The almost all-new slate of New York City councilmembers have been hard at work at City Hall for just about three weeks now, and on Thursday they received their committee assignments, setting the course for which issues they’ll champion over the next four years.
The council’s 38 committees — or 39, including a new special task force on fire prevention, formed in the wake of the deadly Twin Parks fire — handle most of the Council’s day-to-day work, hashing out the details of proposed legislation, taking votes, and holding hearings to receive feedback from the community. A number of subcommittees, including the newly-formed Subcommittee on COVID Recovery and Resilience and the often popular Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, handle specific issues within their larger committees.
Councilmembers voted on assigning committee members and chairs, and Speaker Adrienne Adams officially made the appointments. Only three Brooklyn representatives — Lincoln Restler, Inna Vernikov, and Charles Barron — are not chairs this term.
Crystal Hudson: Committee on Aging
Hudson, who represents parts of North and Central Brooklyn in District 35, was her mother’s sole caretaker from the time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013 to her death last spring, and she campaigned, in part, on providing safety and security to the city’s older residents. The committee handles all things related to the lives and wellbeing of New York City’s seniors, including issues with the city’s Department of Aging. Last year, they dealt with food-delivery programs necessitated by the pandemic, laws concerning the number of hours home health care aides can work in a given day, and held oversight hearings on then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Community Care Plan.”
Darlene Mealy: Subcommittee on Senior Centers and Food Insecurity
Joining Hudson on the committee is Darlene Mealy, who represented District 41 from 2006 to 2017 and unseated incumbent Alicka Ampry-Samuel last year. The former chair of the Brooklyn delegation will also be heading the previously-inactive Subcommittee on Senior Centers.
Chi Ossé: Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations
The youngest member of the Council at just 23 years old, Ossé is heading up a wide-ranging committee with oversight on everything from the city’s museums and libraries to the New York City Commission for the United Nations and the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events.
“I have spent my life immersed in the New York culture scene. My father was an attorney in the music industry; my mother combines art and culture every day at her bakery. I worked many freelance jobs in nightlife before running for office,” Ossé wrote on Twitter. “Beyond my personal connections, I’m proud to hold this role as the representative of such a cultural hub as vibrant and significant as District 36. Countless artists, musicians, and actors were raised in our neighborhoods.”
The wunderkind elected will also serve on the committees for Consumer and Worker Protections, Finance, General Welfare, Public Housing, and Sanitation and Solid Waste Management.
Rita Joseph: Committee on Education
Former public school teacher and current representative of Central Brooklyn’s District 40 is heading up the Council’s Committee on Education, taking on a whole new set of responsibilities after 22 years at P.S. 6. She’ll be heading a Brooklyn-heavy group dealing with everything related to public and charter schools and the city’s School Construction Authority.
“Now, as Chairwoman of the Education Committee, I will be afforded the opportunity to advocate on behalf of students not just at PS6, but all over New York City,” Joseph wrote on Twitter. “My students may not be able to vote, but now, they have a voice. I look forward to the work to come.”
Justin Brannan: Committee on Finance
Longtime South Brooklyn representative Justin Brannan will have a hand on the city’s purse strings as the chair of the finance committee, responsible for overseeing the city’s Banking Commission, Department of Design and Construction, and the Comptroller’s office — now headed by Brannan’s old neighbor in the Council, Brad Lander. The committee also has a role reviewing and making changes to the city’s annual budget.
“New Yorkers pay a tremendous amount of taxes and rightfully expect to see a tangible return on their investment,” Brannan said, in a statement. “My charge is to make sure we are spending wisely, safeguarding our city’s financial future, and fortifying the city’s social safety net for New Yorkers who need it most. Our recovery will not be exclusive to the privileged or the powerful. Our recovery will be for everyone.”
While his statement referred to the committee as the “most prestigious” of the 38, Brannan will also be providing his expertise to the committees on Public Safety, Rules, Privileges, and Elections, Covid Recovery and Resiliency, and Senior Centers and Food Insecurity.
Mercedes Narcisse: Committee on Hospitals
After a long career as a Registered Nurse, Narcisse is redirecting her expertise toward the Council’s Committee on Hospitals, and will take charge of the body’s dealings with both public and private hospitals and New York City Health + Hospitals.
“This is a pivotal time for our city as we continue to battle the Omicron variant, which has decimated our hospitals,” she wrote on Twitter. “In particular, HHC facilities and safety net hospitals in traditionally underserved communities need a lifeline so they can flourish, and not merely survive.”
Narcisse is also a member of the committees on Criminal Justice, Education, Health, Parks and Recreation, and Covid Recovery and Resiliency.
Shahana Hanif: Committee on Immigration
The first Muslim woman to be elected to the Council, South-Central Brooklyn representative Shahana Hanif, who previously worked as the organizing director for former Councilmember Brad Lander, will be stepping up to lead the committee on all things immigration in New York City.
“As the daughter of two working-class Bangladeshi immigrants, I am deeply honored to be selected as the next chair of our City Council’s Immigration Committee,” Hanif said, in a statement. “Millions of immigrants call our city home, and as the new chair of this committee, it is my duty to ensure their voices are heard, and their rights are respected. There is so much work to be done to ensure we keep ICE, and organizations that contract with the rogue federal agency, out of our city. We will also make certain the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs fulfills its obligations to the millions of immigrants that call this city their home.”
Alexa Avilés: Committee on Public Housing
Taking up oversight of the New York City Housing Authority is Alexa Avilés, who represents Sunset Park, Red Hook, and parts of Windsor Terrace, Borough Park and Greenwood Heights. A longtime resident of Sunset Park and an active organizer in the public education space, she told Brooklyn Paper last year that housing insecurity and a city increasingly only working in favor of its wealthier residents were two of her biggest concerns.
“I am honored to serve as Chairwoman of [the council’s] Committee on Public Housing,” she wrote online. “I will fight to keep public housing as a public good and to advance a vision for public housing that is resident-led and centered.”
Avilés will also be staying true to her roots on the Committee on Education, alongside the committees on Youth Services and the Twin Parks Citywide Taskforce on Fire Prevention.
Ari Kagan: Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts
Kagan represents one of the south Brooklyn districts most vulnerable to climate change, including Coney Island, and will sit at the head of the newly-reactivated committee, which was previously just the Committee on Waterfronts. A former staffer of Councilmember Mark Treyger, Kagan has said he worked to secure money for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, and the committee will work with the Office of Recovery and Resiliency and the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability in their efforts to prepare for and recover from the effects of climate change and storms on the city’s many miles of shoreline.
“As the Council Member representing Southern Brooklyn communities, I am excited to work in my new capacity as Chair of Resiliency and Waterfronts Committee,” Kagan said. “Our area suffered tremendously from Superstorm Sandy and recently from Ida Storm. We need substantial city, state, and federal resources and careful long-term planning to prepare the entire New York City for future storms, flooding, and other natural disasters.”
While the task of preparing for storms is a mammoth one, Kagan will also be serving on the committees for Economic Development, Environmental Protection, Finance, Housing and Buildings, Land Use, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
Sandy Nurse: Committee on Sanitation
Chairing the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management is a big job, previously held by now-Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, and Nurse, the founder of composting service BK ROT, is a perfect fit.
With jurisdiction over both the Department of Sanitation and the Business Integrity Commission, the committee has previously taken up the issues of labor unions within the sanitation industry, and held oversight hearings on street and sidewalk cleanliness.
Nurse is also part of the committees on Civil Service and Labor, Contracts, Environmental Protection, Resiliency and Waterfronts, Veterans, and Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses.
Kalman Yeger: Committee on Standards and Ethics
Formerly the senior advisor and legal counsel for then-Councilmember David G. Greenfield, Yeger will be steering the committee with jurisdiction over the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, which enforces ethics and conflict of interest rules for the city’s public servants, and ethics within the Council itself. While the committee does not meet as regularly as some of the Council’s busier bodies, its business tends to be the juiciest — it handled the hearings and consequences for former Councilmembers Andy King and Barry Grodenchik.
Jennifer Gutiérrez: Committee on Technology
Well prepared for her new position in the council after years as Antonio Reynoso’s Chief of Staff, Gutiérrez is taking over the committee in a pivotal moment as the city enters its third year of the pandemic and a third year of struggling with remote schooling and local government meetings.
“From applying to jobs, to remote learning, to making our local government run, technology is essential,” she said, in a statement. “Yet despite its necessity, there are historical inequities in access to this resource, especially by low-income communities of color. The COVID pandemic exposed just how paramount access to internet is for our livelihood — and this exists during our recovery today. I am thrilled to use my post as Chair to reverse these inequities and ensure that all New Yorkers have access to reliable, affordable technology.”
Farah N. Louis: Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Maritime Uses
Louis, who has represented District 45 since 2019, is a jack of all trades — her resume includes time as a journalist and publicist, the founder of a girls’ mentorship organization, and eight years as an administrator at Mount Sinai Hospital. Now, she will be stepping into a new role in the Land Use Subcommittee, which reviews the city’s designations for landmarks and historic districts, as well as the locations of new public facilities and coastal amenities like piers.
She’ll still be flexing all her old skills as she serves on the committees for Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, Education, Finance, Fire and Emergency Management, Land Use, Zoning and Franchises, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
While they’re not chairing committees, Restler, Vernikov, and Barron will still be kept busy as members of various panels.
- Lincoln Restler: Committees on Contracts, Education, Environmental Protection, General Welfare, Government Operations, Parks and Recreation, Public Housing, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Criminal Justice.
- Inna Vernikov: Committees on Civil and Human Rights, Higher Education, and Standards and Ethics
- Charles Barron: Committees on Health, Finance, Higher Education, Housing and Buildings, Public Housing, and Hospitals.