David Stone
Ben Kallos, in one of countless Roosevelt Island visits, helps celebrate the Tram's 40th birthday in 2016.
Ben Kallos, in one of countless Roosevelt Island visits, helps celebrate the Tram's 40th birthday in 2016.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

"We are kicking off our campaign for 2021 with a Guggenheim Gala," City Council Member Ben Kallos declared, inviting donors to celebrate his birthday in February at a Guggenheim Gala. Guests forked over a minimum of $175 to help Ben dance past 38. But somewhere in the shuffle, he failed to tell us what the fundraising was all about. So, we asked around.

UPDATE, October 30th, 2019: Today, City Council Member Ben Kallos made it official. As we reported in July, he's running for Manhattan Borough President. The election is two years away, and if successful Kallos will replace Gale Brewer who is term-limiting out. To support his campaign, Kallos is asking for donations here.

Term-limited in his current job, Kallos must fill up cardboard boxes after eight years and tote them out of City Hall on December 31st, 2021. Right now, he's hoping not many of them land for long in a storage bin at Moishe's.

Note: Ben Kallos district includes Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side.

In Keep An Eye on... Ben Kallos, published post Guggenheim birthday fundraiser, we found the City Council Member non-committal about his future. Not surprisingly. How unseemly would it be to have your eye on a next plateau only a year into your present term?

But a couple of fundraisers later - just this week, he made a pitch for small dollar matching funds - it was time to ask around.

It didn't take long.

"He’s running for Manhattan Borough President," a Democratic insider told The Daily without the slightest pause to reflect.

"I think it’s official or else it’s at least very well known," he added, "and he’s been campaigning for it even though it’s in 2021 - that’s how absurd NY Politics is."

Not just New York, but everywhere. Fundraising and campaigning eat up as much time as the public service for which it's aimed.

After playing a pivotal role in securing new Pre K seats, Kallos does the ribbon cutting at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery.
After playing a pivotal role in securing new Pre K seats, Kallos does the ribbon cutting at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Kallos doesn't make it easy on himself.

"I have never taken money from corporations and I have refused money from real estate and lobbyists," he said in his recent appeal.

"Every dollar you give is an investment in standing up to overdevelopment in support of more affordable housing, new schools seats, investing in parks, and quality of life."

We can talk about Kallos's track record later on, but his plans match the path taken by his predecessor, Jessica Lappin. Popular, like Kallos, who won reelection with 81% of the vote, Lappin met the challenge of term-limiting out of her Council job by running for Borough President against Gale Brewer, an effective campaigner and office holder.

She lost, but recovered quickly, becoming President of the Downtown Alliance in 2014.

Absent the demands of public office, Lappin seems satisfied with her changed role.

"I've been enjoying being around more for my sons Lucas (now 10) and Miles (6) as well as having time to travel and cook," she told The Daily, two years ago. "I've also become an avid runner. I ran the NYC marathon in 2014, the Brooklyn Half last month, and quite a few other races in between."

Does a marathon bib await Ben Kallos in 2022?

Time will tell. For now, he will not confirm his intentions, in spite of diligent fundraising ahead of an election more than two years in the future.

“I love the job I have now," Kallos answered our question about his future, "and I am committed to the New Yorkers that I represent. I am proud of the successful record of accomplishments we have amassed over the last 5 and a half years, fighting overdevelopment, winning Pre-K seats, cleaning up the neighborhood, improving transportation and making government more transparent and accountable. My wish is to remain in public service working for the great people of the City of New York and furthering the work my office has accomplished in the City Council.”

So, fundraising and campaigning aside, Kallos hasn't taken his hands off the wheel in the job for which we elected him, a year and a half ago.

Gale Brewer must also leave office for parts unknown on New Year's Eve, 2021.

Time will tell whether she and Kallos, with whom she has a close relationship, share a moving van carrying his boxes in while hers shuffles out of the Borough President's digs.

Both have been popular, and both seem likely to stay in the public's eye, if not in elected office.