New York City: Dedicated to Mayor Bill De Blasio, by Ramya Ramana

The following poem is by New York City’s 2014 Youth Poet Laureate Ramya Ramana. Ms. Ramana delivered it at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration at City Hall on January 1, 2014. The text of the poem is below, and here is video, via The New York Times, of Ms. Ramana reciting it at the inauguration.

New York City: Dedicated to Mayor Bill De Blasio

A constellated skyscraper, moving gracefully to jazz beat,

Finding the Gil Scott Heron in her footwork.

Gripping the street lights like an eclipse of hymnals.

The lost voices, the heart’s devotion to beat and pulse, slow dancing kernels.

Home to hustle. Home to work hard, dream harder.

Home to move in silence- let success shatter the glass of hostage echoes.

New York City- not lights, not Broadway, not time square


This entry was posted on March 9, 2014.

The New City Council Gets To Work

Saturday, March 8th, will mark two months since the new New York City Council held its first stated meeting. At that meeting on January 8th, the 51-member legislative body convened officially for the first time at City Hall, simultaneously took a ceremonial oath of office, and got to work.

The past two months have been eventful, beginning with the council’s selection of its new leadership and a deal to expand paid sick leave legislation, and wrapping up with several oversight hearings and many council members heading to Albany in support of Mayor de Blasio’s “pre-k” plan, one large piece of the council’s 2014-15 State Budget and Legislative Agenda.

Looking back at the new council’s first two months on the job, we see the organization of its personnel, confirmation of campaign promises around policy, rules reform and oversight, and indications of where the city’s legislature is likely heading.


With 21 new members, the council saw a great deal of turnover via the 2013 election cycle. Before those new council members were even inaugurated, they, along with their veteran colleagues, were swept up in the race to be their leader, the council speaker. In conjunction, a slate of five major council rules reforms was drafted and circulated among council members-elect, both new and returning, for initial approval. Over thirty signed on and the proposals, aimed at democratizing the council, were oft-discussed during the speaker’s race.

All this while the newly elected were staffing up, finding office space, planning early initiatives, and, in many cases, being seen by their constituents as on the job already.

In November, as many as seven council members participated in a series of public info candidate forums, and, after a significant amount of non-public politicking, the dust settled on January 8th with Melissa Mark-Viverito standing on the floor of City Hall’s council chambers being unanimously elected to lead the body for the next four years. Adding significance to the occasion was Mark-Viverito becoming the first Latino to hold the position

This entry was posted on March 7, 2014.

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2014.

Just How Representative Is Our City Government?

Leading up to and since the primary run-off for the Democratic nomination for public advocate, much was made of the two candidates’ race and gender and the effects the vote’s outcome would have on the demographic make-up of the city-wide officials, including the next Speaker of the City Council. Now that this last contest of the primary round is behind us, the composition of the 2014 New York City elected government has come into greater focus and we can outline its likely demography. In doing so, we can ask: how representative of the city’s population will the incoming city government be?

In July and before the Bill de Blasio surge, I took a look at the possibility of Christine Quinn becoming New York City’s first female mayor, as well as the percentages of women currently serving in city government and running for city offices in 2013 (both around 30% at the time). We now know Quinn will not be mayor, but that Letitia James will almost certainly be the next public advocate, and thus the first African-American woman to hold city-wide elected office. It also seems clear that Gale Brewer and Melinda Katz will serve as Manhattan and Queens borough president, respectively.

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The results of several city council races where a gender swing was at stake have yielded a likely net drop of three in the number of women who will serve on the council. It is quite likely that the City Council will go from having 18 women and 33 men, to 15 and 36. As of 2014, the New York City council will be about 29% female. Factor in the five borough presidents and three city-wide officials and the New York City elected government will likely consist of 18 women and 41 men: 31% female.

When it comes to gender, the roster of New York City elected government officials is clearly not representative of the overall population.

What about race?

Among likely city and borough-wide officeholders other than James, the next mayor, comptroller, and borough presidents in Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island will all be white. In Brooklyn, the new borough president will likely be Eric Adams, who is black and replacing Marty Markowitz, who is white; and in the Bronx, Ruben Diaz Jr., who is Latino, will almost certainly remain Bronx Borough President. These outcomes reflect the racial composition of their respective boroughs: Brooklyn is the borough home to the highest percentage of African-Americans, at 32%, and the Bronx home to the highest percentage of Hispanics, at 54% of borough residents. Data according to the 2010 Census.

This entry was posted on November 10, 2013.

A Drink with the Candidates for Manhattan Borough President

Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century (DL21C) made sure that its Manhattan Borough President candidate forum, held on Wednesday, July 17th, felt a bit different than most others on the crowded schedule of campaign events around the city. The forum was held in the Elmo Lounge, a candle lit room under the Elmo restaurant, in Chelsea. The evening began with a half hour of networking and mingling with the three Manhattan Borough President candidates participating, who sat in booths enjoying a drink and hearing from several of the roughly 60 people in attendance before the forum got underway.

The candidates present were Council Members Robert Jackson (CD7) and Gale Brewer(CD6), and former Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin. The fourth major Manhattan Borough President candidate, Council Member Jessica Lappin, was not at the forum.

Also in attendance was district three city council candidate Yetta Kurland, who was invited to address the crowd and thanked DL21C for hosting such events, especially their recent “speed politicking” night. Kurland mentioned the 11,000 petition signatures she recently filed and her readiness for the next stage of the campaign.

The more formal portion of the night began with candidates’ opening statements. Menin spoke first, telling the crowd that her entrance into public service came when “September 11th upended my life.” Since then, Menin said, she has devoted the last twelve years to community service. Menin touted her record of standing up with New Yorkers on difficult issues, often being willing to take stances on controversial topics, including the building of the Park 51 Mosque and the Occupy Wall Street protests. Menin went on to state her concerns about overcrowding in the borough, calling Manhattan the “densest of all five boroughs.” Menin blamed the City Council, in which all three of her opponents serve, for allowing developers to continue to build in Manhattan without ensuring more school seats and other such measures to manage the influx of new residents.

Next, Councilwoman Gale Brewer spoke, pointing to her record and effectiveness in the council as her major qualifications to become the borough’s next president. “I have introduced more legislation than any other legislator,” she said. Brewer described her commitment to passing the paid sick leave law, calling it “the most progressive legislation ever to pass city council.” Brewer said she would “bring everyone together to find solutions. We have got to find ways to make our neighborhoods inclusive. People want jobs, opportunity, and togetherness.”

This entry was posted on August 17, 2013.