Members of the New York City Council said on Wednesday that they deserve a 32 percent pay hike to $148,500 from the current $112,500 — and several said the raise should go even higher.
Speaking in advance of a councilwide vote scheduled for Friday, lawmakers defended their decision to add $10,000 to the $138,500 salary recommended by an independent pay-raise commission.
“We have the right to make a living to support our family,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a Democrat representing Upper Manhattan, where the median household income in his district is $36,112, according to the U.S. Census. He added: “For me, this is a big compromise that we’re doing today. Our salaries should be $175,000.”
Council leaders said the raise is deserved because companion legislation bans nearly all outside income, eliminates stipends — called “lulus” — which are now given for leadership posts and makes the job of council member full-time, instead of the current part-time.
The council said it added the $10,000 because of the outside-employment ban.
But Frederick A.O. “Fritz” Schwarz Jr., the top city lawyer in the Koch mayoralty who headed the independent pay commission at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s request, noted that only four or so of the 51-member body have had the kind of outside jobs that would be covered by the ban — and nearly all work full-time already.
Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) conceded that voting oneself a pay raise is “awkward,” but argued the council hasn’t gotten a raise since it voted in 2006 to hike members’ base salaries by $22,500.
Under the legislation before the council, pay raises would also go to the mayor, who’d make $258,750; $212,800 for the city’s five district attorneys; $209,050 for the comptroller; $184,800 for the public advocate; $179,200 for the five borough presidents; and $164,500 for the council speaker, who is in charge of the body.
Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) said that in light of the new job rules, it makes sense to pay him and his colleagues more.
“I think it’s fair,” he said, “You know, is there room for more? Yeah, there is.”
Dick Dadey, of the good-government group Citizens Union, testified to supporting the raises and stricter rules, but questioned why the vote was being rushed — with only days between last week’s public unveiling, Wednesday’s initial committee hearing and Friday’s final vote, an unusually speedy process.
Dadey also balked at Rodriguez’s proposed salary figure of $175,000, which Rodriguez says is deserved because council members work long hours..
“I think that you’d probably find an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers disagreeing with that, particularly many of his constituents who struggle to make ends meet on a salary much lower than what he is suggesting,” Dadey said.
Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan),
like many council members interviewed Wednesday, said he would not postpone accepting the raise until after the next election, as de Blasio promised for his own salary increase.
“I’m a newlywed,” Kallos told reporters. “I’d like to stay married.”