BY STEVEN J. FERRARI
The most strident supporters of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were rewarded on Wednesday with key committee chair positions, with several Queens council members coming up as big winners.
Members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus publicly backed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s choice for Council Speaker, with Queens members breaking away from the Queens County Democratic organization, who supported Dan Garodnik (D-Manhattan).
The biggest winner from Queens is likely Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who was named Majority Leader for the City Council, while also serving as chair of the Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee.
“It has always been my goal to play a meaningful leadership role in this new, Progressive Council,” Van Bramer said. “The opportunity to serve in the second highest position in the Council is one I relish and am truly humbled by.”
Van Bramer was also appointed to co-chair a newly-created budget negotiating team, which is meant to ensure that critical City programs, projects and organizations are funded in the budget process.
“I look forward to working with all my colleagues to ensure the adoption of budgets that reflect our progressive agenda,” he said.
Two other vocal supporters of Mark-Viverito, Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), were named to key chair positions. Ferreras will head the Finance Committee while Dromm will lead Education.
Ferreras, who noted that she will be the first woman and the first minority to chair the Finance Committee, said she was humbled by the opportunity.
“This momentous appointment marks an exciting milestone not only for myself and my colleagues in government, but for all New Yorkers, all people of color and all young girls who never before thought that they can grow up and shatter glass ceilings,” she said.
Dromm, a former teacher, said he looked forward to addressing education issues Citywide.
“Education has always been my passion and is what got me involved in politics in the first place,” Dromm said. “I look forward to working with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to address education issues such as ensuring universal pre-kindergarten for all preschoolers, reducing class size, improving teacher morale, ensuring teachers have a role in the decision making process and fighting to create a safe and supportive environment for all students but especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.”
Other Queens Council members to receive prominent committee chair positions include Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), who will chair the Environmental Protection committee. I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), a former labor leader, will head the Civil Service & Labor Committee. Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who cut a deal to support Mark-Viverito, was named the chair of the Veterans Committee.
One committee that will not see any representation from Queens is the Rules, Privileges and Elections committee. The committee, headed by Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), is charged with setting committee assignments and council member privileges. Mark-Viverito is also a member of the committee.
The committee chair positions come with extra income, known as lulus. Of the 14 members of the Queens delegation, 13 were rewarded with committee or subcommittee chairs. Freshman Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) was one of four members City-wide shut out of a leadership position.
While Mark-Viverito’s supporters were given vital positions, Queens council members who sided with the Queens County leader, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, spoke graciously of the roles they are set to play in the new Council.
Mark Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), himself a candidate for speaker, was re-appointed chair of the subcommittee on zoning and franchises.
“I look forward to continuing to work with labor, business groups and community leaders to create a more equitable and sustainable City,” he said.
Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) was named chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, while Karen Koslowitz was named head of the State and Federal Legislation Committee.