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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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
Some local polling places may open two weeks ahead of schedule if the City Council signs off on some new legislation.
Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos is introducing a bill Wednesday.
Currently, 33 states and Washington DC already allow voters to cast ballots early, making it easier for everyone to get to the polls.
Kallos' bill would apply only to primaries and general elections for mayor, City Council and other municipal offices.
State and federal elections would not be affected.
Kallos wants at least 51 polling sites -- that's one in each City Council district -- to open two Tuesdays before Election Day.
They would operate on weekdays and on weekends until the Friday before Election Day.
The City Council on Wednesday confirmed Councilman Ben Kallos as its appointee to the Commission on Public Information and Communication, one day before Public Advocate Letitia James plans to hold a hearing on the commission.
Though often invoked by city open government advocates, the commission, which aims to improve access to city information and data, has held only infrequent meetings and has had little influence in recent years.
In remarks before the rules committee on Wednesday morning, Kallos said that the "great commission" was one reason he had wanted to become chair of the Governmental Operations committee, which has oversight over COPIC.
"It has been slightly dysfunctional and hasn't been meeting," he said. "We have a great leader in our public advocate, Tish James, and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to ... [work] with our public advocate to get the word out on all the information and all the great things this government does."
New Yorkers would be able to cast their ballots early under new legislation set to be introduced in the City Council Wednesday.
The bill sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) would open select polling places for local elections two weeks before election day.
“New York is currently last in the nation for voter turnout,” Kallos said. “And part of that is because two thirds of the United States and Washington DC offer early voting to residents, and New York doesn’t.”
“New Yorkers should be able to vote when it is convenient for them, not when it is convenient for elected officials,”
"Many more New Yorkers should have the opportunity to serve on their local community boards and share their valuable perspectives," Council Member Kallos said by email Tuesday. "I want to create a culture of mentorship and knowledge-sharing, so residents who have been on for a long time can help train new members as they move to an informal role."
The city's 59 Community Boards represent slightly smaller areas of the city than city council districts, of which there are 51, and focus largely on qualify of life issues. But Community Boards also play a vital role in the land use process (also known as ULURP). Developers must see their projects passed through Community Boards before getting them to the City Council. The Boards are the first line of defense for projects and often the best place to negotiate things like affordable housing, park space, or schools in exchange for development.
NEW YORK—The city is making its presence known in the battle to keep hydraulic fracturing out of the state.
A new bill, expected to be introduced Wednesday, will effectively ban hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in New York City.
Council members Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal, and Costa Constantinides are sponsoring the bill to support the local municipalities in upstate New York that have successfully banned fracking in their towns. They hope that other municipalities will be encouraged to amend local laws as well.
“We are standing in solidarity with those towns in banning hydrofracking in our municipality in hopes that we can do this across the state and across the nation,” said Council member Kallos in a telephone interview.
Ortiz is not the first city pol to draft a bill to curb the services.
Last month, City Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn)proposed capping fare increases at 100% of the regular rate. And Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) wants the city to compete by launching its own taxi-hailing app.
Complaints against the services have grown with their popularity.
Just Monday, the Twitterverse exploded in outrage after Uber capitalized on a hostage crisis in Sydney by pumping up fares for riders trying to flee the area. Earlier this month, a judge in Madrid ordered a temporary shutdown of the rideshare service, calling it unfair competition.
Vacca, like the other Council members targeted in the bus shelter ads, is undecided on the carriage horse ban, which was introduced in the Council last week.
"Drivers have been caught forcing horses to work in weather extremes and while injured,” the ad picturing Falco and plastered around his district reads.
Also featured in the PETA campaign is actress Anjelica Huston, whose ads target Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos.
In New York City, Councilman Benjamin Kallos introduced an "e-hail" bill on Dec. 8 that would allow taxicab passengers to use a mobile app to electronically summon one of the city's 20,000 yellow cabs that traverse the city's streets, as well as additional green taxis that serve northern Manhattan, according to Sarah Anders, a Kallos spokeswoman. The proposal, which still has quite a road to travel before ever being finalized into law, has "generated a lot of interest from New Yorkers," said Anders.
Kallos' proposal came because "he wanted New Yorkers to have the opportunity to pick up yellow and green cabs on their phones conveniently," said Anders. "They know the fares [they'll be charged] in advance, and they trust yellow and green cabs. The future of e-hailing is inevitable, and we think this fits very well into that idea. We're very optimistic."
n New York, the city council is considering a bill that would not only create a similar app, but also enable taxis to be called using Uber, Lyft or other third-party apps.
“Instead of making new technologies illegal or regulating them out of business, we should provide a level playing field with fair competition so that companies, drivers and riders all win,” said New York councillor Ben Kallos, the bill’s sponsor.
"It's surprising to me that a city known for its progressive spirit still allows this cruel and dangerous tourist trap. Dozens of accidents over the past few years highlight the immense safety hazard and lack of regulation of this industry," Huston is quoted as saying in her ad.
The images will roll out starting this week and target council members such as Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos and James Vacca. Representatives for the elected officials didn't return messages for comment by press time.
Note the latest proposal from freshman City Councilmember Ben Kallos. The Upper East Side Democrat wants the Taxi and Limousine Commission to approve a city-branded e-hail app. This would give yellow cabs the technology to take on Uber and others on their own turf.
Yellow cabs wouldn’t be required to use the app, but considering the impact Uber’s app has had on the traditional yellow-cab model, they would be foolish not to.
Kallos’ idea is good as far as it goes and contrasts favorably with how other municipalities have reacted to an industry disrupter like Uber. In India, for example, New Delhi has just banned Uber.
According to news reports, New York and Chicago Cities could soon become rivals of Uber and Lyft, after they launch their own smartphone apps for e-hailing taxis, similar to Uber and Lyft. Chicago regulators permitted a plan to develop apps for e-hailing taxis. According to the New York Times report on Friday, New York City Councilman Ben Kallos proposed a similar app for the Big Apple.
The apps would follow the templates set by Uber and Lyft, car service companies that allow customers to hail cabs via apps instead of standing and shouting on street corners while jostling in the rain with other customers. But the competing car service companies have run unpleasant local laws around the United States, and Uber has been banned from Spain and India.