NY1 Number of state lawmakers look to trade jobs in Albany for City Council seats by Bobby Cuza
A number of state lawmakers are looking to trade in their jobs in Albany for a seat in the City Council this year. Several factors are contributing to the trend, which not everyone sees as a good thing. NY1's Bobby Cuza reports.
There's no question the City Council has its advantages over Albany. Democrats, especially those in the Republican-controlled state Senate, can have greater impact at City Hall. There’s also less commuting, And more money: $148,500, versus $79,500 in Albany.
"It's definitely closer to home, and the pay is better. So you can’t knock them for that," said state Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan.
Hoylman isn’t running for Council, but five of his legislative colleagues are: Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Bronx state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., and Bronx Assemblymen Mark Gjonaj and Robert Rodriguez.
"Having that experience in a legislative body really can make a difference," Rodriguez said.
But if experience matters, so does name recognition, which critics say creates an unfair advantage. The irony is that Council term limits and the city's robust public campaign finance system are designed to attract political newcomers, not professional politicians.
"The point of term limits is, we're supposed to have a citizen legislature," said City Councilman Ben Kallos of Manhattan.
"People want change. People want fresh ideas and new faces," said Marjorie Velazquez, a candidate for City Council who is running against Assemblyman Gjonaj.
Velazquez notes that because state elections aren't until next year, Albany lawmakers don't have to give up their current seats to run.
"They are coming down with no risk," Velazquez said. "I mean, wouldn't you run if you knew that win, lose, you would still have a job?"
Bill Perkins is among more than a half-dozen current Council members who have served in Albany. He says voters make their own choice.
"I don’t want to determine on behalf of the community whether the blood should be fresh or it should be seasoned," Perkins said.
"You can't fault communities for electing someone who served them in the Assembly or state Senate," said City Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island. "If the community thinks these people are doing a good job, they should elect them."
If there seems to be a potential influx of state lawmakers now, just wait until 2021, when 37 Council members will be term-limited out of office, which observers say could open the floodgates to Albany legislators.