Research Questions

Who are my local representatives?

  • Use this website http://www.mygovnyc.org/ to find out who represents you locally.

    • The service is provided by the Graduate Center, City University of New York by the Center for Urban Research in partnership with the League of Women Voters of the City of New York.

    • I typed in my zipcode and received names and contact info for my district’s council member, community board chairperson, Borough Rep, and other figures, including a public advocate.  

How do I contact local reps?

  • Use the above links to find your representative/senator/councilperson and their contact info.

  • We recommend watching the highly informative YouTube video: “Contact Your Representative” by Folding Ideas.

  • We also recommend you consider how contacting your local reps fits in with your larger strategy for change (addressed in other parts of this document).

  • But generally:

    • Phone calls are the most effective way of getting through to your rep. Call the district office (state) rather than the DC office

    • Show up at town hall meetings. Bring a group.

    • Source: "How to Make Your Congressman Listen to You" by Emily Ellsworth, November 11, 2016

      • Other tips from this source:

        • Tweets and Facebook comments are ineffective

        • Be kind to staffers

        • If you are writing a letter, address it to the district office (state) rather than the DC office

        • Very relevant to us: “If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.” and “If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings.”

    • How To Talk To Congress from EFF: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/01/how-talk-congress

How do I know when I have to vote for my local representatives?

  • If you are registered to vote and have kept your address up to date, you should receive something in the mail that tells you the date and what your polling place is. This includes local, state, and federal elections.

  • The NYC Board of Elections and the NY Board of Elections have not yet posted elections calendars for 2017 (as of 1/4/17). Check back!

  • If you want updates emailed to you, Ballotpedia seems like a good source, but is of course also not currently up-to-date.

  • Protip: There is usually something to vote on coming up.

What bills are up for a vote in Congress?

  • Go to Congress.gov

  • Look for “Bill Searches and Lists” on the right

    • Click on “Introduced” to see a list of all the bills introduced during this Congress (currently 115th)

    • You can easily see the bill’s status as: Introduced, Passed House, Passed Senate, To President, Became Law

    • Use the facets at the left to limit your search for bills by legislative area, type, sponsor, etc.

  • Below on the left, see the heading: “Current legislative activities”

    • You can see what is being discussed in the Senate and the House, read the text of bills, see what committee hearings are going on, see Congress’ calendar

  • Related: The Congressional Record is a newspaper of the daily activities of Congress, as required by the Constitution: https://congress.gov/congressional-record

How to "track" issues you are concerned about?

  • At the federal level, Govtrack.us allows you to track bills through Congress

    • You can sign up for alerts for a particular bill, subject areas, the legislative activity of your rep and senators

    • You can also follow @govtrack on twitter: they tweet when bills are passed

  • Countable.us is an app that allows you to track bills in Congress and in New York City (and San Francisco). You can contact your reps within the app (not sure how effective that actually is), find out more about issues, and follow organizations to see their stances. There is a lot to play with here.

    • Note: this is basically a social media network of political opinions. Anything you post will be public. Any info you give Countable will be sold to ad networks. That said, if you are on Facebook and feel good posting your politics there, this isn’t so different.

  • For City and State level issues, we recommend you subscribe to some of the many independent local news sources that “specialize” at one or both of those levels. Start with City and State or Politico (more suggestions at the end of this document).

  • For issues you care about at local and federal levels, try following activist organizations that work on that issue. For example, do you care about reproductive rights and women’s health? Sign up for emails/follow on twitter/etc from Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Follow EFF and the ACLU if you care about privacy and digital surveillance issues.

What is on the state senate's docket?

  • Go to https://www.nysenate.gov/ and click on “Bills and Laws”

  • Click “Search bills”

  • Select the current session year “2017-2018” and click “search”

  • You’ll see all the bills currently being worked on. Click on the bill to see the sponsors, the text of the bill, and the status

Related: The New York State Assembly’s website is not nearly as good but they also legislate: http://nyassembly.gov/leg/ look for bills for this term 2017-2018

What is on the New York City Council’s docket?

This is not always clear as transparency remains an issue. However, efforts are being made towards digitally recording NY City Council activity at: www.legistar.council.nyc.gov

By using the calendar on that website, people can look at the agenda for individual council meetings. Users can also search by individual councilpersons and sub-committees.

How do I look up the history of a neighborhood?

We will assume you already know about Google, Wikipedia, and other standard research tools.

  • We recommend you start by reading: “Who Lived In a House Like This? A Brief Guide to Researching the History of Your NYC Home” by Philip Sutton located at: http://on.nypl.org/2jMNMN1 (Much of what is suggested below is also in that article, plus much more).

  • NYCityMap (www.maps.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap): A powerful online utility that makes searching NY City geographic data easy. Visualize at all scales everything from school districts, the location of Head Start programs, subway lines, and locations of traffic cameras.

  • “Encyclopedia of New York” (2010) by Kenneth Jackson: Incredibly thorough encyclopedia of New York. Includes neighborhoods.

  • HPD Online: New York City Housing Preservation and Development’s online tool for looking up the history of particular buildings. Very helpful for researching landlords and parcel history. Visit: www.hpdonline.hpdnyc.org/hpdonline/provide_address.aspx

  • NYC Buildings Information Systems: Department of Building’s database. Also helpful for particular landlords, buildings, parcels, etc. Visit: http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/bsqpm01.jsp

  • The podcast “The Bowery Boys: New York City History” is an excellent source of historical information. They have been active for a while and have many episodes. There is a chance your neighborhood is one of those episodes. www.theboweryboyshistory.com

Are there any reproductive rights issues at risk in New York State?

While there is always the possibility of laws changing, through court decisions, legislation, etc., we suggest you look here for New York State’s Abortion Laws (January 21st, 2017): http://statelaws.findlaw.com/new-york-law/new-york-abortion-laws.html