Updates

Press Coverage
Commercial Observer
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
Curbed
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
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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
Commercial Observer
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
Bloomberg Business
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
The Real Deal
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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Newsletter

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.

Sincerely,


Ben Kallos

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.

SPECIAL EVENTS

October 19, 11am-2pm
Senior Health Fair

October 14, 11am-2:30pm
Free- Helmets and Fitting

October 17, 6pm-7pm
Participatory Budgeting Assembly

October 19, 11am-2pm
Senior Health Fair: FREE Flu Shots

DISTRICT OFFICE EVENTS

October 7, 8am-10am
First Friday

October 5, 12, 19 & 26
3:30pm-6:30pm
Fresh Food Box
(Outside District Office)

October 17, 6pm
Brainstorming With Ben

No First Friday in Observance Due to Religious Observance

EDUCATION

1. Free School Lunches
2. More Pre-Kindergarten Seats for UES
3. Roosevelt Island Cornell Tech Opening Ceremony
4. Child Center NY Beacon Celebrates First Day

LEGISLATION HEARD 

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

COMMUNITY 

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

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Press Release
Monday, October 2, 2017

 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
CNBC
Saturday, September 30, 2017

Free lunch for all from CNBC.

Giving out lunch based on this criterion has led to what some observers have branded as "lunch shaming." As a result, many kids chose to skip lunch to avoid bullying.

New York City Council member Ben Kallos knows that effect all too well. He grew up in the Upper East Side section of Manhattan, which is known to be very wealthy, and attended the Bronx High School of Science. However, he stood out among his classmates.

"Not only did I come from a single parent household, but a multi-generational household, which meant I was eligible for free or reduced lunch," Ben Kallos, NYC Council member told CNBC's "On the Money."

He added that every day his friends would go out and buy lunch instead of staying in the cafeteria. So he had to make a choice between friends and food.

"I would tell them I wasn't hungry, when the truth is, I was starving," Kallos said.

"Every single child will be treated the same. No one will have to worry if their family can afford it…and we'll actually be giving kids an even start to life," said Kallos.

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Press Release
Saturday, September 30, 2017

100 million initiative comes as part of administration-wide push to complete a contiguous 32-mile waterfront pedestrian promenade and bikeway around Manhattan

NEW YORK—As part of City Hall in your Borough week in Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the formal design process for a new section of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway between East 61st Street and East 53rd Street will officially kick off next week. The Mayor was joined by local officials to tour a portion of the existing greenway and discussing plans for its expansion. Construction of the new segment will commence in 2019, with completion expected in 2022.

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Press Coverage
Upper East Side Patch
Friday, September 29, 2017

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — The Olympic-sized pool at Upper East Side fitness center Asphalt Green has reopened after a three-week project to install a new water filtration system, the center announced this week.

The 50-meter pool has serviced more than nine million New Yorkers since it opened in 1993, but was using its original water filters, a spokesman for Asphalt Green told Patch. Upper East Side City Councilman Ben Kallos secured more than $600,000 for new Neptune Benson Defender filters for the pool.

The new system will keep the pool cleaner and require less maintenance by filtering a whopping 2.6 million gallons of water per day, an Asphalt Green spokesman said.

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Press Coverage
City Limits
Thursday, September 28, 2017

(New York, N.Y.) – New York City sports and fitness nonprofit Asphalt Greenreopened its Upper East Side Olympic-size swimming pool earlier this month, after a three-week shutdown to install new pool filters for the first time since it opened in 1993.

The eco-friendly, energy-efficient Neptune Benson Defender filters require less maintenance, and keep the water cleaner, filtering 2.6 million gallons per day. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos led the effort to secure City funding for the project, which cost $698,000.

“Council Member Kallos continues to be a valued supporter of Asphalt Green’s mission to help New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds live active, healthy lifestyles through sports and fitness,” said Maggy Siegel, Executive Director of Asphalt Green. “We are tremendously grateful for the Council’s funding for our new eco-friendly pool filters, which will make our water cleaner for the thousands of children and adults who use our pool each month.”

“Asphalt Green is one of my favorite places on the Upper East Side to exercise, and now it has likely the cleanest pool in all of New York City thanks to the new, state-of-the-art filters and renovation,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who provided $100,000 and advocated for an additional $513,000 from Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in discretionary funding for the improvements. “Asphalt Green is one of the unique neighborhood jewels that make the Upper East Side a special place to live, and that is why I am proud of the investment my office made to keep the facility running better than ever for residents and Olympians alike.”

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Press Coverage
Our Town
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Parents interested in participating in local government might soon receive free child care provided by the city under proposed legislation by Council Member Ben Kallos.

Raised by a single mother, Kallos hopes the option of child care will eliminate barriers to participation by parents, and in turn increase women’s involvement in government. Women make up less than 25 percent of the New York City Council.

“I think people feel like democracy is broken,” said Kallos, who offers free child care at his annual events. “If we want to build an inclusive democracy here in New York City, it means offering free child care when we want to hear from any New Yorker who has children.”

The idea was brought to Kallos by several parents in the district, including Community Board 8 member Sarah Chu, a new mother.

“Before I became a parent, I often wondered why more parents didn’t attend our meetings,” said Chu. “Parents have a clear and present interest in the democratic process on behalf of their children. Adopting this legislation is important because it tells parents that their engagement in civic life is necessary and valued.”

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Press Coverage
NY1
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
Commercial Observer
Thursday, September 28, 2017

New York City Council District 5 representative Ben Kallos first discovered news of Bauhouse’s planned development from a local resident while attending an Easter egg hunt in April 2015.

“Somebody in the neighborhood [said to me], ‘Did you know there is going to be a tower? Somebody wants to put up 1,000 feet here,’ ” Kallos told CO. “And I’m like, ‘You mean at 432 Park?’ They said, ‘No, [East] 58th Street and Sutton [Place].’ I said, ‘There’s no way. Is this an April Fool’s Day joke?’ ”

By January 2016, the ERFA—backed by Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer as well as State Senator Liz Krueger and Councilman Dan Garodnick—had formed and filed its first rezoning application with the Department of City Planning, looking to cap the height of the building and also secure a section of the residential development for affordable housing units.

This April, CO reported that Gamma had spent the previous few months demolishing the three tenement buildings that had previously occupied the site. The company is now prepared to go forward with the tower’s construction, according to Kalikow. But, the surrounding community, two years into a fight against super-tall neighboring commercial buildings, is determined to halt the project.

Brewer first met with Bauhouse to discuss the site, prior to Gamma taking it over and recalled, “We met with [Bauhouse], and I’ll admit I said, ‘This is an awfully tall building. Do you know what you’re doing?’ I think I said, ‘You have to be kidding me?’ ” she said.

Kallos, Krueger, Garodnick and a representative of Brewer met with Kalikow on May 11 to discuss controversies surrounding the site, including the community’s firm opposition and how steep a climb Gamma would have to complete the project.

“[We told them] we’re not Beninati: We know what we’re doing, and we’re building for New York buyers because this is a New York enclave,” Kalikow said. “They said, ‘We don’t care, it’s too high.’ ”

Kallos said that during the meeting, he flagged the height of the building and warned Kalikow that it might be in Gamma’s best interest to scale down the project to fit the neighborhood’s context or use its air rights elsewhere.

Kalikow interpreted that as a threat and that Kallos was “going to do something with these tenants to hurt us,” he said.

The councilman said he simply brought forth community concerns.

“I offered them options such as using their air rights in other parts of the city,” Kallos added. “We also talked to them about the fact that the rezoning we were proposing would actually give them additional floor area ratio on site—that wasn’t on site and already there—in order to build affordable housing. It was not a threat; it was a specific explanation of the fact that I had hoped that we could work together.”

One of the ways Kalikow believes Kallos followed through on what he thought was a “threat” was through the community’s increased use of 311 calls this past summer, specifically around the Fourth of July weekend, which invited greater scrutiny on the site. (The city must log and address each complaint as it relates to construction safety.)

“I am proud of it,” Kallos responded cheerfully to Kalikow’s accusation that he urged residents to call 311. “Every day I get complaints from residents about construction noise. Any person who is being bothered by construction at [the Sutton Place development] or at any site in my district, I ask them to call 311; I ask them to reach out to me personally. I’m proud.” (When asked about a stop-work order issued on June 28 by the New York City Department of Buildings, Kallos said, “I wish I could take credit for that stop-work order. The DOB was doing their job. It actually took us some time to figure out what happened.”)

 
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Press Coverage
AM New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Dozens of young students learned a real-life civics lesson Tuesday, performing a skit in front of the City Council’s Committee on Health and advocating for a bill that would ban more pesticides from being used in city parks and public spaces.

The children, from PS 290 on the Upper East Side, got to see firsthand how grassroots legislation can come to be — the bill, Intro 0800, started in 2014 when they were learning about pesticides in school and were visited by a local City Council member.

“To me, this is the essence of education,” Paula Rogovin, a kindergarten teacher at PS 290, said. “This started with a study about tomatoes and watermelon in our school ... the only thing we can do is to get them to be proactive, to get them to do something about it.

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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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Press Coverage
CBS New York
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It was first introduced in May 2015. Council Member Ben Kallos was one of its sponsors, and some of the children have been in the chambers advocating before.

“We protested a little bit,” Savann Basen said.

Kallos said his goal is to use only biological pesticides that come from natural materials instead of synthetic materials. He said what’s most concerning is the herbicide spray called Roundup.

“The World Health Organization found that it was a carcinogen, so we introduced legislation right away,” he said.

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Press Coverage
FOX 5 WNYW
Monday, September 25, 2017

NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - New York City has purchased numerous dome-top garbage cans. Are they worth nearly a thousand dollars each when last year they were about half the price?

Council Member Ben Kallos doesn't think so. Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side, has bought the dome garbage cans since 2014 with money that is allocated to every council member from the City Council budget. The expense is part of his discretionary spending, which is money that council members can spend on whatever they feel will improve their district.

He said the trash cans are helping to keep the sidewalks clean so he wanted to buy more. But he discovered the price nearly doubled to $969 each, from $545.

The reason: the city now has a contract with a new company. The city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services handled the bidding process and explained that Kallos.

Kallos told Fox 5 that he is outraged and that the city needs to do a better job in its bidding process.

DCAS issued a statement: "The procurement policy requires a fair and competitive bidding process, and the existing contract we hold reflects the lowest possible price resulting from that process."

The company that charged $545 per trash can told the city it was losing money on each sale so it did not rebid for the new contract.

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Press Coverage
New York Post
Sunday, September 24, 2017

Upper East Side Councilman Ben Kallos said he protested the price surge to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which inked the deal, but was told it can’t be renegotiated.

“There is something wrong with the way we buy things as a city,” Kallos griped. “We never should have to pay more through a contract than if we bought it on the open market.”

Kallos said he had 284 of the domed, green trash cans installed on neighborhood sidewalks since taking office in 2014. At the time, they cost $545 a pop under a different contract.

The cans were such a hit that Kallos said he planned to order more — until he learned the new cost, $969.

 

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Press Coverage
Crain's New York

On Thursday, a worker named Juan Chonillo fell to his death from a Fortis Property Group project in lower Manhattan. He was employed by a non-union firm called SSC High Rise Construction. Hours later, a 45-year-old worker employer by union subcontractor EJ Electric fell to his death at Brookfield Property's Manhattan West—the second fatality on the site in four months. The Department of Buildings said Monday that contractors in both instances have supplied the administration with the required data.

The legislation, sponsored by City Councilman Ben Kallos, was among a suite of construction bills passed earlier this year. Lawmakers are set to pass a controversial construction training bill on Wednesday

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