New York City Council

New York City Council
New York City Council
Type Unicameral
Speaker Christine Quinn, Democratic
since January 2006
Majority Leader Joel Rivera, Democratic
since 20 February 2001
Minority Leader James Oddo, Republican
since February 1999
Members 51
Political groups Democratic (46)
Republican (5)
Committees See Standing Committees
Voting system First-past-the-post
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 three 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 Christine Quinn, 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 46 Democratic council members led by Majority Leader Joel Rivera. The five Republican council members are led by Minority Leader James Oddo.

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]



The history of the New York City Council can be traced to Dutch colonial days when New York City was called 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 Voting 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. It was replaced by a system of electing one Council Member from each 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.

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.

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, at the urging of 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.[2] Legal challenges to the extension failed in Federal court,[3] and a proposed law in the New York State Legislature to override the extension was not passed.

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.

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).

Ardolph L. Kline, Joseph V. McKee, and Vincent R. Impellitteri Became Acting Mayor upon the death or resignation of the elected Mayor.

John Purroy Mitchel, Vincent R. Impellitteri, and Fiorello H. La Guardia Later won election as Mayor.

Fiorello H. La Guardia, Joseph V. McKee, Rudolph Halley, Newbold Morris, Carol Bellamy, and Mark J. Green were Unsuccessful candidate for Mayor in a subsequent general election.

Alfred E. Smith (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.

Presiding officers[4]
Office Start year End year Officer
President of the Board of Aldermen 1898 1901 Randolph Guggenheimer
1902 1905 Charles V. Fornes
1906 1909 Patrick McGowan
1910 1912 John Purroy Mitchel
1912 1913 Ardolph L. Kline
1914 1916 George McAneny
1917 Frank L. Dowling
1918 Alfred E. Smith
1919 Robert L. Moran
1920 1921 Fiorello H. La Guardia
1922 1924 Murray Hulbert
1925 William T. Collins
1926 1933 Joseph V. McKee
1934 1936 Bernard S. Deutsch
1937 William F. Brunner
President of the City Council 1938 1945 Newbold Morris
1946 1949 Vincent R. Impellitteri
1950 Joseph T. Sharkey
1951 1953 Rudolph Halley
1954 1961 Abe Stark
1962 1965 Paul R. Screvane
1966 1968 Frank D. O'Connor
1969 Francis X. Smith
1970 1973 Sanford D. Garelik
1974 1977 Paul O'Dwyer
1978 1985 Carol Bellamy
1986 1993 Andrew Stein
Public Advocate 1994 2001 Mark J. Green
2002 2009 Betsy Gotbaum
2010 2013 Bill de Blasio [first term]

Speaker of the City Council

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

Speaker of the City Council
Start year End year Speaker
1986 2001 Peter Vallone, Sr.
2002 2005 Gifford Miller
2006 Christine Quinn


Council Members currently receive $112,500 a year in base salary, which the council increased from $90,000 in late 2006.[5] 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.”[6]

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, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services
  • Oversight and Investigations
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Public Safety
  • 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


Partisan makeup
Affiliation Members
in 2000[7]
Brooklyn 2,465,326 16 16
Queens 2,229,379 14 11 3
Manhattan 1,537,195 10 10
the Bronx 1,332,650 8 8
Staten Island 443,728 3 1 2
Total 8,008,278 51 46 5
Council leaders
Position Name Party Borough District
Speaker Christine Quinn Democratic Manhattan
Majority Leader Joel Rivera Democratic Bronx
Minority Leader James Oddo Republican Staten Island

See also


  1. ^ Charter of the City of New York, Chapter 2 §25(a)
  2. ^ Sewell Chan and Jonathan P. Hicks, Council Votes, 29 to 22, to Extend Term Limits, The New York Times, published on-line and retrieved on October 23, 2008
  3. ^ Fernanda Santos: The Future of Term Limits Is in Court, The New York Times, New York edition, October 24, 2008, page A24 (retrieved on October 24, 2008), Judge Rejects Suit Over Term Limits, The New York Times, New York edition, January 14, 2009, page A26, and Appeals Court Upholds Term Limits Revision, The New York Times City Room Blog, April 28, 2009 (both retrieved on 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).
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ New York City Charter:
  7. ^ 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

External links

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