QUEENS – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Council Member Margaret Chin and a coalition of women’s organizations and good government advocates today unveiled ,”21 in ’21,” a new initiative designed to encourage more women to run for local City Council seats.
The Five Founders: (left to right) Morgan Pehme, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Council Member Margaret Chin, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto and Bill Samuels
The goal of “21 in ’21,” spearheaded by Speaker Mark-Viverito, is to elect at least 21 women to the 51-member City Council by 2021. The New York City Council is the largest municipal legislative body in the country, representing 8.2 million New Yorkers—more than half of whom are women. Yet, currently, just 13 women serve in the City Council, down from 18 in 2009. Moreover, because four of the seven current members who are term-limited out of office in 2017 are women even that low number is in danger of decreasing.
“It is shocking that in the most progressive city in the United States, only one quarter of our City Council members are women,” said Speaker Mark-Viverito, who is among the female Council members term-limited out of office in 2017. “All New Yorkers suffer when we don’t have equal representation in government and I intend to do everything I can to bring true equity to the Council at long last.”
“New York City prides itself on its diversity, yet less than a quarter of our local representatives are women,” said Speaker Mark-Viverito. “We must make sure that our elected officials reflect who we are as New Yorkers and I’m proud to launch ‘21 in ’21’ to encourage more women to get out and run for office.”
Group Photo of 21 in ’21
“The goal of ‘21 in ’21’ is to level the playing field,” said Council Member Crowley. “We have exceptional women candidates and potential candidates in every neighborhood in this city, but unfortunately they face so many unique hurdles to getting elected. Our initiative will arm women with the financial, structural and experiential support they need to succeed.”
“While there are many great organizations fighting to elect more women on the federal level and to state government here in New York, there is no initiative focused exclusively on increasing female representation in the City Council,” said Council Member Chin. “That’s why ‘21 in ’21’ is so important—and given the declining number of women in the Council—so timely.”
“21 in ’21” will initially be an autonomously run branch of EffectiveNY, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization founded and led by Bill Samuels. Samuels has made a pledge of $25,000 to get the initiative going and will help raise more money so it can thrive.
Bill Samuels Speaking at the Press Conference
“Men and women alike must step up if we are to right this injustice,” said Samuels. “The fact is that legislatures function better and have a broader perspective on critical issues when we have greater equity in representation, so anyone serious about good government and reform should embrace this initiative as a top priority for New York City. ‘21 in ’21’ is just the start. Our ultimate goal is to get to at least 25 or 26.”
“21 in ’21” had its first event last year, which supported Council candidates Carlina Rivera, who is running for an open seat on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and Diana Ayala, who is running to succeed Mark-Viverito in a bi-borough seat that spans Manhattan and the Bronx. The initiative held its second event earlier this week, in support of Council candidates Marjorie Velázquez and Amanda Farias, both of whom are running in the Bronx.
“21 in ’21” is focused on supporting candidates running for open seats, not against incumbents. It will also not give money to candidates, instead bringing worthy female candidates to New Yorkers’ attentions with the hope that they will decide to contribute directly to the candidates and thus enable those candidates to benefit from New York City’s 6-1 matching funds system.
“We are at a crisis point for women in politics in New York City,” said Brette McSweeney, the executive director of Eleanor’s Legacy, an organization that supports Democratic women candidates in New York State. “The number of women serving on our City Council is moving in the wrong direction. No one knows better than Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the women of the City Council the difference it makes when we elect women. We get more progressive legislation passed, the tone of politics changes for the better, and young girls have role models. Eleanor’s Legacy applauds the Speaker and the women of the City Council for acting now to be sure that the future for New York women remains full of opportunities to serve.”
“When elected officials represent the communities they serve, our entire city benefits,” said National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund President Andrea Miller. “The ‘21 in ’21’ initiative will go a long way toward empowering women, with its effects reaching across all levels of government offices. Only with women more deeply embedded in our decision-making systems can we reach our fullest potential.”
Speaker Mark-Viverito was joined by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Council Member Margaret Chin, EffectiveNY, Eleanor’s Legacy and the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund at the site of the powerful “Nasty Women” art exhibition. In its inaugural year, Nasty Women held an open call for artists to sell art to benefit Planned Parenthood. This exhibition runs January 12th through January 15th at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens.