Press Releases

December 21, 2017

Geographic Diversity Would Be Added as Measure for Public Schools

New York, NY – Today the City Council passed legislation forcing the Department of Education to report 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 legislation authored by Council Member Ben Kallos 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. 


December 21, 2017

New York, NY – On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, the New York City Council passed several bills endorsed by the Progressive Caucus in its current session policy platform. Including the bills passed today, the Caucus and its members have sponsored and advocated for the passage of nearly 50 bills representing crucial advancements in progressive issues including tenant safety, workers’ rights, affordable housing, and community safety.

The bills passed today endorsed through the Progressive Caucus’ Current Session ‘Advancement Agenda’ include: (1) Community Land Trusts (I. 1269), which amends the administrative code of NYC as it relates to creation of regulatory agreements with community land trusts; (2) Asthma Allergens (I. 385), which calls to regulate indoor asthma allergen hazards in residential dwelling and pest management; (3) Right to Request Flexible Schedule (I. 1399), which protects employees who seek temporary changes to their work schedule for personal events and certain scheduling changes; (4) Right to Know Act, a legislative package that aims to protect the civil rights of New Yorkers while promoting communication, transparency and accountability for everyday interactions between NYPD and the public; and (5) Automatic Benefits (I. 855), which would support a study regarding the feasibility and cost of utilizing City administrative data to determine individuals who are likely eligible for public assistance and to provide electronic notices of eligibility. The nearly 50 passed bills endorsed by the Caucus are listed at the end of the release.


December 20, 2017

Registration required for thousands of previously unaccounted for 
affordable homes with fines for bad landlords
Upgrading Housing Connect to include existing affordable housing with 
notification for eligible units so residents can apply all in one place

New York, NY – Landlords failing to provide required affordable housing in exchange for city financing, tax breaks or additional density will have to register their units and offer new and existing units to residents for rental in one location or face escalating fines under legislation that passed the New York City Council yesterday. Introduction 1015-A, authored by Council Member Ben Kallos and sponsored by Manhattan Borough President Brewer, and Housing and Buildings Chair Williams was introduced in response to a ProPublica report estimating that New York City has paid developers $100 million for 50,000 affordable units that might not be offered for affordable rates.
“New York City is in desperate need of affordable housing. It is a crisis, and we cannot allow landlords to hide even a single unit of it from the public,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We need a full accounting of every affordable unit of housing in the City, and we need regular monitoring and strict enforcement. If New Yorkers are going to pay billions of taxpayer dollars to developers in exchange for building affordable units, we need to ensure residents in need can actually get that affordable housing.”
New York City and State for decades have failed to hold landlords and developers accountable for agreements like 421-a, J-51, and Article XI. In 1993 New York State eliminated penalties for failing to register, allowing thousands of building owners to ignore the law for years and charge rents above the legal limit. These programs provide direct financing, decades-long tax abatements, or additional density to landlords and developers in exchange for building and maintaining affordable housing units whose tenants have income that meet a certain percentage of the Area Mean Income. Together these programs cost the city roughly $1.2 billion per year in tax revenue, but much of the affordable housing is getting lost. ProPublica found that owners of 15,000 buildings — receiving over $100 million from the city — failed to register any affordable units, leaving New Yorkers roughly 50,000 units short of what they paid for. After hearing this legislation, Mayor de Blasio identified 37,141 apartments that were avoiding $304 million in property taxes while failing to comply with the 421-a affordable housing program.


December 19, 2017

Hunger, Housing, Health, and Child Care Benefits Among 40 Human Service Benefits That City Will Study to Improve Participation 
New York, NY - On Tuesday, December 19 the New York City Council passed legislation to study the cost and city’s technical ability to provide pre-filled applications for assistance programs and proactive notice to potential applicants in an effort to sign up more residents who already qualify, but do not participate.
Assistance for low-income New Yorkers who are in need of hunger, housing, health, childcare, or 40 other assistance programs through notifications and pre-filled applications will be studied by the city, under Introduction 855-B authored by Council Member Ben Kallos and passed by the Council.

 550,000 of the 2.3 million New Yorkers who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are not getting it, according to the city. In 2011, Community District 8 on the Upper East Side, represented by Council Member Ben Kallos was first in the city for SNAP under-enrollment with 91% of eligible seniors not enrolled, according to LiveOnNY.
“No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, especially when assistance programs have been created to help those in need,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “I hope that the city’s study will save tax payer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city. Next year, we’ll have the information we need to eliminate the bureaucracy, paperwork, and unnecessary hurdles that prevent our poorest from accessing and keeping the assistance they need to be lifted from poverty.”


December 19, 2017

City to Respond to After Hours Noise Complaints When They Are Happening or Likely to Happen Again
Noise Limit Lowered for After Hours Construction in Residential Neighborhoods

New York, NY – Noise is the top complaint in New York City with booming construction surrounding residents who complain only to see their concerns go unaddressed for days or met with a small fine paid by developers as a cost of doing business. After hours noise will be targeted with new rules for responding when the noise is still happening or is likely to happen again, turning down the volume on after hours construction noise in residential neighborhoods over the next two years, and empowering the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to shut down equipment that is too loud. Introduction 1653-B was authored by Council Member Ben Kallos in collaboration with DEP who helped improve it and co-sponsored by Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides, which passed that committee and is on track to pass the City Council today.
In 2016, violations went down as complaints went up, according to the New York Post. Analysis found that noise complaints peak dramatically after 8PM then falls after midnight with a second increase between 7AM and 9AM according to Pratt Professor Ben Wellington in The New Yorker.


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

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.




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.