About Ben Kallos

Endorsed by The New York Times for his “fresh ideas” and elected in 2013, Ben Kallos represent the East Side and Roosevelt Island in the City Council. He grew up in the neighborhood with his grandparents who fled anti-Semitism in Europe and his mother who still lives here.

MORE SCHOOL SEATS AND STEM FUNDING
Won 400 universal Pre-Kindergarten seats for the district and invested millions for STEM (Science, Technology & Math) in public schools.

FIGHTING CORRUPTION
Authored laws to prohibit outside income, limit influence of lobbyists and eliminate “legal bribery”; and investigated the Rivington nursing home scandal.

INVESTING IN BETTER PARKS
Secured more than $150 million to rehabilitate and expand the East River Esplanade with Congressmember Maloney.

HOLDING THE MTA ACCOUNTABLE
Helped open the 2nd Avenue Subway on-time with Governor Cuomo, secured three East Side ferry stops, added off-board payment to M79 and M86, and won 79 new buses for the M15.

EXPANDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Won two consecutive rent freezes for 1.1 million rent-stabilized tenants and passed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.

CLEANING UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Purchased 300 new trash cans to keep more than 100 intersections clean and litter free.

OPPOSING THE MARINE TRANSFER STATION
Exposed high costs, moved the ramp, and limited to only using one-third of capacity to keep 300 trucks off our roads—let’s dump the dump.

Updates

Press Coverage
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has championed the expansion of affordable housing throughout all five boroughs, but he, as well as the City Planning Commission, opposed the ERFA’s original rezoning proposal, which was backed by several community representatives, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents the residents of Sutton Place. New York State Senator Liz Krueger has backed the proposal, and recently, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney signed on in support of the ERFA’s mission, having already written and voiced concerns to the CPC on the organization’s behalf, according to an ERFA spokeswoman.

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Press Coverage
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Previously the rezoning wanted to curtail the height of buildings in this area to 260 feet, but after City Planning raised concerns about that rezoning, the Alliance altered its rezoning proposal.

This latest effort has the backing of several local elected officials including City Council member Ben Kallos. In order for Gamma to move forward with its current plan for the tower, it will have to complete construction on the foundation by Thanksgiving. That’s basically impossible, Kalikow told AM New York.

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Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Press Coverage
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“The BSA is the most powerful city agency that no one has ever heard of,” said New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents District 5 (the east side of Manhattan from Midtown up to East Harlem). “It literally has the power to change how neighborhoods are planned without going through the regular city planning process.”

Kallos, who sponsored five of the nine bills in the BSA legislative reform package that the City Council passed in May, said his interest in the body goes back more than a decade to his time as a member of Manhattan’s Community Board 8 and concerns that arose as he witnessed his Upper East Side neighborhood “turn from a residential neighborhood into a commercial and hospital district.”

“I watched a parade of applicants come in and build buildings that could never be built under the current neighborhood plan,” he recalled.

Alongside Kallos, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, the reforms drew bipartisan support from Democratic Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Republican Minority Leader Steven Matteo, as well as Democratic council members Karen Koslowitz and Donovan Richards.

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Press Coverage
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A fresh proposal, drafted with input from members of the city planning department, is scheduled for public hearing on Oct. 18, paving the way for a possible approval by the city council in November, said Ben Kallos, a councilman who is one of the applicants seeking rezoning.

“All along, this has been a race to the finish,” Kallos, the councilman, said in an interview. “I hope to vote on it as soon as possible. Communities want a say in how their neighborhoods are developed.”

 

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Thursday, October 5, 2017

There were and continue to be criticisms about the requirement that City Council members relinquish virtually all outside income. Some stemmed from concerns that an outright ban on outside income could discourage small business owners from running for office, according to Council Member Ben Kallos, who co-sponsored the legislation and chairs the governmental operations committee. The bill was tweaked to make allowances for passive income and would not force electeds to dissolve their business entities completely.

“It’s just what we could reasonably expect from people. So, if somebody has spent their career as a small business person, and brought that small business experience to the City Council,  which can be invaluable…,” said Kallos. “After four years or eight years, [that person] could return to their community, and continue doing what they did to begin with.”

Rather than stripping a small number of elected officials of their non-governmental livelihoods, the goal was to ensure that Council members focus on their districts full-time, and to avoid any real or apparent conflicts of interest.

“It is a concern for me that someone with business before the city could hire a member of the City Council in the hopes of gaining influence,” said Kallos, who represents Manhattan’s 5th Council District.

Kallos said that before taking office in 2014, he personally retired from the practice of law in three states and dissolved LLCs for companies he had started. He said he is still in the process of dissolving several non-profits he created.

“All of them have had, literally had no business since I got elected. But, it can be a complicated and weird, long process,” he said.

While dissolving these entities is not required by the bill, Kallos said, “I felt that as the author of the law in question, I have to set a good example and go one step further than the law requires.”

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Press Coverage
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Meanwhile, ERFA proposed its rezoning plan to limit the heights of buildings and create a new inclusionary housing zone that would allow developers to build up to 350 feet if they include affordable units in their projects. The proposal has garnered the support of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos and state Sen. Liz Krueger, but it has not yet received the crucial approval from City Planning.

Kallos, who helped co-found ERFA, said the group is made up of more than 2,000 people across 45 buildings in the area. The Council member said the rezoning effort is spurred by the fact that construction in his district is rampant and residents are seeing very little affordable housing created in the area.

 "You can literally walk anywhere in my district and see one construction site from another construction site,” said Kallos, who told TRD that he wanted to step in to prevent “another 432 Park Avenue” from towering over the city. “People in my district are getting development fatigue.”

 

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Press Release

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

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Press Coverage
Thursday, September 28, 2017

They are a common sight around the city -- scaffolding surrounding buildings. But once they go up, many scaffolds do not come down for years -- creating eyesores and quality-of-life problems in their neighborhoods. One Councilman is trying to change that. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report:

When Fernando Salomone opens the door to his fire escape, he often finds trash spread across the top of scaffolding surrounding the building next door.

"You see fresh food. There's a sandwich over there, diapers over here," he said, examining the scaffolding.

Salomone says it's been a problem since he opened his gym on Broadway and West 104th Street nearly three years ago. Sometimes it is so bad, he leaves his windows closed to keep out mice and the smell of rotting trash.

"I'm on Broadway, it should be clean," Salomone said. "If I throw garbage from the window, they will give me a ticket, right?

"No one does anything with this garbage."

The scaffolding surrounds a city-owned building that is used as a homeless shelter. It went up four years ago to prevent parts of the deteriorating facade from falling onto the sidewalk. But since then, the city hasn't done anything to repair that facade.

"I think the city should be embarrassed about any scaffolding around any city building," City Councilman Ben Kallos said.

This scaffolding highlights a citywide problem of landlords erecting sidewalk sheds and not taking them down.

One building has had scaffolding since 2006. Another in East Harlem has had one for ten years, as has a building in Chelsea, all of which are seen in the video above.

Kallos has proposed legislation to end the nuisances and eyesores of perpetual scaffoldings.

"Anytime somebody puts up the scaffolding, they have to immediately start work or take it back down, and if they can't afford to do the work, the city would end up doing for them and charging for them later," Kallos said.

There are 7,800 active sidewalk shed permits, half of which are in Manhattan.

A law requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to erect scaffolding every five years to inspect the facades.

Landlords who don't make the repairs in 90 days face fines of $1,000 a month. But some choose to leave the scaffolding up and pay the fines to avoid costly facade repairs.

The de Blasio administration said it is reviewing Kallos's bill.

As for this sidewalk shed on Broadway, it is expected to come down soon, but it will then be replaced with another sidewalk shed. Once that happens, work will finally begin on the building, with repairs to the façade expected to be completed in 2019.

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Press Coverage
NBC News 4 New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Children at one New York City school testified in City Council chambers against the use of pesticides in parks. Roseanne Colletti reports.

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