What Does a City Council Member Do?

Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office

There are nearly 400 candidates running for City Council in all 51 districts across New York City. This will be the highest turnover of City Council members in decades, and will impact the future of our neighborhoods and city for generations to come.

Council members can serve two consecutive four-year terms. But this year’s cohort will be up for reelection in two years because of redistricting.

[Not sure what’s your Council District? Click here] 

What can a City Council Member do for you? For our city?

Your telephone calls or emails

A council member should answer your questions and help you with local problems. If you don’t get an answer from 311, you should be able to call your City Council member.

When they ask for your vote, ask for their phone number.

The council member gets money to set up offices and a salary of $148,500 each year.

New laws

A council member can write bills and try to pass new laws. It takes 26 City Council member votes for a law to pass. If the mayor says no and vetoes the bill, 34 council members can override the mayor’s decision and pass the law. (There are 51 council members in all). 

Council members cannot legislate on every issue. The city is limited by state law, and Albany can choose to overrule some local laws. For example, the Council cannot decriminalize offenses.

City budget

This is a big one.  Every council member helps create the budget for the entire city. Within that budget, there is also money for each council district.

Each council member gets to decide how to spend $5 million in “capital” funds for building schools or other improvements in the district. The council member also gets to decide how to spend about $500,000 to help non-profit groups in the district. There is a department of investigators to make sure that this money is spent wisely.

Land use and development

It takes a long time to build in the city, but the last round is when a plan comes to the City Council. By tradition, the council member makes the final decision on the development in their district, although very rarely the council decides that the local council member is wrong.


The council can call in city officials and even the mayor to ask them questions about what is happening. These officials are required to come to answer those questions or provide information to the council, the press and the public.

[Not sure what’s your Council District? Click here]