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.