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Queens Chronicle

Mark-Viverito running for public advocate

Ex-City Council speaker is one of many vying to succeed Letitia James

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2018 10:30 am

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is the latest to jump into the crowded field of candidates for public advocate.

Letitia James holds the post now but will vacate it on New Year’s Day, having been elected state attorney general earlier this month. Mayor de Blasio is widely expected to call a special election for the position in early 2019.

Mark-Viverito formally announced her candidacy on Tuesday in Manhattan. The former lawmaker had represented parts of Manhattan and the Bronx in the Council from 2006 to 2017. She’s since worked as vice president for strategic engagement at the Latino Victory Fund.

“I’m running for NYC Public Advocate because I want to speak up for you,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “No matter how many times those in power try to silence us, we must keep fighting for a more just, more equitable, more fair city.”

She had been a major advocate for shutting down the Rikers Island jail complex and for having legal services provided to the city’s unauthorized immigrant population. The former councilwoman also co-founded the 21 in ’21 Initiative, which seeks to have at least 21 women elected to the Council by 2021.

She has been endorsed by Assemblywoman-elect Catalina Cruz.

Last year, many throughout the city criticized Mark-Viverito for her support of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist who served 35 years in prison. He was seen as a top leader of Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, a paramilitary organization that conducted terrorist attacks in the United States.

City Councilmen Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) are also running for public advocate. So are activist and journalist Nomiki Konst of Astoria, Columbia University history professor David Eisenbach and Assemblymen Michael Blake (D-Bronx) and Danny O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), among others.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) has not publicly declared he’s running for the position but recently spoke at a forum for candidates in the race.

Many have called the public advocate position useless. It is endowed with few powers. Critics say the seat mostly serves as a stepping stone for higher office. James’ predecessor as public advocate was Bill de Blasio.

A group of city lawmakers that includes Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village) is sponsoring a bill that would allow voters to decide whether to delete the position in a referendum.

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