Adrienne Adams officially becomes first Black City Council Speaker

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Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) on her first day as speaker of the City Council, Jan. 5.
Photo by John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Though it was already decided last month, the New York City Council’s official vote on Jan. 5 made Council Member Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) the first Black City Council speaker.

The speaker of the council is the body’s leader, not a mayoral appointment, but serving the City Council who voted for her in one of the most powerful City Hall positions. 

The council voted 49-2 to elect her, with Council Members Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) and Kristin Richardson Jordan (D-Manhattan)voting “no.” 

Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Queens) began the vote by nominating Adams and giving a speech on her capabilities as head of the council. “

Whether through her work in educational equity, her service to residents of Community Board 12 or her leadership with the Public Safety Committee and the Black Latino and Asian Caucus. Adrienne has been a champion for all New Yorkers throughout her career,” Brooks-Powers said.

Though Adams was expected to win, as the majority of supporters was confirmed in December, two of her colleagues were adamant that she was the wrong choice, without presenting another qualified candidate. And although Adams would become the first Black woman speaker in the Council — which now has a majority of 31 women — Barron remained skeptical.

“Stay woke. Don’t be lulled to sleep or inaction because of black faces and high places,” Barron, noting the new speaker’s politics are in line with that of Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul when it comes to public safety—specifically bringing back solitary confinement in the city’s jails and prisons.

But many “yes” votes stepped up to confirm that this is not true. 

Freshman members Tiffany Cabán (D-Queens) and Chi Ossé (D-Brooklyn) have been watching Adams’ past work and reaffirmed Adams’ opposition to solitary confinement and achievements as former chair of the committee on public safety. 

“I want to applaud her for her bold stances in favor of just cause employment protections, basement apartment legalization, support of robust violence intervention programs and opposition to solitary confinement,” Cabán said.

After her win, Adams thanked the members and other newly elected officials who were in attendance of the council’s first meeting of the year, such as the new Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, and the new Comptroller Brad Lander.

She also outlined her priorities for the year, after holding a moment of silence for the more than 35,000 in the city who died from COVID-19. 

“It’s in the memory of those we have lost that we have a just recovery. That means addressing the healthcare inequities that caused communities of color to suffer the most from COVID only to receive the least resources. Then we must build upon the lessons learned, especially when it comes to caring for elderly loved ones,” Adams said. 

When it came to public safety comments, Adams said that too many young lives were harmed on both sides of the gun. “One of the best ways to stop guns from flowing into our streets is to provide good-paying jobs and workforce training instead,” she said.

Lastly, her beliefs on representation in government were clear: Women need a seat at the table in a sea of male leadership.

During the Jan. 5 meeting, the council also recognized Council Member Brooks-Powers as majority whip, and Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island) as minority leader. For the Rules Committee, Adams nominated Brooks-Powers, Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), Kamillah Hanks (D-Staten Island), Crystal Hudson (D-Brooklyn), Rita Joseph (D-Brooklyn), Shekar Krishnan (D-Queens), Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn), Keith Powers (D-Manhattan), Rafel Salamanca (D-Bronx), Marjorie Velázquez (D-Bronx), and Julie Won (D-Queens). They were approved with one abstention from Barron. 

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