New York’s politically purple neighborhoods are just weeks away from choosing their next City Council members in redrawn districts. And with expected low turnout in November’s elections, the results are anyone’s guess; public polling in Council races are very rare.
Races to watch include conservative-leaning neighborhoods in The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, including one newly created district in southern Brooklyn that will give the Council its first majority Asian seat. Asian American voters will likely make or break the results in at least three other close races, too.
Republicans may gain a seat in northeast Bronx if a progressive first-time councilmember can’t hang on in a tight, contentious race there. But the GOP could lose a seat in northern Queens as a hard-right incumbent, Vickie Palladino, faces a longtime former leader in the area, Tony Avella, running as a Democrat.
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Election day is Tuesday, November 7 and early voting begins on October 28, which is also the voter registration deadline. Here are the races to watch in November:
District 13: Marjorie Velázquez vs. Kristy Marmorato
This district, which stretches from Morris Park to City Island, had the most crowded primary races in the city this past June, and both candidates came out ahead in close races. Democratic incumbent Velázquez won with key union support and Republican Marmorato won her primary in the third round of a ranked-choice voting tally against two other candidates.
Velázquez faced major criticism during her two-year term over proposed zoning changes along Bruckner Boulevard in Throggs Neck, a plan she ultimately supported after saying she opposed it.
Velázquez’s platform includes promises to support unions in new real estate developments built in the district, improving public housing in The Bronx, and putting a moratorium on school or hospital closures.
Marmorato, an X-ray technician from Morris Park running for office for the first time, is campaigning on a platform that includes “combating overdevelopment,” reducing or eliminating income tax and repealing cashless bail. She has close family ties to the GOP in the borough; the Bronx Times reported that her brother is the Bronx GOP chair and her husband is the GOP commissioner for the Board of Elections.
Each candidate has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the race, the latest New York City Campaign Finance Board reports say.
Velázquez raised at least $248,000 so far with $135,000 in private funds and $113,000 in public matching funds. Marmorato raised at least $203,000, with $50,000 in private funds and $153,000 through the public matching system.
District 19: Vickie Paladino vs. Tony Avella
Republican incumbent Paladino is fighting to keep her seat against Democrat Avella, who formerly served the area for decades, first as a Council member and later as a state senator.
Paladino is serving her first term in elected office after running a business and becoming a conservative political activist. She has courted controversy in the Council, including when she was removed from a committee after saying that Drag Queen Sory Hour events are “child grooming.” Her son and husband also recently got into hot water for phony license plates and unpaid traffic tickets.
Paladino raised at least $339,000 so far with $165,000 in private funds and $174,000 in public matching funds. Avella raised at least $275,000, with $59,000 in private funds and $216,000 through the public matching system.
Though 49% of voters in the district are registered Democrats, that is no guarantee the district will go blue. In the 2021 mayoral race, Republican Curtis Sliwa won decisively in the area over Eric Adams, 58% to 36%.
District 20: Sandra Ung vs. Yu-Ching James Pai
Incumbent Ung is in her first term representing neighborhoods in Queens that include Flushing, Murray Hill and Fresh Meadows. She currently is the chair of the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, which looks into the government’s structure and organization, such as the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the Board of Elections. The district is 72% Asian, and 56% of registered voters are Democrats.
Before being elected to the City Council, Ung worked most recently for U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), focusing on constituent issues like immigration.
She’s raised more than $84,000 in private funds and received $174,800 in matching public dollars, and has so far spent close to $80,000 on the race.
Pai is the Republican candidate, focused on public safety and education, including maintaining the specialized high school entrance exam. He’s raised $25,000 in private donations and received another $124,564 in public matching funds.
District 23: Linda Lee vs. Bernard Chow
After last year’s win by Gov. Kathy Hochul, Councilmember Lee, who represents neighborhoods in eastern Queens, told THE CITY she feared a shift to the right in her Democratic-majority district.
“I don’t think folks understand or realize how prominent the Republicans are becoming in my part of Queens,” she said at the time, even as Hochul ended up winning the district with 59% of the vote.
After redistricting, the area has slightly fewer Black and white residents but remains heavily Asian, THE CITY’s analysis of census data shows. Forty-five percent of its population is Asian, with people of Indian and Chinese descent making up its largest ethnic groups.
Lee is in her first term in the Council and chairs its Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction.
Her Republican challenger, Chow has campaigned on public safety and what he calls “managed immigration.” He also is opposed to Local Law 97, which requires owners of large buildings and complexes to retrofit their building to lower their carbon footprint — a key issue for co-op and condo owners, especially in Queens.
Lee has so far outraised Chow, bringing in $126,393 in private donations — and totaling $368,202 when public campaign funds are factored in. Chow has raised more than $26,000 and received $174,681 in matching funds.
District 43: Susan Zhuang v. Ying Tan v. Vito LaBella
Zhuang scored a surprising victory in a crowded Democratic primary in June for the newly-carved majority Asian district that had no incumbent, beating out Wai Yee Chan, who had the backing of South Brooklyn Councilmember Justin Brannan and State Senator Iwen Chu.
Zhuang, who has the support of her former boss, State Assemblymember William Colton — who presides over an impressive South Brooklyn political machine — has out-fundraised the other two candidates with $432,031 in public and private funds as of Oct. 6. Tan and Labello trail her with $270,959 and $79,907 raised respectively.
Tan is running as a “law and order” candidate, who narrowly beat out Labella in the Republican primary, winning by just 31 votes out of a total of 3,623. Oddly enough, neither of the two of them lives within the new district. Board of Elections records show Labella lives nearby in Bay Ridge, while Tan lives in Rego Park. Candidates are supposed to reside in the district they seek to represent on the day of the election, according to rules clarified in 2008.
Ideologically the candidates aren’t so far apart, with Zhuang taking stances that put her at odds with members of the Democratic party. She publicly sparred with Brooklyn Democratic Party Leader Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn over her support of the specialized high school admission test.
District 47: Ari Kagan v. Justin Brannan
Redistricting has pitted two current Council members against each other in one of the most hotly contested races in the city. Democrat Brannan is running against Republican Kagan in the district that spans parts of Bay Ridge and Coney Island.
Kagan was elected as a Democrat in 2021 and later switched parties, declaring himself a Republican last December, less than a year into his term. While Kagan said he made the switch because he felt Democrats had shifted too far to the left, Brannan claims Kagan did it because he couldn’t have won a Democratic primary against Brannan.
Brannan has outraised Kagan by almost $100,000, campaign finance records show, though Kagan was able to make up much of the difference through matching funds. The two have publicly sparred on an array of issues from climate change to the arrival of migrants in the district. Kagan recently took heat over bigoted remarks made on social media by his campaign manager, the Daily News reported. You can hear the candidates duke it out in a debate on a recent episode of Max Politics.
District 48: Inna Vernikov v. Amber Adler v. Igor Kazatsker
Current incumbent Vernikov, who will be on both the Republican and Conservative party ballot lines, will face off against two other candidates come November: Democratic challenger Adler and third-party candidate Kazatsker, who is running on the “Team Trump” party line after losing the Republican primary to Vernikov.
The incumbent has a leg up on both of her challengers having raised $262,000 in public and private campaign funds, $100,000 more than her opponents. Through Oct. 6, Kazatsker had raised $123,518 and Adler raised $104,934. Adler is a community activist and Orthodox Jewish single mother, who had a cameo in Netflix documentary “My Unorthodox Life.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Kristy Marmorato’s husband is the chair of the Bronx GOP and her brother is the GOP commissioner for the Board of Elections. The opposite is true: Her brother chairs the Bronx GOP party and her husband serves as a commissioner for the BOE.