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Queens Chronicle

Queens residents: Is your Council member going to work?

A peak at the attendance records for Queens representatives in 2014

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Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:41 am, Thu Aug 28, 2014.

Queens’ members of the City Council did not miss many days of work, according to attendance records taken between January and May of this year, and when they did, it was often because they couldn’t be in two places at once.

The notable exception is one member who is under indictment.

The members of the borough’s City Hall delegation attended an average of 92.4 percent of all stated meetings, including committee hearings and sessions of the full Council, according to the attendance records of the 15 members who represent Queens acquired from Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s (D-Manhattan, Bronx) office.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) scored a perfect attendance record, attending every committee hearing and meeting of the full Council in chambers. The only exception was a meeting of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency on Feb. 27, which he missed due to a concurrent meeting of the Small Business Committee. His absence at the former meeting was listed as due to a “conflict.”

Councilman Ruben Wills (D-South Jamaica), who represents a district adjacent to Ulrich’s, missed the greatest number of meetings. He was a no-show at about 23 percent of all committee and Council meetings — a total of 12 meetings, all of them committee hearings.

However, Wills had a great attendance record up until his legal problems arose.

Ten of his 12 absences were recorded after his May 7 arrest on charges of misusing public funds. He was excused for missing a May 14 meeting of the entire Council, but was present for a session on May 29, the only “present” record after his arrest.

But one of his earlier absences can be explained.

One of Wills’ two pre-arrest absences was from a meeting of the Committee on Contracts on April 24. He was marked present at an Economic Development Committee meeting at the same time, and at two more committee meetings a half hour and one hour later.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who scored the second-worst attendance recorded after Wills, missed a total of seven meetings, about 16 percent of all meetings and hearings. But she had a similar issue to Wills; two of those seven meetings were March 24 hearings for the committees on Women’s Issues and Aging that were going on at the same time as one on Housing and Buildings that she was present at. It is unclear why Koslowitz was not given a “conflict” instead of an “absent” record for those meetings.

Emails to Mark-Viverito’s and Koslowitz’ offices were not returned as of press time, but a Council source said the discrepancy might be as simple as forgetting to give the Speaker’s Office an explanation.

“It may be just that [the Council member] didn’t ask for a conflict, or attempted to make the meeting but couldn’t,” the source, a former Council staffer, said.

Often Council members dip in and out of committee meetings in order to attend simultaneous ones, with only committee chairs or members whose constituents are directly affected by the topic staying for the entire hearing.

“He or she may have been focused on the topic or waiting for their turn to ask questions of the witnesses,” the source said, noting that often hearings are held in different buildings around City Hall. “By the time it was his or her turn, the other hearing was over. It happens all the time.”

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), who missed just four of 52 meetings, was unable to make a hearing of the Public Safety Committee on May 30 because she was chairing a Finance Committee hearing at the same time. But she was recorded absent from the former meeting.

In fact, of all the members, only Ulrich and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) were able to get conflicts for concurrent meetings.

After Ulrich, the next highest record of attendance was freshman Vallone (D-Bayside), who attended just under 98 percent of his meetings, absent from only one — an April 24 hearing of the Small Business Committee. Vallone was excused from an April 10 meeting of the entire Council and was given a conflict for missing a hearing of the Waterfronts Committee to attend a concurrent meeting of the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services.

Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) missed less than 5 percent of meetings — only three out of 45. All three meetings missed were on March 5 and 6.

Besides Vallone, the borough’s other freshman members all scored over 92 percent in attendance rates. After the Bayside councilman, the freshman member with the next highest attendance rate was Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens), who represents part of Ridgewood, attending 97 percent of his meetings, missing only two, while Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) only missed one meeting.

Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), the chairman of the Labor and Civil Service Committee, attended over 96 percent of his scheduled meetings, also missing only two. Reynoso’s and Dromm’s percentages were higher because they had more hearings and meetings scheduled than Miller.

Freshmen Council Members Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Costa Constantinidies (D-Astoria) both were present at just over 92 percent of their scheduled meetings, while Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the second-highest ranking member of the body, attended 93 percent.

UPDATE: On Aug. 21, after this story went to print, Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) provided an updated attendance record through the end of July. Richards did not miss any more meetings between May 30 and July 31 of this year, except for one conflict. His attendance record from January through the end of July is 91 percent. 

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