Press Releases

October 11, 2017

In a reversal, city planners are assisting a group of neighbors trying to halt ongoing construction of an 800-foot tower across from the luxury high rise where many in the group live.

For over two years, the neighbors and a group they founded, the East River Fifties Alliance, has spent more than $1 million drafting an unusual do-it-yourself zoning rule, that could block the tower on East 58th Street near Sutton Place.

City Hall and the city’s Planning Commissioner had lambasted the campaign in the past for a misguided efforts to block a single building to protect views at the Sovereign, an 485-foot tall, co-op.

In June, when asked about an earlier proposal, Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “This proposal would protect the views of a handful of residents who live in a building that is hundreds of feet taller than the height they feel is appropriate and block new buildings.”

At the time, the city planning commissioner, Marisa Lago, said “there is an important distinction between planning based on a sound, land-use rationale and policy-making designed and shaped to stop a specific building proposal.”

But last week, the commission staff released a new zoning proposal by the group and offered support for it. It set an unusual fast-track review process that would enable it to be approved by the commission by Nov. 1, before election day, and by the City Council by mid-November.

“We believe there is a land-use rational,” said Bob Tuttle, a city planner, about the group’s latest proposal at a recent commission meeting. “We understand the community’s desire for height limits.”

But at the meeting, Mr. Tuttle acknowledged that the proposed zoning change, which covers portions of a 13-block area east of First Avenue, would only affect a single development site in the foreseeable future: the East 58th Street construction site.

Both the developer and the community opponents said it would halt the current project, known as Sutton 58 as it is envisioned.

Jonathan Kalikow, president of Gamma Real Estate. which is developing the new tower, warned that this zoning change targeted at his building would have a chilling effect on developers across the city.

“This zoning change, if passed, will have really horrific negative consequences for the city of New York,” he said. Mr. Kalikow said he was rushing to try to complete the complex foundation needed for the tall narrow tower before the zoning change could take effect.

The new zoning proposal grew out of a meeting in August between planners and elected officials, including the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who had joined East River Fifties group in submitting the plan.

Earlier plans by the group had called for strict height limits. The new approach, recommended by the planning staff, would create a new zoning rule that would force developers on side streets to keep much of the bulk of their buildings below 150 feet and only indirectly cap heights.

It would particularly penalize developers like Mr. Kalikow, who obtained air rights from nearby buildings, zoning experts said. The fast-track schedule was made possible after a decision by Ms. Brewer and the local community board to forego hearings on the proposed zoning changes.

John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry group, noted that Ms. Brewer has long been an advocate for more openness in city government and in land-use decisions. A spokesman for Ms. Brewer said she had already held a hearing earlier this year, on another version of the plan.

 “This process has been skewed from the beginning to protect a well-healed group,” Mr. Banks said.

Alan Kersh, president of the East River Fifties Alliance, and a resident of the Sovereign, said the revised city plan is more “flexible” than the height limits his group first proposed.

He said it would allow for a building taller than what his group had originally proposed, but much shorter than what the developer planned to build.

 

October 2, 2017

 New York, NY – Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) President and CEO Louis A. Shapiro joined Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Taskforce with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and NYC Parks Manhattan Commissioner Bill Castro for an official groundbreaking on renovations to the East River Esplanade from 70th to 72nd Streets by HSS. The revitalization and improvements by HSS to the East River Esplanade in this section were negotiated by Council Member Ben Kallos as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for new construction that was voted on and passed the City Council on July 23, 2015. 

 

September 30, 2017

100 million initiative comes as part of administration-wide push to complete a contiguous 32-mile waterfront pedestrian promenade and bikeway around Manhattan

NEW YORK—As part of City Hall in your Borough week in Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the formal design process for a new section of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway between East 61st Street and East 53rd Street will officially kick off next week. The Mayor was joined by local officials to tour a portion of the existing greenway and discussing plans for its expansion. Construction of the new segment will commence in 2019, with completion expected in 2022.

 

September 20, 2017

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September 18, 2017

New York, NY – Parents interested in having a say in local government could have free child care provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos. The legislation was announced today in honor of the United Nations Women's founding of HeForShe and launch of IMPACT 10x10x10 Parity. It was inspired by a move to provide childcare at conferences in academia, civic technology, and by NYC Community Education Council 2. Countless parents have found childcare to be a challenge to their professional careers, not to mention civic engagement.
 
“It actually costs parents money to be civically engaged,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who grew up with a single mother and now offers free child care at his annual events. “How can democracy work when we exclude parents from representing the interests of themselves and their children because they may not have access to child care? If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City it means offering free child care when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”
 
 

 

September 11, 2017

“Tech now has a new home in New York City on Roosevelt Island at Cornell Tech. We are growing jobs and educating the next leaders of the tech economy right here on Roosevelt Island so the next big thing in tech will be 'Made in New York,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, a tech entrepreneur. “Welcome to Cornell Tech, Dean Dan Huttenlocher and thank you to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the vision, Mayor de Blasio and RIOC President Susan Rosenthal for making it happen, and the Roosevelt Island community for being a part of this every step of the way. I look forward to working with Cornell Tech on bringing millions in investment to growing companies on Roosevelt Island and in New York City.”

 

September 7, 2017

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September 6, 2017

NEW YORK — Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James today announced that lunch is now free for every student at every public school across New York City. Free School Lunch for All will provide over 200,000 more students with free lunch starting this school year. Last school year, 75% of students were eligible for free lunch and starting this school year, 100% of families will be eligible to receive free lunch.

New York City has sought all forms of funding for meal reimbursement and is now eligible to receive the highest reimbursement from the federal government through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This federal program allows school districts to provide meals free of charge to all enrolled students. The Free School Lunch for All initiative will benefit all families regardless of where they live or attend school.

“There is now such thing as a free lunch in New York City public schools,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “When I was a child attending City public schools, I often went without food, because going hungry was better than getting picked on for receiving free or reduced school lunch. I've been fighting alongside Public Advocate Letitia James and Education Chair Danny Dromm at hearing after hearing for four years so that no child has to make the same unfortunate choice I did years ago, to go hungry. Our families should be able to trust that when they send their kids to public school, they won't come home hungry. Thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate James, Education Chair Dromm, Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Community Food Advocates Executive Director Liz Accles for their advocacy, and Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Fariña for making universal school lunch a reality.”

 

August 29, 2017

“We are finally using our waterways to improve commutes for thousands of Roosevelt Islanders who will be able to take the new ferry. Roosevelt Islanders can travel by air (by tram), land (by car, bus, and train) and now water (by ferry), all offering improved commutes. After advocating alongside the community since before I got elected and continuing that fight for ferry service every day since then, I am proud to be a part of a City government that finally made it a reality,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett for reclaiming our waterways and bringing ferry service citywide.”

 

August 24, 2017

It is time to stop throwing good money after bad and the city over a billion dollars for garbage dumps that appear to be more symbolic than functional.