This page is a re-post of our City Council government newsletter. You can view the original post on our City Council website.
Now more than ever, government must be accountable. Throughout this year’s global pandemic, we have continued to make our office available by phone and online in order to best serve the district during these toughest of times. We have also sought to honor routines like First Friday, the publishing of our monthly newsletter and of course this annual report.
This year, we're only highlighting concrete achievements, so important issues might be missing, but that only means we've got more work to do. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without you and with just under 18 months left in my final term in the Council, I hope we can use the precious time we have left to continue our collaboration.
As a proud graduate of our public education system and the Bronx High School of Science, I believe in giving every child a world-class education. We've opened 900 new pre-kindergarten seats and secured 824 new school seats for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island. We've invested $6.5 million in STEM education, rebuilt our schools, and are building new gyms and green roofs for schools. We've held an annual Student Art Show at Sotheby's, passed legislation authored by middle-school students to support LGBT peers, passed a law to put GPS on school buses, and ended hunger in school by making school food free.
New York City has emerged as a biotechnology hub as we cut the ribbon on a new half-billion-dollar campus expansion of Rockefeller University and the brand new Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island. We've opened new schools, renovated libraries, and supported the Excelsior Scholarship to make city and state public college tuition-free. As we seek to bridge the digital divide with universal broadband, we fought alongside now-New York State Attorney General Tish James and won low-cost high-speed Internet for low-income families and seniors.
Working alongside Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade, we've invested heavily in our parks, securing $275 Million for a resilient East River Esplanade, reconstructing Carl Schurz Playground, John Jay pool and courts, and even expanding Sutton Place Park. Additionally, we launched and funded conservancies to keep our parks beautiful and funded security cameras to keep parks safe.
The fight for more affordable housing and against overdevelopment has been tough, but we have made significant strides. Hundreds of thousands of affordable homes will now be available for re-rental thanks to a law I wrote, with 6,000 affordable homes built or preserved on city land under my oversight and 1,000 affordable apartments built or preserved in my district alone. We’ve also made significant progress stopping the march of supertall towers from billionaires row by winning the first-of-its-kind, community-led rezoning of the Sutton Area, though we continue to fight one building in court. We’ve gone on to rezone residential neighborhoods throughout the city to stop the construction of buildings with empty voids that only serve to give billionaires better views. We’ve taken on construction to count every life and even turned down the volume on after-hours construction.
The corrupting influence of money in politics has been ever-present as we fight big money interests on behalf of residents like you. That’s why I authored the new public campaign finance system to get big money out, weakened the influence of lobbyists, and authored the law to outlaw most outside income making the City Council a full time job. I even refused tens of thousands in cash payments, which the Daily News called “legal grease,” then authored the law that ended the corrupt practice. Taken together I hope to make scandals like Rivington a thing of the past with elected officials who work for you.
We’ve taken every chance to bring structural change to our government as I proposed amendments to our city’s Charter that voters overwhelmingly passed, including campaign finance reform along with term limits and urban planners for Community Boards in 2018 as well as ethics reform and budget independence for the Borough President in 2019. We also put the budget online so you can see how we spend every penny.
We've focused on public health with laws to take on Legionnaires' disease and fast food contributing to childhood obesity, and we've worked to connect New Yorkers with the benefits they need automatically. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, we opened 550 new hospital beds in district, launched a supply clearing house, supported testing, and we continue distributing masks, sanitizer, and food.
I believe in climate change and evidence-based governance. That's why I authored and passed a resolution making New York City the largest city on the planet to declare a climate emergency. The following year the Mayor adopted our ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles in parks. Through our Grow NYC Fresh Food Box, we have provided access to healthy, locally sourced sustainable farm-fresh produce.
When I promised to clean up, I was focused on corruption in government, but that didn't stop us from putting a new large covered trash can on every corner or power washing our sidewalks. We've opened supportive housing to help the homeless. We fought the Marine Transfer Station, and though it opened to fewer trucks than expected, I still believe that it does not belong in a residential community.
Commutes have improved. Thanks to the vigilance of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney we finally opened the Second Avenue Subway. We also added new transit options including ferries, bike share, and faster buses through Select Bus Service. As part of Vision Zero, we invested in infrastructure to make our streets safer and launched a bike safety program that made it safer to be a pedestrian.
None of this would have been possible without you, your support, my team, and fellow residents who stepped up to join us in our countless fights. We've got at least another 17 months to go, so let's make them count!
Yours in service,
P.S. as we seek to prioritize in our remaining time, please share what's important to you at BenKallos.com/priorities-2020
BY THE NUMBERS
Constituent Service Cases: 15,792
Introductions Authored: 137
Introductions Enacted into Law: 42 (31%)
Resolutions Authored: 23
Resolutions Adopted: 9 (39%)
City Council Attendance (excluding Paternity Leave): 98.25%
Land Use Matters Adopted: 11
Rezonings to Stop Overdevelopment: 2
Lawsuits Against Overdevelopment: 2
Legislation Sponsored: 1,804
Legislation Sponsored Adopted or Enacted: 1,180 (65%)
Ben in Your Building: 65+
First Fridays & Brainstorm with Ben: 70+
Mobile Hours: Hundreds
Free Legal Clinics: Hundreds
Community Meetings: Hundreds
Event Registrations: 6,000+
Petitions Signed: 10,000+
Reusable Bags Distributed: 4,900
Participatory Budgeting Investments in Community: $10.3 million
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A WORLD CLASS PUBLIC EDUCATION
- Securing 900 New Pre-Kindergarten Seats for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island Along with Better Pay for Teachers
- 824 New K–8 School Seats Secured for the East Side
- $6.5 Million Invested in STEM Education from Hydroponics Labs to New Laptops
- Rebuilding Award-Winning Public Schools
- New Gyms and Playgrounds for Upper East Side Schools
- Launched Dual Language French Pre-Kindergarten
- $5.9 Million for Green Roofs
- Five Years of Public School Student Art Shows at Sotheby’s
- Gender Sexuality Education Law Authored by Middle School Students
- GPS for School Buses
- Ending School Hunger with Free Breakfast, Breakfast after the Bell and Lunch
BUILDING THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY THROUGH PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
- Opening Rockefeller University’s New Half-Billion Dollar Campus
- Opening and Collaborating with Cornell Tech
- New School for Children’s Academy
- $2.5 Million Renovation for East 67th Street Library
- Supporting Excelsior City and State University Scholarship
IMPROVING AND CREATING NEW PARKS
- $275 Million for a Resilient East River Esplanade
- $3.5 Million Reconstruction of Carl Schurz Playground
- $1 Million for John Jay Pool and New Basketball Courts
- $2.9 Million Expansion of Sutton Place Park
- Free Summer Tennis and Discounts at Sutton
- $1.4 Million for New Security Cameras in Hard to Patrol Parks
- James Cagney Place Recognized as Official Pedestrian Plaza
- Launching and Supporting Conservancies with a Quarter Million Dollars
- Revitalizing the Waterfront Management Advisory Board
FIGHTING FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND AGAINST OVERDEVELOPMENT
- Getting More Affordable Housing on the Market
- Won Citywide Rezoning to Close Voids Loophole
- Rezoned Sutton to Stop Super-Talls: Court Fight Continues
- Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise
- Safer Construction with Law to Count Every Life
- Ending Downsizing of Seniors into Studio Apartments
- Protected Quiet Side Streets from Overdevelopment and Won Mandatory Affordable Housing for New Neighborhoods
- Reformed the Board of Standards and Appeals
- Protected Landmarks Citywide & Recognized for Leading Preservation
- Opening New Free and Affordable Art Spaces with ChaShaMa
- Opening Up Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS)
- Tenant Safety Protection Laws
- 6,000 Affordable Homes Built or Preserved on City Land
- 1,000 Affordable Apartments Built or Preserved in the District
GOOD GOVERNMENT REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY
- Authored the New Public Campaign Finance System to Get Big Money Out
- Eliminated Outside Income and Legal Bribery
- Weakening the Influence of Special Interest Money in Politics
- Charter Revision 2019: All Five Questions Passed
- Charter Revision 2018: Won Term Limits for Community Boards and Urban Planners
- Passed Online Voter Registration and Enacted Voter Information Portal in New York City
- Opened the City Budget to the Public
- Won Affordable High-Speed Internet for Low-Income New Yorkers
- Demanded Answers on the Rivington Nursing Home Scandal
- Police Reform
- Coronavirus: Opening New Beds, Expanding Testing, Securing and Distributing Masks, Serving Meals
- Healthy Happy Meals Law Takes Effect
- Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention Law Implemented
- Automatic Benefits Law, API and Study
- Declaring a Climate Emergency
- Sale of Single-Use Plastic Bottles Banned in City Parks
- Composting on the Upper East Side
- Fresh Food Box
QUALITY OF LIFE
- A New Trash Can on Every Corner
- Power Washing the Neighborhood Block by Block with Wildcat
- Helping the Homeless and Opening Supportive Housing
- Scaffolding Legislation Adopted
- Improved Quality of Life Enforcement
- Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
- Retirement Security for All
- Opening the Second Avenue Subway
- Ferry Service for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
- Select Bus Service for M79 and M86 with Automated Bus-Lane Enforcement
- CitiBike Secured for Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
- Bike Safety Program Gets Results with Safety Improving Over Five Years
- Roosevelt Island Tram Approved for Another 50 Years
- Prioritizing Pedestrian Safety
A WORLD CLASS PUBLIC EDUCATION
Securing 900 New Pre-K Seats for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island Along with Better Pay for Pre-K Teachers
The Upper East Side now has 1,122 pre-K seats compared to just 154 seats in 2014. As you may have read in The Wall Street Journal, we secured these seats following the passage of Local Law 72 of 2018, and our constant advocacy as a community, including a rally with elected officials from all over the city. I’ve been proud to join the School Construction Authority, elected officials, real estate developers, and the workers who built the sites to open 90 seats at 1683 Third Avenue and 144 seats at 252 East 57th Street in 2018, and 180 seats at 355 East 76th Street in 2019.
With 900 new pre-k seats opening in total since I took office, I will continue working with the City so that every four-year-old in my district can get the benefits of pre-K without having to commute an hour away. Thank you to the parents and families who have worked with us to accomplish this. For more information on the ribbon-cutting for the pre-k center, read the press release and coverage by Patch, or watch it at BenKallos.com/videos.
One challenge since the beginning has been that teachers working for community-based providers were paid less than their counterparts at public schools, making our expansion more challenging. I was proud to advocate for and win equal funding for these programs. After this win in 2018, we began our fight for Universal 3-K, which you can show your support for by signing the petition at https://benkallos.com/3k
824 New K–8 School Seats Secured for the East Side
Since I ran for office, countless residents have shared that we don't have enough K–8 school seats, especially with all the new residential construction.
That's why I focused over the past six years on advocating for more school seats. As you may have read in the New York Times, when the City was unresponsive, I wrote two laws that required the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority to provide more transparency around where the city planned to build new school seats and how they determined need, and to share how many children apply and get denied entrance at their school of choice (Local Law 167 of 2018 and Local Law 72 of 2018).
In 2018, following the passage of the law, we won $92.85 million for 640 new school seats. Then, when the law went into effect, we won an additional 184 school seats. Thank you to the parents and community leaders who fought to reduce overcrowding in our schools, and thank you to the DOE, SCA and the Mayor for making this commitment. Now it’s our job to make sure the promise is kept and we see a school being built soon. For more information, read the coverage in Our Town and the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
$6.5 Million Invested in STEM Education from Hydroponics Labs to New Laptops
I’ve invested over $6.5 million in discretionary funding from my office to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education in our local public schools with new computers, smart boards and science labs. For our kids to be ready for the future, we have to invest in STEM courses that train them from an early age. Schools that have received or are set to receive these STEM upgrades include:
- P.S. 77 Lower Lab - $476,000 for mobile STEM carts, technology, laptops, and A/C.
- P.S. 151 Yorkville Community School - $143,000 for technology and laptops.
- P.S. 158 Bayard Taylor - $359,000 for technology and laptops.
- P.S. 183 Robert Stevenson - $1,502, 000 for technology upgrades, laptops, AC, New Science Lab
- P.S. 198 Isador Ida Straus - $460,500 for classrooms, technology, laptops, and A/C
- P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island - $365,000 for technology and laptops.
- P.S. 225 Ella Baker - $175,000 for laptops.
- P.S. 290 Manhattan New School - $110,000 for laptops.
- P.S. 527 East Side School for Social Action - $190,000 for theater and technology.
- M.S. 114 East Side Middle School - $282,000 for laptops, technology upgrades.
- M.S. 177 Yorkville East Middle School - $178,000 for technology and laptops.
- Eleanor Roosevelt High School - $234,000 for classrooms, technology, and laptops.
- Manhattan International High School - $340,000 for technology upgrades and laptops.
- Urban Academy High School - $283,000 for technology and laptops.
- Vanguard High School - $135,000 for technology and laptops.
- Talent Unlimited High School - $150,000 for auditorium and technology.
- Life Sciences Secondary and High School - $175,000 for technology and laptops.
In October 2019, we cut the ribbon on a new $600,000 hydroponics lab for P.S. 183 that was funded with money I allocated after the project won Participatory Budgeting in 2017 with 1,514 votes. A special thank you to Principal Martin Woodard, PTA member and PB delegate Michael Ekstract for this project and to the teachers, staff, parents, and kids who will bring it to life. For more information on the new lab, read the release or watch the ribbon cutting at BenKallos.com/Videos
This March, I also joined Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and students and school administrators at Eleanor Roosevelt High School to cut the ribbon on $212,000 worth of equipment and upgrades to the school’s library, including new LED lighting, new flooring, furniture and even new podcasting equipment. For more information on the new gym, read the release or coverage in Patch and Our Town. For more information on the new equipment and renovations, read the release or watch the ribbon-cutting at BenKallos.com/videos
Rebuilding Award-Winning Public Schools
Since I've been Council Member, the School Construction Authority has rebuilt multiple schools in the district replacing facades, roofs, and even windows. With many of these beautiful school buildings over a century old, it is important that we retain their historical character while modernizing them for 21st century education and meeting the challenges posed by completing construction without disrupting the school year. During my time in office, P.S. 158, P.S. 183, and P.S. 77/198 have all seen major multi-million dollar renovations, with the first two winning historic preservation awards in 2019.
New Gyms and Playgrounds for Upper East Side Schools
It’s no secret that there's not much space for children to play and get exercise on the Upper East Side, let alone in schools. When parents and students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School came out advocating for new gym space, we got the Mayor's attention. With a student-led petition on my website that got over 5,000 signatures, we secured $6.5 million dollars for a brand new, double-height gym. The new gym will occupy the 6th floor of a new pre-K center located at 355 East 76th Street.
Some of the grade schools in my district also don't have a gym, like P.S. 151 and P.S. 527. That’s why when the Spence School was building a new field house at East 90th Street, we won a partnership for public schools to be able to use the building during school hours. Parents, students, teachers, and administrators have also been fighting for new playspace, and their efforts won $500,000 through participatory budgeting for a new playground at PS 77 and P.S. 198.
Launched Dual Language French Pre-Kindergarten
After months of efforts, in April 2020 I announced that a French dual-language program with two classes will officially be offered on the Upper East Side in time for fall 2020. This rollout was made possible by a partnership with my office, the French Consulate in New York, the Community Education Council, members of the Francophone community like Fabrice Jaumont and Stephane Lautner, and more than two hundred families who signed our petition for dual language programming in School District 2. We met with the Department of Education in December, February and a third time in March, following which we won a commitment to a program at the East 76th Street Pre-Kindergarten Center.
Securing French dual language programming on the Upper East Side was the first step on the path toward recognizing and meeting the needs of multilingual families across the city. Next, we hope to bring French dual language programming to grades K-5 and introducing programming for other languages like Mandarin. If you are interested in bringing other dual language programs to Upper East Side schools, email BKallos@BenKallos.com. For more information on the initial rollout, visit BenKallos.com/press-releases
$5.9 Million for Green Roofs
Without room to create more educational play space, we’ve been forced to look up. Following several participatory budgeting wins, we’ve allocated $2 million dollars for green roofs at schools all over District 5 and secured an additional $3.9 million dollars from the city, including:
- P.S. 151 Yorkville Community School – $750,000 ($500,000 Participatory Budgeting)
- P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island – $1 million ($500,000 from Participatory Budgeting)
- P.S. 290 Manhattan New School – $1.52 Million ($500,000 from Participatory Budgeting)
- M.S. 114 East Side Middle School – $800,000
- Yorkville Community School – $1,870,000 ($500,000 from Participatory Budgeting)
This will provide students an opportunity to be exposed to the future of energy and inspire them to look to careers of the future, as well as understand environmental protection.
Five Years of Public School Student Art Shows at Sotheby’s
As a lover of the arts, I am proud to have sponsored and hosted 5 annual Public School Art Shows at Sotheby's, where students got to see their own work hanging on walls that have also hung works of art by famous artists such as Picasso and Rembrandt. Unfortunately for 2020, the art show was suspended but it is my office’s goal to bring it back later this year or in 2021.
The Student Art Show features hundreds of pieces of art by student artists from nearly a dozen public schools on the Upper East Side, with participants ranging from grade school kids to high school seniors. To see photos of the artwork, visit Facebook.com/BenKallos/photos
Gender Sexuality Education Law Authored by Middle School Students
The New York Daily News covered legislation authored by students from East Side Middle School and the Manhattan Leadership Council that I introduced and passed. This new law authored by middle school students is aimed at helping LGBTQ students in New York City schools who may be subject to bullying. The law expands the number of gender sexuality alliance clubs in schools by mandating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and gender non-conforming (LGBTQGNC) training. Student testimony and personal stories were crucial in getting this passed, and I thank those who were brave enough to share their experiences. For more information on the law read the BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
GPS for School Buses
Parent advocates and I continue to apply pressure on the Department of Education to ensure GPS devices are installed on all New York City school buses, as is mandated by legislation I authored and passed. As reported by CBS 2 and PIX 11, the rollout of GPS devices on buses has been rough. The New York Daily News reported that the city’s Education Department promised parents could get real-time information by calling a hotline, but when parents got through to an operator, the Department still couldn't track the whereabouts of all buses. Nearly 700 buses reported delays on the first day of the Fall 2019 semester. As the 2020-2021 school year gets closer and the City grapples with the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, the DOE and the Office of Pupil Transport is sure to face new obstacles. However, it is my objective to see that the City is obeying the law as soon as possible and bring peace of mind to parents who just want to know where there kid is when something goes wrong.
While the quick implementation of a reliable system has been challenging, I am confident that the City’s partnership with rideshare app Via will result in an app that will show parents where their kids are in real-time while simultaneously improving bus efficiency. I met with Via CEO Daniel Ramot to see how we can hasten the process to get the full system up and running as soon as possible. See recent coverage of the issue from The City, CBS 2, Fast Company, Staten Island Advance and the New York Daily News, FOX 5, New York Post.
Ending School Hunger with Free Breakfast, Breakfast after the Bell and Lunch
The New York Times covered how after years of advocacy with organizations like Lunch4Learning and Community Food Advocates, as of September 2017, all 1.1 million children who attend New York City public schools now have access to universal free lunch. No child enrolled in a New York City public school should go hungry in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. That is why I authored and passed Local Law 215 requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to set a goal of ending public student hunger and report on all school meals. We continue to ensure every one of our kids has the food they need, and recently won funding in this year’s budget for Breakfast After the Bell. For more information, check out the coverage CNBC and in The New York Times.
BUILDING THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY THROUGH PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
Opening Rockefeller University’s New Half-Billion Dollar Campus
I joined Rockefeller University in opening the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Rockefeller River Campus and cut the ribbon with Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and Rockefeller University Executive Vice President Timothy O'Connor. The $500 million research facility contains 160,000 square feet of both bio-medical and bioscience laboratories, which fits sleekly along the river-edge of their campus, rather than towering over the community. This will help New York City compete with cities like Boston and states like California for jobs in this field. Rockefeller University boasts 25 Nobel Laureates in the fields of medicine and science, which I must finally admit is more than my alma mater, the Bronx High School of Science, which has 8 (the most for any high school in America!). It has been exciting to see this project advance from when it came before me at the City Council in 2014, to the groundbreaking in 2015, to joining university officials in 2017 as they lowered large sections of the building on to the FDR from a barge in the East River overnight.
As part of this project, we formed a public-private partnership between my office and the University, that included a $15 million investment in the East River Esplanade from 63rd Street to 68th Street, which Rockefeller University will maintain in perpetuity.
I consider this world-class institution a true asset to the Upper East Side, the city, state, country and world at large. For more information on the new building, read the release or read the commitment letter from the University at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opening and Collaborating with Cornell Tech
It was a historic occasion for Roosevelt Island as I joined City leaders and residents, including former and present mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, as well as Governor Cuomo, at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Cornell Tech’s energy-efficient campus on Roosevelt Island. The state of the art facility was made possible in part by a generous donation on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg’s charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies. The campus will not only take part in critical technological advancements, but it will also create hundreds of new jobs on Roosevelt Island.
By diligently working with community organizers and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, my office ensured that the construction project was done by barge and stayed on track without harming the Island. Cornell Tech will grow jobs and educate the next tech leaders right on Roosevelt Island, making sure then next big thing is “Made In New York”. Cornell Tech is now in the process of attracting millions in investment on Roosevelt Island and in New York City. Since Cornell Tech opened, they have collaborated with my office on a number of events, including the "Ignite My future Initiative" and the Launching of the TCS $50 Million Investment in Cornell Tech to Advance K-12 Digital Literacy in New York City Schools. For more information, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
New School for Children's Academy
Children’s Academy is a K–12 nonprofit school serving children with speech and language delays on behalf of the Department of Education. I was proud to join them as we cut the ribbon on 50 new K–12 seats at their new location at 317 East 50th Street. We've worked closely with the school to ensure that parents and the school are reimbursed by the city in a more timely manner and most recently to get through the bureaucracy necessary to open a new educational facility. Thank you to Deborah Blenman-Green, Head of School, for welcoming my office to the ribbon cutting and for all the great work her team did to get the location open. If you or someone you know has a child receiving a special education and have not been reimbursed by the city please let me know so we can help get you paid at BKallos@BenKallos.com
$2.5 Million Renovation for East 67th Street Library
I kicked off 2020 by cutting a ribbon to commemorate the 67th Street Library’s reopening after much-needed improvements. We celebrated the 114-year-old building’s $2.5 million makeover, which included a new roof, HVAC system, façade, and technology upgrades. The event was personal for me, because this is the library where I got my first library card and checked out books for class research when I was in elementary school at Park East. Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson for providing the $1.5 million in funding that I requested and to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York Public Library for the remaining $1 million. Learn more at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Supporting Excelsior City and State University Scholarship
I am proud to have supported Governor Cuomo’s first in the nation Excelsior Scholarship. Students whose families make $125,000 per year or less now qualify for free college tuition at all City (CUNY) and State (SUNY) two- and four-year colleges in New York State as long as they live in state. When I ran for office in 2013, one of the "fresh ideas" for which the New York Times endorsed me was providing a debt-free higher education for CUNY students where the City would forgive student debt for every year the student remained in New York City after graduation, so that the taxes from their increased income would pay for their education and more. For details on the Excelsior Scholarship, visit ny.gov/programs.
IMPROVING AND CREATING NEW PARKS
$275 Million for a Resilient East River Esplanade
As the New York Daily News reported, we are connecting the East River Esplanade at 60th Street to Sutton Place Park South as we continue to expand parkland in our district in support of a 32-mile contiguous park around the island of Manhattan—the "Green Ring." The Mayor announced $100 million in funding in 2017 and unveiled designs last year. This project will connect a combined 1,000 acres of open space in both directions on the East River Esplanade and create a new greenway by adding additional acres of park space. Soon my constituents and I will finally be able to run, bike, or walk the entire length of my district from Midtown East to East Harlem.
We have now secured a total of $275 million dollars for the East River Esplanade:
- $21 million on Esplanade-wide site inspections at E. 125th to E. 60th streets
- $25 million on repairs and improvements to E. 117th to E. 114th streets in East Harlem
- $1 million from my office in 2017 for irrigation from 96th to 90th Streets.
- $35.5 million on repairs and improvements to E. 94th to E. 90th streets on the Upper East Side
- Opened the 90th Street Pier in 2016 to the Public.
- $35 million for renovations from 90th to 88th Streets funded in 2014 with work started in 2017 for 2018 completion.
- $1.8 million from Council District 5 funding to modernize Carl Schurz Park Playground on 84th Street.
- $500,000 from my office in 2016 to renovate John Finley Walk following recommendations of CIVITAS from 84th to 81st.
- $1 million secured from Brearley to renovate the overhang above John Finley Walk following recommendations from CIVITAS from 83rd to 82nd.
- $16 million to rebuild the crumbling stairwell from 81st to 78th streets opened in 2017.
- $1 million secured from the Hospital for Special Surgery for a master plan from 78th street with irrigation, planters, and noise barriers from 72nd to 70th streets with maintenance in perpetuity.
- $1.25 million from my office in 2016 for irrigation and planters from 70th to 68th.
- $15 million secured from Rockefeller University in 2014 for 68th to 62nd streets with work completed in 2018 on a seawall, new design, irrigation, noise barriers, and maintenance in perpetuity.
- $22.3 million on repairs and improvements to E. 63rd to E. 62nd streets.
- $29 million in public-private funding secured as a community benefit from Memorial Sloan Kettering to build Andrew Haswell Green Phase 2B from 61st to 60th streets.
- $100 million in funding in 2016 from the Mayor with completion slated for 2022 to connect the Esplanade from 61st to 53rd streets.
- $4.6 million to rebuild Andrew Haswell Green under the Alice Aycock sculpture with accessibility, game tables, seating, and a new lawn opened in 2017.
Rockefeller University, 64th - 68th Street: $15 Million
As the Upper East Side Patch reported, we also cut the ribbon on a $15 million public/private partnership with Rockefeller University stemming from their new building over the FDR has resulted in $15 million for a new East River Esplanade from 64th - 68th Street, repaired seawalls, and a $1 million trust for maintenance in perpetuity. Visit the new Esplanade with improved landscaping, new seating and lighting, designated bike lanes, and a new noise barrier along the FDR Drive for a more peaceful park.
The Rockefeller University also made a $150,000 gift to Friends of the East River Esplanade, a grass-roots conservancy dedicated to the restoration and renovation of the Esplanade from 60th to 120th Streets. Watch coverage of the ribbon cutting at BenKallos.com/Videos or from New York 1.
Hospital for Special Surgery, 70th - 72nd then to 78th Street: $1 Million
In 2015, I created a public/private partnership with the Hospital for Special Surgery to renovate the Esplanade from 70th to 72nd Street. HSS also agreed to develop a Master Plan for the East River Esplanade from 62nd Street to 78th Street, in partnership with Rockefeller University, and to add noise barriers, a water fountain and irrigation to keep plants alive, new planting beds, improved lighting, repaired railings, and new seating and paving, all with a commitment to maintenance in perpetuity.
For more information read coverage on Patch, the release, or watch the press conference at BenKallos.com/videos
New 81st Street Pedestrian Bridge, 79th - 81st Street: $16 Million
We cut the ribbon on the East 81st Street pedestrian bridge, connecting the upper Esplanade and John Finley Walk to the lower esplanade. The $16 million-dollar project replaced the decrepit stairwell built half a century ago. The new bridge isn't just a ramp, but an amenity in and of itself with glass viewing portals, rest points, and a garden below. The new pedestrian bridge features glass walls to preserve beautiful views of the East River, stainless steel railings and fencing, fresh concrete and new bridge bearings. For more information on the project, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Brearley School Overhang, 82nd - 83rd Street: $1.5 Million
After two years of negotiations, we secured another public-private partnership with an investment of over $1 million from Brearley to rehabilitate its overhang and maintain it in perpetuity. The plan includes colorful new designs, contemporary lighting, green walls, new planters, and a partnership with a local conservancy. For more information, read the reporting from Our Town, the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases, or coverage in Patch.
New Upper East Side Park Opens at 90th Street Pier
The 90th Street Pier, which was closed to the public, only visible through the bars of a gate, is now a public park. Following my advocacy in partnership with Friends of the East River Esplanade, other East Side elected officials, the Department of Transportation, and NYC Parks, we were able to add more than 3,000 feet of park space to the East River Esplanade.
Read more about the new 90th Street Pier Park in the Upper East Side Patch and Manhattan Express.
$3.5 Million Reconstruction of Carl Schurz Playground
After years of working to secure $3.5 million dollars for a brand new playground, with $2.5 million from my office and the City Council and $775,000 from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, we broke ground on the project to renovate Carl Schurz Park Playground.
This new playground will feature a more vibrant design thanks to improved play equipment, additional swings, a new sprinkler, new game tables, plantings, and benches. The smaller Catbird Playground at the north end of the playground will remain open during the renovation. The new playground will also have ADA-accessible ramps connecting Catbird with the larger playground. For more information about the yearlong project, read the press release, watch the groundbreaking at BenKallos.com/videos, or check out coverage by Upper East Side Patch.
$1 Million for John Jay Pool and New Basketball Courts
A nearly $1 million investment in John Jay Pool brought upgrades to this highly trafficked public swimming spot on 77th and Cherokee. I joined Parks Department officials to cut the ribbon at John Jay Park's outdoor pool where the pool filtration system was replaced with a new state-of-the-art system that improves reliability and reduces energy use for years to come. For more information on the pool’s reopening, visit nycgovparks.org/parks/john-jay-park-and-pool.
When the basketball court at John Jay Park fell into bad condition, Upper East Side dad Greg Davis, whose two sons play basketball at the park, wouldn’t take no for an answer. Over the course of four years, Greg Davis had nearly perfect attendance at more than 40 monthly First Friday meetings with me from 8am to 10am. Each month, Greg shared with me the work he and my staff had done: several 311 requests and direct advocacy with Community Board 8 and the Parks Department. Greg succeeded in getting improvements done by the Parks Department, with newly painted playing lines, a smooth playing surface, and three new polycarbonate backboards with shooting squares and nets. Read the release on the new courts at BenKallos.com/press-release, watch the announcement at BenKallos.com/videos. You can also read the coverage from Upper East Side Patch.
$2.9 Million Expansion of Sutton Place Park
The new Sutton Place Park is open! The long-awaited opening was attended by dozens of children and families, and members of the Sutton Area Community and Sutton Place Park Conservancy. The new park, which came at a total cost of $2.875 million, was built atop a deck over the F.D.R. Drive on what was once a private garden. It connects two small parks at 56th and 57th Streets, adding some 10,000 square feet of park space.
The new green space is the result of a collaboration between the Parks Department and 1 Sutton Place South, which subdivided its private garden in order to provide more park space for the community. I am proud of the work my office did to push the construction of this park along, but we must thank those who fought for years to make this happen. For more information on the new Sutton Place Park, read prior coverage in Our Town or check out the release at BenKallos.com/releases
Free Summer Tennis and Discounts at Sutton
The Queensboro Oval now has expanded summer programming for the public and more affordable drop-in hours. The new programming began Father’s Day 2019 to mark the beginning of a more accessible Oval for all New Yorkers. The change comes after years of our advocacy alongside my fellow elected officials and Community Board 8. The Parks Department listened to our concerns that the prices at the tennis club were expensive and that public access should be the top priority when awarding the next contract. Some of the victories we won for the community include:
- An expansion of the summer public access season from 10 weeks under the old contract to 22 weeks of FREE tennis for anyone with a tennis permit from the Parks Department for $10 for youth, $20 for seniors, or $100.
- $10 walk-in rate hours for six hours a day during the Winter Season.
- Free and $10 per person programs for Youth and Seniors during the Winter Season.
My advocacy to fix this issue involved supporting a rally at the space in 2016 organized by Community Board 8 members Susan Evans and Peggy Price. I also wrote a letter to the Parks Department in which I raised several concerns and testified before the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) and the Parks Department. Now that Parks has awarded the new contract and listened to many of my requests on behalf of residents. For more info on the tennis program, visit nycgovparks.org/parks/queensboro-oval/facilities/tennis
$1.4 Million for New Security Cameras in Hard to Patrol Parks
As the New York Daily News reported, at the request of neighborhood organizations and residents, my office allocated $1.4 million funding for the City to install security cameras in hard-to-patrol public spaces along the East River Esplanade. The locations for the cameras were chosen in consultation with community organizations and the NYPD following a positive vote by hundreds of residents in Participatory Budgeting. Locations of new security cameras:
Hard-to-Patrol Parks - $160,000
- 64th Street and FDR Drive to cover pedestrian bridge and Andrew Haswell Green - $35,000
- FDR Drive at 65th Street and 68th Street to cover East River Esplanade - $90,000
- 70th Street to cover the East River Esplanade - $35,000
Transit Hubs - $141,000
- 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue to cover Q subway station
- 86th Street at 2nd Avenue to cover Q subway station
- 86th Street at 3rd Avenue to cover 4/5/6 and Q subway stations
- 86th Street and Lexington Avenue to cover 4/5/6 station
Quality of Life Hotspots - $35,000
- 75th Street and 1st Avenue to cover local quality of life hotspot
The cameras are linked directly to the 19th Precinct using fiber optics and the innovative ARGUS system with the intention to provide immediate police responses to criminal activity. In fiscal year 2020 additional cameras were funded/
- $171,000 at there transit and traffic hubs
- $398,000 to cover 7 additional entrances to parks in the district
- $172,000 to cover 3 sites within the 23rd Precinct
- $285,000 to cover 5 additional locations in the Upper East Side, exact locations TBD.
For more details on the new cameras along the East River Esplanade and on East 86th Street be sure to read Patch’s coverage or watch the press conference at BenKallos.com/videos.
James Cagney Place Recognized as Official Pedestrian Plaza
Six years ago when I was elected, I promised I would protect as much open space as possible on the Upper East Side. This is why I was proud to officially designate James Cagney Place, which has been closed off from traffic since I was a boy, as an official Pedestrian Plaza!
Thank you to Community Board 8 Members Rita Popper and David Rosenstein, R-Y Management, and the Department of Transportation for their partnership in making this happen. The Plaza now holds great events including a New Year’s Eve Fun Run. You can even watch the tree lighting and sing-along that I attended with Assembly Member Dan Quart. For more information on the work that went into accomplishing this, read the release or read the coverage in Our Town and Patch.
Launching and Supporting Conservancies with a Quarter Million Dollars
There is less park space per resident on the Upper East Side than almost anywhere else in the City, which means we need to invest in and care for every inch. I’ve been proud to help fund or support numerous conservancies, including for:
- Sutton Place Parks ($62,500 since 2015)
- East River Esplanade ($51,000 since 2014)
- St. Catherine’s Park ($59,500 since 2014)
- John Jay Park ($52,500 since 2016)
- Upper Green Side ($36,000 since 2015)
Revitalizing the Waterfront Management Advisory Board
As sea levels rise and New York City continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy, we need to do as much as we can to protect our City from the dangers of climate change. In 2016, legislation I introduced to revive the Waterfront Management Advisory Board became law. This legislation reconstituted the board's role, ensuring it plays an important part in advising New York City on how to best revitalize and protect our 520 miles of shoreline. Under the new law, membership to the board is expanded to include more diverse voices, as well as every level of government. Read the law and release with the full list of benefits, and coverage by SiLive.com
FIGHTING FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND AGAINST OVERDEVELOPMEN
Getting More Affordable Housing on the Market
For the people who think that they can build their way out of the housing crisis with market-rate condos, the New York Times and The Atlantic recently shared that of all the condos built since 1995, half of them are sitting there empty. For those who have an oversimplified understanding of economics or who believe we just need to have supply exceed demand, it’s time to face the reality that developers would rather leave their condos empty than make anything affordable for everyday New Yorkers.
I supported Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing. But those units are only offered through a lottery involving tens if not hundreds of thousands of people for each one. Being able to afford to live in our great city shouldn't just be a matter of winning the lottery.
Worse yet, I learned from a hero and whistleblower, Stephen Werner at HPD, that more than 50,000 units of affordable housing might be getting billions in city subsidies while charging market rates. Working with him, ProPublica, and his union the Organization of Staff Analysts, we authored legislation to force landlords to register every city-subsidized affordable unit and to let middle-class and low-income New Yorkers apply for hundreds of thousands of units of existing affordable housing. As you may have read in the Wall Street Journal this became Local Law 64 of 2018.
As the New York Times recently reported, an estimated 2,500 apartments will be up for re-rental on the NYC Housing Connect website in the coming months, thanks to Local Law 64. Coupled with new units being added, the recent upgrades, which include a new and improved Housing Connect website, will increase the affordable housing available to New Yorkers by at least 50%, if not more.
To learn more about applying for affordable housing, visit the new and improved NYC Housing Connect.
Won Citywide Rezoning to Close Voids Loophole
We won another victory against supertalls by strengthening and passing a zoning text amendment addressing empty spaces in buildings that are used to prop up apartments to give billionaires better views. The City Planning Commission also committed to exploring minimum lot size for non-residential projects. As reported by Curbed, this commitment comes in response to my advocacy with Borough President Brewer, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, and Carnegie Hill Neighbors.
As I said to Curbed:
“The BSA’s explicit approval of this tactic has given developers looking to evade zoning regulations a new tool. If it is broadly realized that simply slicing off a portion of a zoning lot can insulate a development from certain zoning regulations, the sky will literally be the limit to the at-will sculpting of zoning lots that serve no legitimate purpose.”
We have called on City Planning to ban “gerrymandered” lots that enable developers from slicing off tiny slivers of land to abuse loopholes that otherwise would trigger zoning and height caps. One example is 180 East 88th Street, where the developer created an unbuildable zoning lot to exempt the building from the residential height restrictions it would otherwise have to follow. I sent a letter to City Planning asking them to move forward with this issue following the passage of the Mechanical Voids amendment, and am pleased that they have committed to doing so. Read the latest coverage on this in Curbed.
For more information on mechanical voids and gerrymandered zones, visit BenKallos.com/voids
Rezoned Sutton to Stop Super-Talls: Court Fight Continues
After years of out-of-control, out-of-scale over-development, I wanted to put residents over real estate, and we did. In late 2017 we accomplished what many described as impossible. We won the first of its kind grass-roots community rezoning in this City for the Sutton Area.
With the invaluable help of the committed members of the East River Fifties Alliance, we stopped the march of super-tall buildings for billionaires from 57th Street into the Sutton Area. The rezoning initially removed the grandfather clause and will protect the Sutton Area East of First Avenue from 52nd to 59th st. from future supertall towers by limiting zoning lot mergers, limiting the width of towers, and forcing most of the air rights to be used in the base of a building.
We were able to accomplish this thanks to the support of residents like you. Heroes like Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez stood up to buyouts and threats from billionaires. Leaders like Dieter Seelig, former President of the Sutton Area Community got us started and Alan Kersh, Robert Shepler, Jessica Osborn, and Lisa Mercurio put countless volunteer hours into ERFA.
Following our historic rezoning the Board of Standards and Appeals grandfathered the building despite all the illegal conduct of the developer. When we appealed the BSA ruling asking the courts to uphold the law, they refused. We continue to fight in court with a motion to re-argue and have already filed for an appeal.
Though the fate of this one building remains in question, if it were not for the rezoning we accomplished more than one other supertall would be up by now and more could be on the way.
Join the fight against overdevelopment at BenKallos.com/petition/StopSuperScrapers
Lowering the Volume on After Hours Construction Noise
A new law I authored to limit the amount of noise in New York City went into effect in January 2020. As Fox 5 reported, noise has been New York City’s top 311 complaint for years. Construction at all hours of the day and morning and sometimes night is something too many New Yorkers are familiar with. In 2017, The New York Times covered what was then a bill to require the city to respond to noise complaints about nightlife and construction within two hours or on a subsequent day within an hour of the time of the complaint. The law is designed to increase the likelihood that inspectors will identify the source of the noise, issue a violation, and restore quiet. For more information, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or additional coverage in the New York Daily News.
Safer Construction with Law to Count Every Life
From 2015 through 2017, a record 33 construction workers have been killed on the job in New York City, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Buildings (DOB) does not count all of them, especially non-workers who are injured. The New York Daily News reported on the Construction Safety legislation I introduced, which recently became law. Under Local Law 78 of 2017, construction companies will be forced to report on all details surrounding injuries and deaths at construction sites or face fines up to $25,000. We must count every injury and every life, so that we will know the who, what, where and why to help make construction in our city safer. For more information, read coverage in the New York Daily News or watch NY1.
Ending Downsizing of Seniors into Studio Apartments
We rallied together with tenants to demand a moratorium on Section 8 Downsizing, a policy that was pushing seniors and disabled New Yorkers into smaller homes. Since then, we have won a huge victory, successfully ceasing HPD’s downsizing of elderly couples and families from one bedroom to studio apartments. Learn more at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Protected Quiet Side Streets from Overdevelopment and Won Mandatory Affordable Housing for New Neighborhoods
When the Mayor’s housing plan called for adding height to the contextual height caps that protect the East Side’s quiet side streets, I opposed the measure with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Senator Liz Krueger, so developers wouldn’t tear down rent-stabilized buildings to get more height. The Department of City Planning heard us and agreed to protect the midblock.
As amended and passed by the City Council, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (MIH/ZQA) requires new affordable housing to be built whenever developers are given additional height or density to build in Manhattan.
In ZQA, I fought for and won:
- No height increases in R8B districts, protecting the quiet midblock with a 75-foot height cap on the East Side.
- Reduced height increases, bringing the maximum R10A increase from 50 feet to 25 feet with different heights for narrow and wide streets of 210 feet and 235 feet.
- Protected seniors from being squeezed into 275 square foot micro-units.
- Protected the Sliver Law, which prevents towers narrower than 40 feet wide from being erected.
In MIH I fought for and won:
- Housing for lower-income New Yorkers at 40 percent of Area Median Income (AMI): $31,000 for a family of three.
- An additional option for 20 percent at 40 percent of AMI.
- A requirement that HPD track, register, and monitor new affordable housing as would be required by Introduction 1015, legislation I authored.
Learn more at BenKallos.com/MIH-ZQA
Reformed the Board of Standards and Appeals
Legislation I authored designed to reform and improve the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) became law in 2017. In the past, developers have been able to circumvent city zoning laws that restrict building forms, use, height and density by using the BSA as a rubber stamp. The changes and variances have been approved by the BSA despite objections from local Community Boards and elected officials. I am proud of this legislation for how it changed the way that applications, decisions, notifications and staffing are done. It has also improved transparency at the BSA.
The BSA is a five-member body tasked with reviewing requests for variances and special permits related to affordable housing and city planning in the zoning law. The legislative package included nine bills and featured bipartisan support from sponsors such as Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Minority Leader Steven Matteo, Council Members Karen Koslowitz (D-29), Donovan Richards (D-31) and myself. For more information on the legislation, read the coverage by Queens Chronicle, Sunny Side Post, Staten Island Advance, and the Commercial Observer.
Protected Landmarks Citywide & Recognized for Leading Preservation
After marking the 50th anniversary of the landmarks law during my first term, the law came under attack, first with a proposal to remove hundreds of buildings from protection without review, and then with legislation that would have created a five-year moratorium incentivizing historic communities to be razed. In response and in opposition, we forced the Landmarks Preservation Commission to review each and every site in the backlog, and while a version of the counter-legislation did pass in 2016, after my advocacy it was amended to remove the moratorium and add more time. Read my statement at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
As a result of the work I have done in order to preserve buildings in our City, I was honored to receive a Grassroots Preservation Award from the Historic Districts Council (HDC). I have great respect for HDC because of the work they do to keep New York quintessentially New York. HDC has been a valuable partner while I have been in office, contributing to our fight for historic preservation. In the more than six years since I took office, I have worked with HDC on more issues than we ever could have expected, including:
- Protecting the First Avenue Estates’ landmark status from appeal;
- Stopping the Landmarks Mass De-calendaring;
- Fighting Introduction 775, the bill that would shorten the landmarking timeline and institute five-year landmarking moratorium;
- Protecting the Sliver Law, Mid-Block, and Historic Districts from MIH/ZQA;
- Landmarking the Wooden House at 412 East 85th Street;
- Authoring and passing into law reforms to Board of Standards and Appeals that will make it harder to have laws that protect landmarks waived for developers;
- Landmarking First Hungarian Reformed Church of New York
- Landmarking The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York Headquarters
For more information on the latest landmarks, visit BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Opening New Free and Affordable Art Spaces with ChaShaMa
With a blight of empty storefronts, I have partnered with nonprofit arts organization ChaShaMa to turn empty storefronts throughout the city into art spaces. We cut the ribbon on a new art space at 340 East 64th Street in the spring of 2019, featuring work by young immigrant artists. Read more on the gallery’s opening at BenKallos.com/Press-release
Opening Up Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS)
As PIX 11 reported, the landlords of more than 538 privately owned public spaces or (POPS) that are attached to 329 buildings must now provide the amenities they promised or face steep fines for not following the rules, thanks to legislation passed by the council that I helped to author. The specific law I authored requires additional signage at all POPS, detailing amenities and hours of operation, as well as a website where the public can find more information and complaints can be registered. To learn more, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or coverage by the Wall Street Journal.
Tenant Safety Protection Laws
A package of legislation totaling 12 bills, one of which I authored, aimed at stopping landlord-tenant harassment in New York City became law in 2017. Whether it is unreasonable construction noise or safety violations by landlords putting tenants at risk, this is a pressing issue in our City that needs to be stopped. My legislation, Int. 931, would force landlords and property owners to actually respond to the violations and summonses they are given by the City for failing to make repairs, or else face the threat of foreclosure on their properties. For far too long some landlords and building owners have neither fixed recurring problems on their properties nor paid the fines that come with those violations, leaving tenants in unsafe conditions sometimes for years on end. With my bill, we can finally hold landlords accountable. For more information on my bill and the rest of the package of legislation, read the Stand for Tenant Safety release and coverage in City Land.
6,000 Affordable Homes Built or Preserved on City Land
As chair of the Land Use Subcommittee on Planning Dispositions and Concessions, I had the opportunity to help create and preserve six thousand units of affordable housing. My favorite part of the committee was asking developers to share where residents watching at home could get jobs as part of their local hire requirements.
During my time chairing the committee, we:
- Exposed high subsidies on affordable housing properties that almost had to pay the Mansion Tax
- Took on the homeless crisis by sponsoring legislation to mandate a 15% homeless set aside for all subsidized affordable housing
- Questioned whether low wages on city-subsidized projects was making the affordable housing crisis worse and introduced legislation to pay construction workers better
- Stood up for small businesses and secured affordable storefronts to support mom and pop shops
- Pushed for real affordability for local residents by consistently raising concerns that developers were receiving government subsidies to build housing set for incomes that would gentrify low-income communities of color
- Introduced legislation to force affordable housing developers to disclose their relationships with politicians
According to the New York Post, I was “asking too many uncomfortable questions about the mayor’s affordable-housing and tax-break deals.”
1,000 Affordable Apartments Built or Preserved in the District
Over the years I have supported the construction or preservation of more than 1,000 units of affordable housing in my district. This year we announced the completion of 313 new affordable apartments on Roosevelt Island.
In 2019, we preserved more than 600 affordable apartments at Roosevelt Landings on Roosevelt Island. We also cut the ribbon on 28 units of affordable housing along with an Alef-Bet Preschool at 1768 Second Avenue, across the street from my office. In 2018, we cut the ribbon on three new affordable housing developments in my district for a total of 49 new apartments, including two supportive housing buildings for the formerly homeless, one of which is for women and children, built across the street from where I live.
Whether we can help you apply for one of these new affordable apartments or connect you with 2,500 new re-rentals coming this summer, I am committed to fighting the affordable housing crisis. Sign up today for an account on Housing Connect 2.0, the city's new website that was built in part in response to my legislation, Local Law 64, and as always, let me know if you need help at BKallos@BenKallos.com.
GOOD GOVERNMENT REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY
Authored the New Public Campaign Finance System to Get Big Money Out
For more than a decade, I have been fighting to get big money out of New York City politics. Finally, in the spring of 2019, the City Council passed Local Law 128, which I first authored and introduced in 2016. This law expands the new campaign finance laws that were overwhelmingly adopted by 80% of the voters on November 6, 2018, from only matching 75% of contributions to matching them at 89.89%.
The legislation follows Local Law 1 of 2019, which I also authored. That law applied Ballot Question #1 from the 2018 election to the Public Advocate election. The results of the election demonstrated that the new system works. By flipping how campaigns are financed upside down, big money no longer makes up three-quarters of campaign cash and has been replaced by small dollars that now make up almost two-thirds of campaign cash. For the first time, a candidate won citywide office with a pledge not to take real estate money.
The evidence shows that increasing to a full match of every small-dollar will decrease big money and bolster small dollars in elections. In addition, in a system where every small-dollar is matched, big money, such as PAC money and lobbyist money, that is not matched is far less valuable. By passing this legislation, City government is taking a big step in the fight against corruption and even the appearance of it. For more information on this legislation, read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Join the fight to get big money out of New York City politics at BenKallos.com/BIGMONEYOUT
Eliminated Outside Income and Legal Bribery
When I ran for office, I promised to work for you full-time without taking money on the side from private employment as a lawyer. I also promised to work for you, not the Speaker of the City Council, foregoing the common practice of receiving tens of thousands in personal income called a “lulu” for being a Committee Chair, which the Daily News has long called “legal grease.” Forty-seven council members were offered a stipend of between $5,000 and $25,000 for serving as committee chairs or other leadership roles. 34 council members made a pledge to Citizens Union as council candidates in 2013 to limit stipends to the Speaker and Minority Leader. Despite their pledges, only 10 members refused the money in 2014 and for their entire terms, with two more joining in 2015. I kept my pledge, and the Daily News saluted my integrity, calling me a “hero.” Most importantly, I wrote the law that made outside income and lulus illegal so that going from now on, all city elected officials work exclusively for their constituents.
Weakening the Influence of Special Interest Money in Politics
New York City’s model campaign finance system was protected and improved by a package of legislation the Council passed into law in December of 2016, as reported by the New York Daily News and the Gotham Gazette.
We passed the following key laws:
- Closing Campaign for One New York Loophole (Law 181 of ’16, co-prime sponsor) – by limiting contributions to nonprofits controlled by elected officials and disclosing donors.
- Quelling Special Interests Dollars (Law 167 of ‘16) – by ending the practice of matching funds bundled by lobbyists and special interests with public dollars.
- Early Public Fund Payments (Law 168 of ‘16) – to help campaigns that take public dollars get on the ballot and reach voters.
- Better Debates (Law 169 of ‘16) – by only including campaigns that are spending money to win.
- Save Paper and Money on Voter Guide (Law 170 of ’16) – by allowing voters to opt-out of receiving mailers.
- Same Day and Online Registration Advocacy (Res. 1061 of ’16) – to pass state constitutional amendment
Charter Revision 2019: All Five Questions Passed
On November 5, 2019 all five questions on the ballot, which I had testified in favor of and advocated for were adopted by New Yorkers with more than 70 percent of the vote. Now that the five ballot measures have passed, the City Charter has been amended to make the following changes.
QUESTION 3: Two Year Revolving Door Ban For Elected Officials & Citywide Office Dedicated to Contracting with Women and People of Color.
QUESTION 4: Budget Independence for the Public Advocate and Borough President
QUESTION 5: Early Involvement for Community in Neighborhood Planning
Over the entire process, I proposed 72 recommendations for amendments to the Charter, 16 of which were included in the City Council Report to the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission, with 9 of my recommendations included in whole or in part by the Preliminary Staff Report. On May 9th, I submitted a final fifteen recommendations on ethics, city budget, land use, elections and redistricting, and empowering the offices of the Public Advocate and Borough President.
I am particularly proud to have recommended questions 3, 4 and 5, which will all help improve our City’s government. Question 3 bans high-level officials in City government from lobbying the City for two years after they have left government and cements into law the existence and funding for the office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE). Questions 4 and 5 empower the Public Advocate's Office as well as the offices of the Borough Presidents to be able to stand up to the Mayor by funding them separately. These two questions also empower Community Boards through early ULURP notices and update the way our City’s budget is submitted by the Mayor as well as set up a rainy day fund for our City. For more information on the 2019 Charter Revision, visit Benkallos.com/charter2019
Charter Revision 2018: Won Term Limits for Community Boards and Urban Planners
In 2018, I supported and advocated for the passage of all three ballot initiatives posed before New Yorkers. I am proud to have helped push them through. I testified multiple times before the Commission appointed by the Mayor, focusing on:
Getting Big Money Out of Politics by
- Lowering Contribution Limits by More than Half - lower limits citywide from $5,100 to $2,000, boroughwide from $3,950 to $1,500 and for City Council from $2,850 to $1,000.
- Making Small Dollars More Valuable - every small dollar below $250 for citywide and $175 for all others will go from being matched with public tax-payer dollars at a rate of 6 to 8.
- Matching More Small Dollars - only a little more than half of small dollars are matched, requiring candidates to seek millions in big dollars from special interests to fill a gap that can be smaller by matching 75%.
Improving Community Representation with
- Term limits of 8 years for Community Board members starting in 2029
- Urban Planners for Each Community Board
- Standardize Online Applications and Reporting
Thanks to the Charter Revision Commission many of the recommendations I made were placed on the ballot to restore a democracy of, by, and for the People. Ballot Question 3 imposed term limits on Community Board Members and gave community boards the ability and resources to hire urban planners and planning professionals to strengthen their voice and equip them with the expertise they need to stand up to developers. Term limits are crucial for democracy. I am glad we have them on the federal level for president and I know on the local level they will help get more New Yorkers involved. My advocacy for this measure goes back to before I was in office when I was a member of Community Board 8. In the City Council, I introduced Int. 585 of 2014 with Council Member Daniel Dromm to establish term limits for the boards, and I am pleased that New Yorkers have supported this measure on the ballot. For more information read the release at BenKallos.Com/Press-Releases
Passed Online Voter Registration and Enacted Voter Information Portal in New York City
In the 21st Century, democracy should be just one click away. CBS 2 and New York 1 covered my legislation to allow residents of New York City to register to vote entirely online. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia offer different forms of online voter registration and now New York City is one of them. Learn more about this law by reading the release or see coverage by WNYC and the New York Daily News.
Furthermore following problems at the Board of Elections in the 2016 presidential primary, the City Council passed my Voter Information Portal legislation into law. This comes more than ten years after I launched VoterSearch.org, the portal to allow any voter to look up their voter registration status, poll site location, and voting history. It also allows voters to track the status of an absentee ballot from request to submission, ensuring that even if someone can’t physically vote at a poll site, they can still know their ballot was counted. We must still work to remove state limitations on my bill, Local Law 238 of 2017, to expand access to online voter registration in New York City.
Opened the City Budget to the Public
In late 2017, the way New York City spends its budget got a lot more transparent with legislation I introduced and passed which requires all documents that pertain to New York City’s budget to be released to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and posted onto their website. Since being elected, I have advocated that every New Yorker should be able to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent. The open budget law (Local Law 218 of 2017) requires budget documents that previously were excluded from being published online to be published and available for download and in a machine-readable format. For more information, read the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Won Affordable High-Speed Internet for Low-Income New Yorkers
In 2013, I promised to secure affordable broadband for low-income New Yorkers from our Internet franchisers. In 2015, when Charter Communications sought to merge with Time Warner Cable, I joined now-Attorney General Tish James in testifying at hearings and advocating for the Public Service Commission to require any company acquiring Time Warner Cable to help bridge the digital divide by providing low-income residents with low-cost, high-speed broadband Internet.
In March of 2017, I fulfilled my promise as we announced Spectrum Internet Assist, a new low-cost, high-speed broadband program, alongside James and Charter Communications. I believe this initiative will help close the digital divide by providing nearly one million people with affordable high-speed Internet access for the first time.
Spectrum Internet Assist
$14.99 per month for 30 Mbps downloads and 4 Mbps uploads, email and more.
No contract, no cost for modem and no activation fees.
Eligibility: Families with children in public schools who receive free or reduced-cost lunch & Seniors (over 65) who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Expanding access to broadband has been essential for the City’s education system in the fight against coronavirus. In April of 2020, in collaboration with Silicon Harlem, I reached out to Charter Communications and a week before remote-learning began, they announced that Spectrum will offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription with installation fees waived. Learn more at Corporate.Charter.com/newsroom If you plan to act on this offer, be sure to request this free offer along with Spectrum Internet Assist.
What we won from Spectrum became the template for the state, and Altice Advantage internet and Spectrum are available to those living in the service area by visiting AlticeAdvantageInternet.com.
For more information read the release, see the coverage in DNAinfo, West Side Spirit, NBC 4, or NY1.
Demanded Answers on the Rivington Nursing Home Scandal
As the former chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, I held a series of oversight hearings, covered in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, in which we investigated and got many answers about what really happened at the Rivington nursing home. After deed restrictions were lifted, the property was sold and set to become luxury condos. By questioning City Hall officials under oath and in public, we got a detailed account of what went wrong and passed a law to prevent it from happening again. Now, as the Daily News covered, the City is putting deed restriction modification applications through a new review process that includes greater community input.
In June of 2020, the New York City Council took its first steps towards meaningful police reform by passing a package of legislation that included a ban on chokeholds and kneeling on a person's neck. These were all bills that I sponsored last term and sponsored again this term.
- The Right to Record (Introduction No. 721-B) by Public Advocate Williams codifies your right to film police activities, prohibit interference or threats to those recording, and provide a private right of action.
- Ban on Chokeholds (Introduction No. 536-B) bans and criminalizes the use of restraints that restrict the flow of air or blood by compressing another individual’s windpipe or arteries on the neck, or by putting pressure on the back or chest, by police officer making an arrest. This would cover chokeholds, as well as maneuvers like placing a knee on a person’s neck. Any officer found guilty of using such a restraint could be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
- Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act (Introduction No. 487-A), would provide civilian oversight for surveillance technologies used by the New York Police Department (NYPD). The Department would be required to issue a surveillance impact and use policy about these technologies, including a description and capabilities, rules, processes and guidelines, and any safeguards and security measures designed to protect information collected.
- Display of Badge Numbers (Introduction No. 1962-A) requires officers to display their shield number or rank designation at all times when the officer is performing their duties with private right of action if an officer refuses.
- Disciplinary Matrix (Introduction No. 1309-B) creates a “disciplinary matrix” with a recommended range of penalties for each type of violation.
- Early Intervention (Introduction No. 760-B) expands categories of information included in the NYPD Early Intervention System to include information on types of arrests, incidents of excessive force, and ongoing disciplinary proceedings.
- Supporting the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019 (H.R. 4408) (Resolution T2020-6256) urging the United States Congress to pass The Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019 (H.R. 4408) sponsored by U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries. If made law, this bill would make the use of chokeholds a civil rights violation. This would enable federal authorities to hold accountable police officers who use the deadly technique.
Coronavirus: Opening New Beds, Expanding Testing, Securing and Distributing Masks, Serving Meals
Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 22,000 New Yorkers. At the height of the pandemic, our City was in desperate need of personal protective equipment and space to treat infected patients. My office was one of the first in the City Council to transition to working remotely on March 13th, 2020, and we quickly pivoted our priority to opening beds in the district including 350 beds at Coler Hospital on Roosevelt Island and 200 beds at the Hospital for Special Surgery on the Upper East Side. Ultimately, we were able to secure 550 beds, which is half as many beds as we received from the federal government when the U.S.N.S. Comfort docked in New York City harbor for a month.
From the beginning, my office pushed for increasing testing capacity. As reported by Our Town, we even teamed up with Dr. Christopher Mason at Weill Cornell to help cut red tape and develop new Covid-19 testing. We even launched mobile free testing for Roosevelt Island.
We initially established an email clearing house to secure personal protective equipment such as face masks, face shields and gloves to help health care professionals at local hospitals. James Patchett, President and CEO of New York City’s Economic Development Cooperation, the agency that the Mayor tasked with securing the City's PPE even recognized our efforts.
Once we secured sufficient masks, we began working with neighborhood and tenant associations as well as institutions of faith to distribute masks and sanitizer. I will continue to work with community partners to distribute even more over the next few months. Please contact my office if you would like to help distribute masks at BKallos@BenKallos.com.
Healthy Happy Meals Law Takes Effect
As featured on NBC 4, a law I authored to make kids’ meals in New York City healthier went into effect in April of 2020. From the iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal to a kids’ meal at your local diner, all 24,000 restaurants in New York City with kids’ meals on their menu will now be required to make water, low-fat milk and 100% fruit juice the default beverage. Although parents can still order whatever they want for the kids, testimony from McDonald’s demonstrated that implementing this change resulted in half of kids' meals including a healthy beverage.
Obesity is an epidemic in New York City and according to NYC Health, with 1 in 5 kindergarten students entering school already obese. The American Heart Association recommends that children limit consumption to one or fewer 8-oz sugar-sweetened beverages per week. Moreover, according to the New York Academy of Medicine’s testimony, their scientific research shows that a “12-oz serving of regular soda [in a kids meal can contain] more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. An average 8-year old would need to walk 70 minutes, or the distance between City Hall and Time Square, to walk the calories off.
Under this law, parents can still choose soda or any other beverage, but healthier options will be “the new normal” and what is displayed in menus and advertisements. Changing the default meal option would have a positive impact on reducing caloric intake and obesity in children. For more information on the law going into effect check out coverage in the New York Post or read the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Legionnaires’ Disease Prevention Law Implemented
In 2017 an elderly woman died and six others were sickened as a result of a Legionnaires Disease cluster in my district. Thanks to a law I co-sponsored in 2015 we knew where the cooling towers were in order to test over 100 and clean them to prevent anyone else from getting sick.
In 2018, WNYC found that 20% of the cooling towers—over 1,000—in the city were not being inspected every 90-days as required. To correct the problem which I later found to be even more widespread at 44% of the cooling towers, I authored and passed Local Law 76 of 2019 which will require buildings to notify the city after every 90-day inspection and if they fail to do so, the Department of Health can immediately issue a violation and send out an inspector to keep us safe and prevent the spread of this deadly disease. For more information, read the release or press coverage from WNYC.
Automatic Benefits Law, API and Study
No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in New York City, one of the wealthiest cities in the world. We are a City with hundreds of programs designed to help those in need.
As you may have read in the New York Times, over the past four years, I worked with experts in the Federal government, academia, non-profits, and the private sector to advance legislation and research the regulatory framework to legally provide benefits automatically, so New Yorkers get the benefits they qualify for. In our work, we have secured millions in funding to research Automatic Benefits policies and even helped make the software necessary freely available to the public. In December of 2017, the City Council passed a measure to study the feasibility and possible effectiveness of implementing my Automatic Benefits legislation. The city’s study is now well underway and it will save taxpayer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city and this plan. In 2019, the City’s first-ever Benefits Screening API was released, allowing for better access to the 30+ social service benefits that are available to residents. Later this year, we’ll have the information we need to eliminate the bureaucracy, and unnecessary hurdles that prevent our poorest from accessing and keeping the assistance they need to be lifted from poverty. For more information read the BenKallos.com/press-releases
Declaring a Climate Emergency
I believe that climate change is real, caused by humans, and that it is up to us to do something about it. That's why I authored and the City Council passed a resolution declaring a Climate Emergency, making New York City the largest city to do so as part of an international movement. The declaration was covered in the Huffington Post, CNN, The Hill, Gotham Gazette, and Patch. You can also watch my interview with the online news station, Cheddar.
Other cities around the world have already declared a climate emergency, making it important that the most populated city in the nation also declares a climate emergency. The more cities that declare a Climate Emergency, the harder it will be to deny the reality of climate change. The Council has also already taken a major step toward saving the environment by passing the Climate Mobilization Act, which will dramatically reduce the city’s carbon emissions from buildings.
Prior to passing the resolution Council Member Costa Constantinides Chair for the Environmental Committee and I joined Extinction Rebellion NYC and 60 activists from 350 Brooklyn, Indivisible Nation Brooklyn, and One Queens Indivisible for a rally on the steps of City Hall that you can watch at BenKallos.com/videos. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/press-releases
Sale of Single-Use Plastic Bottles Banned in City Parks
As the Verge reported, in February of this year, Mayor de Blasio signed an executive order officially implementing my proposed ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles in city parks, beaches, and even Trump's golf courses. City agencies will also no longer be able to purchase single-use plastic bottles. We were joined by local student organizers of the global climate strike at the signing of the executive order.
Before it was repealed by the Trump administration, President Obama’s ban of the sale of plastic bottles in National Parks resulted in waste reduction of as much as 300 tons. We can't risk the next Mayor overturning this order just like Trump did to Obama, so please join me in calling on the City Council to pass my legislation into law by signing and sharing my petition at BenKallos.com/Petition/BanTheBottle
Composting on the Upper East Side
Compost On-the-Go is a program we launched last year with GrowNYC’s zero waste initiatives funded by the NYC Department of Sanitation. Compost On–the-Go increases access to food waste composting for New Yorkers in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. As the New York Times reported, getting residents to compost can be tough, so these drop-off sites are conveniently located near public transit and are staffed by friendly compost coordinators ready to accept fruit and vegetable scraps as residents head out to start the day. NOTE: This program has been suspended due to the pandemic.
Fresh Food Box
The Council District 5 Fresh Food Box began as a pilot program between my office and Grow NYC back in the spring of 2016, and it is now a fan favorite for residents. Over the past four years, the program has served hundreds of residents looking to get locally grown farm fresh vegetables at an affordable price.
The Fresh Food Box is held at my district office on Thursdays between 3:30pm and 6:30pm. The program allows you to place your order and pay just $14 (cash, credit/debit, SNAP/food stamps, greenmarket bucks) and pick up a bag of farm-fresh produce the following week.
GrowNYC's Fresh Food Box Program lets customers benefit from fresh farm to table produce from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, with the flexibility of week-to-week purchasing. Sign-ups begin every year in June and the season runs through November. Learn more visit grownyc.org/greenmarketco/foodbox
QUALITY OF LIFE
A New Trash Can on Every Corner
We have cleaned up the Upper East Side with 284 new large trash cans covering 104 intersections, which I purchased with $154,780 in initiative funding from my office back in 2017. These new cans supplement the 38 I purchased in 2016 with $20,710 in initial funding as part of a successful pilot with the East 72nd and East 86th Street Neighborhood Associations. The East Sixties Neighborhood Association (ESNA) joined prior participants in requesting an expansion. The large cans feature a smaller opening designed to keep trash from spilling over onto the street with reports from the pilot of a decrease in litter and rodents. In addition to these efforts alongside DSNY, I continue to work to get a Business Improvement District (BID) organized that will help keep the streets clean in perpetuity. Learn more about the cleanup efforts by reading the most recent press releases on the 284 trash cans, watching the press conference or WNBC or reading coverage in the Patch and DNAinfo.
In fiscal years 2019 and 2020, my office allocated an additional $152,375 to replace missing and damaged trash cans and to ensure every street corner in my district that needed a trash can received one. I promised to replace every small wire trash can with a new large trash can, so if you still see the wire cans in your part of the neighborhood please request your new large trash can by emailing me at BKallos@BenKallos.com.
Power Washing the Neighborhood Block by Block with Wildcat
We are power washing the neighborhood block by block with Wildcat Cleaning services. Starting with East 86th, 79th, 72nd Streets and even Second Avenue. I even rolled up my sleeves and took the opportunity to lead the power washing crews at a few of the sites to help get the job done.
As part of our cleanup initiative, we have been able to win twice a day garbage pick up from the Department of Sanitation in areas that need it. We have bought hundreds of new domed trash cans to keep the streets litter-free. We also continued to work with Wildcat as they swept up streets, tree pits, and bike islands. They have been able to successfully remove old plastic bags that were stuck in tree branches.
Part of my plan to keep the neighborhood clean involves starting a Business Improvement District (BID) along the East 86th Street business corridor. This would mean that parts of the district near 86th Street would get more needed attention and help with cleaning. Our work to get the BID continues as area businesses join the list of participants. Learn more at BenKallos.com/bid
To have your street power washed, contact our office at BKallos@BenKallos.com and for more information on our cleanup initiative, visit BenKallos.com/cleanup
Helping the Homeless and Opening Supportive Housing
The City’s homelessness crisis continues with 55,000 homeless as mid-July. The faces of our homeless crisis are 18,918 are children, 14,195 parents, 12,933 single men, and 4,481 single women. In 2016, I launched the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services (ETHOS) with Borough President Brewer, Senator Krueger, Department of Social Services (DSS), community and faith leaders and service organizations.
We hope to get every unsheltered person living on the street the help they need. If you see one of our City’s most vulnerable on the street, please call 311 or use the NYC 311 App (Android/iPhone) to ask them to dispatch a “homeless outreach team.” They will ask where you saw the person, what they looked like, and offer report on whether the person accepts our city’s offer of shelter, three meals a day, health care, rehabilitation, and job training. By connecting our dedicated nonprofits and religious institutions with city services, ETHOS is really making a difference.
One of the best ways we can take on the homeless crisis is by building supportive housing. That's why we supported WIN in the construction and opening of 17 apartments on East 91st Street across the street from where I live. In 2018 I also had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon on an 11-units of supportive housing at the Howard Amron House operated by Urban Pathways. Learn more about Urban Pathways and the new WIN facility from the release, or watch the ribbon cutting, or read coverage in Patch.
For more information on ETHOS, visit BenKallos.com/homeless
Scaffolding Legislation Adopted
In 2019, The New York Times reported on the shocking 1,400 buildings around the City with sidewalk sheds that aren't up because of ongoing construction but because they have failed to fix façade issues for which the Department of Buildings has issued a whopping $31 million in violations that have gone unpaid.
Since I was elected we've been working to pass legislation I authored to force landlords to make repairs and get sidewalk sheds down as well as force the city to inspect every sidewalk shed so they never fall on anyone else. In 2017, the City Council held a public hearing on my original scaffolding bill (Int 1389). This hearing was a pivotal step in getting the City to reform the laws governing the use of scaffolding. Under my bill, which is still undergoing changes and updates, landlords would have up to 90 days to fix dangerous facade conditions and an additional 90 days for owners to fix dangerous conditions upon extension. After the 180 days, the city would step in to do the work to correct the dangerous condition and bill the owner for all the costs. For more information on the bill see coverage in The New York Times, PIX11, FOX 5, New York 1.
In 2019, after the death of a pedestrian in midtown due to a falling piece of a building, Fox 5 covered my criticism of the fact that we are still inspecting building facades with centuries' old techniques such as binoculars, telescopes, and even feeling bricks with our hands. As reported by Fox 5 and the New York Post, this led to the City Council hearing legislation that I am co-prime sponsor of which would study the use of drones for facade inspections.
In December of 2019, the Department of Buildings adopted many many of the reforms I have been pushing for when it announced facade inspection reforms doubling their façade inspection team staff, adding more frequent and thorough inspections of buildings, and following my legislative proposal for the city to make repairs and bill the owner for the most hazardous conditions. You can read more in Crain's New York and The City.
As reported by ABC 7, my legislation which I continue to push would regulate how our City is using scaffolding. It would also make sure that the nearly 350 miles of scaffolding covering New York City's sidewalks are safe and not at risk of falling. As reported by New York Daily News and Gothamist under the current laws, scaffolding is self-certified for safety by the contractors who install it, without any independent inspection by the city’s Department of Buildings. Under my legislation, scaffolding would be required to undergo safety inspections by the Buildings Department every six months at the expense of the building owner with fees escalating to incentivize the scaffolding to go down.
Improved Quality of Life Enforcement
As reported by the Daily News more than $1.6 billion in quality of life violations are in the process of being collected by the City after legislation I introduced became law and went into effect. Environmental Control Board (ECB) or quality of live violations are issued to owners who do not clean or shoveling sidewalks, leave out excessive trash, or engage in noisy construction before or after hours. Prior to this package of legislation becoming law, many of the fines would go unpaid or paid as a “cost of doing business.” Prior to my law going into effect, we offered an amnesty program through the Department of Finance to pay any outstanding violations without penalties or interest. This new law ensures that bad actors change their behavior or face the consequence of losing their license. For more information read the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases
Fighting the Marine Transfer Station
Over the past six years, we have stood our ground against the Mayor and his Marine Transfer Station (MTS), and we have won several concessions for our community.
The administration has promised that zoned trash pickup will not be tied to dumping at the MTS, we won funding for guardrails on every truck and even won a commitment to zero waste, which will make Marine Transfer-to-landfill obsolete by 2030. A new ramp will be constructed one block north at the request of Pledge2Protect and Asphalt Green to protect children playing on their soccer fields.
In 2018 prior to opening, as Our Town reported, the Department of Sanitation agreed to an “average of 40 to 50 trucks per day” instead of the over 200 trucks a day that were once feared. Our neighborhood saw such a dramatic reduction because we are producing 25% less landfill than a decade ago through reduction and diversion. My opposition to this facility remains steadfast because a garbage dump does not belong in a residential neighborhood. Join the fight at BenKallos.com/MTS
Retirement Security for All
Every New Yorker deserves the right to retire, but two-thirds of workers aren’t participating in retirement plans, largely because their employer doesn’t offer one. As reported by ABC 7 and the New York Daily News, I rallied with Mayor de Blasio and Council Member I. Daneek Miller at City Hall in support of Introduction 888-A. This legislation, which I authored, would automatically enroll New York City residents to volunteer into a retirement savings program through their private-sector jobs, if their employer does not offer a retirement savings plan. As reported by WCBS 880, the program would be administered by the City of New York and would not cost anything for businesses to run. By default, residents would see 3% of their paycheck deducted, and they could change that rate or opt-out entirely at any time. However, automatic enrollment has been shown to encourage individuals to save more.
Following the rally, dozens of supporters from AARP crowded into the City Council Chambers to testify in support of this legislation. I have been fighting to implement a plan like this since before I was an elected official. I helped craft the Retirement Security for All platform for Bill Samuels’ EffectiveNY when I was the executive director of the good government and policy group. In the Council, I first announced this plan with the Mayor back in February of 2016, with the support of Public Advocate Tish James. However, when Trump entered the White House, his chief advisor Steve Bannon made it his top priority to fight plans like ours. The U.S. House passed and the President signed Joint Resolutions 66 and 67 to roll back the Obama Administration’s regulations intended to make it easier for states and municipalities to offer retirement savings plans. But they didn’t make it illegal. Now we are working to make the plan a reality.
Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for taking this issue on earlier this year and working to get it passed into law. For more information read my op-ed in Crain's New York and coverage from Gotham Gazette.
Opening the Second Avenue Subway
I was pleased to join Governor Cuomo, MTA Chair Prendergast, MTA Capital Construction President Horodniceanu, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, and Building Trades President LaBarbera to cut the ribbon on the 86th Street Second Avenue subway station. As reported by WABC 7, I also had the privilege of welcoming the New Year in 2017 with an inaugural ride with Governor Cuomo, other elected officials, and residents who had to live through the construction. After many years of construction and constant press conferences led by Congress Member Maloney to keep the progress on track, I am proud to finally have it open.
Ferry Service for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
Following years of advocacy dating back to my first campaign, I am proud that we now have NYC Ferry service on Roosevelt Island and in the Upper East Side. The Soundview route runs from East 90th to East 34th to Stuyvesant Cove and Pier 11 by Wall Street for a 32 minute ride. The Astoria route runs from Roosevelt Island to LIC to East 34th to Brooklyn Navy Yard to Pier 11 by Wall Street for a 37 minute ride. I've been proud to reactivate our waterfront and add this transportation option that was boasted 14.9 million riders since its inception. The ferry service is perfect for visiting the City’s parks and attractions and commuting to and from work. For more information on the launch, see the release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or visit Ferry.nyc
Select Bus Service for M79 and M86 with Automated Bus-Lane Enforcement
The M79 was an award-winning bus line, having the dubious honor of winning the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign Pokey Award in 2014 for the slowest speed with a 3.2 mile per hour crawl, slower than the Hawaiian lava flow. According to BusTurnaround.NYC, the M79 now averages 4.3 miles per hour, slower than most people walk. That is why in 2016, following great results from Select Bus Service implementation for the M86, I requested this service for the remaining crosstown routes in my district including the M79. In May 2017 I was proud to launch the M79 SBS.
Part of the work we have done to improve bus service includes working to get new buses for our neighborhood. In 2017, the Upper East Side received 79 new buses serving the M15, M101, M102, and M103 routes, as reported in Our Town. After years of advocacy and analysis of BusTime data, I identified the issue of “missing buses” with the help of BetaNYC, BusTurnaround.nyc, and TWU Local 100. I brought the issue to the attention of the MTA at a meeting convened by Senator Liz Krueger, where the MTA shared that bus lines based out of the Tuskegee Depot in my district were among the oldest in the system, leading to more frequent than usual breakdowns. The MTA agreed to prioritize these buses for replacement with new buses that are equipped with WiFi, USB charging, “next stop” screens, and pedestrian safety measures. For more information on our new buses, read our press release at BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or read coverage in Our Town, DNAinfo, or Upper East Side Patch.
As we worked to improve bus service we noticed that blocked bus lanes were a consistent problem riders shouldn't face delays because a truck or van is blocking the bus lane. As of October 2019, cars parked on M15 lanes will be captured on cameras mounted on the buses. Drivers blocking the Select Bus Service Route will be fined. The fines begin at $50 for a first violation and go up to $250 for a fifth violation and each subsequent offense.
CitiBike Secured for Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island
As a candidate to be your Council Member, bike share for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island was one of my first campaign promises. The program was also the first resolution we passed together through Roosevelt Island Residents Association and Community Board 8. The Roosevelt Islander was first to identify a higher volume of requests for CitiBike from residents on Roosevelt Island than anywhere else in New York City.
During my first term, we worked with Citi Bike to open 25 stations on the Upper East Side in my Council District. Thank you to the hundreds of people who provided feedback, online and in person at community forums, working with the Department of Transportation and my office to find the right place for each station to benefit local businesses and residents. I wanted bike share users to be as safe as possible, so Citi Bike provides a monthly 90-minute bike safety class at my office with the offer of a free day-pass or an additional month on an annual membership.
As Citi Bike rolled out throughout the city, leaving out Roosevelt Island, I have worked and negotiated with multiple owners of Citi Bike to pursue this expansion while eliminating costs to the Island. We also secured permission from the New York City Department of Transportation and found a willing partner in Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to help push the effort forward. It is great to see the years of work finally paying off as in June of 2020 we cut the ribbon on the first Citi Bike stations to be installed in Roosevelt Island. For more information on opening visit BenKallos.com/Press-Releases or watch Coverage by NY1.
You can find a Citi Bike dock near you at member.citibikenyc.com/map
Bike Safety Program Gets Results with Safety Improving Over Five Years
Over the past five years we've seen meaningful reductions in traffic injuries and deaths. That's because we've focused on identifying dangerous intersections, investing in safer street infrastructure, education of bike riders, the distribution of safety equipment, and increased enforcement.
Since then, we have doubled bike lanes from just First Avenue and the 90th & 91st Street pair to include protected lanes on Second Avenue, 70th & 71st Street and 77th & 78th Streets in 2017, parking-protected bike lanes from 68th to 59th Street on Second Avenue in 2018. We also created safe crossing across the entrance to Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge with new bike lanes and crosswalks installed in 2019. The Second Avenue protected bike lane now stretches uninterrupted from 125th Street to 43rd Street. For more information on the bike lane improvements, watch the press conference or check out coverage from PIX 11 and ABC 7.
The NYPD traffic data 17th and 19th precinct report Year to Date (YTD) as of December issued 2,472 to summons to bicycles and 19,012 moving violations to vehicles. These were predominantly for improper turns, disobeying a traffic control device, for red lights, not yielding the right of way to pedestrians among other violations.
Following an expansion of the Upper East Side’s safe streets network, coupled with 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 Keith Powers.
Since the launch of the bike safety program in 2014, the number of collisions involving cyclists has reduced each year, and fewer pedestrians and cyclists are injured in collisions. as covered by CBS, NBC, Our Town, amNY, and most recently Patch. Learn more about bike safety at BenKallos.com/BikeSafety
Roosevelt Island Tram Approved for Another 50 Years
After more than 20 years of operating on interim agreements, the City Council approved a 50-year franchise agreement between the City of New York and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC). The agreement was approved for two 25-year terms, granting the City the authority to negotiate with RIOC to continue operating the unique aerial tramway from Tramway Plaza on Second Avenue in Manhattan over the East River onto Roosevelt Island. As the Village Voice and Roosevelt Islander blog reported: “The Tram” has been managed by the State through RIOC since 1995, despite a bureaucratic quirk. The new agreement settles past issues that forced interim agreements to become the norm by allowing for the continuation of advertising on the interior of the cars and stations but prohibiting advertisements on the exteriors of the stations and tram cars. It is clear now that the Roosevelt Island Tram is here to stay and after 20 years of needless bureaucracy, we’ve protected it. To find out more about this deal read the release or coverage in the Roosevelt Islander or the Village Voice.
Prioritizing Pedestrian Safety
Soon after taking office, we launched a "Livable Streets" program to promote safety for drivers, pedestrians, and bikers alike. We asked 60,000 families in my district to identify dangerous intersections and streetscape improvements and compiled responses into two reports on Livable Streets, highlighting our Dangerous Intersections and proposing Street Improvements, as covered by the Daily News. Following the report, the DOT and NYPD also released a Vision Zero Borough Pedestrian Safety Plan for Manhattan. They included priority corridors on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ave, as well as intersections from my report: Lexington Avenue and East 86th Street, 2nd Avenue and East 79th Street, East 75th Street and 1st Avenue, East 62nd Street and 1st Avenue, 3rd Avenue and 57th Street, and 2nd Avenue and East 53rd Street.
To make our streets even more accessible for everyone, after hearing from seniors and disabled members of the community who couldn't cross the streets because sidewalk ramps were inaccessible for walkers and wheelchairs, I introduced legislation that would require landlords to fix crumbling curb cuts to ensure the 889,219 New Yorkers with disabilities and nearly one million residents 65 or older can cross the street safely.
To make the district even safer, my office worked with the MTS Community Advisory Group (CAG), fellow elected officials and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to make safety improvements to the intersections surrounding the Marine Transfer Station site, agreeing to adjust signal timing on the intersections on York Avenue. Leading Pedestrian Interval Signals (LPIS), where the walk sign shows before cars get a green light, have been installed at 19 of the intersections. This will allow pedestrians on these corners the opportunity to enter the crosswalk before cars begin to turn. Leading Pedestrian Interval Signals (LPIS) were installed along York Avenue at the following streets: 65th, 68th, 70th, 71st, 74th, 75th, 76th, 78th, 80th, 81st, 82nd, 83rd, 84th, 85th, 86th, 87th, 88th, 89th, and 90th. You can help improve our streets at BenKallos.com/livable-streets
- Prohibiting Outside Income (Law 20 of ’16) – The City Council now works full time for the people without the influence of other sources of income.
- Eliminating “Legal Grease” (Res. 980 of ’16) – Former Speakers used to reward Council Member allies with payments in lieu of compensation, or “lulus,” a practice that the Daily News called “legal grease.” My resolution banned it from the City Council.
Campaign Finance Reform
- Full Public Match Campaign Finance System (Law 128 of ’19) – raised the cap on public funds received by participating candidates to establish a full public match, further limiting the impact of “Big Money” in local elections.
- Getting Big Money Out of Politics (Law 1 of ’19) – making question 1 of the 2018 Charter Revision (8 to 1 match) effective for all special elections prior to 2021.
- Closing Campaign for One New York Loophole (Law 181 of ’16, co-sponsor) – by limiting contributions to nonprofits controlled by elected officials and disclosing donors.
- Quelling Special Interests Dollars (Law 167 of ‘16) – by ending the practice of matching funds bundled by lobbyists and special interests with public dollars.
- Early Public Fund Payments (Law 168 of ‘16) – to help campaigns that take public dollars get on the ballot and reach voters.
- Disclosing Conflicts in a Timely Manner (Law 211 of '17) - by requiring candidate to disclose within 25 days of filing to get on the ballot.
- Better Debates (Law 169 of ‘16) – by only including campaigns that are spending money to win.
Affordable Housing and Tenant Protection
- Affordable Housing Applications, Tracking, and Enforcement (Law 64 of '18) - centralized applications, waitlists, tracking, registration of units, and enforcement for all city-subsidized affordable housing.
- Stand for Tenant Safety in Buildings in Large Buildings (Law 153 of '17) - tenant protections from slumlords in large buildings.
- Stand for Tenant Safety Quality of Life Protections (Law 152 of '17) - any quality of life violation may be counted towards establishing a distressed property for transfer from a slumlord to tenants or a responsible owner.
- Students Admissions Tracking (Law 72 of '18) - counting every child who applies, is rejected or accepted, enrolls, and attend for every school.
- School Seat Need Transparency (Law 167 of ’18) – the basis for school seat need must be disclosed in order to ensure proper planning.
- End School Hunger (Law 215 of '17) - set goals and report on participation in breakfast, breakfast-after-the-bell, lunch, snacks, and supper.
- Students with Disabilities Services Transparency (Law 17 of ’20) guarantees that students with disabilities receive necessary services by increasing reporting from an annual basis to three times a school year.
- LGBT training and GSA (Law 231 of '17) - LGBT training for teachers to support GSAs.
- School Transportation Transparency (Law 33 of ’19) – bus routes for parents ahead and test runs ahead of the school year to avoid bad routes.
- GPS on School Buses (Law 32 of ’19) – GPS for parents and schools to track buses.
- Happy Healthy Meals (Law 75 of ’19) – children's meals must offer water, 100% juice, or milk as the default options on the menu.
- Office of Food Policy (Law 41 of ’20) – establishes the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy to oversee multi-agency food policy and promote access to healthy food.
- Cooling Tower Inspection Reporting (Law 76 of ’19) – landlords must report every 90-days during the cooling season in time to stop the spread of Legionnaires' Disease.
- Water Tank Inspection Electronic Filing (Law 85 of ’19) – water tank inspection and cleaning filings must be done online.
- Automatic Benefits Study (Law 60 of '18) - to provide human services such as Medicaid, SNAP, rental assistance and more automatically using existing government information.
Quality of Life
- Catching Scofflaws (Law 48 of ’16) – Information added to all quality of life violations will help identify who is responsible and collect fines.
- Stopping Repeat Offenders (Law 47 of ’16) – City agencies that issue quality of life violations are now required to deny, suspend, or revoke licenses and permits for unpaid fines or repeat offenders.
- Turning Down the Volume on Construction Noise (Law 53 of '18) - by half, eliminating requiring noise measurement from within a home, inspection at times when the noise is likely to occur, and the power to issue a stop-work order.
- Counting Every Life on the Construction Site (Law 78 of '17) - count every injury and every life, at construction sites, or face fines up to $25,000.
- Crane Modernization (Law 3 of '18) - retire cranes after 25 years to prevent equipment failure and collapse.
Protecting Neighborhood Planning From Overdevelopment
- Application Requirements (Law 103 of '17) - for developers to show why zoning laws should not apply to them with fines of up to $15,000 for knowingly falsifying information.
- Financial Expertise (Law 102 of '17) - provided for the city with a state certified Real Estate Appraiser to review and analyze developers' financials.
- Protecting Neighborhood Plans (Law 101 of '17) - by designating a coordinator at City Planning Commission to defend the city's plan from unnecessary variances.
- Reporting on Variances (Law 104 of '17) - including the number of pre-application meeting requests, number of applications, number of variances approved or denied, and the average length of time for decisions.
- Map to Prevent Rezoning by Variance (Law 105 of '17) - with an interactive online map of all variances and special permits granted since 1998.
- Opening Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) (Law 250 of '17) - signage for POPS indicating amenities with 311 listed for complaints, a website listing POPS, and increased violation of up to $10,000 for repeat offenses.
- Online Voter Registration (Law 238 of '17) - register to vote online with a digital signature.
- Voter Information Portal (Law 65 of ’16) – Will empower voters to track an absentee ballot, find poll site location, view ballots, and verify registration status and that votes were counted.
- Pro-Voter Law Expansion (Law 63 of ’14) - requires 25 city agencies to provide voter registration forms and assist individuals with completing them, so everyone gets registered.
- Online Voter Guide (Law 43 of ‘14) - saving the environment and money, while increasing access to information in off-year uncontested elections.
- Save Paper and Money on Voter Guide (Law 170 of ’16) – by allowing voters to opt-out of receiving mailers.
- Same Day and Online Registration Advocacy (Res. 1061 of ’16) – to pass state constitutional amendment.
- Teens on Community Boards (Res. 115 of ‘14) – opens community boards to our best and brightest 16 and 17-year-olds
Transparency in Government
- Online Budget (Law 218 of '17) - place all city budget documents online.
- Open Legislation (Res. 184 of ’14, co-sponsor) – as part of the Council’s rules reform process, I provided language requiring posting legislation online and public engagement.
- Open Mapping (Law 108 of ’15) - standardizes address and geospatial information so Open Data has location information.
- Law Online (Law 37 of ‘14, co-prime sponsor) – puts our city’s law online for you to search, download, and read.
- City Record Online (Law 38 of ‘14) – public notices from the city, previously published in a daily newspaper, are now online and fully searchable so you can learn what is happening in your community.
Coastal Resilience for Climate Change
- Reforming Waterfront Management (Law 96 of ’16) – resuscitates an advisory board for advocates, experts, and all levels of government to use and protect over 500 miles of shoreline.
- National Women’s History Museum (Res. 354 of ‘14) – supporting Congress Member Maloney’s successful passage.
Best Council Members
As my first term wrapped up City and State created “a comprehensive ranking of the best – and worst – members of the New York City Council.” There are 51 Council Members that represent New Yorkers in the City Council who were rated on attendance, the number of bills introduced, the number of bills passed and even how responsive each office is to the press and to constituents. I am proud to report that whether it was best overall attendance, or bills introduced and passed into law, my office and I consistently ranked among the best as the top 5 Council Members for my first term. This year, I continued to be ranked as one of the City’s best council members. Read the complete list and story by City and State.
City and State’s Power 100 and Non-profits and Manhattan
I was honored to be recognized by City and State as one of the 100 most powerful Manhattanites in 2019, as they wrote:
"This Upper East Side reformer has carved out a niche as a fierce advocate for increased government transparency and bolstering the city’s campaign finance system. This year, Ben Kallos has been grabbing headlines for his push to implement larger matching funds for political candidates, a measure that was approved on the 2018 ballot. The second-term councilman is also a champion of education, affordable housing and public health – and he invites constituents to engage him in conversation."
Nonprofits are vital to getting New York City residents the services they need. As Chair of the Committee on Contracts, I get to work closely with non-profits and see better than anyone else how important the work they do is. That is why I have been committed to making sure nonprofits get paid on time by the City and that MWBE’s get their fair share. In late 2019, City and State recognized my work in this Committee by placing me in the top 20 powerful figures in New York City within the nonprofit sector. Thank you to City and State for recognizing the work and giving nonprofits the recognition they deserve. For more information read City and State.