New York City Council

New York City Council
Melissa Mark-Viverito, Democratic
Since January 2014
Majority Leader
Jimmy Van Bramer, Democratic
Since January 2014
Minority Leader
Steven Matteo, Republican
Since July 2015
Seats 51
Political groups
  • Government
  Democratic: 48 seats
  • Opposition
  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 47 Democratic council members led by Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. The three Republican council members are led by Minority Leader Steven Matteo. There is one vacancy.

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]
Brooklyn2,465,326 16 16 0
Queens2,229,379 14 13 1
Manhattan1,537,195 10 10 0
The Bronx1,332,650 88 0
Staten Island443,728 3 1 2
Total8,008,278 51483
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 $148,500 a year in base salary, which the council increased from $112,500 in early 2016.[3] Members receive no additional compensation for serving as a committee chairperson or other officer under the new salary raise.


Further information: Law of New York

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.[4][5] The regulations promulgated by city agencies pursuant to law are contained in the Rules of the City of New York in 71 titles.[6]

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.[7] Each local government must designate a newspaper of notice to publish or describe its laws.[8] 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.[8] 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.[9]


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). [10] 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.[11]

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. As the presiding officer, the Public Advocate was an ex officio member of all committees in the Council, and in that capacity had the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation. However the city charter revision of 2002 transferred the duties of presiding officer from the Public Advocate to the Council Speaker; the Public Advocate remains a non-voting member of the Council.[12]

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. However, in 2008, under pressure from Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who, like many Council members, was facing the end of his two term limit at that time), the Council voted 29–22 to extend the 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 of term limits failed in federal court. The original 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) and a proposed law in the New York State Legislature to override the extension was not passed.[14][15][16]

Voters voted to sustain the two-term limit law in another referendum in 2010.[17]

The 2008 council vote came back to hurt Christine Quinn, the Council Speaker, 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. During the 2013 mayoral race, her actions were 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.[18]

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.[19]

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 of the city's political, geographical, social, ethnic and religious constituencies as possible (and, when possible, to both genders).

Name Dates in office Party Notes
As President of the Board of Aldermen
Randolph Guggenheimer January 1, 1898[20][21] – December 31, 1901 Democratic
Charles V. Fornes January 1, 1902[22] – December 27, 1905 Fusion
Patrick McGowan December 27, 1905[23] – December 31, 1909 Democratic
John Purroy Mitchel b, c January 1, 1910[24] – June 7, 1913[25] Fusion
Ardolph L. Kline a, d June 9, 1913[26] – December 31, 1913 Republican
George McAneny January 1, 1914[27] – February 1, 1916[28] Fusion, Democratic
Frank L. Dowling February 1, 1916[28][29] – December 31, 1917 Democratic
Alfred E. Smith January 1, 1918[30] – December 31, 1918 Democratic
Robert L. Moran January 1, 1919[31] – December 31, 1919 Democratic
Fiorello H. La Guardia b, c January 1, 1920[32] – December 31, 1921 Republican
Murray Hulbert January 2, 1922[33] – January 8, 1925[34] Democratic
  • ousted by a court decision after accepting an honorary position as a member of the Finger Lakes Park Commission[34]
William T. Collins January 8, 1925[34] – December 31, 1925 Democratic
Joseph V. McKee a, c January 1, 1926[35] – December 31, 1933 Democratic
Bernard S. Deutsch January 1, 1934[36] – November 21, 1935[37] Republican, Fusion, Law Preservation[38]
  • died unexpectedly
Timothy J. Sullivan November 22, 1934[37] – December 31, 1936 Democratic
William F. Brunner January 1, 1937[39] – December 31, 1937 Democratic
As President of the City Council
Newbold Morris c[40] December 31, 1937[41] – January 1, 1946 Republican
Vincent Impellitteri a, b January 1, 1946[42] – August 31, 1950 Democratic
Joseph T. Sharkey (acting) September 2, 1950[43] – November 14, 1951 Democratic
  • sworn in as Acting President after Impellitteri became Acting Mayor
Rudolph Halley c November 14, 1951[44] – December 31, 1953 Liberal, Fusion, Independent Citizens
  • sworn in as soon as the Election Day results were certified
Abe Stark January 1, 1954[45] – December 31, 1961 Democratic
Paul R. Screvane January 1, 1962[46] – December 31, 1965 Democratic, Liberal, Brotherhood[47]
Frank D. O'Connor January 1, 1966[48] – January 3, 1969[49] Democratic
  • resigned to become a State Supreme Court justice
Francis X. Smith January 8, 1969[50] – December 31, 1969 Democratic
Sanford Garelik January 1, 1970[51] – December 31, 1973 Republican, Liberal
Paul O'Dwyer January 1, 1974[52] – December 31, 1977 Democratic
Carol Bellamy c January 1, 1978[53] – December 31, 1985 Democratic
Andrew Stein January 1, 1986[54] – December 31, 1993 Democratic, Liberal
As Public Advocate
Mark Green c January 2, 1994[55] – December 31, 2001 Democratic
As Speaker of the City Council
Gifford Miller January 9, 2002[56] – December 31, 2005 Democratic
Christine Quinn January 4, 2006[57] – December 31, 2013 Democratic
Melissa Mark-Viverito January 1, 2014[58] – present Democratic


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 Mitchel's resignation).

Standing Committees


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. NYC Council votes 40-7 to raise members’ pay to $148,500, by Matthew Chayes, Newsday; February 5, 2016
  4. 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.
  5. Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 458.
  6. Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 473.
  7. 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.
  8. 1 2 Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 261.
  9. "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.
  10. Amy, Douglas J (1996). "A Brief History of Proportional Representation in the United States". Retrieved 30 April 2014.
  11. Andrews v. Koch, 528 F.Supp. 246 (1981), aff’d sub nom., Giacobbe v. Andrews, 459 U.S. 801 (1982).
  12. Cardwell, Diane. "Betsy Gotbaum, the Advocate, Struggles to Reach Her Public". Retrieved January 14, 2013.
  13. Sewell Chan and Jonathan P. Hicks. Council Votes, 29 to 22, to Extend Term Limits, New York Times, published on-line and retrieved October 23, 2008.
  14. Fernanda Santos. The Future of Term Limits Is in Court, New York Times, October 24, 2008, p. A24 (retrieved October 24, 2008).
  15. Fernanda Santos. Judge Rejects Suit Over Term Limits, New York Times, January 14, 2009, p. A26 (retrieved July 6, 2009).
  16. Appeals Court Upholds Term Limits Revision, New York Times City Room Blog, April 28, 2009 (retrieved July 6, 2009).
  17. Javier C. Fernandez. "Once Again, City Voters Approve Term Limits", New York Times, November 3, 2010.
  18. Halbfinger, David M.; Chan, David W. "De Blasio First in Mayoral Primary; Unclear if He Avoids a Runoff". New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  19. "New York City Charter, ch. 1, §10" (PDF). City of New York. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  20. "Democrats Take All - The Tammany Ticket Makes Almost a Clean Sweep of the Greater City - Only Two Republicans in the Council - Van Wyck's Plurality Is 80,316 - Seth Low Ran Nearly 40,000 Ahead of His Ticket - The Republicans Lose 21 Assemblymen and Elect Only 11 Candidates to the Board of Aldermen". New York Times. November 4, 1897. p. `. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  21. "City Legislators Meet - The First Session of the Council in Its Chamber Held Amid a Profusion of Flowers - Address of the President - He Calls the Attention of the Members to Serious Questions Confronting Them and Urges the Necessity of Economy in Expenditures". New York Times. January 4, 1898. p. 5. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  22. "Seth Low Takes The Mayor's Chair - Ex-Mayor Van Wyck Leaves the City Hall Alone - The New Executive Greeted With Courteous Words by His Predecessor Asks the People's Help in Redeeming His Solemn Pledges". New York Times. January 2, 1902. p. 1. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  23. "Mayor McClellan Sworn In - McGowan, Metz, Hayes, and Gass Also Get Certificates and Follow Suit". New York Times. December 28, 1905. p. 5. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  24. "Mayor Gaynor Takes Office - But He Will Not Announce His Appointments Before To-morrow - Ridder For Park Board - Publisher May be Commissioner for Manhattan, But Asks Time to Consider - McAneny Is Sworn In - Mitchel, Prendergast and Other Officers of the New Administration Also Take Hold". New York Times. January 2, 1910. p. 1. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  25. "Mitchel In Office As Port Collector Loeb, Retiring, Wishes Him Well - McAneny and Steers There as He Is Sworn In - Still in Mayoralty Fight - Politicians Say His Federal Appointment Can't Keep Him Out and Will Help Him". New York Times. June 8, 1913. p. C4. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  26. "Col. Kline For Economy - Successor of Mitchel As Aldermen's Head Will Follow His Lead". New York Times. June 10, 1913. p. 6. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  27. "Mitchel's First Day As Mayor - Cautions Heads of Departments Against Talking Too Much - Insists on Co-operation - No Police Head Yet - Commissioner McKay May Remain If Mayor Cannot Get the Man He Wants for the Place". New York Times. January 2, 1914. p. 1. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  28. 1 2 "McAneny Stays Till Feb. 1 - President of Aldermen Postpones His Resignation at Mayor's Request". New York Times. January 22, 1916. p. 9. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  29. "Frank L. Dowling Heads Aldermen; Vice Chairman of the Board Will Take President McAneny's Place - Democrats in Control - Dr. Thomas W. Martin Replaces Barry, Who Died In Bronx District - Committees Named". New York Times. January 4, 1916. p. 8. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  30. "Smith Fills Offices - Matthew T. Horgan Will Be Assistant President of Aldermen". New York Times. January 2, 1918. p. 3. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  31. 1 2 "Named By Smith To Military Staff - Governor-Elect Will Appoint 4 More Men Later Who Have Seen Active Service - Resigns From Aldermen - Will Use Governor's Room at City Hall to Meet Persons Here on Official Business". New York Times. December 24, 1918. p. 7. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  32. "Curran Sworn In, LaGuardia Also - Borough President and Head of Aldermen Silent on Public Issues - Two Resignations Asked - Curran Pays Tribute to the Late Frank L. Dowling - Says Fairer Man Never Lived". New York Times. January 2, 1920. p. 8. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  33. "Hylan Reinstalled, Pledges Old Policy; Keeps His Old Staff - In Inaugural Address Continues His Criticism of Press, Legislature and Port Authority - Refers to His Large Vote - Says It Is Not a Personal Tribute, but It Imposes Grave Responsibility - For Higher Aldermanic Pay - Craig Appears With Draft of New Charter Providing $5,000 Salaries for Members". New York Times. January 3, 1922. p. 1. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  34. 1 2 3 "Court Ousts Hulbert From City Office; Forfeited Post By Taking State Job; Hylan Hopes Smith Will Reappoint Him - Collins His Successor - His Eligibility to the Office Since Jan. 1 Is Questioned, However - Dispute Over The Law - Governor May Have Power to Appoint Hulbert to His Old Position - Comma Figures in Case". New York Times. January 9, 1925. p. 1. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  35. "Hylan And Enright Out With Pensions; Last-Hour Shifts In Police Department; Walker Fills Important City Posts - Flynn City Chamberlain - Bronx Leader Who Helped Win Victory in Primary Gets $12,000 Place - Two Plums Go To His Aids - McCooey So Far Fares Badly in Patronage - Richmond and Queens Factions Satisfied - Inaugural to be Simple - Mayor Hylan Will Welcome His Successor - Walker to Outline Policies to the Aldermen". New York Times. December 31, 1925. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  36. "LaGuardia Takes Office To Give City A New Deal; Sworn at Seabury Home - Ceremony At Midnight - Wife and Fusion Chiefs Are Present as McCook Administers Oath - His Day to Begin Early - Goes to Headquarters at 8:30 A.M. to Induct O'Ryan as Police Commissioner - Board to Hear His Plans - Mayor Faces Many Problems, a Hostile Tammany and Fight for His Program at Albany". New York Times. January 1, 1934. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  37. 1 2 "Bernard S. Deutsch Dies Unexpectedly At 51 In Bronx Home - President of Board of Aldermen Succumbs to Brief Illness Not Known to Be Serious - Strain of Office Blamed - Wife and Two Daughters at Bedside - Mayor Goes to Home on Learning News - He Was Leader in Fusion - Long Identified With Law Here - Rose in Politics After 1930 Ambulance Chasing Inquiry". New York Times. November 22, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  38. "List of Candidates Who Will Be on Ballots in Municipal Election Nov. 7". New York Times. November 5, 1933. p. N2. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  39. "Brunner Sworn In To Head Aldermen - Hallinan Administers Oath in Presence of Family and a Few Close Friends - Induction on Monday - Former Sheriff of Queens is Expected to Outline Policies at Meeting of Board". New York Times. January 2, 1937. p. 4. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  40. "Morris, An Athlete, Heads City Council - Amateur Skating Champion and College Oarsman a Descendant of Declaration Signer". New York Times. November 3, 1937. p. 13. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  41. "Morris Is Sworn As Council Head - Takes Oath Under Portrait of Great-Grandfather, Mayor of City 1851 to 1853 - 200 Attend Ceremonies - Lazarus is Selected as Head of Administrative Staff - 5 Other Aides Named". New York Times. January 1, 1938. p. 36. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  42. Potter, Robert W. (January 2, 1946). "O'Dwyer As Mayor Pledges His Regime 'To Do Good Work' - In Inaugural Talk He Appeals for Citizens' Aid in Meeting 'Heavy' Responsibilities - Homecoming Spirit Noted - Democrats Happy in Taking Over City Hall - LaGuardia Waves Hat in Farewell". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  43. Crowell, Paul (November 9, 1950). "Mayor Will Delay Changing Top Aides - In No Hurry, but Some Will Go, Says Impellitteri After Crowd Cheers Him at City Hall". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  44. "Halley Induction Slated For Today - Board Certifies the Election of President of City Council by Plurality of 163,342 Votes". New York Times. November 14, 1951. p. 25. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  45. Crowell, Paul (January 2, 1954). "Wagner Pledges His Best To City At Inauguration - Mayor, in Ceremony, Voices Aims for Housing, Schools, Health and Security - Swears In His 36 Aides - Moses Retained in All Three Posts - Impellitteri Will Get His Judgeship Today". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  46. Crowell, Paul (January 1, 1962). "Wagner Gives Jobs to 7 Who Helped to Elect Him". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  47. Grutzner, Charles (November 7, 1961). "City Elects Mayor Today; Vote Of 2 Million Is Seen; Jersey To Pick Governor - Wagner and Lefkowitz End Bitterly Fought Campaign - Union Cheers for Mayor". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  48. Knowles, Clayton (December 30, 1965). "O'Connor Chooses First 3 Top Aides - Bragdon, Mrs. Shainswit and Olivero Are Lawyers". New York Times. p. 50. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  49. King, Seth S. (January 5, 1969). "Council Narrows Presidency Race - Seeks to Fill Vacancy With Member From Queens". New York Times. p. 37. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  50. King, Seth S. (January 9, 1969). "F.X. Smith Elected City Council Head". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  51. "Mayor Lindsay's Second Term". New York Times. January 1, 1970. p. 22. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  52. Carroll, Maurice (January 1, 1974). "Quiet Ceremony Held at Home". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  53. "List of City Officers Who Were Sworn In". New York Times. January 2, 1978. p. 13. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  54. Heller Anderson, Susan; Bird, David. "Honoring Unisex Tradition". New York Times (January 3, 1986). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  55. Mitchell, Alison (January 3, 1994). "The New Mayor: The Overview; Giuliani Urges Dream of Better City and End to Fear". New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  56. Cardwell, Diane (January 10, 2002). "A Very Different Council Ushers In New Leadership". New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  57. Hu, Winnie (January 3, 2006). "Council Ready to Fill the Job of Speaker". New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  58. Grynbaum, Michael M.; Taylor, Kate (January 8, 2014). "Mayoral Ally Elected Speaker, Furthering City's Liberal Shift". New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
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