Introducing the New NYC Council
Every four years, a new combination of 51 people from all around the five boroughs come together to govern New York City. Following the election earlier this month, 10 new City Council members have been confirmed (an 11th may be included in the freshman class once all the votes are counted).
The people who make up the City Council are as varied and unique as the city itself. This year’s newest members include a former lobbyist who vows to more tightly regulate lobbying practices, a vegetarian guitarist who once had two dogs as vocalists in his metal band, and a minister who is rarely seen without his cowboy hat. Here’s what you need to know about the men and women who will serve in this role:
District 2 — Carlina Rivera Rivera replaces councilwoman Rosie Mendez, for whom she once worked as a staffer. Her Puerto-Rican heritage and lifelong residence in El Pueblo Nuevo on Stanton Street helped her appeal to voters and win her election with 83 percent of the vote. However, controversy about whether she was really qualified to live in the subsidized building where she grew up became an issue in the primaries, where she faced five Democratic challengers. With her Councilwoman salary of $148,000 a year that puts her above the income for a Section-8 subsidy, she’ll now need to — and has promised — to find a new apartment.
District 4 — Keith Powers
Powers’ experience comes from work as a staffer for both Assemblyman Jonathan Bing and state Sen. Liz Krueger; he also was employed by lobbying firm Constantinople & Vallone Consulting. Based on this background, Powers vows to pass legislation that makes lobbying practices in the city more transparent and tightens controls on campaign contributions. He’ll replace term-limited Council Member Dan Garodnick.
Powers won his bid for election with 57 percent of the vote, and will serve an area that includes Stuyvesant Town, parts of Midtown East and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
District 8 — Diana Ayala
Ayala served as former chief of staff to outgoing Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and brings a varied — and relatable — background to her new position. During the tough primary race for District 8, which includes East Harlem and parts of the South Bronx, Ayala talked about her experience growing up in public housing, becoming a teen mother, living in homeless shelters and overcoming both domestic violence and postpartum depression.
Ayala, a mother to four kids, had strong support from labor and progressives including Mayor Bill de Blasio. She won the general election with 91 percent of the vote.
District 13 — Mark Gjonaj
Gjonaj, a real estate broker with an Albanian heritage, spent nearly $1 million to win the primary race for his seat, which represents part of the East Bronx. He served in the state legislature before winning the seat vacated by term-limited Council Member Jimmy Vacca with 49 percent of the general election vote.
District 18 — Ruben Diaz, Sr.
Diaz, Sr., made a name for himself as a social conservative in the state senate and will represent the Southwest Bronx. Known for often sporting a trademark cowboy hat, Diaz, Sr., took 79 percent of the vote in the general election. He frequently writes and speaks about many social issues, including same-sex marriage; his son, Ruben Diaz, Jr., serves as Bronx Borough President and contests dad on a number of social concerns.
District 21 — Francisco Moya
Moya bested former state senator and controversial figure Hiram Monserrate in the primaries, then went on to win his seat unopposed in the general election. He replaces Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and will represent the Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona neighborhoods in Queens.
District 28 — Adrienne Adams
Adams worked as an associate instructor in the field of child development and a corporate trainer before she became the chairwoman of Community Board 12. She’s also been a member of the Queens Borough Public Library Board of Trustees, the Governor’s Local Planning Committee for the Jamaica Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the Jamaica NOW Leadership Council.
Adams replaces Ruben Wills, who was ousted on corruption charges earlier this year. She’ll take her seat immediately instead of waiting until January because the position is currently vacant. She defeated two challengers in the primaries and took 86 percent of the general vote.
District 41 — Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Ampry-Samuel grew up in public housing and went on to earn a law degree from CUNY. She’s worked as a child protective specialist, senior adviser at the New York City Housing Authority and chief of staff for Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.
She had an unsuccessful run for City Council in 2005, but this time she beat out eight challengers in the primary and took 96 percent of the general election vote. Ampry-Samuel replaces outgoing Council Member Darlene Mealy in a district that includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Flatbush and Crown Heights.
District 43 — Justin Brannan
Brannan has studied journalism and worked in finance before taking stints at the city’s Department of Education and as a staffer for outgoing City Council Member Vincent Gentile. He won Gentile’s seat by just 4 points in the general election after coming out on top with 39 percent of the primary vote. His Southern Brooklyn district includes the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights neighborhoods.
Brannan’s colorful background includes co-founding both the Bay Ridge Democrats and the nonprofit group Bay Ridge Cares as well as playing guitar in the hardcore band “Indecision.” He’s also a vegetarian and a Freemason, and has been in a band that featured two dogs as vocalists.
District 44 — Kalman Yeger
Yeger came out on top of a nasty race in the ultra-Orthodox Borough Park district of Brooklyn that replaced outgoing Council Member David Greenfield. Greenfield announced his retirement so late in the process that there was no time for a primary race; Yeger beat his Republican challenger, Yoni Hikind, in the general election by 38 points.
District 30 — Bob Holden
Holden may not be the true winner in District 30, where he went up against incumbent Council Member Liz Crowley. A thin 133-vote margin separated the two at last count, which is being contested by the Crowley camp. If Holden is the victor, he’ll represent a district in Queens that includes the conservative neighborhoods of Glendale and Maspeth.
Holden is a former professor at CUNY and, since 1990, has worked as president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. The JPCA is a very influential neighborhood group that can be hard on politicians with whom they disagree. Holden, with his more conservative views that reflect his district, would be one of a few council members who disagrees with the city’s sanctuary policy.