Navigating New York City’s Legislative Process


The New York City Council has been extremely active in the past nine months. Since the new session began in January 2018, Council Members have introduced over 1000 pieces of legislation for consideration. Nearly 80 bills have already become law. All organizations should be monitoring what the City Council is doing and ensuring their voice is heard on bills that could impact them.

To that end, we have compiled four tactics to help you navigate the legislative process.

1. Understand the process

One of the most important sources of success in policy advocacy is to understand the logistics of the policy making process.  While it may seem boring or complicated, knowing how a policy idea moves from proposal to enactment and enforcement is crucial. The timing of the process will help dictate the strategy.

For example, if the New York City Council has already held a hearing on a piece of legislation your strategic options shrink because the process is nearing its conclusion. On the other hand, if someone has floated a policy idea in the press, but a bill has not been introduced, there is more time to determine how best to impact the debate.

2. Don’t just say “no”

If you are against legislation, it can be easy to fall into the trap of simply stating opposition and dismissing the concerns of the legislator. However, Council Members and others usually propose legislative solutions based on their own experiences and those of their constituents. It is difficult, and often not productive, to try to persuade them that these concerns are not valid.

Instead, if applicable, it is often better to educate the policymakers on the unintended negative consequences of their proposals. In other instances, it can be advantageous to work with the legislator to determine better ways to solve the problem. Legislative advocacy does not need to be a zero-sum game.

3. Identify allies

Whether supporting or opposing legislation, there are probably several other organizations that have similar views as you. You do not need to advocate alone. Allies can help amplify and validate your message, as well as highlight various constituencies that the legislation could impact (positively or negatively). A coalition brings unique perspectives on policy issues that the City Council Members may not have considered.

4. Realize it won’t be solved overnight

The legislative process can be long and sometimes seem opaque. Often bills go through the process in years, not months or weeks. Bills that seemingly were going nowhere can suddenly be moved quickly through the Council, while others that seemed as if they were likely to be passed quickly suddenly disappear off the agenda.

Sometimes, the Council places bills on the back burner because other time-sensitive issues take precedence. Other times, work is being done to redraft or amend the legislation as legislators listen and respond to a cacophony of voices. All of that takes time. Therefore, it is important for any advocate to make sure the Council Members hear their opinion not just once, but throughout the process.

To learn more about how we can assist you with navigating legislation, public policy, or public sector funding, please contact Ashley Thompson at or 212.616.5814 or Ben Kleinbaum at or 212.616.5817.

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