New York City Council elects Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker

melissa Mark-Viverito
melissa Mark-Viverito Photo Credit: Getty Images

The New York City Council on Wednesday unanimously elected Melissa Mark-Viverito as its next speaker — the city’s most powerful legislative post.

The way was cleared for Mark-Viverito, 44, of East Harlem, a close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio, when her rival, Councilman Dan Garodnick, 41, of Manhattan’s East Side, conceded his bid Wednesday.

"We unite for a more equal and just New York where everyone, no matter what borough you are from, what neighborhood you were raised in or who your parents were, has equal opportunities," Mark-Viverito said.

"We will unite to create more affordable housing, improve our educational system and help those who have fallen on hard times."

She pledged to "raise the minimum wage for low wage workers at fast food restaurants, car washes and airports" and to advocate "for our undocumented immigrants who are fighting for a pathway to citizenship.

Garodnick, 41, said in a statement that he was looking forward to working with the speaker "and to helping her to ensure that we can deliver a sound and responsible government for all New Yorkers.".

Calling Mark-Viverito "a smart and committed public servant," Garodnick went on to say, "I will do my part to resolve any rifts this process may have caused among our colleagues, and am here to take any steps necessary to help move forward together."

De Blasio had signaled his preference for Mark-Viverito and lobbied council members on her behalf. "I think we have very similar values and goals for this city," he said Tuesday.

Garodnick backers had said he would provide more independent leadership of the overwhelmingly Democratic council and bristled over de Blasio’s role.

"This is worse than Tammany Hall!" Councilwoman Inez Dickens of Central Harlem, a Garodnick supporter, had said.

The speaker sets the chamber’s agenda, decides whether a bill goes to the floor for a vote and picks powerful committee heads and other leadership posts — which each come with bonuses worth up to tens of thousands of dollars.

"You’ve never had this kind of public battle over an office that is not elected by the public but has tremendous power," Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant, had said.

Mark-Viverito has faced scrutiny over ethics. She admitted recently she had failed to disclose rental income to the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. Her spokesman called it an "unintentional mistake" and de Blasio defended her, saying he’s sure she’ll "make it right."

Garodnick’s backers had complained of hardball tactics by Mark-Viverito’s supporters.

"Outside players have used fear tactics in an attempt to hijack this body," Councilwoman Annabel Palma of the Bronx said earlier. She said several of Garodnick’s 20 council supporters have been threatened with budget cuts to their districts. Palma’s office declined to say who made those threats.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer of western Queens, in Mark-Viverito’s camp, had countered: "No one has leaned on me or requested anything of me or promised anything to me."

De Blasio has denied strong-arming the council, and Tuesday swatted away comparisons between his alliance and the one former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had with former Speaker Christine Quinn, which de Blasio criticized during the campaign as too close.

"I guarantee you there will be a lot of independence," he said.


With Emily Ngo

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