New York Democrats Go to War over Top City Council Job Under Bill De Blasio

New York Democrats Go to War over Top City Council Job Under Bill De Blasio

New York City liberal Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito is expected to become the council’s new speaker when the city’s legislative body votes on January 8; however, some New York liberal Democrats are unhappy about the move. 

Mark-Viverito (pictured) was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first choice for the secondmost powerful elected position in the city, and some are concerned she is already taking revenge on those who did not support her the first time she ran in 2011. The New York Post reported: 

It was supposed to be a friendly talk about an East Harlem art space. But when board members of the nonprofit Casabe Housing Development Fund met with Melissa Mark-Viverito, now front-runner for the City Council speakership, they faced a lashing out of left field.

“You used the occasion to rant against [board member Yolanda Sanchez]… because she had not actively supported you the first time you ran for City Council,” Casabe directors wrote in a February 2011 letter to Mark-Viverito. “The clear implication that your office engages in ‘quid pro quo’ practices… completely shocked us.”

The senior-housing group also wrote, “In your vitriolic rant, you voiced dismay that the African-American constituents consider you a racist and that the Puerto Ricans dislike you.”

Many activists interviewed by The Post said they feared what would happen if Mark-Viverito headed the council — claiming that advocates who stand up to her are often blacklisted.

Mark-Viverito, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has the district that includes El Barrio/East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, and Mott Haven. Anger towards her among Democrats in the Bronx has not subsided much since her re-election. She barely won her race in the Democratic primary, besting Ralina Cardona by only eleven votes. Additionally, as a supporter of Occupy Wall Street, she is known to attack the gentrification of her own district, but while she pulled in a paycheck of $112,500 a year as a council member, her own net worth, the New York Daily News reported, is $1.5 million via properties she partially owns in Puerto Rico. She obtained these properties without having to pay interest on a city loan to her main residence in Manhattan: 

Under a city program to help low- and moderate-income residents buy homes, Mark-Viverito pays no interest on a $70,400 mortgage she obtained from the city so she could purchase her principal residence, a three-story townhome on E. 111th St. in Manhattan, records show.

That same program also has allowed Mark-Viverito to save tens of thousands of dollars in city property taxes — a perk that shaved $2,590 off her $8,291 property tax bill in 2012 alone.

Based on her current financial situation, Mark-Viverito would fail to qualify for the homebuyer assistance program — and all its benefits — today.

But she met the eligibility guidelines when she purchased the home in 1998, when she was 29 years old and working as a researcher for the giant health care workers union now known as SEIU 1199.

And since the program does not require participants to forfeit benefits if their financial status improves — as Mark-Viverito’s has over the years — she has the legal right to continue to receive those benefits.

New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is none too happy with de Blasio’s move to support the Bronx Democrat for speaker. The New York Post reported Cuomo is attempting to block Mark-Viverito’s ascension to the council’s highest office. 

“It’s clear to many of us that Cuomo and his people are working to stop Melissa because it’s not in his interest to have her in there,” said a prominent Democrat involved in the speakership issue.

“It’s certainly not in Cuomo’s political interest to have another left-wing activist along with de Blasio running the city. The sense is that Cuomo wants to see de Blasio defeated on this one, so that he’ll start off as mayor weaker, and not stronger, relative to the governor.”

However, activists and political operatives already see the writing on the wall and went to kiss the ring of the woman who is bound to be New York’s next speaker of the city council and de Blasio’s strongest ally in city. Packed in a small South Bronx room, lobbyists along with political consultants from both sides of the aisle attended her swearing in for her third term last week.