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Who Are Our City Council Members & What Do They Do? 

By Dr. Pola Rosen

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.#

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. #

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. #

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. #

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. #

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 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. # 

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. #

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. #   



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