By Erin Durkin
Originally published by the New York Daily News on Thursday, January 11, 2018
New City Council Speaker Corey Johnson doled out plum committee posts Thursday — awarding powerful posts to allies of the county Democratic parties that helped him get the top job.
Queens and Brooklyn Democrats claimed some of the top spots — with Danny Dromm (D-Queens) tapped to lead the powerful finance committee, and Rafael Salamanca (D-Bronx) taking over as land use chair.
Conspicuously overlooked were two veteran Brooklyn progressives — Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, who did not get committee chairmanships.
“There was no vindictiveness. There was none. Zero. I tried to help as many people as possible,” Johnson said.
“Not everyone of course got exactly what they wanted, but I was as flexible as humanly possible to try to make everyone happy,” he said. “Whether you supported me or not, you’re going to be respected.”
The Council approved the assignments by a vote of 49-0 Thursday.
A deal struck by the leaders of the Queens and Bronx Democratic parties last month secured the necessary votes for Johnson to win the speaker’s race over seven other candidates.
There’s no longer cash at stake in the committee jockeying — since Council members voted in 2016 to give themselves a raise to $148,500 a year, and eliminate the “lulus” of $5,000 to $20,000 that used to go to committee chairs.
Still, pols prize the committee posts for their influence, and the vast majority of the 51 members were awarded a post.
Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres will lead a newly-created oversight and investigations committee dedicated to doing probes of city agencies.
Johnson created a new committee dedicated specifically to for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft – and gave its chairmanship to Ruben Diaz Sr., who got at least $11,800 in campaign contribution from employees and owners of taxi, limousine and dispatch companies for his election last year. That panel may work on policies like slapping a surcharge on e-hail cars entering Manhattan.
The Council also carved out three separate committees on criminal justice issues – one for criminal justice, one for the justice system, and one for juvenile justice.
Bronx Councilman Andy King was re-appointed to his post as juvenile justice chair despite being under investigation for sexual harassment allegations. Johnson defended the move, saying there will be due process in the case.
Queens Councilman Donovan Richards got the top job on the public safety committee, Mark Treyger of Brooklyn got education, and Mark Levine of Manhattan got the health committee.
Williams, who previously chaired the housing and buildings committee, ran for speaker and objected to the selection of a white candidate for the post. He skipped the vote that elected Johnson speaker, instead traveling to Albany for Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State speech. Williams wasn’t at City Hall Thursday because he was arrested earlier in the day at an immigration protest.
Robert Cornegy of Brooklyn, who ran for speaker but later threw his support behind Johnson, will now chair the housing panel.
Lander, who previously ran the rules committee, is a leader of the progressive bloc of Council members that dominated the last Council and engineered the election of former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, but whose influence has waned more recently as the county parties reclaimed their traditional post as kingmakers.
“I don’t feel in any way overlooked. I feel thrilled,” said Lander, who will keep his job as deputy majority leader for policy, where he said he got the most done over the last four years.
“Obviously people who were on [Johnson’s] team earlier, who were part of helping him become speaker, of course that is reflected in some of the plum positions. It will always be that way under any speaker. It was last term, it was the term before that, it was the term before that, and it is this time too. That’s how politics work.”
The committee on recovery and resiliency, which focused on Hurricane Sandy rebuilding, was eliminated. Another new panel will focus on the city’s hospital system, separate from the regular health committee.
Two Republicans got chairmanships — minority leader Steve Matteo at the helm of the standards and ethics committee, and fellow Staten Island Republican Joe Borelli leading the fire committee.
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