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About Ben Kallos

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 mother, who still lives in the neighborhood, and his grandparents, who fled anti-Semitism in Europe. A Bronx Science graduate, Ben knows that our public schools are more than just budget line.  He attended SUNY Albany and SUNY Buffalo Law School, where he paid his own way through.

In the City Council, Ben chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations, where he promotes transparency to ensure every dollar gets spent to improve your quality of life--from affordable housing to senior services to better schools.

Updates

Press Coverage
Capital New York
Thursday, January 22, 2015

Councilman Ben Kallos on Thursday reintroduced two pieces of legislation on behalf of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer aimed at ensuring that New Yorkers' personal information is protected in interactions with city agencies.

The first piece of legislation, related to personal information privacy, directs agencies collecting personal information to inform individuals about the legal framework for gathering personal information, the purpose of gathering it and how it will be used, codifies that agencies may not use data for purposes without an individual's permission and that agency officials should only have access to that personal information that is necessary for their duties, and directs agencies to ensure the security and confidentiality of systems containing personal data.

The second piece of legislation, related to personal information security, directs all agencies maintaining personal information records to implement a security program that details administrative, technical and physical safeguards protecting that data.

Brewer originally introduced the first piece of legislation in 2010, and the second in 2011, but timing issues prevented them from moving forward, she said.

In an interview, Kallos said the legislation was intended as a proactive measure, especially in light of increasing reports of data breaches in the private sector.

"A lot of people aren't paying attention to what data they are sharing," he said. "City agencies should only be collecting information that is necessary for their task.... If someone is applying for SNAP benefits...the only people who need to know that are them and the person [they] are applying to."

He said the legislation would not prevent the gathering of anonymized, aggregated data for research purposes, and that it was mandating measures that the city "should be engaged in anyway."

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Press Coverage
AM New York
Thursday, January 22, 2015

A City Council member will introduce a bill Thursday that would help New Yorkers avoid being discriminated against for being on the "tenant blacklist."

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) said there have been too many cases where a prospective home buyer would be denied a lease by a landlord because they were involved in a housing court dispute. The councilman said many of these landlords would request a report about the applicant's history from a service that has access to the court's index number database, but wouldn't go into detail about the circumstances.

"Someone who had a perfectly strong credit score would be denied by the fact that they are in landlord tenant court, even if they were on the right side," he said.
 

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Press Release

New York, NY – An “Anti Tenant-Blacklist” City Council bill to be introduced today would protect tenants named in housing court from being placed on “blacklists." The legislation, sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, Alan Maisel, and Mark Levine would prevent landlords from using the information to discriminate against tenants when they have satisfied the terms of an order issued in housing court. The so-called blacklists contain an estimated hundreds of thousands of names of would-be renters.

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Press Coverage
City and State
Thursday, January 22, 2015

New York City Councilman Ben Kallos plans to introduce legislation today aiming to ensure that city high schools fulfill their legal mandate to distribute voter registration forms to graduating students, in part by instituting a tracking system to be used by the Department of Education.
 
Kallos, who will be joined by Council Members Linda Rosenthal and Fernando Cabrera, said the Young Adult Voter Registration Act already directs both public and private high schools to have voter registration applications available on campus and to hand them out with diplomas upon graduation, but that it has gone largely unimplemented since its passage in 2004.
 
Under his legislation, schools would maintain a stash of voter registration forms in several languages and distribute them to students. The Department of Education would then be required to track how many forms make it back to the city's Board of Elections each year, and to submit annual reports to the City Council. 
 
“The current law just requires that they put voter registrations with diplomas and mail it to the kids. One hundred thousand go out a year, and 100,000 kids do not register to vote,” Kallos said, also noting that in the time since he began helping students register to vote in 2012, he has never called a campus that reported having forms on hand. “We’re just trying to improve it and make sure we’re actually following it,” he said.
 

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Press Release

High School students in public and private schools will be required to receive voter registration forms during class under new legislation that would improve upon the decade long-unenforced Young Adult Voter Registration Act (YAVRA), if Council Members Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal and Fernando Cabrera have a say.

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Newsletter

In May, Council Member Kallos and Council Member Dromm--Chair of the Education Committee--sent a letter to Department of Education, requesting improved compliance with the Young Adult Voter Registration Act through a new Young Adult Voter Registration Day.

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Press Coverage
Examiner
Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On September 20th of this year, one of the biggest fights over housing will take place at City Hall as the New York City Council hears arguments for and against the hotel service providers, Airbnb’s operations in residential buildings. Share NYC Better has already stated they expect to fill the council chamber with both Hotel workers union members and tenant advocates.
The biggest concern for the consortium of groups is that the industry’s practices are driving up rents in many buildings, leading to increased warehousing of already scarce rent regulated apartments. These businesses lead to security troubles in apartment units due to the constant flow of traffic coming in and out of these buildings. The biggest danger, however, are the serious fire safety hazards posed by illegal hotel operations.

Commercial hotels and residential buildings have two very different standards when dealing with fire protection; standards for hotels are much more strict. Commercial hotels must have on-site fire marshals on top of a sprinkler system along with clearly stated maps throughout each floor and multiple exits on each floor. Doors must swing “out’ to allow for rapid egress. Doors in residential buildings swing inward – partly to safeguard against burglaries. The lack of these safety requirements in residential units are something which the head of Airbnb has refused to address in any meaningful way. Councilman Ben Kallos has alluded that the company may be putting their own profit ahead of the safety of tourists according to the New York Post. But Airbnb whose upper hand always has been on the side of financial resources is now attempting to reach out to younger and in some cases more liberal millennials by circulating petitions on such sites as change.org and cause.com under the auspices of helping students and middle class tenants stay in their homes.

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Press Coverage
New York Post
Monday, January 12, 2015

City Council members want to grill the subletting service Airbnb about fears renters could die in a fire while struggling to flee an unfamiliar apartment.

“We need to ensure Airbnb is not putting profit over people by allowing listings that cram too many tourists into apartments far too small to guarantee their safe escape from danger,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side).

The council’s Housing and Buildings Committee has scheduled a Jan. 20 hearing over “short-term rentals” arranged through Airbnb and other sites.

In a recent affidavit, an FDNY official said that, unlike hotels, apartments being illegally used for “transient occupancy” don’t offer visitors a “detailed fire-safety and evacuation plan.”

An Airbnb spokesman said the company was “eager to participate” in the hearing, and insisted, “We take safety seriously.”

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette
Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Few things are more annoying than waiting for a bus when the weather isn't good. You're cold, you're wet, and the bus schedule said it would arrive at 9:05. It's 9:21. Where's your bus?

Technological advancements have given New York City straphangers some relief with the Real-Time Bus app, which allows users to see how far away their bus actually is. More recently, a collection of city council members used discretionary funding towardmore countdown clocks for additional bus stops, an especially useful tool for those without smartphones.

But what if your bus is always late? Sure, it's good to know how long you will have to wait (and maybe have time to grab a cup of coffee nearby to warm up) - but is anyone actually doing anything about it?

When Council Member Ben Kallos took office in 2014, he said slow or unreliable bus service was among his constituents' chief complaints. Kallos' district spans much of the Upper East Side and includes bus-heavy 1st and 2nd Avenues. The new council member began forwarding complaints to the MTA, but wasn't finding the relief he or his constituents were looking for.

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Press Coverage
New York Daily News
Monday, January 19, 2015

With President Obama set to tout a proposal for free community college education in Tuesday night’s State of the Union, some local pols are pushing for the city to take matters into its own hands with free tuition at CUNY schools.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said instead of waiting for Washington to act, the city should eliminate tuition at its seven community colleges. He sent a letter to the Independent Budget Office asking them to determine how much it would cost.

“When you look at the political reality in Washington and the challenges that they are going to face in the upcoming legislative cycle, this relief is needed now and we really can’t wait for the infighting that’s taking place in DC,” Adams said.

Tuition for 77,000 community college students is now $4500 a year - but Adams noted free tuition used to be standard practice at CUNY schools.

Another proposal by Councilman Ben Kallos would have the city repay 10% of CUNY grads’ loans for every year they remain living in the city - so if they stay here for ten years, they’d get the education free.

“One of the largest hurdles we’re seeing to a productive America is everyone graduates ready to enter the market under a crushing amount of debt,” Kallos said.

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