the scaffolding can be removed.
If the repairs aren’t completed in time, the city would finish the work and charge the owner.
The city requires scaffolding to protect pedestrians from falling debris during repair work.
Supporters of the bill say the structures are ugly and hurt business.
Critics say building owners don’t always have the money on hand to make expensive repairs.
A New York City councilman has declared war on building scaffolding, claiming landlords should be forced to take them down if no work is being done.
Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5th) is seeking a new law that imposes a time limit of 90 days to fix a dangerous condition, with the possibility of a 90 day extension if needed.
“Sidewalk sheds are the guest that you invite to your home but never leaves,” he tells CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer.
In response, Councilman Ben Kallos is proposing a law requiring time limits.
"I put in a proposal that would give landlords three to six months to do the work. They wouldn't be able to stop that work at any point for more than seven days. And if they don't do the work, the city needs to step in and do the work ourselves and make bad landlords pay," Councilman Kallos said.
Sidewalk scaffolding are a nuisance, an eyesore, and they're up for too long, New Yorkers complain. A city lawmaker is proposing a plan to fix this. Andrew Siff reports.
When asked if his committee was the appropriate venue for the campaign finance bills, he said it was the speaker’s office that made the decision. “I have no experience with campaign finance bills, I deal with ethics issues,” he said, in a sense echoing the critique made by others who’ve questioned why campaign finance bills were heard in his committee as opposed to their typical place, government operations, the committee chaired by Council Member Ben Kallos.
The proposals have created some degree of internal tension within the Council for multiple reasons, including the committee venue. Additionally, before the bills were introduced, Council Member Kallos was openly skeptical of the effect they might have, telling the New York Times, “I am concerned about undermining the best parts of a system that has worked for the people.”
Council Member Brad Lander, sponsor of one of the new bills, disagrees. First, Lander told Politico New York that the Times report had mischaracterized the bills under consideration. On Tuesday, shortly after the speaker’s news conference, Lander told Gotham Gazette the concerns over the bills would be addressed through amendments and that criticism of their timing was unfounded. That the bills were heard through the standards and ethics committee rather than the governmental operations committee made little difference, he said, since the same people and advocacy groups would testify even if there were separate hearings. He also noted that Kallos, the governmental operations chair, was present at the hearing as well.
A consortium of community members and elected officials continue to rally against a skyscraper proposed for a low-rise residential block on East 58th Street. The East River Fifties Alliance, which includes officials like City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and neighborhood stakeholders, are not letting up on their fight against Bauhouse Group’s proposed 950-foot tower at 426-432 East 58th Street despite last week’s court ordered auction of the site due to the developer’s mounting fiscal troubles.
The Department of Buildings (DOB) issued an order to stop work on the demolition of three existing 5-story buildings at 428, 430 and 432 East 58th Street because safety measures have not been put in place to protect tenants living in the adjacent 426 East 58th Street, according to DOB files.
The stop work order was issued following an audit request from City Councilman Ben Kallos, the Wall Street Journal reported. Kallos told the Journal that the developers had requested an application to stabilize 426 East 58th Street in order to complete demolition on the adjacent three-buildings.
Representatives from the FDNY, along with firefighters from Rescue 1 and Engines 53, 91, 58, 76, 44 will be on hand to receive a Proclamation from Council Member Ben Kallos at City Hall.
81-year-old Jim Duffy was trapped on the fifth floor of an apartment building on East 93rd Street that quickly became engulfed by fire.
The plan, which the groups and officials said they were ready to formally propose to the City Planning Commission as early as this week, calls for buildings in the neighborhood to be no taller than 260 feet.
“I want to stop the march of 1,000-foot towers into residential neighborhoods,” said Councilman Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat who is supporting the zoning change.
The groups hope it is approved before development work begins at the site. The proposed change also could discourage bidders at the auction, which was ordered by the court following a dispute between Bauhouse Group and its lenders, led by N. Richard Kalikow.
The zoning change isn’t the only hurdle the project faces. On Wednesday, the Department of Buildings blocked a permit needed to complete demolition of the site, after conducting an audit requested by Mr. Kallos.
The delay is a further setback, since the demolition was intended to enhance the site’s value to potential bidders.
The permit application, submitted as a result of a bankruptcy court order, was for stabilizing a building next door to the tower site, so demolition could proceed. But the buildings department blocked it.
Mr. Kallos said he was told that plans to protect tenants of the building, 426 E. 58th St., weren’t adequate.
UPPER EAST SIDE — A "broken" voting system is to blame for the hourslong waits endured by voters during the election this year, say local elected officials who are calling for an overhaul including more polling sites and the option to mail in ballots.
Lines to vote in the next election could be shortened by opening new polling sites to spread out the crowds, Councilman Ben Kallos said.
"If you are part of a church, a synagogue, a nonprofit center, you could be incredibly helpful. If you're from a school and not a poll site let us know," he told residents during a Community Board 8 meeting Wednesday.
"We need to expand the number of poll sites. We can even put one in your lobby, as long as it is ADA accessible," he said.
The LatestSouth Ozone Park woman took off with her son, grandson HomeEditionsQueenswide Making sure every voter has a say
Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Committee on Governmental Operations, echoed the importance of homeless people being ensured their vote is counted.
“We must ensure that everyone who can vote is voting no matter their housing status,” he said.
Kallos and Wills also worked together on a law that allows those being detained in city jails to vote.
“And with so many people awaiting trial with an overwhelming majority of men of color who shouldn’t be in our system, they need to be protected and they need their rights protected,” Kallos said at the press conference.
Although at the time of the press conference it was too late to register to vote, Matt Borden, of the DHS, wanted to ensure that those who are eligible to cast ballots would be told how to do so.