Press Releases

December 7, 2017

Geographic Diversity Tracking Bill Passes Vote in Education Committee
 Legislation Aims to Measure Diversity in NYC Public Schools
  New York, NY – Today the City Council’s Education Committee passed legislation that would measure the number of children from each neighborhood who apply to attend a particular school, the number of seats available at each school, how many offers of admission were made, and total enrollment in all public schools. The bill introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos will also require the Department of Education (DOE) to issue reports on the number of individuals who applied for, received offers for, and enrolled in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade in DOE schools. 

The reporting required under the legislation will show the current geographic diversity in NYC schools, whether there are sufficient numbers of school seats in each neighborhood, and how many children are being turned away from the public school system because the City lacks the capacity to allow children to attend school in the neighborhood in which they live. The information would be reported by community school district and by individual school. The information would be disaggregated by grade level, community school district of residence of individuals, primary home language of individuals, and zip code of individuals.

“The fact is we need more school seats and we need more transparency from the Department of Education. We have a growing city and the more useful data we can get the better our children will be served,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “The Mayor’s promise of ‘Pre-Kindergarten for All’ must include enough seats in every neighborhood, including the Upper East Side. Parents in my district are giving up on our public schools and with it our government and parents who can’t afford private school are being forced out."
According to records obtained by Council Member Kallos in 2015, 54% of would-be pre-kindergarteners on the Upper East Side were not offered school seats in their zip codes. For the 2017-2018 school year, more than 900 four-year-olds applied for a total of 596 seats available for this school year. A decrease of 22 seats from the previous school year. This means that at least one in three four-year-olds will not be offered a seat in their neighborhood.

In 2016, in School District 2, which spans from the Financial District to the Upper East Side, 1,696 preschoolers took the Gifted and Talented exam, 838 of whom were deemed eligible for the program, and 652 applied. However, according to Department of Education, only 346 received offers, leaving 47% of applicants, a total of 306 preschoolers, without access to the coveted program.

The aforementioned data for these two programs indicates a larger problem which extends to general enrollment. This legislation seeks the data from the DOE needed to enact changes in order to give the City Council the ability to do so.  

 

December 1, 2017

James Cagney Place Officially Designated a City Plaza

After 42 Years, Closed Section of East 91st Street Becomes Official Plaza

New York, NY,– Residents at James Cagney Place today, welcomed the news that a section of East 91st Street that has been closed to vehicular traffic for more than 40 years -- and renamed James Cagney Place in 1989 -- was officially recognized as a Pedestrian Plaza under the NYC Department of Transportation’s (DOT)  NYC Plaza program Round 10. The award notice came after three years of effort by Community Board 8 Members Rita Popper and Dave Rosenstein, with support from Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and in partnership with sponsor Ruppert-Yorkville (R-Y) Management, which helped form Friends of James Cagney Place LLC.

In 2017, the Friends of James Cagney Place organized free events including a jazz festival, movie night, Halloween Parade, and the tree lighting to build community support and demonstrate the import of a protected plaza as a community resource. These events are in addition to daily use by residents walking their dogs, seniors enjoying passive recreation, and children sledding on this section of Carnegie Hill when it snows.

 

November 30, 2017

New Yorkers are tired of out-of-control, out-of-scale development destroying affordable housing and the shape of our residential neighborhoods.

Today, the City Council voted to stop the march of supertall buildings from commercial districts on 57th Street into residential districts, where they would displace rent-regulated residents to build buildings for billionaires.

In 2015, we formed the East River Fifties Alliance which has grown to 45 buildings in the area, and 2,600 individuals from 500 buildings all over the city with support from Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District, CIVITAS, and citywide organizations like the Municipal Arts Society.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, Senator Liz Krueger, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer joined me as co-applicants and Congress Member Carolyn Maloney has joined in support.

We worked with the Department of City Planning on several options for providing affordable housing as part of our proposal. DCP ultimately advised that with the change to a Tower on a Base, the best way to produce affordable housing was through the existing inclusionary housing framework, which is what we approved today. DCP has also agreed to improve the inclusionary housing program citywide.

We removed a grandfathering provision that the City Planning Commission had added inappropriately and City Planning has voted that removing this provision was “in scope.”

This rezoning will protect octogenarians like Herndon Werth and seniors like Charles Fernandez and his sister who faced displacement from their affordable, rent-regulated units.

The vote today is in support of residents over luxury real estate developers, putting affordable housing for real New Yorkers over buildings for billionaires.

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November 30, 2017

Completing a five-year effort by city government to improve safety operations for construction cranes, the City Council today passed the Crane Modernization Act Int. 443-A, which requires the City of New York and developers to remove older cranes from operation by limiting how long they can be in service to 25 years.

 

November 21, 2017

I am pleased that the Spence School, the principals of P.S. 151 and P.S. 527, and the Department of Education have agreed in principal to the common goal of opening a state of the art recreational facility to our local public-school students, and to the stated timeline for doing so.

 

November 20, 2017

NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Ben Kallos, Manhattan Community Board 8 197A Task Force Co-Chair Barry Schneider,Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione, and community members to celebrate the completion of Andrew Haswell Green Park Phase 2A construction.

“Thanks to the many city and state funding partners of Andrew Haswell Green Park, New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the views of the East River and the Roosevelt Island tram while in the shadow of Alice Aycock’s monumental sculpture, the “East River Roundabout,”  said Commissioner Silver. “A unique location, this latest addition to the greenery on the Upper East Side, will draw visitors looking for a place to relax and appreciate the city scene from a new vantage point.”

"We are rebuilding the East River Esplanade block by block, street by street and park by park," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "The completion of Andrew Haswell Green Park phase 2A represents more open green space for the residents of the East Sixties. Thank you to the New York City Parks Department for their dedication and commitment to getting this park open. East Siders will now be able to enjoy it and its wonderful views of the river"

 

November 17, 2017

Int. No. 1701-2017 (Vacca) upgrades the NYC Open Data Law and most importantly requires the City to publish on the Open Data Portal information the status of data sets and makes it much easier for the public to track how well the City is complying with the Open Data Law.

1528-A-2017 (Vacca) requires agencies to list the names of data sets that have been requested via FOIL request. This will make it much easier for the public and the City to understand what data the public is requesting and should be published as open data.

 

November 16, 2017

New York, NY – Over 538 privately owned public spaces (POPS) attached to 329 buildings that received additional area to build will be required to provide the amenities promised or face steep fines for bad landlords, under legislation that passed the Council today. The legislation is part of package authored by Land Use Chair David Greenfield and Council Member Ben Kallos.
 
In August 2016, Trump Tower Commercial, LLC, was fined $10,000 in violation of their POPS agreement for having an unapproved sales counter in a space designated for the public. The New York Times has highlighted the shortcomings and non-compliance of POPS in 19771987, and 1998 followed by the publication of “Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience,” authored by Jerold Kayden and the Municipal Art Society in 2000. Comptroller Scott Stringer audited 333 POPS finding 275 had not been inspected by Department of Buildings in four years with more than half failing to provide all required amenities in April of 2017.

 

November 14, 2017

 New York, NY– Following a historic low in voter turnout in New York City’s 2017 General Election for municipal offices, the New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations today passed legislation to implement online voter registration. The legislation is slated for passage by the New York City Council on November 16. Relying on an opinion by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman which allows online voter registration by localities, Council Member Ben Kallos authored the legislation, which will require the City’s Campaign Finance Board to create and maintain a secure website and mobile app allowing New York City residents to register to vote online.
 
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia offer limited forms of online voter registration according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New York currently only allows residents with a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver license, learner permit or non-driver identification to register online. However many residents of color cannot use New York State’s only online voter registration system as Hispanics are twice as likely as Whites to not have identification (10%) and Blacks are more than two and half times as likely as Whites not to have identification (13%) according to Project Vote.
 
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman paved the way for this legislation to pass in April of 2016 when he issued and Informal Opinion to Suffolk County officials advising that “online voter registration, including use of electronically affixed handwritten signatures is legal in New York State.”

 

October 31, 2017

Searchable and Computer Readable Budget Will Open Up $85 Billion in Spending for Public Review

 

New York, NY – How New York City spends $85 billion just got more transparent with the passing of legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos that requires all budget documents released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to be publicly released on its website and the Open Data Portal in a searchable and computer readable format, instead of only printed or in lengthy PDFs.

 “New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer, and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget.”