How does the New York City Council work?

What does the Council do?

  • It introduces and votes on legislation (proposed laws) having to do with all aspects of City life.

  • It negotiates the City’s budget with the Mayor and approve its adoption.

  • It monitors City agencies such as the Department of Education and the NYPD to make sure they’re effectively serving New Yorkers.

  • It reviews land use and makes decisions about the growth and development of our city.


How is the Council structured?

  • The Council is separate from the Mayor’s administration, but an equal partner in how the City is run.  It is the largest municipal legislative body in the nation.

  • All 5 boroughs are represented on the Council, which is divided into 51 districts.  Each district is represented by an elected Council Member.

  • Council Members serve for a term of 4 years, with a maximum limit of 2 consecutive terms.  They can run again after a 4 year respite.

  • The head of the City Council is called the Speaker, and is currently Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat. The Speaker sets the agenda and presides at meetings of the City Council.

  • Most Council activities take place in Committees. The Council has 35 standing Committees that practice oversight of New York City functions.  See ‘How do Council Committees work?’ for more detail.

  • Council Members may also join one or more of 6 Caucuses to ensure that the needs of specific racial, ethnic, gender, and political communities are represented.



How does the Council legislative process work?

  • Step 1: Bill introduction. Council Members work with the Legislation Division to craft a bill that is introduced at stated meetings, where it is assigned to the appropriate Committee.

  • Step 2: Public hearings. The Committee will hold a public hearing on a bill to obtain feedback from the public and other government entities who may be affected by the bill. This may result in amendments to the bill.

  • Step 3: Voting. The Committee votes on the bill. If the bill passes the Committee by majority vote, the bill is then sent to the full Council where it will be considered and voted on at a Stated Meeting. The bill must again pass by majority vote.

  • Step 4: Mayoral decision. After a bill is passed by the Council, it is presented to the Mayor, who has 30 days to either sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or take no action. If the Mayor vetoes the bill, it is sent back to the Council. If this happens, the Council can override the Mayor’s veto with a 2/3 vote. If the Mayor doesn’t sign or veto the bill within 30 days, it becomes law.

  • Step 5: Bill becomes law. Once a bill is signed by the Mayor (or its veto has been overridden by Council), it’s then added to the New York City Charter or Administrative Code.


How do Council Committees work?

  • Each committee is headed by a Council Member (the Chair), includes at least five members, and meets at least once a month.

  • Each Council Member also serves on at least three of our standing committees or subcommittees. Council Members are assigned to committees through a process that the entire Council votes on.

  • The Council also has several subcommittees, which are convened to review and make recommendations regarding topics of particular interest.

  • After proposed legislation is heard by its appropriate committee, it is then sent to be considered by the whole Council.


Which Council Committees are most relevant to Sustain the Vote?

While a wide variety of Committees may touch on climate/sustainability-related topics, those listed below are most relevant to our focus areas.  Click the links to see each Committee’s current membership.


  • Committee on Environmental Protection: The Committee on Environmental Protection has jurisdiction over New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

  • Committee on Recovery and Resiliency: The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency has jurisdiction over recovery in Hurricane Sandy-affected communities, including the Build It Back Program, as well as the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

  • Committee on Housing and Buildings: The Committee on Housing and Buildings has jurisdiction over New York City’s rent regulation policies and practices, as well as the Department of Buildings and Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

  • Committee on Land Use: The Committee on Land Use has jurisdiction over New York City’s land use and landmarks review process, as well as the City Planning Commission, Department of City Planning, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Landmarks Preservation Commission.

  • Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management: The Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management has jurisdiction over New York City’s Business Integrity Commission and the Department of Sanitation.


What are some examples of recent climate/sustainability activities of the Council?


How will the 2017 Council election process work?

  • Partisan primaries will occur on September 12, 2017.  Candidates who are running unopposed in a primary win the nomination automatically and proceed directly to the general election.

  • The general election will occur on November 7, 2017.

  • The election is overseen by the New York City Board of Elections, which is an administrative body of ten Commissioners, two from each borough upon recommendation by both political parties.  The Board is appointed by the City Council for a term of four years.