In his bid for Manhattan Borough President, Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side, Yorkville, Lenox Hill) hasn’t been shy about the challenges he and other New Yorkers currently face amid the coronavirus crisis.
Talking with New York County Politics, he discussed how the city’s notoriously small apartments can make getting through the pandemic a struggle.
“I share a one bedroom with a wife, a daughter, and a cat, and it’s even harder now that the bedroom has become an office too,” said Kallos. “When public schools were closed, that was tremendously difficult on us. It’s just as hard now when I try to explain to my daughter at two and a half that she can’t necessarily play with other children in the park.”
He asserted that his experiences, which “few elected officials” share, inform his “very strong dedication to education through the pandemic and getting back to school safely.”
Kallos insists that his record of progressive accomplishments uniquely qualifies him for the office. He cited running without real estate donations, passing congestion pricing, and his work with Roosevelt Island Hospital and the Hospital for Special Surgery to open 550 hospital beds for COVID patients in his district.
“[550 was] half the capacity of what we got at Javits and the USS Comfort,” he noted.“As we’re seeing spikes all over the city, we’re getting better respirator equipment…and we work with the city and state to source and get PPE made in the city.”
Kallos further highlighted his work with outgoing Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (D) and Councilmember Keith Powers (D-Upper East Side, Carnegie Hill) in establishing the city’s new outdoor dining program as an example of preparing the city for a post-COVID era.
“When the coronavirus hit, we needed to support businesses who were starting to open up on the East Side without really having a framework to do so, but there were reports of people having parties on our blocks,” he said. “We reached out to the mayor and put pressure on him to start the outdoor dining program, and I am now one of the sponsors of legislation to make it permanent.”
He then mentioned that the disparity in how the virus has affected New Yorkers highlights the vast levels of income inequality in the City. At the very least, he hopes that it would allow the city to become more affordable going forward.
“New York does not need more housing for billionaires,” he said. “If a person reading New York County Politics isn’t getting richer from this pandemic, then they’re losing. What I want to do is nothing less than use this as an opportunity to take a city that wasn’t working for anyone other than the 1% long before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten harder since, and rebuild it for everyone.”