Heard Around Town

NYC Council’s Progressive Caucus shrinks (for now) while Common Sense Caucus grows

New Council Members Chris Banks and Yusef Salaam don’t have any immediate plans to join the Progressive Caucus.

New City Council Member Chris Banks has so far not committed to joining the Progressive Caucus.

New City Council Member Chris Banks has so far not committed to joining the Progressive Caucus. John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

The City Council’s bipartisan Common Sense Caucus saw a small boost in its ranks earlier this year with the addition of a new Republican and a new conservative Democrat member, but a similar swell isn’t in store for the council’s Progressive Caucus – at least not yet.

No new members to the council have joined the Progressive Caucus, according to director Emily Mayer, though she said members can join at any time. The Progressive Caucus' ranks are down by two, as two of its members from last session – Charles Barron and Kristin Richardson Jordan – didn't return to the council this session. All of the Progressive Caucus' other members are still a part of the caucus this session, putting its membership at 18 people. The Common Sense Caucus now has nine members. 

The Progressive Caucus underwent a sizable shedding last year after leaders clarified their stance on policing. What had been a ballooning group of 34 members – reflecting just how broadly defined “progressive” politics can be – was whittled down after caucus leaders released a new set of principles that, among other things, called for members to “do everything we can to reduce the size and scope of the NYPD and the Department of Correction.” 

Of the four new members to the City Council this session, two have already joined the Common Sense Caucus. The leaders of the Common Sense Caucus announced their new membership slate earlier this year, with the addition of Republican Kristy Marmorato and Democrat Susan Zhuang, who has described herself as having Republican ideas.

The other two new members to the council – Democrats Yusef Salaam and Chris Banks – have not joined either caucus. “I really didn’t think about it. I’ve been so inundated with just getting acclimated as a new council person. And I think the only caucus I really have been to a meeting of is the (Black, Latino and Asian Caucus),” Banks told City & State when asked about the Progressive Caucus, mentioning other responsibilities on his plate, like chairing the public housing committee. “I see myself as working with the Progressive Caucus on issues that we agree on, and advocating and fighting for all residents of New York City.”

Salaam, who previously held off from weighing in one way or the other about the Progressive Caucus, also doesn’t have any immediate plans to join. “For now, I plan to join the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. As this is my first foray into politics I want (to) take a moment and take the pulse and see where I may fit in. I want to focus on learning from all my colleagues,” Salaam said in a statement. “I am interested in working with the City Council as a whole – including the members of the Progressive Caucus – to not only move New York City forward, but also to incorporate the methods used and lessons learned from my colleagues’ experiences to promote Harlem, its people, and their needs.”

Banks didn’t say one way or the other whether he agreed with the principle related to the size and scope of the NYPD that rankled so many former caucus members last session. “My focus is really on building relationships with (the NYPD) and also holding them accountable,” he said. Banks pointed to the How Many Stops Act – a bill requiring more reporting on low-level police encounters that was recently vetoed by Mayor Eric Adams – as something that can provide more oversight. As a vote to override that veto looms in the council, Adams has invited council members to do ride-alongs with police officers so they can see what officers experience on the job. Salaam, who was named the new chair of the council’s public safety committee, has already accepted that invitation, but he has also vowed to vote to override the veto of that bill.