As leaders tout the New York City Council’s diversity, it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t always been that way.
Out of 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs, 14 Black City Council members are running for reelection. Most are in fairly competitive races, although that’s subject to change as petitioning season closes in May and names are cemented on the ballot. Quite a few are running unopposed.
The first Black council member wasn’t elected until the 1940s and the first-ever Black City Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, was just elected in 2022.
Former Harlem Councilmember Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was the first Black man elected to the City Council in 1941, and eventually to Congress in 1944. He was a regular columnist for the Amsterdam News, championing civil rights and union causes.
Former Councilmember Mary Pinkett, a Brooklyn native, was the first Black woman elected to the City Council in 1974. She represented District 35 in Brooklyn and 28 in Queens. She was a strong advocate for labor and Medicare for retired city employees.
New York City has a rich history of Black political clubs, as well Harlem and Brooklyn being hotbeds of Black and Caribbean political power for the last several decades. The Vanguard Independent Democratic Club (VIDA) out of Bed Stuy remains one of the oldest Black-run clubs, originally founded by former Councilmember Al Vann in the 1970s. Several of the city’s Black and women-run clubs continue to honor the legacy of activist Shirley Chisholm, a Brooklynite who made history by being the Black woman to get elected to Congress and make a campaign run for US presidential nominee.
“If you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. Club President Londel Davis, Jr. “Our community differs in some ways when it comes to what’s most prevalent socially and culturally. As you know, gentrification has impacted Harlem dramatically.”
Davis said historically, communities of color were left out of critical discussions of key issues, like redistricting of voting lines, budgeting, and redistribution of community resources, that require Black representation at the city level.
Harlem’s central District 9 remains the only City Council seat held by a Black official in Manhattan and the North Shore’s District 49 remains the only City Council seat held by a Black official in Staten Island.
On the ballot
Based on New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB) info from this March, here’s the candidates for each race and funds they’ve raised so far. Again, some of these names are likely to drop off the closer to the primary on Tuesday, June 27.
City Council District 9: Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, Upper West Side, East Harlem
- (incumbent) Kristin Richardson Jordan, $22,213 in private funds
- Inez E Dickens, $82,901 in public funds; $38,673 in private funds
- Yusef Salaam, $23,975 in private funds
- Al Taylor, $69,958 in public funds; $17,345 in private funds
City Council District 12: Wakefield, Olinville, Edenwald, Eastchester, Williamsbridge, Baychester, Co-op City
- (incumbent) Kevin C Riley, $37,330 in private funds
- Aisha Ahmed, $7,560 in private funds
City Council District 16: Claremont, Concourse, Concourse Village, Highbridge, Morris Heights, Mount Eden, Morrisania
- (incumbent) Althea Stevens, $15,111 in private funds
City Council District 27: Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village, and Springfield Gardens
- (incumbent) Nantasha Williams, $42,677 in private funds
City Council District 28: Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park
- (Speaker, incumbent) Adrienne E. Adams, $539,348 in private funds
City Council District 31: Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens
- (incumbent) Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, $79,100 in private funds
- Daniella May, $820 in private funds
City Council District 35: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant
- (incumbent) Crystal Hudson, $69,293 in private funds
City Council District 36: Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights
- (incumbent) Chi Ossé, $25,957 in private funds
City Council District 40: Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Park, Prospect Lefferts Gardens
- (incumbent) Rita C. Joseph, $43,570
City Council District 41: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights
- (incumbent) Darlene Mealy, $330
- Reginald H Bowman, $885
City Council District 42: East New York, New Lots, Remsen Village, Spring Creek, Starrett City
- (incumbent) Charles Barron, $61,940 in public funds; $21,422 in private funds
- Chris Banks, $70,490 in public funds; $15,810 in private funds
- Jamilah Rose, $6,660 in private funds
City Council District 45: Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands, Kensington
- (incumbent) Farah Louis, $26,779
City Council District 46: Bergen Beach, Canarsie, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island, Sheepshead Bay
- (incumbent) Mercedes Narcisse, $48,086 in private funds
City Council District 49: Arlington, Clifton, Clove Lakes, Concord, Elm Park, Graniteville, Livingston, Mariners Harbor, New Brighton, Port Richmond, Randall Manor, Rosebank, St. George, Snug Harbor, Silver Lake, Stapleton, Sunnyside, West Brighton, Tompkinsville
- (incumbent) Kamillah M Hanks,$173,850 in public funds; $112,822 in private funds
- Amoy K Barnes, $3,268 in private funds
- Ruslan Shamal, $50
The City Council elections will use Ranked Choice Voting, which lets a voter select five candidates at one time as opposed to just one. Mark your calendars for upcoming dates.
Deadline to request absentee ballots online or by mail: Monday, June 12.
Voter registration deadline: Saturday, June 17
Early voting begins: Saturday, June 17; ends Sunday, June 25. Find a early voting poll site and hours at findmypollsite.vote.nyc/.
Deadline to get an absentee in person: Monday, June 26.
June Primary Election Day: Tuesday, June 27. Polls are open 6 a.m.–9 p.m. to vote in person Last day to drop off absentee ballots: Tuesday, June 27. Absentee ballots have to be received via mail with a postmark no later than Election Day to be counted.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics 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 visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.