NEW YORK—Melissa Mark-Viverito became New York’s first Latino to hold citywide office Wednesday. City Council unanimously chose the East Harlem council member as its next speaker at its charter meeting for the 2014–2017 session.
The contested race for the city’s second most powerful post lasted to the end with Manhattan Council member Dan Garodnick holding on well past noon—the appointed time for the vote.
Mark-Viverito and her supporters gathered in the council chamber for the vote, hugging, greeting, and posing for photographs. Garodnick’s supporters were still absent at 12:30. Mark-Viverito received a phone call and shortly afterward Garodnick came into the council chamber and headed straight for Mark-Viverito for a big hug. His supporters followed shortly, with many coming forward to hug Mark-Viverito in a show of council unity.
Garodnick conceded, recognizing the race had become divisive and promised, he said, to “do my part to resolve any rifts this may have caused among us.”
The council voted unanimously for Mark-Viverito as speaker. In nominating Mark-Viverito her supporters spoke of her intellect, ability, and strength as an independent thinker. In her acceptance speech Mark-Viverito said this council, “will unite to hold the administration and the mayor accountable.”
Daniel DiSalvo a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute discounted Mark-Viverito’s show of independence. He said, “Usually if you are independent you don’t have to say it.”
Many are doubtful of Mark-Viverito’s will and political strength to be that check on the mayor. Mark-Viverito is closely aligned politically with fellow progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio. She also owes him for pushing her bid for speaker, said Manhattan Institute senior fellow Daniel DiSalvo.
Mark-Viverito, “in some sense, owes him a few chips,” DiSalvo said.
DiSalvo said the takeaway from today’s vote is the character of the political landscape de Blasio will face. “This new mayor comes in with very few checks politically,” DiSalvo added.
The two public officials with the power to check the mayor, the council speaker and newly elected Public Advocate Letitia James are both unlikely to oppose the mayor ideologically. On top of that, all three are closely united by their union supporters, particularly SEIU 1199 Healthcare Workers East.
DiSalvo said, “The only real check is the tabloid papers, the Post and the Daily News.”