For City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), the transition from Albany to City Hall has been relatively seamless.
The freshman councilman, who is approaching his 100th day in office, served a similar district for three terms in the state Assembly before he won his new seat in November.
“It’s been a lot of the same,” Lancman said behind a small army of Big Gulp cups that populate his desk. “When I was in the Assembly, 98 percent of the complaints or issues that we were presented with were related with the city.”
Although the issues are largely the same, Lancman said he will now have the ability to work more directly with city agencies to yield results.
“We see and interact with the city agencies a lot more than we do in the state Legislature,” he said. “So that enhances my ability to help people in my district with the issues they have to deal with.”
Another large difference for Lancman lies in the make-up of each legislative body. He will now navigate his way through the 51-member, single legislative chamber of the Council without having to worry about an upper chamber like the state Senate.
The Council has a whole new cast of characters who are also finding their way in their respective roles after term limits removed some senior lawmakers.
“Because the city government is completely new, it’s an opportunity for me to be a part of reshaping city policies and priorities that are going to have an enormous impact on the people I represent,” he said. “That’s different than the state Legislature, where because of the seniority system and a very regimented political process it’s harder for a junior legislator to have an impact.”
The Council has only passed two bills so far, but Lancman has introduced a number of bills he hopes will soon pass.
These include a bill called the City Workforce Injury Reduction Act, which would require the city to look at workplace injuries at city agencies and come up with a plan to reduce them.
Another bill he plans to introduce at the next stated meeting is the Diplomatic Immunity Act, which would require the police to notify the New York State Department and the Council when someone with diplomatic immunity commits a crime.
Lancman sits on all of the committees related to public safety, including the Fire and Criminal Justice Services and the Juvenile Justice committees.
“The first priority of government is to keep us safe,” he said. “Certainly after 9/11, the issue of terrorism and homeland security is not something that’s theoretical or esoteric for New Yorkers.”
He also serves on the Consumer Affairs, Environmental Protection and Oversight committees.
Lancman is not chairman of any committee in the new Council, but said he does not hold a grudge toward Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) for not choosing him for a chairmanship.
“Being on the wrong side of a speaker’s race is not something that shocked me or something I was unprepared for,” he said. “The reality of the speaker’s race was that in order to get Dan [Garodnick] to be the winner, other people would have had to have gotten the bright shiny committees anyway in order to bring them over. It’s just the law of politics.”
In the Assembly, he chaired the Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, which Lancman said allowed him to be active and made officials in government more responsive to his inquiries.
He, however, does not see committee chairmanships as important in City Hall.
“Council is a much more open place. There aren’t people there with 25 years of seniority,” he said. “Almost all of us will be gone in eight years, so there aren’t the same institutional structures and constraints on an individual member’s ability to put legislation in, give it a fair hearing and get a result.”
In the early stages of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, critics have expressed concern he was too involved in the speaker’s race. Lancman said he does not begrudge the mayor for doing so, but that the Council needs to assert its independence as de Blasio’s agenda unfolds and policy differences become apparent between the mayor and Council members.
“One of the questions that remains unanswered from the speaker’s race is whether or not the Council will be independent from the mayor as those points of difference emerge and be able to fulfill its function to be an independent legislative body. The jury’s out on that,” he said.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@
©2014 Community News Group
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