Newly seated Councilmember Justin Brannan’s office is pretty impressive to look out of: A window-walled corner spot on the 17th floor of 250 Broadway with commanding views of the Brooklyn Bridge and a forest of downtown skyscrapers. But it’s not much to look at, its walls dotted with push-pins that aren’t holding anything up, the tables stacked with desk organizers that aren’t yet organizing anything.
There’s no reason to decorate because Brannan doesn’t know how long he’ll have the office, which belonged to the man he worked for and has now succeeded, the 16-year Council veteran Vincent Gentile. Carlina Rivera, whose office is down the hall, also doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to use the digs that belonged to her former boss and predecessor, Rosie Mendez, who just ended a dozen-year stint on the city’s legislature. The new Council speaker Corey Johnson has to decide who goes where.
The location of their desks is not the only question mark. When the two new Councilmembers joined the Max & Murphy podcast on Wednesday, they were still waiting to learn their committee assignments, and where they will sit when the 51-member Council sits for its biweekly general (or “stated”) meetings.
There were only 11 new members when the 2018-2021 session of the New York City Council started work last week. Three of that rookie class are actually veteran lawmakers: Ruben Diaz, Sr. comes to the Council directly from the State Senate and Mark Gjonaj and Francisco Moya were members of the state Assembly when elected last fall. And among the eight Councilmembers who are serving in their first elected office, three are “new” only in the strict sense, because they served as Council staff members last year. Besides Brannan and Rivera, that group includes Diana Ayala, who now represents the district that former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito held from 2006 through last year.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. How do you make yourself accessible to the public but not overwhelmed? How do you handle communication with campaign donors? What about taking to former opponents? How do you avoid the problems with discretionary funding that the allegations against Assemblywoman Pamela Harris indicate? Where should the Council shine the spotlight of its oversight and investigative function, which is likely to be more robust this term?
Hear Brannan and Rivera answers these questions and discuss their priorities, 10 days in:
Music by Fort Indy.