Living Local: Why You Should Care About NYC Politics


For some of us, New York City has been our home forever — for others, only a few months. Whether we are locals or long-term visitors, the city’s politics impact us all, from the subways we ride to the parks we visit to the vaccines we receive. While federal and even state politics get most of the attention, it’s local politics that shape our day-to-day lives the most. As Fordham students, we have a responsibility to pay attention to local politics and to participate in whichever way we’re able. 

Many Fordham students are New York City residents — 21% of the Class of 2024 alone come from the five boroughs — but even if your residency in NYC is only part-time, you’ll no doubt be affected by the state of city parks, local laws and ordinances, and other city government affairs. Further, paying attention to local politics encourages our own critical thinking about the communities in which we live. In this way, we can take care of ourselves and others around us by participating in local elections.

The most prominent local election in New York City this year is the mayoral race, in which 12 candidates will appear on the Democratic primary ballot. Front-runners include former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Obama-era head of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Regardless of whether you call New York home, it is worth engaging in the local political process — though it may be complicated — for our own sake and that of the community we inhabit.

Other positions up for election include those of public advocate, Brooklyn and Manhattan district attorneys, comptroller, all five borough presidents, and the majority of the City Council. The City Council elections include that of District 3, which includes the Lincoln Center campus as well as areas like Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Greenwich Village. In District 3, six Democratic candidates are running to replace City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who has reached his term limit. Johnson is vying to replace Stringer as comptroller, the city’s chief financial officer.

Candidates are racing to the finish line as primaries will take place on June 22, and the general election will be held on Nov. 2. Complicating matters is the first large-scale rollout of ranked-choice voting, a ballot measure approved in 2019 that allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of simply choosing one candidate. 

While it’s been tested in special elections in the Bronx and Queens in 2021, the June primaries will be the first time all New York City voters must use the new system. Particularly in minority communities, the city has faced criticism for delayed efforts to educate voters on how ranked-choice voting works, which critics claim will lead to the disenfranchisement of lower-income voters of color.

In the mayoral, City Council and other local elections, voters will choose officials who must make decisions about several issues that have been at the forefront of current events during the last year. The City Council determines the amount of funding for the police department and for city parks. The next mayor will appoint the heads of city departments, including the NYPD, and will also guide vaccine distribution at this crucial moment in the pandemic. Therefore, it is important that New York City residents, permanent or temporary, review the candidates’ political histories and the policies that they would enact. Each one will have a unique impact on New York City life, and voters should select candidates accordingly.

Aside from submitting a ballot, those who are not registered voters in New York or who are looking for ways to participate in the political process can seek out additional opportunities for civic engagement through campaign work and involvement in local reform efforts. We can also elicit social change by educating ourselves politically and encouraging our peers to do the same.

Regardless of whether you call New York home, it is worth engaging in the local political process — though it may be complicated — for our own sake and that of the community we inhabit.