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These Council Members Want To Be NYC’s Next Borough Presidents. How Do Their Records Stack Up?

Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera speaks at a rally for a NYCHA resident who fell down a flight of stairs after an elevator broke at the Webster Houses, Jan. 5, 2021.
Bronx Councilmember Fernando Cabrera speaks at a rally for a NYCHA resident who fell down a flight of stairs after an elevator broke at the Webster Houses, Jan. 5, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A borough president is a potentially powerful “mini-mayor” — influencing land use and holding sway over community boards, grants to local groups and more.

Current and recent members of the City Council are in the running in every borough — and going head-to-head in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

All of the current members running will lose their Council seats at the end of 2021 due to term limits, after serving in office for eight years or more. Candidates’ histories in the Council give voters a trove of information about their past record on promoting key legislation, constituent services and more.

How do the competing Council members stack up? THE CITY reviewed their records.

Brooklyn

Robert E. Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant)

Endorsements include state Assembly member and Brooklyn Democratic County Committee president Rodneyse Bichotte, Transport Workers Union Local 100, Spike Lee

Brooklyn City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr. speaks at a rally for MTA bus driver safety.
Brooklyn City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr. speaks at a rally for MTA bus driver safety.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Cornegy was elected to the Council in 2013, where he currently chairs the Housing Committee. He represents a swath of central Brooklyn that has undergone rapid transformation and gentrification.

Beginning in 2019, he began lobbying for reforms of Third Party Transfer, a program that moves dilapidated rental buildings whose landlords fail to pay taxes into the hands of a caretaker. Controversy arose after the city housing agency handed multiple co-ops in the district from low-income shareholders to outside managers.

A task force Cornegy created as housing committee chair in response to the controversy continues to study the issue.

A former professional basketball player, Cornegy has campaigned on police reform, economic development and land use reform.

Of Cornegy’s 90 bills introduced in the City Council, 30 have been enacted.

Cornegy’s office has processed 232 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat, a dashboard that tracks requests district offices process. The citywide average is 690 requests per year.

Antonio Reynoso (D-Ridgewood, Bushwick, Williamsburg)

Endorsements include: Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hotel Trades Council

Antonio Reynoso addresses the media gathered at the edge of the Red Hook Houses during a presser to address ongoing gas outages.
Antonio Reynoso addresses the media gathered at the edge of the Red Hook Houses during a presser to address ongoing gas outages.
Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Reynoso was elected in 2013. As chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, he has fought what he deems “environmental racism” in his district and beyond.

Reynoso was raised on the south side of Williamsburg, where trucks hauling private waste to area transfer stations were a constant environmental threat. He sponsored a successful 2018 bill to reduce and cap the share of waste processed in his district and other overburdened parts of Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx.

Reynoso also played a leading role in enabling restaurants to serve customers outside after indoor dining shut down to prevent the spread COVID. He contends his bill saved 100,000 restaurant jobs.

Of Reynoso’s 70 bills introduced in the City Council, 19 have been enacted.

His office has processed 657 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat, slightly lower than city’s average 690 requests per year.

Mathieu Eugene (D-Crown Heights, Ditmas Park, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens)

No major endorsements

Brooklyn City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, May 25, 2021.
Brooklyn City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, May 25, 2021.
John McCarten/New York City Council

Mathieu Eugene is the first Haitian-born member of the City Council, taking office in 2007 after winning two special elections, despite concerns that he did not actually live within Brooklyn’s District 40.

Eugene, who chairs the Committee on Civil and Human Rights, has introduced 63 bills since joining the body. Of those, 11 were enacted, including one requiring drinking fountains to be capable of filling water bottles.

His office has processed 432 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat, lower than the citywide 690 request average.

The Bronx

Vanessa Gibson (D-Claremont, Concourse, Concourse Village, Highbridge, Morris Heights, Mount Eden, Morrisania)

Endorsements include: Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), District Council 37, United Federation of Teachers

Councilmember Vanessa Gibson speaks at a Sunday rally for striking Hunts Point Produce Market workers.
Councilmember Vanessa Gibson speaks at a Sunday rally for striking Hunts Point Produce Market workers.
Claudia Irizarry Aponte/THE CITY

Voters elected Gibson to the City Council in 2013, following her four-year stint as a state Assembly member. Gibson has chaired the Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations since January. In April, she led an oversight hearing on adult homeless shelter nonprofits, after a New York Times investigation highlighted abuses by a Bronx-based shelter provider.

Gibson previously chaired the Committee on Public Safety. She has advocated for the homeless and for more police accountability. In 2015, Gibson backed the expansion of the NYPD’s ranks that added nearly 1,300 police officers. The following year, she pressed a $21 million budget boost for district attorneys, with most of the funds going toward The Bronx and Staten Island.

Gibson has introduced 57 bills in the Council, 20 of which have been enacted. Among them is a law she introduced that makes the NYPD annually disclose information on its use of surveillance technology, including ShotSpotter’s gun-detection system.

Her office has processed 292 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, as registered with CouncilStat. That figure is less than half of the citywide average.

Fernando Cabrera (D-Morris Heights, Fordham, Kingsbridge)

Endorsements include: The Bronx Chronicle and Sergeants Benevolent Association

Cabrera has served in the Council since 2009 and as majority whip since 2018.

A Pentecostal minister and the senior pastor of New Life Outreach International, Cabrera is socially conservative and personally opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, but accepts them as law of the land, the New York Post reported. The 57-year-old briefly ran against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 2020 Democratic primary before dropping out in March to support Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.

A former member of The Bronx’s Community Board 7, Cabrera chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations, which oversees the city’s 59 volunteer community boards.

Cabrera has advocated for additional funding for the boards. When each board got an additional $42,500 in 2019, some boards made questionable purchases, including a new SUV, THE CITY reported.

In 2014, Cabrera introduced the law that makes landlords post a “tenants’ bill of rights” in their lobbies. His office has processed 438 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, as registered in the CouncilStat system, well below the city average.

Manhattan

Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side, Midtown East, Roosevelt Island, East Harlem)

Endorsements include: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens), Comedian Chuck Nice, American Institute of Architects

Upper East Side Councilmember Ben Kallos speaks at the opening of a new dual language pre-k program, Oct. 2, 2020.
Upper East Side Councilmember Ben Kallos speaks at the opening of a new dual language pre-K program, Oct. 2, 2020.
Jeff Reed/New York City Council

First elected in 2013, Kallos chairs the Committee on Contracts and previously chaired the Committee on Governmental Operations.

Kallos is leading a push to regulate Airbnb and other home-sharing services, introducing a measure last month that would require the apps to register with the city. He told The Wall Street Journal that the bill would prevent thousands of illegal short-term rentals from appearing on Airbnb and other sites, while helping the hotel industry.

During his time in the Council, Kallos has introduced 184 bills, with 44 of them enacted.

His office has processed 1,123 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat. His office’s average is nearly twice the city’s average.

Mark Levine (D-Harlem)

Endorsements include: Former Rep. Charles Rangel, 32BJ SEIU, New York City Central Labor Council

Councilmember Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) speaks at a vigil in Inwood for several homeless people who were stabbed on the subway, Feb. 15, 2021.
Councilmember Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) speaks at a vigil in Inwood for several homeless people who were stabbed on the subway, Feb. 15, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Levine was elected in 2013 and gained visibility during the coronavirus pandemic as chair of the council’s Health Committee. He pushed for mobile and pop-up COVID-19 vaccination sites earlier this year, when mass vaccination locations were the norm.

Last April at the height of the coronavirus surge in New York City, Levine briefly ignited a panic when he erroneously wrote in a since-deleted tweet that city parks would be used as mass burial grounds for COVID victims. He later clarified the error.

Tenants who are subject to eviction proceedings can now receive access to legal representation, thanks to a bill that Levine introduced this year, which accelerated expansion of the city’s right-to-counsel law.

During his tenure, Levine has introduced 126 bills, with 40 of them enacted.

Levine’s office has processed 575 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, as registered in to CouncilStat. His office’s average is lower than the city’s.

Queens

Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria)

Endorsements include: Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Queens), New York Communities for Change, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer endorses Dianne Morales for mayor during an event in in Jackson Heights, May 13, 2021.
Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer endorses Dianne Morales for mayor during an event in in Jackson Heights, May 13, 2021.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Van Bramer, in his third term in the Council, leads the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and is a founding member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. Now the Council’s deputy leader, he previously served as majority leader during his second term.

He has introduced 150 bills, with 20 enacted into law. Among them is a measure requiring schools to release traffic safety reports and reduce food waste, stiffening civil penalties for individuals leaving a vehicle accident scene without reporting it to authorities, and requiring city agencies and schools to distribute information on how to sign up for library cards.

This year, he sponsored a unanimously approved bill creating an Open Culture Program, allowing artists to perform on city streets participating in the city’s Open Streets program.

Van Bramer’s office has processed 2,221 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat. His office’s average is more than three times as high as the city’s.

Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale, Middle Village)

Endorsements include: Transport Workers Union Local 100, Uniformed Fire Officers Association

Until narrowly losing her Council seat to challenger Robert Holden in 2017, Crowley had been in the Council since 2009, chairing the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee. She is a cousin of former Rep. Joe Crowley, who was defeated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018.

She fought to make discretionary funding more equitably allocated to City Councilmembers and funded a $500,000 feasibility study analyzing the restoration of commuter rail service from Jamaica to Long Island City. Crowley formed a nonprofit group called Friends of QNS to continue advocating for the $2 billion project.

Of 84 bills Crowley introduced, 28 became law, including measures requiring the Fire Department to issue an annual report on the use of smoke detectors and alarms where people had died in fires.

Her office processed 932 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2017, according to CouncilStat — 35% higher than the citywide average.

Donovan Richards (D-Rockaway, Jamaica)

Endorsements include: Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), 32BJ SEIU, 1199 SEIU

Richards is the incumbent borough president, winning the seat in a special election in November 2020. A lifelong resident of Southeast Queens, he represented Rockaway, Jamaica and other areas of southeastern Queens in the City Council from 2013 until assuming the borough presidency.

Richards has chaired the Committee on Environmental Protection, Zoning and Franchises, and later the Council’s Committee on Public Safety. He advocated for a city-sponsored rezoning in Far Rockaway encompassing affordable housing, green space, a new library branch and improvements to schools.

Richards made flood protection a key priority, helping to secure over a billion dollars of funding to improve stormwater infrastructure. He was a vocal advocate for a new police precinct covering four neighborhoods in Southeast Queens. In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced funding to establish the 116th Precinct in the district.

Of the 62 bills Richards introduced during his tenure in the Council, 28 were enacted.

Some of his notable legislation included bills to develop a publicly posted disciplinary matrix guiding consequences for NYPD officers found responsible for misconduct, prohibiting the Department of Probation from drug testing for marijuana in most cases, and requiring city affordable housing plans to address racial barriers and historic segregation.

As Council member, Richards’ office processed 154 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat. His office’s average is less than a quarter of the city’s.

Staten Island

Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island)

Endorsements include: Richmond Republican County Committee, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, Police Benevolent Association.

Councilmember Steven Matteo speaks on Staten Island, Feb. 2, 2019.
Councilmember Steven Matteo speaks on Staten Island, Feb. 2, 2019.
John McCarten/New York City Council

Matteo was elected to the Council in 2013 and became the body’s minority whip in 2015. He currently chairs the Committee on Standards and Ethics, where he oversaw the expulsion of ex-Bronx Councilmember Andy King.

He represents the Mid-Island area of Staten Island, which lies south of the Staten Island Expressway and is considered the starting point of the borough’s suburban and Republican households.

He sponsored a bill that expanded property tax benefits given to veterans and their families and another to provide defibrillators and training in how to use them to Little League baseball teams across the city.

Matteo, who served as James Oddo’s chief of staff when the current borough president was a Council member, also worked with the Department of Sanitation to establish an e-waste curbside pick up program. He helped create a West Shore Industrial Business Improvement District (BID) and New Dorp BID.

Of the 104 bills Matteo proposed, 33 have been enacted into law.

Matteo’s office has processed 3,166 constituent service requests per year from 2015 to 2020, according to CouncilStat, more than four times the average — the highest in the city.

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