October News: Free School Lunch, More Pre-K Seats for the UES, Free Helmets and No-Cost Flu Shots
As we welcome the autumn temperatures of October for those of you who celebrate Shannah Tova as I reflect during these days of awe, if I or my team have disappointed you, please let me know so that we may seek your forgiveness as we try to do better in the coming year.
It is deeply sad that October started out with the tragic and horrifically violent events in Las Vegas that took the lives of at least 59 people. I hope that this nation can finally adopt gun control and that this coming year be a blessed one filled with peace, health and joy.
September was a month with many timely hearings surrounding several pieces of legislation my office is trying to turn into law. Whether it is taking on construction noise, making Zero Waste by 2030 a law, banning toxic pesticides in our City’s parks or even supporting students with Gender-Sexuality Alliances in our schools, I have been working to improve our great City.
Now that flu season is just around the corner I want to invite residents to our October Annual Senior Health Fair on Thursday, October 19 from 11am to 2pm at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House where No-Cost flu shots will be available to residents who RSVP.
If you are interested in the Participatory Budgeting process and being a key part of deciding how the community spends $1 million, now is the time to get involved and submit your ideas. On Tuesday, October 17 at 6pm join us for a Participatory Budgeting Assembly at my District Office at 244 East 93rd Street RSVP. If you can’t make it that day make sure to submit your ideas online.
P.S. If you’d like to meet with me this month keep in mind that First Friday is canceled in observance of Sukkot but you can still meet with me on specific policy ideas during Brain Storming with Ben on Tuesday, October 10, at 6pm RSVP.
October 19, 11am-2pm
October 14, 11am-2:30pm
October 17, 6pm-7pm
October 19, 11am-2pm
DISTRICT OFFICE EVENTS
October 7, 8am-10am
October 5, 12, 19 & 26
October 17, 6pm
No First Friday in Observance Due to Religious Observance
5. Free Childcare for Government Meetings
6. P.S 290 Students Lobby to Ban Pesticides in City Parks
7. Gender Sexuality Alliance Legislation Hearing
8. Environmental Committee Hearing on Noise in New York City
9. Hearing on Agencies Not Enforcing Quality of Life Violations
10.Zero Waste Hearing Codifying 1573 into Law
11. East River Greenway Construction on Esplanade Announced
12. $959.00 Trash Cans
13. My Scaffolding Bill Would Help Businesses
14. Labor Day Parade
15. Asphalt Green Gets New Pool Filters
16. Annual Town Hall Recap and Thank You
As the New York Times reported, first day of school for New York City children was a little different this year. As of September 7th, thanks to a change in policy I have been pushing for since I was elected, lunch for all New York City children going forward will be provided free. That is free lunch for all 1.1 million students served by the New York City Department of Education. As someone who grew up with a single mom in a one income household on the Upper East Side, I qualified for reduced priced lunch. That is why I understand firsthand the stigma lower-income students face during lunchtime, lunch shaming is real and children often go all day without eating to avoid the teasing from classmates.
As all parents of toddlers on the Upper East Side know, there is a shortage of Pre-K seats in the district. This is something I have been working to correct since the Universal Free Pre-K program started in 2015. That is why I was excited to announce that this school year 40 new Pre-K seats will be available for four-year-olds on the Upper East Side. I joined Principal Doreen Esposito of Manhattan New School in a ribbon cutting ceremony that welcomed 40 new children to the program. With the help of community organizers, we have successfully quintupled the number of seats in District 5 since I took office in 2014. I will continue to fight for universal childcare that will put our children first and give them the resources they need to succeed. For more information on Universal Pre-K contact, UPKBenKallos [dot] com read and the release.
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. I would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his generous donation on behalf of his charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, for making this project possible. The campus will not only take part in critical technological advancements, it will also create hundreds of new jobs on Roosevelt Island. By diligently working with community organizers and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation we 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 that the next big thing is “Made In New York”. I look forward to working with Cornell Tech on bringing millions in investment to growing companies on Roosevelt Island and in New York City. For more information read the release.
I was proud to cut the ribbon, inaugurating Child Center of NY as the new Beacon after-school program provider at PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island. This much-needed new service will provide free after-school services and community enrichment programming to a growing number of school-aged children on Roosevelt Island. At the ribbon cutting, I was joined by State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation President Susan Rosenthal, PS/IS 217 Principal Mandana, parents, children and Youth Development Director for Child Center of NY Nick Ferreira. I want to thank the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, and PS/IS 217 for working with the Child Center of New York to make their transition to Roosevelt Island as smooth as possible. For more information read the release or watch the press conference.
NBC 4 and CBS 2 reported on legislation I introduced in 2015, with the help of teachers and students at P.S 290, The Manhattan New School, to ban the use of toxic pesticides in New York City parks and public spaces. This September I was able to lead a coalition of over 100 concerned students, teachers and activists to participate in a hearing at the Committee on Health in the New York City Council to discuss Int 0800. If this bill goes on to become law, the City would be required to use only biological pesticides in public spaces, derived from natural materials, instead of synthetic, traditional pesticides--except under necessary circumstances. The EPA maintains that biological pesticides tend to be less toxic, and safer for humans and pets, than synthetic pesticides. At this hearing, dozens of children from P.S 290 and their teacher Paula Rogovin, made it clear, through a testimony and a skit performance, that they support banning toxic pesticides in New York City parks. All of us want to protect the health and safety of our children, which is why my legislation, Int. 0800, needs to become law. For more information watch the hearing, including the children’s testimony.
NBC New York 4, The Wall Street Journal and Our Town NY all reported on legislation I have introduced that would give parents the option to participate in free child care services during local government or city council hearings that are open to public comment. Our democracy only works when the public has a voice in their local government. But for some parents, civic engagement is not possible if they need to look after their kids. I grew up in a single-parent household, so I know how hard it is for parents, especially single-parents, to take time out of their day to attend local meetings. If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City, that means offering free child care so that all New Yorkers can participate in the democratic process, regardless of family status. For more information read the release.
I was pleased to listen to testimony by students of East Side Middle School at a September hearing of the City’s Education Committee. At the hearing, the committee discussed Introduction 1638 which the students themselves helped me author. The legislation is designed to support Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Clubs in City public schools and would require the Department of Education to report annually on the presence, activity of GSAs and how they are being supported by parents, schools and the Department of Education. This information would be vital for lawmakers and advocates and ultimately lead to a more inclusive and welcoming environment for our kids. For more information on the bill read the release or watch the hearing.
Whether it is the thumping of late night music coming from bars and nightclubs, or the constant banging from ongoing construction on a Saturday morning, “noise” continues to be New Yorkers number-one 311 complaint. In September the Committee on Environmental Protection held hearings on this topic. I used the opportunity to question both the Department of Buildings on why they issue so many after-hours variances (AHV) and the Environmental Department on whether they have enough staff to respond accordingly to the needs of New York City. The legislation I have introduced would 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. For more information watch the hearing.
As chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, in September I chaired a hearing to find out why the City is not enforcing the laws the Mayor is signing. On April 21st of 2016, the Mayor signed into law legislation giving City agencies the power to suspend, revoke, or deny permits or licenses given to individuals or business entities who have unpaid quality of life violations issued by the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Examples of such violations include offenses like leaving trash out in the street at the wrong time or day, not obeying the City’s recycling laws or perhaps a bar that played its music too loud into the night. The point of this law, Local Law 47, is not to ticket business or hurt them but to correct the behavior of the businesses in the City that are bad actors, repeat offenders but continue to operate in the same bad ways since the tickets they are accumulating are not being collected. When this law was created, the City of New York was owed $1.8 billion dollars in outstanding ECB debt. Thanks to an amnesty program and organized outreach to businesses, ECB debt collection has increased 22%. However, there still remains $981 million in outstanding debt, according to the Department of Finance. That is money that could be spent on schools, senior housing and other priorities this administration has outlined. Despite that 11 of the 13 agencies have not bothered to enforce the law or report on how the process is working. For more information watch the hearing.
At a Sanitation Committee hearing in September, I once again had the opportunity to question DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia on why the Upper East Side and Manhattan need a marine waste transfer station when New York City is supposed to be at zero waste by the year 2030. I also pushed for support Introduction 1573, legislation I introduced to codify into law the City efforts and commitment to zero waste by 2030. I want to codify the zero waste by 2030 goal because it was done via a directive or Executive Order. Recently on a national level, we have seen what happened with DACA and other directives not codified into law. If a future administration wants to change it, it can easily ignore or reverse it. 2030 means at least two mayors after this one must follow through on this initiative. This issue is far too serious to leave to chance or whim. Intro 1573, which I introduced earlier this year, requires the Department of Sanitation to determine and report on whether a true zero waste goal is feasible by 2030 -or at all- and make recommendations on how to get there. For more information read the release or watch the hearing.
As Co-Chair of the East River Esplanade Task Force alongside Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, it was a pleasure to have Mayor De Blasio on the East Side to announce that the final design for the East River Greenway is ready and construction of the $100 Million project that will connect the gap on the East River Esplanade between 53rd and 61st streets. The formal announcement will put Manhattan a little closer having a 32-mile contiguous walkway around the island. Soon my residents and I will finally be able to run, bike or walk the entire length of my district from Midtown East to East Harlem. For more information read the release or watch the press conference.
Fox 5 and the New York Post reported how the City’s inability to negotiate effectively with vendors is costing taxpayers a lot money. Since taking office in 2014, I have made it a priority to purchase large dome trash cans for District 5 as part of an effort to keep our neighborhood streets free of litter. In that time, with my discretionary funding, I have purchased over 284 cans, covering nearly every corner of the district. At a cost of $545, the expenditure was well worth the money. This year, as I prepared to order new cans for the remaining intersections of the district that need trash cans, I realized that the price of the containers had just about doubled. From $545 to $969 per can. It is the job of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to negotiate and manage contracts with vendors such as this. There is something wrong with our City’s bidding process when items double in price overnight. We can, and should, do better to save tax-payer’s money.
NY1 reported on legislation I proposed that would hold landlords accountable for scaffolding that goes up and never comes down. If this legislation is passed into law, it would give building owners three to six months to make repairs to their building in a timely fashion. If they cannot get the work done on time, then the city will step in and do the work for them at the cost of the building owner. The City should be embarrassed by the fact that some scaffolding in NYC is old enough to vote. My legislation would work to take these eyesores down quickly and ease the burden on businesses who suffer because of these sidewalk sheds.For more information read the release and prior coverage from the New York Times.
Every year I look forward to marching in New York City’s Labor Day parade to help celebrate the achievements of America’s working class. I want to thank the labor leaders and union members for all they do to protect the interests of New York City’s workers. It was an honor and privilege to spend the day with my brothers and sisters in labor, and I am eager to fight beside you to continue to improve labor standards in NYC.
As the Council Member representing the Upper East Side, it was an honor and a privilege to be able to help secure more than $600,000 in funding for maintenance and renovations at Asphalt Green’s Olympic size pool. The 50-meter pool is one of my favorite places in the Upper East Side to get a workout. The pool, which had been closed, reopened recently after a three-week hiatus, during which industrial size filters were upgraded and replaced. Since 1993 when the pool opened, more than nine million New Yorkers have visited the pool including many Upper East Side children who train for competitions at the facility daily. For more information read the coverage on City Limits and the Upper East Side Patch.
Thank you to the almost 100 residents who joined me at Memorial Sloan Kettering for my office's Annual Town Hall. This year the event featured presentations from the MTA, the New York City Fire Department, the Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation which presented on the status of ongoing construction on the East River Esplanade behind Gracie Mansion. The presentation focuses on the current status of the project and what residents can expect to see in the next couple of months. Everyone who RSVP’d for the Town Hall received a free reusable bag. Thank you for being a part of the event and stay tuned to make you do not miss out next event.