In November, Queens voters sent four new members of their City Council delegation to City Hall. They replaced members who had key positions in previous Council sessions.
When the four new lawmakers — Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) — received their committee assignments last week, they all found themselves in different levels of power.
Miller, who replaced Leroy Comrie, the most recent deputy majority leader, was a labor activist and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 1056 before his election. As the new Civil Service and Labor Committee head, he is one of the few freshmen citywide to wield a powerful gavel. His committee has oversight over public unions and labor issues.
“This is right in my wheelhouse. I’ve been in civil service all my professional career,” Miller said, pointing out that his Eastern Queens district has the highest ratio of residents in unions in the city.
He said he was “uniquely qualified” to chair the committee, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on Mayor de Blasio’s plan to expand paid sick leave on Thursday.
Miller said that he would use his chairmanship to hold hearings with the Office of Labor Relations and the unions themselves on contract negotiations. He said his background in labor would not prevent him from looking at issues objectively.
“I would hold my own feet to the fire,” he said.
Constantinides and Vallone both received chairmanships of subcommittees, Libraries and Senior Centers, respectively.
“Chairing the subcommittee on Libraries is definitely going to keep me very busy,” Constantinides said. “There are a lot of good things going on, some challenges that we’re going to have to meet.”
On his agenda is expanding languages uses in libraries, as well as expanding technology as well. The committee oversees not only the Queens Library, but the Brooklyn and New York systems, the latter of which covers Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.
Constantinides, who succeeded Peter Vallone Jr., also sits on the Transportation and Environmental Protection committees, both of which he felt familiar with. On Transportation, he wants to focus on improving bus and ferry service to his Astoria-based district. The Environmental Protection committee is one he knows well, having previously worked for its former chairman, Jim Gennaro.
“I know where we’ve been, where we need to go,” Constantinides said.
In a statement, Vallone, who replaced Republican Dan Halloran, said he feels the Senior Citizens committee was a good fit.
“I have worked for over 22 years as an elder law and general practice attorney and I believe I can bring considerable knowledge and real experience to this committee,” he said. “I understand the issues and concerns facing our seniors and am very aware of the resources the City provides on a daily basis to ensure a dignified and proper quality of life for all seniors.”
Lancman, who served in the state Assembly from 2007 through 2012, found himself without a committee chairmanship, but said his assignments, to the Public Safety, Fire and Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice committees, give him a great deal of influence over issues dealing with crime and security concerns.
“It’s a good vantage point to oversee the whole public safety apparatus to the city, try to make changes for the better and prevent changes for the worse,” Lancman said, noting that he plans to make public safety in his district a priority. “It’s an issue that people in the district care about and this gives me a chance to look at public safety holistically.”
Lancman also sits on three other committees: Environmental Protection — which his predecessor Gennaro chaired — Consumer Affairs and Oversight.
“You don’t really need to chair a committee to lead on an issue,” Lancman observed. “I’m not going to lack for work, that’s for sure.”