Council Member Ben Kallos did not talk about his campaign to become Manhattan’s next borough president at his State of the District speech on the Upper East Side Sunday afternoon, but his annual address came with all of the trappings of a carefully crafted political rally.
The event opened with a performance from P.S. 59’s choir in front of about 85 people in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Auditorium and closed with a “Bagels with Ben” meet and greet. Kallos even took a page out of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s playbook and invited attendees to form a “selfie line,” which has become a signature aspect of the presidential candidate’s events on the campaign trail.
But most notable were the big names that showed up to vouch for the council member’s bona fides. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer all made a stop at the podium, offering kind words about the two-term council member.
Brewer said Kallos is a very special and wonderful elected.
“He cares about substance and local constituent issues, and, to me, that’s what local officials are supposed to be all about,” said Brewer.
Maloney came the closest to offering an explicit endorsement of his candidacy.
“I find him absolutely extraordinary,” said Maloney, who is running for re-election in the fall. “He is running for borough president and I don’t think there’s anyone better.”
Update on the Impeachment Trial
Schumer, for whom Kallos once worked as an intern, came straight from the Lunar New Year celebration in Brooklyn and complimented Kallos’s service to the community.
“We need good elected officials more than ever before,” said Schumer, noting his exasperation with Senate Republicans during the impeachment trial. He gave an update on the trial, and promised to keep it brief so that everyone could grab a bagel.
“I’m gluten resistant so I can’t have a bagel with Ben.”
For his own remarks, Kallos outlined his achievements during his time representing council District 5 and what he wants to accomplish before his term is up in 2021, including:, getting big money out of politics and money ethics reforms for good government, helping the homeless, building new parks, protecting public health and safety, improving commutes and cleaning up the neighborhood.
Kallos noted the increase in pre-kindergarten seats since he first took office, at which point there were only 154 seats available for 1,000 four year olds in the neighborhood.
“In September, we finally closed the gap on our third pre-K center ... after securing 900 new seats for a total of 1,122,” said Kallos. “As of this school year, we finally have universal pre-kindergarten on the Upper East Side.”
"We Need Universal After School"
Next, Kallos said he wants to achieve universal after school care for the half a million children in grades K through 12 who are left alone and unsupervised during after school hours.
“With the recent spike in young adults robbing and younger students in the area, we need universal after school more than ever,” Kallos said.
He also touted his refusal to take donations from real estate developers, adding that he is committed to ending loopholes that allow companies to build supertalls on the East Side. He said this commitment goes hand in hand with his work to build and preserve affordable housing in the city. He said in this effort he supports the mayor’s plan to build 300,000 units of affordable housing, but he disagrees with the process by which people would receive a unit.
“Those units are only offered through a lottery involving tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of people applying for each one,” he said. “Being able to afford to live in our great city shouldn't just be a matter of winning the lottery.”
He acknowledged that he could not do much politicking because the address was a government event, but he ended his remarks by reminding attendees about election day dates and thanked them for their support.
“The state of our district is strong, not because of what I've done, but because of what we've been able to accomplish together.”
“We need good elected officials more than ever before.” Sen. Chuck Schumer