One of Our Own in City Hall

Graduate Center alumnus Keith Powers being sworn in as a New York City Council Member, surrounded by his family
Keith Powers (M.A. '13, Political Science) is sworn in as a member of the
New York City Council by Council Member Ben Kallos. 

On a Sunday in late January, Keith Powers (M.A. ’13, Political Science) returned to the Graduate Center to celebrate his inauguration as a first-term member of the New York City Council, representing his alma mater’s district — District 4. Joining him were his family — his parents, sister, and nephew — and fellow elected officials, including Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Public Advocate Letitia James. “It was humbling, and it felt like I had come full circle,” he recalled a few days later.

Powers soundly beat seven other contenders to win the Democratic primary and then took 57 percent of the vote in the general election to represent much of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, including Stuyvesant Town, where Powers grew up and still lives, and the iconic addresses along Fifth Avenue as it stretches from Midtown to the northern reaches of Central Park.

Powers racked up endorsements, including ones from The New York Times, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and, crucially, the departing District 4 Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick.

The Times praised Powers’ 22-point plan for reforming city government, which included strengthening campaign finance laws, modernizing elections, and reforming the city budget and the Council.

Six years of experience as a New York City lobbyist gave Powers a sense of “how we can improve processes and make them more open and transparent,” he said.

Prior to joining Constantinople & Vallone Consulting, he served as chief of staff to New York State Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, a period that overlapped with his time at the Graduate Center.

“I met a lot of folks that became friends all the way through, who worked on my campaign and reached out to me during it,” he said of his Graduate Center student days. He recalled that working while pursuing his master’s was “a good balance” — one that helped him bring to his work “new ideas and new ways of thinking.”

Powers now chairs the Council’s Committee on Criminal Justice and will be closely involved with the pending closure of Rikers Island. “I want to make it easier to live here,” he said about his other priorities, which involve boosting affordable housing and aiding ailing small businesses.

Education is also top of mind.

“I’m a proud GC alum, and I like it as a real crossroads for people who are doing their graduate work in New York City … so for me, supporting the Graduate Center, CUNY, and affordable higher education is a big priority.”

Submitted on: FEB 7, 2018

Category: Alumni News | General GC News | Political Science