Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) is declaring victory in the race to be the new speaker of the City Council, but opponents of her bid are not conceding defeat, setting up battle lines just weeks before the Council is scheduled to vote on the second-most powerful job in the city.
Mark-Viverito, who represents East Harlem and the South Bronx, announced Thursday that she had the support of 31 members of the 51-member body, including herself and seven Queens members: re-elected Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside); Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights); Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst); and Donovan Richards (D-Rosedale); two Council members-elect Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn), who though from Brooklyn, represents a district that covers part of Ridgewood; and most notably, the borough’s only Republican, Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
“I am proud to have been one of NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito’s earliest supporters,” Dromm, who has been backing Mark-Viverito for a while, said. “Having a bright, dynamic, independent and committed progressive as the leader of the Council is truly exciting. Mark-Viverito will continue to be a voice for the voiceless. Her connection to the people is her greatest strength.”
Ulrich’s support is seen as most surpring and he had previously said he would vote with the two other Republicans on the Council — Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island), who is widely expected to be minority leader, and Councilman-elect Steve Matteo (R-Staten Island). He has also been critical of Mark-Viverito on not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance during Council sessions.
Mark-Viverito’s chief rival in the speaker’s race, fellow Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan), was not declaring defeat and had the support of former speaker candidate Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), as well as Queens Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). Some members, including three new Council members-elect — Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who is expected to join the Progressive Caucus and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) — have not yet publicly endorsed a candidate and neither have incumbents Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Ruben Wills (D-South Jamaica).
“Dan has the strongest credentials and record to be the most effective speaker and move this body forward in a progressive manner,” Koslowitz said in a statement. “Dan always fights for working people-plain and simple. Dan possesses all the needed qualities to be an exceptional speaker.”
Crowley joins Bronx Democratic leader Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) in favoring Garodnick, Brooklyn Democratic leader Frank Seddito backed Mark-Viverito, as did the borough’s entire delegation — the largest of the five — including a number of moderates like David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn), Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) and Councilman-Elect Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), who defeated a former Republican state senator in a South Brooklyn district which GOP mayoral candidate Joe Lhota won.
Staten Island’s lone Democratic member, Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-Staten Island), has endorsed Mark-Viverito.
Some sources say progressives are concerned Garodnick, whose district includes part of the Upper East Side and the East Side of Midtown, would be too much of a counterweight against the agenda of the Progressive Caucus.
“Dan’s a progressive guy, but he represents a district that Joe Lhota did well in and would resist much of the progressive agenda,” one Democratic source said.
Mark-Viverito has been a key member of the Progressive Caucus, the group of liberal Council members who are also seen as close to Mayor-Elect de Blasio and the powerful Working Families Party, the minor party that often cross-endorses Democratic candidates. Mark-Viverito is also seen as an ally of de Blasio, who multiple sources and published reports said had been making calls to Council members on her behalf last week.
If she does get the gavel, she will be the first Hispanic speaker and the second woman, after the outgoing Speaker Christine Quinn. She will also be the third consecutive speaker to be from Manhattan — after Quinn and her predecessor Gifford Miller — and the first to represent part of the Bronx.
The Council officially votes on the new speaker when it opens its 2014 session on Jan. 8.