Wednesday, October 19

Councilwoman Helen D. Foster

Helen D. Foster (Photo Credit:

Helen D. Foster, a democrat, represents the 16th District in the City Council. One of the poorest council districts in the city, District 16 is comprised of West Bronx, Morrisania, South Bronx, Highbridge, and Melrose. The population estimate in 2006 for District 16 was 167, 588, with the median household income being $21, 468. The demographic composition of the district is mainly Hispanic (56.7%) and Black (39.8%), according to information provided by Andrew A. Beveridge of CUNY Queens College.

Upon graduating from the City University of New York School of Law, Foster worked as the Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. She then moved into the private sector, serving as the Assistant Vice President for Legal Affairs at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. In 2001, she became the first African-American woman elected to a city office from the Bronx County, and has since them been reelected twice, in 2005 (receiving 98% of the vote) and in 2009. According to the Gotham Gazette, Council members earn about $112,500 a year.
Councilwoman Foster is currently the chairperson for the New York City Council Committee on State and Federal Legislation as well as the co-chair of the Women’s Caucus of the New York City Council. She also serves on seven committees: aging, community development, education, finance, general welfare, health, and public safety.

Foster fought and won her third term, but she has one of the worst attendance records of all the 51 members in City Council. According the chart below from the Gotham Gazette, from January 2006 to January 2009, Councilwoman Foster attended only 73.1 percent of the City Council meetings. Earlier this year, amNewYork cited that in 2010, she had a 61.7 attendance rate. However, it is worth noting that District 16 is more than 13 miles from City Hall. In an interview with Courtney Gross for the Gotham Gazette, Foster said that she prioritizes staying the Bronx and solving constituent issues over attending committee meetings in Manhattan.

In 2006, Foster was one of two council members who voted against the new Yankee Stadium (the vote was 45-2-2, with two abstentions), according to the New York Observer. Councilwoman Foster also showed avid support for Barrack Obama in his presidential campaign in 2008.

Foster is married, and her husband, Eric McKay, is a writer and filmmaker. She also has a 12-year old stepdaughter, Aminah McKay. Her current term expires in 2013. 

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