On Sunday, January 26, Benjamin Kallos was joined by over 700 Upper East Side leaders and residents as he took the oath of office for the city council, representing the Upper East Side's 5th district.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman swore in Kallos on his bar-mitzvah chumash as it was held by his sister.
The ceremony at the 92nd Street Y featured invocations from all three major religions as well as performances by renowned concert pianist and district resident Roy Eaton under slides of landmarks and community groups in the district, the national anthem by Talent Unlimited High School Men's Ensemble, a ballet performance of Snow Pas de Deux from the Yorkville Nutcracker by Dances Patrelle, gymnastics performances by the 92nd Street Y GymStars and the Asphalt Green Wave Gymnastics Team, as well as readings of Pastor Martin Niemöller's "First They Came?" and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" by members of the community.
"I will heed the lessons of the 'greatest generation.' I will speak for those for whom there is no one else to speak, regardless of whether I am one of them," Kallos said. "Four essential human freedoms that we heard about from Jim remain a generation overdue. But like FDR, I believe them to be 'attainable in our own time and generation.' And I believe that they start at the local level, in the community."
Kallos also spoke about his vision for the council's Government Operations Committee, which he will chair.
"Our mandate will be to make our city's operations more efficient at seamlessly serving you," he said, also highlighting reform of community boards, campaign finance, the Board of Elections and the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Kallos invited members of the community to join him in-person for "First Fridays" in his district office (starting February 7), offered his website and phone number, and promised to bring his office to the community with mobile hours at community centers and senior homes.
He named education as a policy priority, speaking about his plan to propose more schools by incentivizing their inclusion in new buildings and identifying new spaces. He also reaffirmed his support for universal pre-K, after school and summer programs, and loan forgiveness for CUNY students who graduate and stay in the city.