By Sabina Mollot
The hotly contested race for speaker of the City Council ended on Wednesday afternoon with Melissa Mark-Viverito as the winner in a unanimous vote.
Town & Village was unable to reach a rep for Mark-Viverito by press time. However, Council Member Dan Garodnick, who’d refused to back down in recent weeks, conceded the race on Wednesday. The vote was held after that.
In an official statement, Garodnick called Mark-Viverito, who represents the Upper West Side, East Harlem and part of the Bronx, “a smart and committed public servant,” adding they had “worked extremely well together in the past.”
Garodnick and Mark-Viverito co-authored the Tenant Protection Act several years ago, which allows tenants to sue landlords who’ve harassed them in an attempt to get them out of their apartments.
“I look forward to supporting her work as speaker during the course of this term,” Garodnick added. “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.”
The successor to Christine Quinn was first elected to the Council in 2005, becoming the first Latina member to represent the 8th District. She is also now the first Latina speaker. The Puerto Rican-born Mark-Viverito is the chair of the Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. Prior to getting elected, she worked as the strategic organizer of the union 1999 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
Mark-Viverito had been considered the frontrunner since then-incoming mayor Bill de Blasio began
privately campaigning for her last month, speaking to her colleagues who were on the fence.
In his statement this week, Garodnick said he looks forward to working with Mark-Viverito and “helping her to ensure that we can deliver a sound and responsible government for all New Yorkers.”
Previously, Garodnick had said he thought by Wednesday, he’d have enough support to win the position, although Mark-Viverito essentially declared victory weeks ago, saying she had the majority with 30 votes. However, the victory seemed less certain in the days leading up to the vote, when a story emerged in the press about Mark-Viverito not filing taxes for income she may have earned on rental properties she owns. In a particularly unflattering story in the New York Post, she was even accused by a former political challenger of arranging for a black magic mural of a head of a rooster to be painted on the side of the former opponent’s building. Recent news stories have also painted Mark-Viverito as the more progressive choice and Garodnick as the more moderate one.
Last week, Garodnick told Town & Village he was running because he thought it was important to have “checks and balances” in times when the Council and mayor disagree on issues.
“We are at an important crossroads in New York City history,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of turnover in local government. There are going to be issues in which the mayor and the City Council part company. That’s why you need to have two distinct branches of government and we should not stray from that.”