The Best New York City Lawmakers

#3 on the list, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
#3 on the list, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
New York City Council
#3 on the list, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

The Best New York City Lawmakers

The top five based on City & State's calculations.
January 26, 2020

#1 (tie). Keith Powers

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Council Member Keith Powers
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Council Member Keith Powers
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Council Member Keith Powers
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Council Member Keith Powers
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Council Member Keith Powers
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Jeff Reed/New York City Council

Laws enacted: 7, #9 (tie)

Bills introduced: 14, #16 (tie)

Attendance: 98.21%, #4

Constituent response: Yes

Communications response: Yes

The best New York City Council member of 2019 is (drumroll, please) … actually two lawmakers: Keith Powers and Helen Rosenthal! How did we end up with a tie? It’s a little complicated. Powers was initially ranked No. 7 on our list, with his lack of a response to our request for a headshot keeping him out of the top 5. While we found no evidence of ever receiving a headshot from his office – our test to assess responsiveness to the media – Powers’ staff subsequently provided email evidence that they had actually responded to our request, even though we never received it, possibly due to a technical problem. Since we had already designated Rosenthal as No. 1, we decided to recognize both lawmakers as sharing the top spot on our list this year – even though Powers technically has the better score. 

Powers, a first-term lawmaker from Manhattan, chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, which has played a key role in the debate over closing Rikers Island and replacing the complex with borough-based jails. He also spearheaded a new 2019 law limiting the operation of horse carriages on hot days and pushed for an expanded inmate bill of rights.

#1 (tie). Helen Rosenthal

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Council Member Helen Rosenthal
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Council Member Helen Rosenthal
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Council Member Helen Rosenthal
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Council Member Helen Rosenthal
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Council Member Helen Rosenthal
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 11, #1 (tie)

Bills introduced: 29, #1

Attendance: 82.98%, #34

Constituent response: Yes

Communications response: Yes

The Upper West Side lawmaker led the way in total bills introduced last year and tied for having the most laws enacted. As chairwoman of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, Rosenthal has seized on the #MeToo movement to champion measures protecting women, including a new law tracking the city’s efforts to combat domestic violence and a bill in committee to study gender pay disparities in the city. But the whopping 29 bills she introduced in 2019 address a variety of issues, from tenant rights to the treatment of transgender New Yorkers. The former chairwoman of the Contracts Committee also drafted several bills last year dealing with the city’s processes for awarding government contracts – a record that could come in handy when her run for city comptroller heats up next year.

“I got a great team,” Rosenthal told City & State after being told about her top ranking. “That’s all I have to say. I’m lucky.”

#3. Robert Holden

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Council Member Robert Holden
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Council Member Robert Holden
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Council Member Robert Holden
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Council Member Robert Holden
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Council Member Robert Holden
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 2, #32 (tie)

Bills introduced: 19, #3

Attendance: 98.86%, #3

Constituent response: Yes

Communications response: Yes

Coming in at No. 3 is New York City Councilman Robert Holden, who is perhaps best known for opposing homeless shelters and housing the homeless in hotels, and riding those issues to an upset victory over then-City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. As a Democrat who won on the Republican Party line, he took office in 2018 as an outsider in the largely progressive council. But in an email to City & State, Holden credited City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his staff for treating him “warmly” and appointing him to lead the Committee on Technology.

Holden has kept busy drafting bills – even if relatively few pass – while showing up for nearly every meeting. “Although I’m honored, the work of a lawmaker is so complex that it’s almost impossible to rank their performance,” Holden said. “I take my job and responsibilities seriously and was always taught to show up and be on time. That probably helped me in the ranking.”

RELATED: How we calculated the Best & Worst New York City Lawmakers

#4 (tie). Corey Johnson

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Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 11, #1 (tie)

Bills introduced: 12, #19 (tie)

Attendance: 100%, #1 (tie)

Constituent response: Yes

Communications response: No

It’s not unexpected that New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson is near the top of our ranking – if there’s any surprise, it’s that he’s not No. 1. Johnson, an early front-runner in the 2021 mayoral race, enjoys some built-in advantages as speaker. He only has to attend the legislative body’s full meetings, making it easier for him to notch a perfect attendance record. Johnson, who directs the legislative agenda, tied with Rosenthal and two others for the most laws that a prime sponsor had enacted. And while Mayor Bill de Blasio was on the road during his ill-fated presidential campaign last year, it arguably opened up a policy vacuum that Johnson largely filled.

#4 (tie). Mark Treyger

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Council Member Mark Treyger
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Council Member Mark Treyger
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Council Member Mark Treyger
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Council Member Mark Treyger
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Council Member Mark Treyger
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 10, #5 (tie)

Bills introduced: 10, #24 (tie)

Attendance: 88.32%, #19

Constituent response: Yes

Communications response: Yes

New York City Councilman Mark Treyger, a Brooklyn lawmaker, is the chairman of the Education Committee, another important post. The former high school teacher has sought to boost oversight and transparency of the city’s public schools, including efforts to improve school bus performance. He has also focused on resiliency, a key issue for his constituents in South Brooklyn.

#6. Daniel Dromm

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Council Member Daniel Dromm
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Council Member Daniel Dromm
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Council Member Daniel Dromm
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Council Member Daniel Dromm
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Council Member Daniel Dromm
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 11, #1 (tie)

Bills introduced: 17, #8 

Attendance: 90.91%, #14

Constituent response: No

Communications response: Yes

New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm, a veteran Queens representative who has been in office for a decade, chairs the influential Finance Committee. Like Rosenthal and Johnson, Dromm was the prime sponsor of 11 laws enacted last year, tied for the most of any lawmaker. He’s also an ally of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, making an early endorsement of his mayoral candidacy in May. 

-with reporting by Jeff Coltin, Jon Lentz and Madeline Lyskawa

City & State
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