The City Council appointed chairs and members for its committees today. It also re-appointed the chair and one member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city agency that oversees historic preservation in New York.
The New York City Council took shape on January 18th with the naming of more than 40 committee heads -- the "chairs" of council standing committee and sub-committees. Council Speaker Christine Quinn praised her appointments. "We've increased the number of women in leadership and heading committees from 13 in our last council to 15," she said. "We've named 21 council members of color chair of committees, including three committees that the Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus identified as most critical -- Education, Health and Housing. And we've named a Republican leader to head a council committee, the task force on buildings."
Some key committee heads remain the same. But several new chairs were appointed. New Councilmember Inez Dickens takes over as the chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee and becomes the Majority Whip, earning an $11,000 stipend. Jessica Lappin will head the Land Use Sub-Committee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime. Daniel Garodnick will also chair a Land Use Sub-Committee on Planning Dispositions and Concessions. And Rosie Mendez will lead the Sub-Committee on Public Housing.
The important post of chair of the Education Committee went, as predicted, to Robert Jackson, who was one of the original plaintiffs in the Council for Fiscal Equity suit against the state for underfunding the city's public schools. Bronx Councilmember Joel Rivera, whose early support helped garner Quinn her Speaker position, is Majority Leader, chair of the Health Committee, and recipient of a $23,000 stipend, second only to Quinn's $28,500 bonus. The new chair of Housing and Buildings will be Erik Martin Dilan, a move that helps Vito Lopez of Brooklyn solidify himself as an unofficial housing czar.
Leroy Comrie Jr., who had been up for speaker before Quinn got the job, received a bump up to Deputy Majority Leader and chair of Consumer Affairs with a $20,000 stipend. Reyna replaced him as head of Rules, Privileges and Elections. Alan Gerson will chair a new committee for Lower Manhattan Redevelopment.
Contentious Appointments to Landmarks Preservation Commission
The City Council also unanimously approved the mayor's re-appointment of two members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city agency that identifies, designates and regulates historic districts and landmarks in the five boroughs. Robert Tierney was re-appointed chair, a full-time position that draws a salary of over $150,000. Elizabeth Ryan was re-appointed as one of the 10 commissioners, who don't get a salary for their part-time work.
Though all went smoothly before the full City Council, some preservation activists delivered strong testimony against Tierney at a committee hearing earlier in the day. "This is not an open process," screamed Michael Henry Adams, historian and author of "Harlem Lost and Found" "It's going to be the same as it's always been," he yelled at top voice from the back of the hearing room. "It's going to be the same as it's always been!" he shouted again as he was forcibly removed from the room.
Other preservationists were less disruptive but equally upset at Tierney's tenure. One activist called Tierney's appointment "pre-ordained" Another, Olive Freud of the Committee For Environmentally Sound Development, said, "Mr. Tierney has been such a disappointment. It almost makes us want to cry." A few preservationists testified in support of Tierney, and Councilmember Simcha Felder, former chair of a the Land Use Sub-Committee on Landmarks, called Tierney's position a "thankless job." Said Felder, "Advocates, no matter what the commission does, it'll never be enough [for them]."
Council members were mostly in support of re-appointing Tierney but also pointed to some improvements they'd like to see: a more transparent and faster process for landmark or historic district designation, more recognition and preservation of the rich history of outer boroughs, better staffing and funding for the commission, and more discussion of how to ease the increased financial burden for shop owners and low-income residents of historic districts or buildings.
No New Bills and Other Business
No bills were introduced at the stated meeting. Council members observed a moment of silence to mark the death of Councilmember Hiram Monserrate's sister after her long battle with cancer. The meeting adjourned with a remembrance of the three children who died in a Coney Island fire last week and of 7-year old Nixmary Brown, allegedly beaten, tortured and killed in her home by her stepfather.
In the wake of Nixmary's death, a scheduled meeting on Jan. 31 of the General Welfare Committee to discuss New York City's Administration for Children's Services could be heated.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is slated to give his State of the City address on January 26, and the city budget should be released shortly afterward. The next City Council stated meeting will be on Wednesday, February 1.