NIMBY effort to sidestep public review aided by champion of reform

“Do as I say, not as I do,” is the clear message behind City Council Member Ben Kallos’ recent actions and public statements on development and land use issues.

In the name of transparency, Kallos is pushing to bring a myriad of changes to the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals.  He is the sponsor of legislation mandating new evidentiary standards, disclosure rules, and reporting requirements, all in the spirit of sunshine and good government.

At the same time however, Kallos is working with a special interest group known as East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA). The group is comprised of wealthy and well connected residents of The Sovereign, a 47-story luxury building on Sutton Place with sweeping views of the East River.

Recently, ERFA and Council Member Kallos jointly filed an application to change the zoning rules in the area.  This was the second application they submitted.  The first was blatantly self-serving, lacked even the appearance of a planning rationale, and was ultimately withdrawn since it had no chance of being approved.  The second application was equally self-serving and lacking in a planning rationale.  The sole purpose of both of these rezoning proposals was to block the construction of a new residential building that would obstruct the river views of the well-heeled residents of The Sovereign.

Council Member Kallos has coordinated with Community Board 6 to waive the customary public review process for his zoning application and prevent open and broad-based community participation. Typically, the public review process provides the public 4 or 5 months to adequately review a zoning application with several opportunities to publicly testify before the City Planning Commission makes its decision. However, for his application, Kallos is providing the public with only 16 days to review all environmental findings, study potential impacts, and develop a well-reasoned response.

Kallos was a driving force behind Community Board 6’s unprecedented decision to waive their review period—thus preventing any members of the public who oppose the zoning application from voicing their opinion. In fact, the Community Board voted to waive their right to schedule a public hearing before the completed application had even been submitted.

It is a shameful exploitation of publicly-entrusted government responsibility by Council Member Kallos and the other elected officials as co-applicants to waive broad based public participation and silence the voices of those who oppose.  

Regardless if you have the point of view in support of a new building or if you’re opposed to the project – we should not cavalierly waive the public review process.  To put this in proper context, imagine the public outcry if a private applicant was able to skirt the public review process.

At a time when we could all use more faith in government, now is not the time to abandon our principles. Let’s remember that it is the responsibility of every elected official to represent and give a voice to all citizens and not just the well connected.

In Other REBNY News:

“Go West” at our 29th Annual Residential Deal of the Year Charity & Awards Gala, to be held on Thursday, October 26th from 6:00-10:30 p.m. at Metropolitan West (639 West 46th Street). The biggest celebration of the year for REBNY’s Residential Brokerage Division will honor the industry’s best and brightest leaders and dealmakers, and a portion of the proceeds raised at the charity event will benefit REBNY’s “Member in Need Fund,” which provides grants to residential members who are experiencing a financial crisis or hardship. The coveted awards to be announced at the event include the NEW Residential Agent of the Year Award, The Henry Forster Award for Lifetime Achievement, The Eileen Spinola Award for Distinguished Service, The Residential Rookie of the Year Award, and awards for the top residential sales and rental deals completed between 2016 and 2017.

REBNY’s Residential Management Council (RMC) is offering a Fall Seminar Series for REBNY members and non-members alike. The seminars, which take place from 8:30-10:00 a.m. at REBNY, will feature current members of REBNY’s RMC, which is comprised of leading directors and managers of top residential management firms throughout the City, who will present on industry best practices.

  • Residential Property Seminar on Obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (CO): On Thursday, October 26, John Longo, Director of Compliance at Akam Associates will walk attendees through the DOB protocols for obtaining a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) and Certificate of Occupancy (CO).
  • Residential Property Seminar on Governing Documents: On November 8th, Michael Wolfe, President of Midboro Management and Eva Talel, Partner at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP will present on the main governing documents of cooperatives and condominiums.

The seminars are suitable for residential property managers, interested brokers, as well as the broader residential management community interested in these topics. Each seminar is free for REBNY members and $25 for non-members. To register, visit rebny.com.

On Friday, October 27th, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at our next REBNY Rental Clinic, Jesse Rhinier of City Connections will moderate a discussion among panelists Daniel Itingen of Bold New York, Gary Kiyan of Perfect Solutions Real Estate, and Karla Saladino of Mirador Real Estate on navigating the increasing owner-paid commissions market. This free-for-members event will take seasoned and new agents through the process of working in this OP environment. Register on rebny.com.

REBNY members: bolster your public speaking and presentation skills by completing the Residential Education Committee’s Public Speaking & Presentation Skills Six-Week Course for $75 this fall. Classes in both Manhattan and Brooklyn will be held from 6-8 p.m. on select dates. The Manhattan course will be held on Mondays from October 23rd to November 27th in REBNY’s Mendik Education Center located at 570 Lexington Avenue (Lower Level). The Brooklyn course will be held on select Mondays and Tuesdays from November 14th to December 18th. Classes will be held at 1 Metro Tech Center, 22nd Floor. For all class dates and to register for the Manhattan or Brooklyn course, taught by REBNY Senior Vice President Joe Barbaccia, visit rebny.com.

Rocco Laginestra, Senior Vice President, Global Brokerage of CBRE, Inc., will moderate our Commercial Seminar, “Shared Office Space or Scared Office Space,” on Tuesday, October 31st, 8 – 10 a.m. at the REBNY Mendik Education Center. The panel will explore the future of co-working as a vital component of the commercial office market in New York City. To reserve tickets, email [email protected].

The REBNY Residential Brokerage Education Committee’s next Breakfast Club Seminar, “The Secret Weapon to Winning a Listing,” to be held on Tuesday, November 7th from 9:30-11:00 a.m., will feature speakers Antonio Del Rosario of Town Real Estate and Jeff Feuer of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. REBNY members can register to attend this free-for-members event by visiting rebny.com.

 

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