Who Are Our City Council Members & What Do They Do?
There are 51 elected City Council Members, yet few of the 8 million citizens of New York City can name what they do or who they are. Education Update emailed, faxed, telephoned and mailed each councilmember about their responsibilities, activities and goals. The responses follow.
Dan Garodnick was elected to the City Council in 2005. A member of the Council’s Education Committee, Garodnick has become a vocal leader in pressing the Department of Education to develop a plan that will accommodate the explosive growth within District 2—an enrollment increase of nearly 25 percent by 2014. Garodnick was recently appointed to co-chair the Council’s Infrastructure Task Force, through which the City will explore innovative ways of ensuring that our infrastructure, including schools, keeps pace with our development. In 2007, to counter the erosion of arts education, Garodnick held a forum that brought 22 cultural institutions together with public school principals from his district, so that the schools could take advantage of the groups’ many arts education programs. And when a middle school in his district needed a new library, Garodnick helped fund it—then organized a book drive that brought in 4,000 titles to fill the shelves. Prior to joining the Council in 2005, Garodnick represented the Partnership for New York City in the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, and directed the New York Civil Rights Coalition’s “Unlearning Stereotypes: Civil Rights and Race Relations Program” in 42 New York City public schools, teaching students nonviolent ways to combat racial discrimination, and how to use the processes of government to affect social change.#
GALE A. BREWER
Council Member Gale A. Brewer has been representing the Upper West Side and Clinton in the New York City Council since 2002. She was re-elected in November 2005 general election with over 80 percent of the vote, receiving nearly 10,000 more votes than any other incumbent. In the November 2003 election, she received 86% of the vote. Her service in the Council is a continuation of nearly 30 years of public service. Brewer chairs the Committee on Technology in Government, where she works to make better use of technology to save money, improve City services, and make government more open and accessible to residents, businesses and non-profits. She has been especially concerned with using technology to enrich public education, dedicating more than half a million “Reso A” dollars to a pilot 1 laptop student program in her district, and sponsoring the Digital Empowerment for Middle Schools initiative that has provided $100,000 each of the last two years to bring much needed technical support to middle schools, citywide. Brewer has been instrumental in passing numerous laws, including legislation establishing a citywide Broadband Advisory Committee, promoting fast and affordable Internet access to individuals and schools that need it most; a bill protecting domestic workers; two bills aimed at eliminating graffiti and unwanted stickers; and legislation requiring City publications as well as all 311 data to be made available via the Web. She also brokered an historic Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers (ANHD) to pilot a program to conduct roof-to-cellar inspections on buildings known to have multiple serious violations and dated inspections. Education issues rank as some of Brewer’s top priorities on the Upper West Side. In addition to her work integrating technology and education, she has worked closely with Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s Middle School Task Force, sits on the Council’s Mayoral Control Workgroup, and advocates tirelessly for more high quality public school seats in her tightly crowded district. Council Member Brewer was also the first public figure to suggest that schoolyards be open to the public outside school hours—now a central aspect of Mayor Bloomberg’s “Open Spaces” initiative in PlaNYC. Brewer has received numerous awards for her service on over two dozen neighborhood and nonprofit boards as well as her work in the City Council. In 2000, she was cited by the Daily News as “One of 50 New Yorkers to Watch.” She has taught urban policy at Barnard, Baruch, Brooklyn, Hunter, and Queens Colleges. Gale has an MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and did her undergraduate work at Columbia University and Bennington College. She is married to Cal Snyder and has raised adopted children. #
INEZ E. DICKENS
For 30 years Inez Dickens has taken an active role in the economic development and political landscape of New York’s celebrated village of Harlem. A lifelong resident of the 9th Council District, Ms. Dickens is a tireless and dedicated leader, completely committed to improving the quality of life for everyone in her community. Inez E. Dickens is currently in her first term as a New York City Council Member representing the 9th Councilmanic District (Harlem, Morningside Heights, and Upper West Side). She also serves as the Majority Whip and the Chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee. In the course of her career, Inez Dickens has been in the business of rehabilitating housing throughout the City. Ms. Dickens was nurtured in her chosen profession working at the right hand of her father, the late District Leader and Assemblyman Lloyd E. Dickens, who is considered the dean of African American politics in New York City. She not only learned her business acumen from her father, Ms. Dickens acquired his sense of responsibility to community. Inez Dickens has continued her family’s involvement in the political arena, including working door-to-door in voter education and registration. She was first elected to office in 1974 as a County Committeewoman, County Judicial Committeewoman and State Committeewoman. Currently, Ms. Dickens is the highest-ranking African American woman in the New York State Democratic party. She is a Democratic District Leader for the 70th AD part B, serves as the First Vice Chair of the New York State Democratic Committee, and she is an active member of the Democratic National Committee. Among the many community organizations she serves, Ms. Dickens is most proud of her work on the advisory board of Project Greenhope, which provides transitional housing for women leaving prison so they can reclaim their lives, reunite with their families and rebuild their communities. She is an advisor and board member of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Children of Parents with AIDS, Inc., the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, Women in Housing & Finance, the National Center for Housing Management, and the National Women’s Leadership Forum. Inez Dickens has been recognized for her work in economic development and community life. She has received the Distinguished Service Award from the New York State Association of Black and Latino Legislators, the Sojourner Truth Award from the National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women, the American Red Cross Achievement Award, the Public Education Award from the American Diabetes Association, the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the NAACP, and the Heritage Award from the Greater Harlem Real Estate Board. Other notable acknowledgements include: the Who’s Who of American Women, Outstanding Citizen of the Year in Real Estate, the Woman of Excellence and Woman of Industry Awards, and the 2005 Women of Excellence Award from NY Senate Democratic Leader, Senator David A. Paterson. Ms. Dickens is a product of the New York City public school system, where she was educated at P.S. 133 and Julia Richmond High School. She began her undergraduate studies in land economics at New York University and later at Howard University. Ms. Dickens lives in Harlem with her husband, John Russell. #
LEWIS A. FIDLER
Councilman Lewis A. Fidler, (D-Brooklyn) currently serves on the Education Committee and is Chairperson of the Council’s Youth Services Committee. During budget negotiations for the 2007-2008 year, he was the primary sponsor of an initiative to increase funding for the Executive Leadership Institute, and has provided steadfast support for the schools in his district and for education citywide. Since he took office in 2002, he has secured both a capital and expense budget item each year for every school in his district. Among his priorities is returning the education system to municipal control. This would result in the Council and community having more oversight power and being able to step in, in limited circumstances, to direct changes that need to be made. Additionally, he feels that it should be a priority of the system to help students who are failing and maximize the potential of those students who are gifted and talented. Councilman Fidler firmly believes that we must do everything possible to provide students with the best possible education that suits their individual needs, as these students will soon become the leaders of our communities.#
In order to remain a vibrant world capital we need to provide every child with access to an excellent public education. Many classrooms, including those in my own district, are severely overcrowded. All across our city many schools are literally falling apart and bursting at the seams. The real long-term solution to this problem is to build new, modern facilities. On the East Side I have pushed for the construction of the new East Side Middle School on East 9lst Street, which is slated to open in 2009. This school will increase seat capacity by 190 seats and will free up classroom space in other schools. In addition, I chair the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses. One of the Subcommittee’s responsibilities is to approve new public schools. I am pleased that over the last two years the subcommittee has approved 14 new schools—nearly 10,000 new seats—across the city. I am also a strong proponent of including community facilities, particularly schools, in largescale re-zonings, such as the former ConEd site slated to be developed by Sheldon Solow and the Hudson Rail Yards. We need to plan carefully and wisely for our future. Going forward, I will continue to work with the Department of Education, my colleagues in the City Council, parents, and teachers to ensure that every child in the city has the opportunity to attain an excellent education. #
JAMES F. GENNARO
My top priority as a New York City Council Member is protecting the city’s environment, launching clean-air and sustainability initiatives, and improving the health of our citizens. I’ve worked hard to create legislation that would meet all of those goals and have been successful in these endeavors. The most recent law I authored is the New York City Climate Protection Act, which mandates a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 2030. I also developed a blueprint to generate more “green collar” jobs by attracting more environmental businesses to New York City. In addition, I’ve funded the planting of hundreds of trees in my district to green our local neighborhoods and shopping areas. I will continue writing legislation to protect our environment and working to improve the health of my constituents and the people of New York City. #
ALAN J. GERSON
Councilmember Gerson is Chair of the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee of the Council. In this capacity he has held hearings on World Trade Center development progress, Governor’s Island, the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site, problems faced by small businesses, World Trade Center insurance issues, environmental health impacts and government’s response, community emergency notification programs and individual insurance problems, among many other important post 9/11 Downtown issues. Gerson also serves on the following Council committees: Economic Development, Finance, Fire & Criminal Justice Services, Parks & Recreation, Waterfronts and Youth Services.
JOHN C. LIU
John C. Liu was elected in 2001 to the New York City Council and currently chairs the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Committees on Education, Consumer Affairs, Health, Land Use, Contracts, Oversight & Investigation, and Lower Manhattan Redevelopment. As Chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Transportation, John Liu focuses public policy on the critical role transportation options play in economic development and access to jobs. John demands, and has secured, more accountability from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a behemoth agency infamous for its lack of responsiveness to the general public. John has enacted legislation improving safety for pedestrians and has initiated public works projects to improve vehicular traffic flow and congestion. He has also developed programs to bring yellow taxicabs to areas outside Manhattan. John also vigorously conducts legislative oversight over the Department of Transportation and the Taxi & Limousine Commission. John Liu strongly believes that quality education is the key to the future of our City. John is a product of twelve and a half years of New York City public school education and is committed to educational reform without sacrificing public schools. As a member of the Council’s Committee on Education, he insists on raising standards in our public schools, increasing reliance and trust in teachers to teach our kids, and investing City resources in our future generations. John has also provided millions of dollars to fund high-tech upgrades to local schools. John Liu believes municipal government must do more to protect consumers against fraud and other dishonest business practices. As a member of the Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs, John has sponsored and helped pass legislation to stop predatory lending by banks and retail price gouging during sensitive periods. John has also closed down car dealerships guilty of cheating customers out of thousands of dollars and proposed legislation to require car dealers to provide honest contracts. Shocking as it may be, John Liu is the first and currently only Asian Pacific American to be elected to citywide office in New York. Although he wishes Asian Pacific Americans had been elected long ago, John is honored to be the first. As the first, John embraces opportunities to broaden representation and access to government for APAs and for all groups who have lacked a strong voice in government. John is also immensely proud to have been invited to become a member of the City Council’s Black and Latino Caucus; the caucus has since been renamed to the Black Latino and Asian Caucus, and John currently serves on its executive board. John Liu was elected to the City Council by the people of northeast Queens in the neighborhoods of Auburndale, Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Linden Hill, Queensborough, and Whitestone. Beginning with Kindergarten at P.S. 20, John attended local public schools and then went on to graduate from the Bronx High School of Science and Binghamton University, where he earned a degree in Mathematical Physics. Prior to serving in the City Council, John Liu worked as a manager at the financial consulting firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. John draws upon his real world fiscal expertise to root out waste and mismanagement in municipal government. John has dedicated his life to public service. He is a full-time Council Member with a mission to hold City Hall accountable and help restore public trust in our democracy. #
MICHAEL E. MCMAHON
Since January 1, 2002, Michael E. McMahon has represented the North Shore of Staten Island. He is Chairman of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management and has led the fight to keep the Fresh Kills Dump closed. In addition, McMahon has become a leading voice in the City Council in the fight to save recycling and preserve the long-term success of the program. He has also worked with the Administration in developing a long-term solid waste plan. McMahon has also pushed the dialogue to at least look at long-term solutions to land filling. His environmental record has earned him the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters. As a member of the Finance Committee, McMahon has played a role in helping the City through a difficult fiscal time. He has been a strong voice on the Land Use Committee for smart growth and preservation. He recently received the “Friends in High Places Award” from the Historic District Council. In his district, McMahon has been a leading voice in the battle over unplanned development and lack of City services. He has begun the “We Are One” campaign to deal with the racial tension that has grown in Staten Island. He has formed a clergy round table and has held town hall meetings throughout the District. He has worked diligently to connect his constituents to local governments and build bridges into every community in the diverse North Shore of Staten Island. Michael E. McMahon is married to Judith Novellino McMahon, a Judge of the Civil Court. They have two children, Joseph and Julia. #
In the City Council, Hiram Monserrate served as the Chair of the Veterans Committee. During his tenure, he stood up to New York legislators who voted for the new federal bankruptcy laws that penalize members of the armed forces who leave businesses and families to defend our nation and fought against budget cuts to destroy our promise to take care of our veterans’ health, especially while our country continues to ask American families to make sacrifices in the Middle East. Monserrate served as the Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. In this leadership position, he led his colleagues to ensure passage of living wage legislation for hard-working residents and families and successfully fought back attempts to cut funding for programs working to combat infant mortality and HIV/AIDS. As a consumer advocate, Monserrate introduced and worked to pass a new law requiring truth-in-pricing in retail stores and battled the Mayor to successfully rollback Sunday parking meter regulations. As a former union member— SEIU Local 32BJ and the PBA—he has fought for fair contracts for workers citywide. And as a civil rights advocate, he led the successful fight to secure immigrants’ rights and protect residents’ confidentiality by working with the Mayor to create a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Executive Order 41, regarding sensitive information in city agencies. The historic policy ensures the city’s safety by allowing all residents access to necessary city services, including emergency health care and fire prevention. Raised and educated in Queens, Monserrate has provided millions of dollars in necessary funding to ensure the quality of life in the borough, helping to expand libraries, provide quality playgrounds and greenspace and support language and job training programs. #
JAMES S. ODDO
Minority Leader James S. Oddo was first elected to represent the people of the 50th Council District in a February 1999 special election to fill the seat of his predecessor and mentor John Fusco. Before being elected to the Council, Oddo served as Chief-of-Staff for Mr. Fusco and Legal Council for former Minority Leader Thomas V. Ognibene. Oddo ran and won five elections in his first seven years in office. In 2002, Oddo was unanimously selected to serve as Minority Leader by the Council’s Republican delegation. He has been re-elected to that post in 2004 and 2006. Described by the Staten Island Advance as a “smart, passionate & savvy lawmaker,” whose “commitment on the issues is legendary,” Oddo has authored important and common sense legislation. Examples include: A bill to protect houses of worship from vandals (Local Law 102/2005); Legislation to protect high school age baseball players by limiting the use of non-wood bats (Local Law 20/2007); Legislation increasing penalties for the illegal use or possession of dangerous fireworks (Local Law 69/2005). Recognizing that a quality education is one of the most important issues facing our city today, Oddo has secured millions of dollars in new initiatives for schools throughout his district, including much-needed class room space; the investment in new and exciting technology that improves the learning experience, such as new computer labs, “smart boards,” and wi-fi technology; and new recreational places and playgrounds. Following in the footsteps of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Oddo has made public safety a crucial aspect of his tenure in office. He has allocated more than $4 million to outfit various facilities in his district with security cameras, including the JCC Family Center; the Staten Island Railway; PS 11, 41, 54, 58, 186K, 50, and IS 2; and the South Beach and Berry Houses. He has also been a key figure in the fight to increase police resources on Staten Island. To improve health care, Oddo has been a leading advocate for increased access to necessary services. He has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring state-of-the art digital mammography machines to Staten Island and more than $1 million to help construct the desperately needed expansion of the emergency room at Staten Island University Hospital. Oddo has also helped dramatically expand recreational opportunities in his district through his funding of new facilities such as the brand new New Dorp Beach Park; the Greenbelt Recreation Center; and various athletic fields, such as a new soccer field in Ocean Breeze and at the recreation Center. Oddo, a native Staten Islander, received his BA from Fordham University and JD from New York Law School. The youngest of four sons, he comes from a family of proud city employees and he has never forgotten his roots. He has spent his tenure in office fighting for the oft-forgotten middle class through his advocacy against higher taxes, especially through his opposition to the historic 18.5% property tax hike in 2002.#
25th District, Queens Education is an important topic for all New Yorkers. The quality of our schools is improving and my colleagues and I on the New York City Council are working to ensure that the children of our city get the best education possible. I have stood with concerned parents from across our city to call for more state aid for city schools. This year we are finally seeing an influx of state dollars as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit. I will continue to demand accountability from the Department of Education to ensure that every dollar is spent in the interest of New York City public school children. In our community I have fought to bring money to our local schools to relieve overcrowded classrooms and to make sure the children of our community can learn in safe and comfortable environments. Earlier this year work began on I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights to replace aged windows as a result of funding I secured. Also, I have secured funding to expand P.S. 13 and P.S./I.S. 102 in Elmhurst by several hundred seats in each school.
When Education Update asked me to submit an article on what I am currently working on, my mind began racing because I wanted to include everything I have ever felt passionate about. Most recently, I passed a piece of legislation that the Council has made a priority. I was the lead sponsor of Intro 574 A, which allows all New York City and State inmates to receive a birth certificate free of charge if they serve more than 90 consecutive days in jail. I feel it is extremely important for us to help people transition back into society. This bill will enable them to obtain the necessary resources that will link them back into their community. I am also working on a campaign called HASA For All. HASA For All began by way of many organizations that are leading the fight for homeless people living with HIV/ AIDS. We believe that housing is a preventative tool and can save lives. It has been proven that when people are living in stable conditions, they are better able to care for themselves and subsequently live longer. Currently, there is a law in place to house people living with AIDS, however, if we include those living with HIV; I believe we as a society can help those in need, live longer and healthier lives. I will soon introduce a bill that will include the cost of people living with HIV and AIDS in the City of New York. We in the Council are trying to figure out the best way to make sure that people who live with HIV/ AIDS have proper and adequate housing. I am ready and willing to help all those who are in need of adequate housing in New York City. These two bills are only a glimpse of what I would like to see occur while I serve at the Council. I have passed and sponsored many bills that will affect numerous New Yorkers. Although there is legislation that The City Council debates on, ultimately our goal is to always try to serve in the best interest of the people. #
Tony Avella won election to the New York City Council in the 19th District—Northeast Queens in 2001 and was reelected with an overwhelming majority in both the 2003 and 2005 elections. Tony is Chair of Zoning and Franchises for the City Council and is a member of five council committees: Higher Education, Housing and Buildings, Fire and Criminal Justice Services, Land Use, and Veterans. Tony is the founder and Chair of the first Italian-American Caucus of the City Council. Since taking office in January 2002, Tony has lead the fight for and won citywide amendments to the “Community Facilities” section of the zoning code to address serious abuses that impact the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the City. His efforts resulted in the first real changes to this part of the zoning code in over 40 years. Tony has also been at the forefront in the battle citywide against overdevelopment and the proliferation of “McMansions.” Working with the Mayoral administration and the Department of City Planning he has created new zoning districts such as R2A, which prevents the construction of “McMansions” and rezoned major portions of his district as well as numerous other neighborhoods in the City to preserve the unique residential character and quality of life. #
Dr. Mathieu Eugene made history on February 20, 2007, when he won a special election to fill the vacant seat in the 40th New York City Council District, formerly held by the Honorable Yvette Clarke, who ascended to a seat in the United States House of Representative. Dr. Eugene broke down ethnic and cultural barriers to became the first Haitian immigrant to become an elected official in the City and State of New York. It is indicative of the support he has from his constituents, who went to the polls to quell any question of who their candidate of choice should be in City Hall. Councilmember Eugene has had a longstanding commitment to the residents of the 40th District. Prior to winning the City Council seat, he was a dedicated member of the local community Board 14, as well as a member of the Community Board for inpatients at Maimonides Medical Center and was founder of an organization dedicated to youth and families in the community. The wins in the special elections were significant in the context of their historic relevance that saw the first person ever and the first Haitian American elected to City Hall twice within months. However, it is also important to note that on September 18th, 2007, Dr. Mathieu Eugene had no opponent who contested him in the regular Democratic primary and history again was made. It is a testament to the hard work that he commenced in the community over 15 years ago and to the faith of the constituents. On November 6th, 2007 Councilmember Eugene won a landslide victory in the general election with over 90 % of the votes. The City Councilmember is committed to the betterment of the district and is thankful for the mandate of the voters. His district comprises communities in Flatbush, East Flatbush, parts of Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts and Ditmas Park. Councilmember Eugene serves on the committees of Aging; Immigration; Fire & Criminal Justice; Civil Rights; Environmental Protection and Lower Manhattan Redevelopment. #