The best New York City Council members

All photos by Will Alatriste / New York City Council
Melissa Mark-Viverito.

The best New York City Council members

The top five New York City lawmakers
August 10, 2017

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito took the No. 1 spot on our list of the best New York City lawmakers.

As leader of the City Council, she drives much of the legislative body’s agenda and has considerable sway over which bills advance. In her annual State of the City addresses, she has laid out her own ambitious agenda emphasizing criminal justice reforms and protections for immigrants. On the legislative front, she led the way in 2016 with 22 bills introduced and 20 signed into law.

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While working closely with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mark-Viverito has flexed her muscles in halting legislation as well. One noteworthy example was her decision to work with the New York City Police Department to implement changes voluntarily instead of passing The Right to Know Act, a legislative criminal justice reform package that had garnered the support of a majority of the council’s members.

The speaker had the best attendance, tying with City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo for a perfect record last year. To be fair, Mark-Viverito had an easier job, with only 32 meetings that she was obligated to attend in 2016, primarily the stated meetings that convene the full council. Most of the other council members had at least twice that many meetings, including dozens of committee meetings. Matteo, for example, showed up for 115 meetings in 2016. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez had a whopping 172 meetings to attend.

Mark-Viverito’s office performed well on measures of responsiveness, replying to a media request within minutes and providing a detailed answer to an anonymous constituent question within one day. She also enjoys a high level of visibility, thanks in large part to her prominent leadership role. But she has also cultivated a dedicated following on social media, leading the City Council in the number of Twitter followers.

With Mark-Viverito wrapping up her last year in office, she’ll be passing off the leadership duties to another member in a matter of months. Among the leading contenders for the City Council speakership are City Councilman Mark Levine of Manhattan, who ranks seventh on our list, Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who’s ninth, Manhattan City Councilman Corey Johnson at No. 23, and City Councilman Donovan Richards at No. 32. Will one of them be next year’s No. 1?

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 Melissa Mark Viverito

No. 1: Melissa Mark-Viverito

Attendance: 100% (tie for No. 1)
Bills introduced: 22 (No. 1)
Bills enacted: 20 (No. 1)
Constituent response: 15 hours, 2 minutes (No. 11)
Communications response: 3 minutes (No. 4)
Google results: 77,200 (No. 4)
Twitter followers: 30,331 (No. 1)

Jumaane Williams

No. 2: Jumaane Williams

The Brooklyn councilman chairs the Committee on Housing and Buildings, a key body as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration carries out its ambitious affordable housing plan. Williams is also considered a long shot for council speaker.

Attendance: 83.5% (No. 39)
Bills introduced: 19 (No. 3)
Bills enacted: 15 (No. 2)
Constituent response: 12 hours, 48 minutes (No. 8)
Communications response: 3 minutes (No. 3)
Google results: 81,900 (No. 3)
Twitter followers: 17,247 (No. 4)

dan garodnick

No. 3: Daniel Garodnick

The Manhattanite has played a key role on a number of major developments during his tenure, from an affordable housing preservation deal at Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village to the Midtown East rezoning. The term-limited councilman considered but passed on a run for mayor.

Attendance: 91.3% (No. 21)
Bills introduced: 15 (No. 6)
Bills enacted: 9 (tie for No. 4)
Constituent response: 12 hours, 1 minute (No. 6)
Communications response: 4 hours, 22 minutes, (No. 25)
Google results: 46,400 (No. 14)
Twitter followers: 10,949 (No. 8)

ben kallos

No. 4: Ben Kallos

Representing Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, Kallos has positioned himself as a reformer. As chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, he has proposed numerous good government measures and pushed for greater transparency.

Attendance: 98.1% (No. 5)
Bills introduced: 17 (No. 5)
Bills enacted: 9 (tie for No. 4)
Constituent response: 17 hours, 26 minutes (No. 14)
Communications response: 53 minutes (No. 10)
Google results: 54,700 (No. 9)
Twitter followers: 4,005 (No. 38)

elizabeth crowley

No. 5: Elizabeth Crowley

As chairwoman of the Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee, the Queens councilwoman has shepherded legislation through the City Council dealing with such hot-button issues as curbing violence at Rikers Island, emergency response times and various police reforms.

Attendance: 96.2% (No. 10)
Bills introduced: 10 (No. 14)
Bills enacted: 5 (tie for No. 11)
Constituent response: 11 hours, 31 minutes (No. 5)
Communications response: 40 minutes (No. 9)
Google results: 27,599 (No. 30)
Twitter followers: 7,469 (No. 20) 

Jon Lentz
is City & State’s former editor-in-chief.