The 5 Worst New York City Lawmakers

#47 on the list, City Councilman Mark Gjonaj.
#47 on the list, City Councilman Mark Gjonaj.
New York City Council
#47 on the list, City Councilman Mark Gjonaj.

The 5 Worst New York City Lawmakers

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

#50. Bill Perkins 

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Council Member Bill Perkins
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Council Member Bill Perkins
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Council Member Bill Perkins
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Council Member Bill Perkins
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Council Member Bill Perkins
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 0, #45 (tie)

Bills introduced: 0, #50

Attendance: 63.89%, #49

Constituent response: No

Communications response: No

Last February, New York City Councilman Bill Perkins was taken into custody and transported to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after shouting and throwing objects in his Manhattan home, according to press reports. Perkins downplayed his behavior at the time and denied he was evaluated, explaining that he had been “confronting health issues” – in particular drug treatments for colon cancer. But anonymous sources expressed worry about his “lack of presence” and observed “that something is really off with him.”

Those concerns may be founded. Perkins didn’t introduce or pass a single bill last year. The longtime Harlem lawmaker, who served in the City Council previously and returned in 2017 after a decade in the state Senate, also skipped more than a third of his meetings.

Yet Perkins disputed his last-place ranking. “It’s not about the number of tweets or press stories or even being at every meeting. I will go where I can do the most good, have the maximum impact for my constituents, and often that is in the community and on the streets, and not at City Hall,” he wrote in an email. “From being the only elected who stood up for the Exonerated Central Park 5 to now for the first time bringing participatory budgeting to Harlem, I have always fought hard for this community I love and the people who call it home.”

#49. Andy King

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Council Member Andy King
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Council Member Andy King
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Council Member Andy King
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Council Member Andy King
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Council Member Andy King
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 1, #41 (tie)

Bills introduced: 3, #43 (tie)

Attendance: 53.06%, #50

Constituent response: No

Communications response: No

New York City Councilman Andy King suffered a spate of bad press in 2019. In October, he was fined $15,000, suspended for 30 days and removed from all council committees as part of an unprecedented punishment for a variety of offenses, including self-dealing, harassing his staff and retaliating against whistleblowers. Some colleagues even sought to remove him from office. Yet King responded with a lawsuit, and was soon back in the news for failing to pay his fine and keeping up his political activities during his suspension.

Fair or not, the probe and the ongoing scrutiny appear to have hampered King, who made little headway legislatively in 2019. He missed about half of his meetings – the worst of any council member – with only a handful of them the result of his suspension.

King told City & State that he blamed his situation on a “downtown” agenda, insisting that he is “working hard” and that his “constituents still love me.”

“I’ve submitted legislation and some have sat in the queue,” King added. “You see a set of council members whose stuff is always moving forward, and another’s who don’t. … It shouldn’t be that if you’re in leadership, your stuff is always moving and if you’re not in leadership, your stuff isn’t going anywhere.”

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

#48. Rubén Díaz Sr.

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Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr.
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Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr.
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Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr.
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Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr.
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Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr.
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 0, #45 (tie)

Bills introduced: 3, #43 (tie)

Attendance: 69.81%, #45

Constituent response: No

Communications response: Yes

New York City Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. has been a magnet for controversy, including when he made remarks critical of the LGBTQ community, which resulted in him losing his chairmanship of the For-Hire Vehicles Committee last year. But Díaz landed near the bottom of this ranking for other reasons – including his scant legislative record and his poor attendance. 

Díaz countered that he’s effectively serving his community as an invaluable resource and advocate for taxi drivers, and by keeping his office “open five days a week, 9-to-5” – although nobody in that office responded to an anonymous constituent request sent by City & State. “I’m No. 1 in constituent services. Ask anyone!” he told City & State. “I’m the only one that has an office for taxi drivers. And then I’m the worst?! Come to the community. Come to my office. See what I do when a crisis comes to the area. My office is open. I don’t think the others are like that.”

#47. Mark Gjonaj

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Council Member Mark Gjonaj
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Council Member Mark Gjonaj
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Council Member Mark Gjonaj
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Council Member Mark Gjonaj
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Council Member Mark Gjonaj
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 2, #32 (tie)

Bills introduced: 9, #26 (tie)

Attendance: 70.75%, #44

Constituent response: No

Communications response: No

Similar to several other lawmakers on this list, New York City Councilman Mark Gjonaj has been in the headlines lately for unflattering reasons, including taking donations from alleged members of the Gambino mob family and other questionable uses of city and campaign funds. While the Bronx lawmaker was solidly in the middle of the pack as a legislator, his poor attendance record and lack of responsiveness to media and constituent requests put him near the bottom of this ranking. 

Gjonaj’s office countered that in 2019 it had handled 1,300 constituent cases, attended more than 1,000 community meetings, launched a participatory budget process, offered services such as free tax preparation and immigrant assistance, and passed a law to protect people seeking refuge from a violent situation. “One random email from a made-up resident or a headshot request are not accurate or serious measurements of responsiveness,” a spokesman said in an email.

#46. Inez Barron

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Council Member Inez Barron
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Council Member Inez Barron
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Council Member Inez Barron
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Council Member Inez Barron
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Council Member Inez Barron
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New York City Council

Laws enacted: 2, #32 (tie)

Bills introduced: 5, #36 (tie)

Attendance: 86.76%, #23

Constituent response: No

Communications response: No

New York City Councilwoman Inez Barron is the only lawmaker to make the bottom five both in 2017 and in our latest rankings. She was slightly below average in terms of bill activity and slightly better than average in attendance, but failed to respond to our media and constituent requests in a timely manner. Barron’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

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

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