Council Holds First Full Hearing in Renovated City Hall

By Ben Fractenberg on December 8, 2011 5:40pm 

DOWNTOWN — It's good to be home.

The City Council held its first full hearing in their newly-renovated City Hall chambers Thursday afternoon after having to work at a nearby bank for more than a year.

"Great! Fantastic!" Upper Manhattan City Council Member Robert Jackson told DNAinfo. "It's about time. I'm ready to take my seat."

Council Speaker Christine Quinn greeted council members before the session began at the building, which dates back to 1812 and is in the midst of a $124 million overhaul.

"Welcome back, everybody!" she said to loud applause.

While parts of the work, including placing rotting beams and upgrading safety systems, have been completed, the entire project is not expected to be finished until July 2012, months behind schedule.

Evidence of the ongoing project was all around — members had no microphones at their desks so a microphone had to be passed around to those who wanted to speak.

Outside the main chamber, scaffolding surrounded building's main, winding staircase and some walls were still in need of a new coat of paint.

But that didn't seem to faze the elected officials, who had been holding their hearings at the Emigrant Savings Bank, a block from City Hall, since July 29, 2010.

"We're a little bit on our way, but I think we can tell this building is going to be beautiful and wonderful when it's done," said Quinn.

The changes to the main chamber were obvious.

The ceiling looked freshly painted and its details were clearly visible; a far cry from when plaster was falling from it during hearings before the renovations.

Members looked clearly relieved to be back at their old desks.

"A lot of history here," said Minority Leader James Oddo. "A lot of memories."