New York City Council

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New York City Council
Seal of New York City.svg
Melissa Mark-ViveritoDemocratic
Since January 2014
Majority Leader
Jimmy Van BramerDemocratic
Since January 2014
Minority Leader
Steven MatteoRepublican
Since July 2015
Seats 51
New York City Council seats.svg
Political groups
  Democratic: 48 seats
  Republican: 3 seats
Committees See Standing Committees
Last election
November 5, 2013
Next election
November 7, 2017
Meeting place
New York City Hall, Manhattan

The New York City Council is the lawmaking body of the City of New York. It has 51 members from 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs.

The Council serves as a check against the mayor in a "strong" mayor-council government model. The council monitors performance of city agencies and makes land use decisions as well as legislating on a variety of other issues. The City Council also has sole responsibility for approving the city budget and each member is limited to two consecutive terms in office and can run again after a four-year respite. The head of the City Council is called the Speaker, and is currently Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat. The Speaker sets the agenda and presides at meetings of the City Council. Proposed legislation is submitted through the Speaker's Office. There are 48 Democratic council members led by Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. The three Republican council members are led by Minority Leader Steven Matteo.

The Council has 35 committees with oversight of various functions of the city government. Each council member sits on at least three standing, select or subcommittees (listed below). The standing committees meet at least once per month. The Speaker of the Council, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader are all ex officio members of every committee.

Council members are elected every four years, except for two consecutive two year terms every twenty years to allow for redistricting between the terms due to the national census (starting in 2001 and 2003 for the 2000 Census and again in 2021 and 2023 for the 2020 Census).[1]


Partisan makeup
Affiliation Members
in 2000[2]
Brooklyn 2,465,326 16 16 0
Queens 2,229,379 14 13 1
Manhattan 1,537,195 10 10 0
The Bronx 1,332,650 8 8 0
Staten Island 443,728 3 1 2
Total 8,008,278 51 48 3
Council leaders
Position Name Party Borough
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Democratic Manhattan
Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer Democratic Queens
Minority Leader Steven Matteo Republican Staten Island


Council Members currently receive $112,500 a year in base salary, which the council increased from $90,000 in late 2006.[3] Members can also receive tens of thousands of dollars in additional compensation "while serving as a committee chairperson or other officer...for the particular and additional services pertaining to the additional duties of such position."[4]


The New York City Charter is the fundamental law of the government of New York City including the Council. The New York City Administrative Code is the codification of the laws promulgated by the Council and is composed of 29 titles.[5][6] The regulations promulgated by city agencies pursuant to law are contained in the Rules of the City of New York in 71 titles.[7]

A local law has a status equivalent with a law enacted by the Legislature (subject to certain exceptions and restrictions), and is superior to the older forms of municipal legislation such as ordinances, resolutions, rules and regulations.[8] Each local government must designate a newspaper of notice to publish or describe its laws.[9] The Secretary of State is responsible for publishing local laws as a supplement to the Laws of New York (the "session laws" of the state), but they have not done so in recent years.[9] The New York City Charter, the New York City Administrative Code, and the Rules of the City of New York are published online by the New York Legal Publishing Corp. under contract with the New York City Law Department.[10]


The history of the New York City Council can be traced to Dutch Colonial times when New York City was known as New Amsterdam. On February 2, 1653, the town of New Amsterdam, founded on the southern tip of Manhattan Island in 1625, was incorporated as a city under a charter issued by the Dutch West India Company. A Council of Legislators sat as the local lawmaking body and as a court of inferior jurisdiction. During the 18th and 19th centuries the local legislature was called the Common Council and then the Board of Aldermen. In 1898 the amalgamation charter of the City of Greater New York renamed and revamped the Council and added a New York City Board of Estimate with certain administrative and financial powers. After a number of changes through the ensuing years, the present Council was born in 1938 under a new charter which instituted the Council as the sole legislative body and the New York City Board of Estimate as the chief administrative body. Certain functions of the Council, however, remained subject to the approval of the Board.

A system of proportional representation known as Single Transferable Vote seated a 26-member Council in 1938 to serve two-year terms. The term was extended to four years in 1945 to coincide with the term of the mayor. Proportional representation was abolished in 1947, largely from pressure from Democrats, who played on fears of Communist council members being elected (two already had). [11] It was replaced by a system of electing one Council Member from each New York State Senate district within the city. The Charter also provided for the election of two Council Members-at-large from each of the five boroughs. In June 1983, however, a federal court ruled that the 10 at-large seats violated the United States Constitution's one-person, one-vote mandate.[12]

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that the Board of Estimate also violated the one-person, one-vote mandate. In response, the new Charter abolished the Board of Estimate and provided for the redrawing of the Council district lines to increase minority representation on the Council. It also increased the number of Council Members from 35 to 51. The Council was then granted full power over the municipal budget, as well as authority over zoning, land use and franchises. In 1993 the New York City Council voted to rename the position of President of the City Council to the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate presides over all stated meetings of the New York City Council. As the presiding officer, the Public Advocate is an ex officio member of all committees in the Council, and in that capacity has the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation.[citation needed]

A two-term limit was imposed on City Council members and citywide elected officials after a 1993 referendum. The movement to introduce term limits was led by Ronald Lauder, a cosmetics heir. In 1996, voters turned down a Council proposal to extend term limits. Lauder spent $4 million on the two referendums. In 2008, however, under pressure from Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who, like many Council members, would have exhausted his two terms in 2009), the Council voted 29–22 to extend this limit to three terms, after defeating (by a vote of 22–28 with one abstention) an amendment to submit the issue to public referendum.[13] Legal challenges to the extension failed in Federal court,[14] and a proposed law in the New York State Legislature to override the extension was not passed. Voters voted to sustain the two-term limit law in a new referendum in 2010.[15]

This vote would later hurt Christine Quinn, who had said she would not nullify the support by a majority of New York City voters for term limits but later reversed herself under pressure from Bloomberg. Her actions would, during the 2013 mayoral race, be used against her by her main competitor, Bill de Blasio, who had opposed the term limits change. De Blasio defeated Quinn by a sizable margin in the September 10, 2013 primary.[citation needed]

Presiding officers since 1898

Through several changes in title and duties, this person has been, together with the Mayor and City Comptroller, one of the three municipal officers directly elected by all of the City's voters, and also the person who—when the elected Mayor resigns, dies, or otherwise loses the ability to serve—becomes Acting Mayor until the next special or regular election.[citation needed]

Until 1989, these three officers, together with the five Borough Presidents, constituted the New York City Board of Estimate. Political campaigns have traditionally tried to balance their candidates for these three offices to appeal as wide a range as possible of the city's political, geographical, social, ethnic and religious constituencies (and, when possible, to both sexes). As a result of a 2002 charter revision, the duties of presiding officer were transferred from the Public Advocate to the Council Speaker; the Public Advocate remains a non-voting member of the Council.[16]

President of the Board of Aldermen

President of the City Council

Public advocate


a. Became acting mayor upon the death or resignation of the elected mayor.
b. Later won election as mayor.
c. Unsuccessful candidate for mayor in a subsequent general election.
d. Not elected by citywide popular vote (Ardolph Kline had been elected deputy president by his fellow aldermen, and then succeeded as president upon John P. Mitchel's resignation).
e. Al Smith later ran five times (four of them successful) for Governor of the State of New York, and ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States in 1928.

Principal source: List adapted from a table by James Bradley accompanying the article on "City Council" in The Encyclopedia of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson (Yale University Press and The New York Historical Society, New Haven, Connecticut, 1995, ISBN 0-300-05536-6)

Speaker of the City Council

This office is elected by the members of the Council. It is not in the immediate line of succession to the mayoralty between elections.

Standing Committees

  • Aging
  • Civil Rights
  • Civil Service & Labor
  • Community Development (Select Committee)
  • Consumer Affairs
  • Contracts
  • Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations
  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Environmental Protection
  • Finance
  • Fire & Criminal Justice Services
  • General Welfare
  • Governmental Operations
  • Health
  • Higher Education
  • Housing & Buildings
  • Immigration
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Land Use
  • Lower Manhattan Redevelopment
  • Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services
  • Oversight and Investigations
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Public Safety
  • Recovery and Resiliency
  • Rules, Privileges & Elections
  • Sanitation & Solid Waste Management
  • Small Business
  • Standards & Ethics
  • State & Federal Legislation
  • Technology in Government
  • Transportation
  • Veterans
  • Waterfronts
  • Women's Issues
  • Youth Services


  • Drug Abuse
  • Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses
  • Libraries
  • Planning, Dispositions and Concessions
  • Public Housing
  • Senior Centers
  • Zoning and Franchises


See also


  1. Charter of the City of New York, Chapter 2 §25(a)
  2. United States Census figures for the respective counties from The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2009, (New York, 2008), ISBN 978-1-60057-105-3, page 620
  3. Metro Briefing New York: Manhattan: Raises For Elected Officials Approved, by Sewell Chan, The New York Times; December 6, 2006 Wednesday; Section B; Column 4; Metropolitan Desk; Pg. 6
  4. New York City Charter:
  5. Gibson, Ellen M.; Manz, William H. (2004). Gibson's New York Legal Research Guide (PDF) (3rd ed.). Wm. S. Hein Publishing. p. 450. ISBN 1-57588-728-2. LCCN 2004042477. OCLC 54455036.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 458.
  7. Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 473.
  8. Adopting Local Laws in New York State (PDF). James A. Coon Local Government Technical Series. New York State Department of State. May 1998. pp. 1–10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 261.
  10. "About the Law Department". New York City Law Department. Retrieved 16 June 2013. The most important laws of the City of New York are now available on the web. The Law Department contracted with New York Legal Publishing Corp. for a site where you can browse and search the New York City Charter, the New York City Administrative Code, and the Rules of the City of New York.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Amy, Douglas J (1996). "A Brief History of Proportional Representation in the United States". Retrieved 30 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Andrews v. Koch, 528 F.Supp. 246 (1981), aff’d sub nom., Giacobbe v. Andrews, 459 U.S. 801 (1982).
  13. Sewell Chan and Jonathan P. Hicks. Council Votes, 29 to 22, to Extend Term Limits, The New York Times, published on-line and retrieved October 23, 2008.
  14. Fernanda Santos: The Future of Term Limits Is in Court, The New York Times, October 24, 2008, p. A24 (retrieved on October 24, 2008), "Judge Rejects Suit Over Term Limits", The New York Times, January 14, 2009, p. A26, and "Appeals Court Upholds Term Limits Revision", The New York Times City Room Blog, April 28, 2009 (both retrieved July 6, 2009). The original January decision by Judge Charles Sifton of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) was upheld by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Vermont, Connecticut and New York state).
  15. Javier C. Fernandez. "Once Again, City Voters Approve Term Limits", The New York Times, November 3, 2010.
  16. Cardwell, Diane. "Betsy Gotbaum, the Advocate, Struggles to Reach Her Public". Retrieved January 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links