Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (center) stands with Senator Bill Perkins (left), Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (right) and tenant advocates during Monday's rally. (227094)
Credit: Vania Andre, NYC Council

Although he’s not considered a front-runner for the seat, New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams got a significant endorsement for Council speaker.

Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez—key figures in the Women’s March movement—endorsed Williams for Council speaker via an open letter touting his accolades. The co-written letter cites the Council speaker election as the first push leading up to the midterm elections where left-leaning political activists hope to turn the tide in their favor.

“This is not a time for the crippling safety of political correctness or moderation. Not from our people, and certainly not from our elected officials,” read the letter. “Our representatives in government must reflect the demands of the moment we are confronting together. The next speaker of the New York City Council will be a voice for New York, speaking out against Donald Trump and the radical Republican agenda being enacted across the country. New York City needs a vocal, passionate leader to head its legislature.”

As chair of the City Council’s Housing & Buildings Committee, Williams was the lead sponsor of Intro 1039, which gave City Hall the power to conduct a census of vacant property. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development will be mandated to report vacant properties. Intro 1036 requires the city to conduct census and compile a list of vacant properties in the city. Both bills passed in the City Council this week.

“The affordable housing and homelessness crisis we face presents an incredibly complex problem, and this legislation provides us with an essential tool toward creating solutions,” said Williams, in a statement, after the bills were signed. “As someone who participated in the count that took place on the ground over a decade ago, I know how important this tool will be. Finally, we’ll be able to understand the extent of property warehousing throughout the five boroughs, and craft real policy solutions that create housing for all New Yorkers, especially those who are currently without homes.”

The Council member, building himself as the activist candidate, got endorsements from other leaders such as New York Communities for Change’s Jonathan Westin (who helped lead the Fight for $15 movement) and National Action Network’s Kirsten Foy. But Williams is fighting an uphill battle in a big pool of candidates that includes Ritchie Torres, Ydanis Rodriguez, Mark Levine, Corey Johnson, Jimmy Van Bramer, Donovan Richards and Robert Cornegy Jr.

Williams has come out strongly in favor of more affordable housing, labor unions and the decrease of gun violence in the city. He recently gave a keynote address at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre, a shooting that left 20 elementary schoolchildren and six teachers dead.

His bona fides in the activist community make him the perfect Council speaker according to Mallory, Sarsour and Perez.

“We need someone who will march with us in the streets and fight for us in City Hall,” the letter stated. “We need someone unafraid to lead, who will inspire others to follow. Who will remember our past, defend our present and aggressively pursue our secure future. Who has not just words, but a track record of hard-fought battles leading to progressive accomplishments for working people, for people of color, for all the disadvantaged in our city facing financial distress, housing instability or a criminal justice system that needs to be completely overhauled. Who has the passion, determination and legislative skill to continue to fight for these issues, and more, in the future.