The City Council met remotely Wednesday for the first time in its 82-year history — ending its five-week shutdown in response to the coronavirus.
The meeting, aired live on the Council’s website, was attended by 50 members — including seven who said they had recovered from the disease over the past month.
“The entire city has had to adjust daily to this ever-changing crisis in ways we never imagined,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson — speaking from his boyfriend’s house in Brooklyn.
“Certainly, our predecessors 82 years ago never imagined a remote stated meeting.
“The Council is proud to practice social distancing while continuing to pass legislation to improve the lives of New Yorkers. We’re looking forward in the weeks to come to holding remote stated meetings and introducing bills that are critical to coping with this crisis and its aftermath.”
At all times, the video feed included 25 council members or lawyers, who would rotate in and out of boxed screens as they were called for vote or speak.
Some like Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn) sat in from his Bay Ridge district office, while others like Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) voted from home, occasionally petting his cat nearby. Councilman Chaim Deutch (D-Brooklyn) appeared to be the only legislator outdoors during the meeting, at one point even sporting a protective mask.
The meeting included Johnson offering a moment of silence for the more the 182,000 people who’ve died of the coronavirus throughout the world — including nearly 15,000 in the city.
Council members also took time to thank first responders and essential workers who’ve helped keep the city running the past month. Many also discussed how they believe the pandemic has hit communities of color the hardest.
The Council passed more than 20 measures, including land-use items to create or preserve more than 2,000 units of affordable housing throughout the Big Apple.
But first, the entire Council acted as a “Committee of the Whole” to put the measures to a vote — rather than having the legislation first go through a council committee for approval.
It was the first time the “Committee of the Whole” has been used since August 2013, when members then voted on a package to increase NYPD oversight following a federal court order ruling the city’s stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional.
The Council later introduced a sprawling legislative package of 11 bills aimed at helping New Yorkers during the coronavirus pandemic by bolstering tenant protections and requiring hazard pay for essential employees.
The package also includes a bill by Johnson and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), which would require the city “limit or completely eliminate traffic” up to 75 miles of streets to help make social distancing easier for bikers and pedestrians.