Council Speaker Adams changes some committee leaderships seeking ‘new energy’; others say it’s politics as usual

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams shook up the leadership of several council committees on Thursday.
Credit John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Saying she’s searching for “new energy,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams announced on Thursday a bevy of changes to leadership of the legislative body’s various committees.

While the Queens lawmaker said she wants fresh blood among the council leadership, some have speculated politics were her primary motivation.

Several outlets reported the committee shakeups on Wednesday, noting that some changes would impact members who voted against the Fiscal Year 2024 budget last June. They cited sources who speculated the changes were political retaliation for giving the spending plan a thumbs down.

Among the council members who voted against the budget and lost their positions as committee chairs without getting a new assignment were Tiffany Cabán (D-Queens), Chi Ossé (D-Brooklyn) and Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn), who chaired the committees on Women and Gender Equity, Cultural Affairs and Immigration respectively.

“While I can’t say with certainty what considerations went into this decision, I can say that there’s nothing I would change about the last 2 years: not one statement, not one oversight question, not one vote – especially not my votes against [the mayor’s] cruel, dangerous budget cuts,” Caban said in a statement posted to social media Thursday.

Cabán also released a fundraising email on Thursday noting that in “story after story after story,” political insiders speculated the move was “punishment” for her budget vote.

‘There’s no there there’

City Council Member Tiffany Caban at rally over housing vouchers bill
Queens City Council Member Tiffany Caban speaks at a City Hall rally on July 13, 2023.Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit

But when asked if she changed committee leadership assignments to settle political scores, Speaker Adams said “there’s no there there.”

“I get the impulse to speculate and try to figure it out and attribute a single reason behind committee decisions, but it’s always more complex than that,” the speaker said. “Some people are going to be unhappy about the decisions … We really do have to be clear that there shouldn’t be an expectation that committee assignments remain static across different legislative sessions.”

Instead, Speaker Adams insisted the shakeup was motivated by a desire to bring “different energy” to the leadership of several committees.

“There should never be a place, including the City Council, where our energy gets stagnant in certain places,” the speaker said. “There are other spaces where we are going to be pushing and propelling different things. Some places we’re going to be going in different directions where there is a need for new energy.”

The political speculation surrounding the speaker’s moves appeared to be sparked by her decision to replace Keith Powers (D-Manhattan) as council majority leader with Amanda Farias (D-Bronx) earlier this month. Powers, who was a loyal ally of the speaker, was reportedly informed of the change just one hour before it was announced.

Freshmen leaderships

Manhattan City Council election winner Yusef Salaam
Yusef Salaam, shown after winning the Democratic primary in June, was elected to the 9th City Council District seat in Harlem on Nov. 7, 2023.File photo/Paul Frangipane

Outside of the political considerations, perhaps the most notable shakeup is newly minted Council Member Yusef Salaam (D-Manhattan) — who is one of the exonerated “Central Park Five” — getting appointed chair of the Committee on Public Safety. Kamillah Hanks (D-Staten Island) led the committee last session; she has since been appointed to helm the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Sitings, and Dispositions.

The speaker said Salaam’s “unique experience” of being incarcerated for several years after getting falsely convicted of raping a woman when he was a teenager motivated her to put him atop the Public Safety panel.

“This particular individual will be able to oversee a committee that he has literally been a part of the system behind the scenes,” she said.

Salaam said the appointment is “an opportunity to really speak from a place of real perspective.”

“Being run over by the spike wheels of justice has given me an opportunity to continue to be a voice for those who really need it the most,” he added.

Another freshmen council member, Chris Banks (D-Brooklyn), will chair the Committee on Public Housing, which was formerly led by Alexa Aviles (D-Brooklyn), a progressive member who voted against the budget. Aviles will now chair the Immigration Committee, which was previously Hanif’s assignment.

Aviles was not the only member who voted against the budget to maintain leadership of a committee, Jenifer Gutierrez and Carmen De La Rosa will stay on as heads of the Committees on Technology and Civil Service and Labor respectively. Additionally, Lincoln Restler — who also voted against the budget — was given the Committee on Government Operations.