The New York City Council elected Councilmember Adrienne E. Adams as City Council Speaker, yesterday on Wed, Jan 5. Adams is the first Black person and Black woman to assume the role in its history.
Around Wednesday afternoon the first City Council meeting of 2022 began, according to pooled press information provided by the city council office. The chambers were packed with members, their staffers and special guests as Adams entered, but was still relatively closed because of COVID restrictions.
“I am humbled to have the support of my colleagues as the next Speaker of the City Council,” said Adams in a statement. “This Council has many challenges ahead as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic and the issues it punctuated. By working together, we can improve the lives of New Yorkers in a meaningful way for generations to come.”
After roll call, a recitation of the oath of office, and an invocation read by the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral’s Reverend Elaine Flake, fellow Queens Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers was the first to nominate Adams for the position of Speaker. Councilmember Francisco Moya, in Elmhurst’s district, was the last person to nominate her for the role.
According to the pooled press, Adams had 49 affirmative votes out of 51 voting councilmembers. Only two councilmembers were in opposition.
Brownsville’s Councilmember Charles Barron abstained from voting for any candidate and was quoted saying that he hoped the speaker process “would not be led by unions and Congress members and would not have members pick someone in exchange for the promise of a certain committee post,” while first-year Harlem Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan voted no against Adams’ nomination.
“We need more than symbolic representation,” said Richardson Jordan about her vote.
When Adams was confirmed as Speaker of the City Council, she then went on to name Councilmember Diana Ayala in East Harlem as Deputy Speaker and Brooks-Powers as Majority Leader. Lastly, Adams named Staten Island’s Councilmember Joseph C. Borelli as Minority Leader for the GOP. “Our opposition is not personal, I hope you all realize that. It’s not even political. It’s more of a duty to present a different take to the public,” said Borelli.
Adams represents Council District 28 in Queens, which covers the neighborhoods of Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Richmond Hill, and South Ozone Park. For most of her time as council member she passionately served as Chair of the Committee on Public Safety.
In her speech at the council meeting, Adams said that shootings have essentially doubled in the last two years with gun violence cropping up in Black and brown communities in Southeast Queens, Central Brooklyn, and in the South Bronx. She said she is not opposed to police presence, and understands the nuanced issue and the need for “better policing” in which people are protected and treated with respect.
“We have to make sure that New Yorkers are protected. My community wants the police in the community as many others where we see spikes in gun violence,” said Adams in her first interview since being voted in. “I’ve said publicly that I believe that funds and funding for NYPD is mismanaged.”
Adams also added that she firmly disagrees with new Mayor Eric Adams’ position on solitary confinement to punish violent offenders. The Speaker bears an obviously similar name to Mayor Adams, but outside of attending the same high school together, they are not related as far as they know, said the city council office.
Adams is set to lead the City Council’s first women-member majority and historically most diverse body. This is the first time the council has its first two Korean American members,its first Muslim woman member, its first two South Asian American members, the first two openly LGBTQ Black women members, and its youngest member in their 20s. Adams’ Speaker term will end next year on December 31, 2023.
First year Brooklyn Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse said that she was immensely excited to be a part of such a historic day and paid homage to other female trailblazers that came before Adams.
“While I know the phenomenal woman who we are elect[ing] Speaker today hails from Queens, as a Brooklyn girl I wanted to take a moment to salute another queen hailing from the borough of Kings, whose shoulders we stand on,” said Narcisse. “Councilwoman Mary Pinkett, who served in this body from 1974 to 2001, making history as the first Black New York City Councilwoman, certainly is smiling down on us today. Councilwoman Pinkett made quite the crack in that proverbial glass ceiling, and we shouldn’t let this historic day fade into history without honoring her legacy.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here: bit.ly/amnews1