David Stone
Ben Kallos joins the kids after the Blue Dragon sculpture was unveiled.
Ben Kallos joins the kids after the Blue Dragon sculpture was unveiled.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

From the day we first moved to Roosevelt Island, we've been blessed with effective, aware representation on the City Council. Charlie Mallard, Gifford Miller, Jessica Lappin - all three were popular here and responsive to our needs. In his first term, Ben Kallos has not only met their high standards, he's exceeded them.

The first time I heard Ben Kallos's name was during the Cornell Tech ULURP. Teams from his campaign appeared at every event, full of enthusiasm and striking in their youthful optimism.

Listening to constituents.
Listening to constituents.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Of course, optimism doesn't win elections, and the upstart was not going to beat out well-established competition to earn the City Council seat being vacated by Jessica Lappin.

But then, he did, winning both the primary and the general election by substantial margins.

Not yet 33 on the day he was sworn in, Kallos was still not a novice, having served as Chief of Staff for State Assemblyman Jonathan Bing and as Director of Policy during Mark Green's campaign for New York City Public Advocate.

What those achievements by a man so young signaled is what we came to witness - an astonishing ability to be everywhere at once with an acute ear for community matters. He also landed with a clear sense of how he wished to run his office. 

Off and Running

At the Tram's 40th Anniversary Celebration, Kallos talked about the importance of winning a 50 year operating agreement between the City and RIOC.
At the Tram's 40th Anniversary Celebration, Kallos talked about the importance of winning a 50 year operating agreement between the City and RIOC.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Kallos is progressive by political persuasion but he conducts himself and his office in a way that demonstrates commitment to something else.

Lost in all the noise of political posturing is the single most important element of representing constituents well: a gift for good governance.

What does good governance mean?

A deft touch with people and their needs is probably something Kallos learned a lot about from Mark Green, a progressive before the term got popular.

You're not likely to see it personally in his busy Upper East Side office, where banks of interns manage desks alive with computers and phones, responding to and advocating for constituent needs. That's apolitical and what good governance is all about.

And it's a marked difference from all of his predecessors.

A politician's position on climate change doesn't matter much if he or she can't help us when landlord troubles inevitably arise.

With Carter Burden Network's Bill Dionne, Kallos welcomed IDNYC to Roosevelt Island.
With Carter Burden Network's Bill Dionne, Kallos welcomed IDNYC to Roosevelt Island.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

What you're more likely to notice is Ben Kallos's uncanny ability to be everywhere at once.

He's on Roosevelt Island so frequently, you couldn't be blamed for thinking he lives here, although our community is a small piece of his puzzle to solve.

I first met Kallos, shortly after we started The Daily when he showed up for Blue Dragon Unveiling in Southpoint. Within less than an hour, he spoke, hung out with the kids and and talked one on one with constituents, showing a calm dexterity that's a gift as well as a commitment.

Later came the ribbon cutting for the new Pre-K seats he won here, the Tram's 40th Anniversary Celebration, welcoming IDNYC for a two week sign up drive, and joining seniors to applaude the Carter Burden Network's triumphant first year at the Roosevelt Island Senior Center.

But what I remember most is bumping into Kallos on Roosevelt Island Day, this year. He was soaking wet from staying with the crowd until a drenching rain made it impossible to continue.

Achievements

NYC Ferry Opening Day: As Kallos looks on RIOC's Susan Rosenthal becomes the first passenger to arrive for work on Roosevelt Island.
NYC Ferry Opening Day: As Kallos looks on RIOC's Susan Rosenthal becomes the first passenger to arrive for work on Roosevelt Island.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Apart from day to day support for constituents unlikely to make the news and his accessibility, Kallos has made a mark with real, nuts and bolts achievements that will affect our community for years to come.

Conclusion

Let's keep Ben Kallos riding the Tram for four more years.
Let's keep Ben Kallos riding the Tram for four more years.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily
While there will always be competition for the right to represent us on the City Council, no one is likely to surpass Ben Kallos as a responsive, respectful leader and winner for our community.