BY STEVEN J. FERRARI
Bill de Blasio stated a preference for City Council Speaker from the beginning, and on Wednesday, the new Mayor got his wish.
While de Blasio was in Albany on Wednesday for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, the City Council unanimously supported Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/the Bronx) as she was elected the first Latina Council Speaker.Mark-Viverito declared victory in the race weeks before the Council came together to vote, based on the Mayor’s support. While supporters of her chief rival, Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), continued to back him in the days leading up to the reorganization meeting, Garodnick announced his support for Mark-Viverito before the Council was called to order.
Garodnick publicly conceded as the Council was asked for nominations.
“In the spirit of strengthening the Council, I want to formally concede my support to Melissa Mark-Viverito,” he said. “I look forward to working with Speaker Mark-Viverito… to bring a respectful and strong counter-balance to the Mayor.”
With Garodnick throwing his support behind his opponent, no other name was nominated.
While some have voiced concern over whether Mark-Viverito would be independent from the Mayor, she stressed that she would stand with her colleagues to ensure de Blasio did what was best for the City.
“We will unite to hold the administration and the Mayor accountable,” she said. “This is our vision for this City Council.”
Mark-Viverito also praised Garodnick as she accepted the position. She also briefly referenced the potential divide between her supporters and those who backed her opponent, including County Leadership from the Bronx and Queens.
“I’m proud to say Councilmember Garodnick and I conducted the most transparent speaker’s race in history,” she said. “We will work together, because that is what New Yorkers expect and that is what New Yorkers deserve.”
While the Queens County Democratic organization had been backing Garodnick up until the day of the vote, a number of Queens Council members, who associated with the Progressive Caucus, publicly threw their support behind Mark-Viverito. Among them were Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
“She is a profile in courage, she is a fighter for our immigrant communities,” Dromm said during the Council hearing. “Now is the time for us to unite to get busy with the business of government.”
Ferreras spoke about the significance of electing the first Latina Council Speaker, stressing that beyond her ethnicity, Mark-Viverito is also a highly-qualified individual, more than capable to handle the position.
“We owe it to the people to elect a strong, independent and principled woman to lead us,” she said.
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), who was also a candidate for the position, said he was looking forward to deliberations in the coming year, adding that he was proud to be a member of the City Council.
He did note, however, that while the Council unanimously backed Mark-Viverito on Wednesday, the members should not be afraid of speaking their minds in opposition to someone else’s opinion.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of dissent, of discussion,” he said. “There’s never anything wrong with that.”
Reach Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, at firstname.lastname@example.org or @stevenferrari.