1938-1950: The council is elected by proportional representation. Candidates
ran borough-wide, and voters indicated their first, second, and third choices on
a ballot. There was to be one seat for every 75,000 votes cast in each borough,
the exception being Staten Island, which was guaranteed one council member.
Terms were two years except for the final four year term.
1950-1966: Council districts were created, and each corresponded to a state
senate district. In 1963, two at-large seats were created for each borough,
though voters could only chose one candidate. Terms were four years.
1966-1983: Council districts were redrawn to be independent of the state senate
districts. Terms were still 4 years; however, after the 1973 elections, redistricting
and lawsuits caused the remaining terms in this period to be one, three, and
five years each.
1983-1992: A court order vacated the at-large seats in June 1983, and voters
chose to abolish them later in that year. In 1990, the position of Speaker is created.
1992-Present: The council is expanded to 51 seats under the new city charter.
Originally, vacancies were filled in this manner: The party committee of the borough
that the departed council member was from recommended a replacement to a
council committee. After the committee approved this candidate, he or she was
then voted on by the entire council. If approved, the replacement would serve until
January 1st of the following year. The following November, the new council member
ran in a special election.
In 1989, the new Charter replaced the appointment of candidates to fill vacancies
with Non-Partisan special elections. The victor of this race would then run in
another election in the next November.
Prior to 2002, the council had no term limits.
Originally, voters approved a referendum limiting members to two full terms. The
law would take effect at the end of 2001. However, the council has since passed
an amendment (overriding Mayor Bloomberg's veto) that allows members to serve
three terms if two of them will be two years long as a result of redistricting. The
status of council members with regard to term limits can be seen here: [Link]