Press Releases

October 30, 2017

New York, NY- What is for breakfast lunch, and dinner along with how many children actually eat it is on the menu and passing the City Council thanks to legislation authored by Council Member Kallos. The Department of Education will now report on all school meals for 1.1 million public school children and on planning measures to increase participation in programs like Breakfast After the Bell and the newly announced Universal Free Lunch.
                                                                                      
"No public school child should go hungry in one of the wealthiest cities in the world," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "With the addition of universal lunch, New York City offers a number of options for meals to our students. But we must make sure our kids and families are participating and the food they are served is nutritious.”

"Intro 773-B enables us to ensure that the Free School Lunch for All and Breakfast After the Bell initiatives reach their full potential.  Given the extraordinarily high cost of living in New York City many families are struggling to make ends meet and school meals guarantee that students have the fuel they need to thrive in school." said Liz Accles, Executive Director, Community Food Advocates.

 

October 30, 2017

New York, NY – Today, the New York City Council Education Committee passed Introduction 1638,authored by East Side Middle School students, who are representatives to the Manhattan Leadership Council, and introduced by Council Member Kallos and Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm. This legislation requires reporting on which middle and high schools have a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, the number of teachers, principals, and administrators at each school who have received lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and gender non-conforming (LGBTQGNC) training.

A GSA is a student run club that provides a safe place for LGBTQ students and their allies to meet, have discussions, offer support, and plan events and activities, usually with the aim of raising awareness. According to Advocates for Children of New York, the presence of a GSA in school decreases anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment and makes students feel safer and more comfortable.

This legislation was introduced in response to a doubling in the number of hate crimes in New York City since last year, with anti-transgender incidents cited by the NYPD as a major cause. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in their 2013 National School Climate Survey, “74% of students were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55 % because of their gender expression. As a result of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, 30 % missed at least one day of school in the past month.” However, “LGBT students in schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation.”

“The rise of hate crimes nationally and in the City means it is more important than ever that the City supports our LGBTQ youth through these student-run clubs,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Education Chair Danny Dromm for his lifetime of leadership on education and in the LGBTQ community, it is an honor to partner with him and the students on this legislation. New York City has always been a leader on LGBTQ issues and that includes supporting our students I am proud of the entire City Council for seeing the need for this legislation”

 

October 30, 2017

Today, the Climate Works for All coalition released its plan to reduce NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 12%, by requiring comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits at the city’s large buildings.

Buildings in NYC contribute to 70% of the city’s emissions.  While Mayor de Blasio has announced a commitment to mandate the reduction of on-site fossil fuel usage in large buildings, Climate Works for All, a broad coalition of labor, environmental justice, faith, and community organizations, argues that the retrofits must go further and include the use of electricity from the grid and central steam as well.

The City will only meet its ambitious target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 if it requires a whole building approach.

“The Climate Works for All plan is a strong step forward for New York City’s sustainability efforts and a positive example for cities across the country,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Vice-Chair of the City Council Progressive Caucus. “By paying attention to the way large buildings are built and focusing on the environment, we will demonstrate that we can create an environmental agenda filled with opportunity for workers and that helps the environment. The Progressive Caucus has endorsed a Climate Works for All proposal on building retrofits that protects affordable housing and we look forward to continuing our work to come up with the best legislative package possible.”

 

October 18, 2017

I am here today to give testimony in support of the community-led grassroots zoning text change application submitted to the Commission by the East River Fifties Alliance in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Dan Garodnick, and me. ERFA, the community coalition leading this application, consists of 45 buildings, represented by co-op boards, condo boards and individual owners, and over 2600 individual supporters living in more than 500 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area.

Thank you to Commission Chair Marisa Lago, Vice Chair Kenneth J. Knuckles, and the members of the City Planning Commission for hearing us today. Thank you as well to your staff, and in particular to the Department of City Planning’s community affairs and Manhattan Borough offices’ professional and dedicated work in handling this application.

In the Sutton Area, a small residential neighborhood by the East River in Midtown Manhattan, we have come together to envision a community that welcomes new construction while protecting the rent-regulated tenants who have lived in our neighborhood for decades, like our friends Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez.

We are here to support real housing for real New Yorkers, including affordable housing, instead of 800-foot-high full-story penthouses built to serve as investments, often for foreign speculators.

We envision a residential community in the Sutton Area where new buildings serve the needs of the local community and of the City as a whole, adding to our housing stock for working people and fitting the shape and character of our neighborhood.

We have seen the super-tall buildings at 432 Park and 111 West 57th Street, and we believe they have no role on quiet side streets in fully residential neighborhoods. When I first learned that the super-tall buildings could creep onto our residential side streets, I wanted to do something that had not been done before: to organize the community to propose our own plan to rezone the neighborhood for the present and the future. That is what we did, led by residents from the Sutton Area and co-signed by four elected officials: we filed the first ever community-led rezoning at City Planning, which we are discussing today.

This rezoning corrects an accident of history that has left the Sutton Area the only residential neighborhood in the city with uncapped R10 zoning without any further protections. The proposal seeks to impose tower-on-a-base zoning, which would result in squatter, more human-scale buildings, with a dense base and a shorter tower, adding more units to our housing stock, which will be filled by real New Yorkers. Depending on lot configuration, maximum building heights in tower-on-a-base zoning are estimated between 300 and 500 feet, far closer to the built context of the neighborhood than a super-tall building that would cast a shadow all the way across the East River into Queens.

 

October 16, 2017

Bicycle Safety Improves on East Side for Third Year in a Row

Bike Safety Education, Equipment & Enforcement Program Led by

Council Members Kallos and Garodnick Gets Results

New York, NY —  Following an increase in education, safety equipment, and enforcement, bike safety from 30th to 97th streets on Manhattan’s East Side continues to improve as a result of a program led by Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.  Since the program’s launch by Council Member Kallos in 2014 there has been a reduction in the number of collisions involving cyclists each year, and fewer pedestrians and cyclists injured in collisions.

The NYPD reports 17th and 19th precinct report Year to Date (YTD) through mid-October:

·         1,557 summons issued to bicycles mostly for not giving right of way to pedestrians and disobeying a steady red signal;

·         15,929 moving violations issued to vehicles, with 5,717 violations for improper turns, 2,730 violations for disobeying a traffic control device, and 1,541 violations for not giving right of way to pedestrians among other violations as of August; and

·         103 seizures of “e-bikes” with all but one receiving a summons (ECB/OATH), representing more than 10% of all enforcement with 923 seized citywide;

 

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.”