For New York City Council
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: August 30, 2013
MANHATTAN’S DISTRICT 5 (Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island): A few months ago, this race looked as if it would be an easy win for Assemblyman Micah Kellner. Then came the accusations against him of sexual harassment — charges now being investigated by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in Albany. Fortunately, there is a better candidate in this race: Ben Kallos, a lawyer and activist. Mr. Kallos has government experience as a legislative aide in Albany, where he worked to begin putting voting records online. He has impressive proposals to help students who attend the City University of New York by forgiving college loans to those who work and stay in the city, and to require developers to build more affordable apartments to get tax abatements. He wants to expand broadband service and revisit congestion pricing. Ben Kallos brings fresh ideas and merits this seat.
Confronted with corruption in Albany, Ben put voting records online so New Yorkers could finally hold politicians accountable.
Since then he's run a government reform organization that successfully removed corruption from government and served as Policy Director for former Public Advocate Mark Green.
Ben grew up on the Upper East Side with his grandparents, who fled anti-Semitism in Europe and his mother who still lives here, and who Ben currently supports in her battle against Parkinson's disease.
Graduating from Bronx Science, Ben knows that our public schools are more than just budget line. he also attended SUNY Albany and SUNY Buffalo Law School, where he paid his own way.
In the Council, Ben will promote transparency to ensure every dollar gets spent to improve your qulaity of life - from affordable housing to senior services to better schools.
Protecting Your Quality of Life
- Fought corruption by making voting records easily accessible online
- Forced developers to invest in the community
- Supported seniors by advocating for home and community care to keep them healthy and independent
- Protected residents and businesses along the 2nd Avenue subway construction by advocating for safety and helping to draft small business grants legislation
- Improved education by supporting new schools
- Committed to fighting the Marine Transfer Station on 91st Street
As a member of the City Council, he will represent you in the Fifth District, be open and accountable to you, and put the focus back on issues of utmost importance to the community, succeeding Councilmember Jessica Lappin as she runs for Manhattan Borough President.
Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, also has tracked improvement on the issue, thanks to a summer of work to address what he sees as one of the most pressing issues in his district.
Kallos said a renewed focus from officers in the 19th Precinct has resulted in a 52% increase in enforcement actions against bikes and a corresponding 18% drop in bike and vehicle collisions.
Working with his office, the Department of Transportation has given away 10,500 bells and 10,100 lights to bikers.
“This is something we’ve taken very seriously,” Kallos said in an interview. “A lot of this revolves around residents feeling empowered to do something.”
Yet while numbers from police and the new survey show improvement on the issue, it has yet to filter down to how people feel in the street. The September meeting of Wallerstein’s group, for instance, was dominated by the issue, with a number of speakers expressing frustration that bikers who break traffic laws or ride the wrong way seem rarely get punished.
Wallerstein said the emotion surrounding the issue springs from fear, particularly among older New Yorkers, few of whom are riding the bikes that are now crowding the streets.
“It’s very, very frightening,” she said. “The biker knows he can easily get around. But elderly people can’t do that.”
Wallerstein said her group is planning another bike survey in the neighborhood next month.
Kallos welcomed the input. “Unless the community steps up to the plate,” he said, “there will never be an end in sight.”
DOT, Citi Bike and other city officials marked the program’s expansion with an inaugural bike ride this morning, beginning at the new Upper East Side station at 67th Street and Lexington Avenue, then biking across Central Park to the new Upper West Side station at 63rd and Broadway.
“Uptown felt left out when the initial roll out came out. We were supposed to be a part of it, and now we are,” city councilmember Ben Kallos told the Observer.
Prior to the expansion, 59th Street was the Northernmost location for Citi Bike stations, with the exception of a single Westside station at 61stand Broadway.
“The Upper East Side is a place where you can be the furthest from any form of public transportation,” Mr. Kallos said. “You can be living a half mile from the nearest subway station, and that subway station is overcrowded, and so are uptown buses. This will provide another form of public transportation.”
While many of us are somewhat dreading the forthcoming winter snowstorms—and ridership in the program has, not surprisingly, dropped off every winter—Mr. Kallos isn’t worried about the impending winter weather putting a damper on Citi Bike use.
“The winter isn’t as cold as people make it out to be, and for the couple of days that it’s snowy and icy out, most people don’t even want to get in their car. Citi Bikes aren’t really something people use for longer than half an hour or 45 minutes, so you have the choice between walking half an hour or taking a bike ride.”
Following the Upper East and Upper West Side locations, Citi Bike will expand into Long Island City, Astoria, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope, among other neighborhoods.
City Councilman Ben Kallos called the expansion critical to reducing crowding on the streets and over-packed 4, 5 and 6 subway trains.
“Even when we have the Second Avenue subway it’s still going to be overcrowded, Citi Bike will offer an alternative to so many people,” he said. “Our commutes are about to get a lot better, especially on the Upper East Side where we live the furthest distance from any public transportation.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also came out against the plan, and questioned why prospective market rate tenants would want to live in apartments where garbage trucks will rumbling by on their way to the MTS (the Dept. of Sanitation has not yet revealed the exact route trucks will take on their way to the MTS, but East 92nd Street is a likely route).
“The garbage trucks are going to go by Holmes,” said Brewer. “It’s hard for the residents.”
She also criticized the plan for retroactively engaging with tenants of Holmes Towers after key decisions have already been made. She also wants any residential project at Holmes to be one hundred percent affordable.
“I don’t know that I’d call it a joke, but I’d call it a challenging process,” said Brewer of the city’s forthcoming attempt to win tenants over to the plan. “I would want a hundred percent affordable with much discussion about what affordable is.”
Councilmember Ben Kallos, who is also opposed to the plan, agreed.
“I think we’re going to make it as hard for the mayor to do this as possible,” he said.
Kallos said NYCHA is set to meet with residents to review the plan on Oct. 7.
But as Councilman Ben Kallos pointed out, the Ninth Avenue bike lane [PDF] resulted in a 43 percent decrease in collisions since its implementation in 2007.
The hearing saw a thorough back-and-forth between industry representatives and Council Members Ben Kallos and Daniel Dromm, who refused to accept the opposing arguments being made.
Ben Kallos, a city councilman and software developer, introduced a bill last year that would require the city to create a free universal e-hail app. He praised the new apps as "exactly what the city needed," but lamented their late arrival.
Council Member Ben Kallos of Manhattan's Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island said making sure the three stations planned for his district are moving forward is a "high priority."
"This is another piece to the puzzle," Kallos said. "Despite initially low projected ridership, when you are speaking about the infrastructure we're building, and the cost of it...This is providing a lot more service to four or five boroughs, and it's improving people's commutes."
EDC representatives are expected to testify Monday and say that the plans for the ferry system are on track. The agency is currently reviewing responses to a request for proposals for a ferry operator and plans to integrate the East River Ferry operator into the new larger ferry system. Officials point to the successes of the East River Ferry as they imagine expansion of ferry service.
Rodriguez said that ferries are also particularly effective when natural disasters hit—a route between Manhattan and the Rockaways was established within days after Hurricane Sandy knocked out subway service to the neighborhood in 2012. He and Kallos also pointed that the ferry system would be completely under the city's control—unlike the MTA, which is state-run.
"Investing in our waterfronts and our ferry system is a way for our city to have strong accountability and control over our infrastructure," Kallos said.
“We’ve got a second bite at bridging the digital divide in the Big Apple,” said City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).