In a unanimous vote by the City Council, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito was elected on Wednesday to be the body’s new speaker, replacing former Councilwoman and failed mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.
The legislator, who is Puerto Rican, is the first Latino member of the Council to hold the position. She joined the Council in 2006.
After the vote was completed, Mark-Viverito told lawmakers that she looks forward to working hand in hand with them in their districts, communities and neighborhoods.
“You all have a friend and an ally in the Speaker’s office and my door will always be open,” she said. “We will work together because that is what New Yorkers expect and that is what New Yorkers deserve.”
Mark-Viverito represents the city’s 8th District, which covers El Barrio and East Harlem, Manhattan Valley and Mott Haven.
Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), who represents District 23, was also vying for the position in the weeks leading up to the vote. He represents Hollis Hills, Queens Village, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Bellerose, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park, Hollis, Hollis Park Gardens, Holliswood, Fresh Meadows, and Oakland Gardens. In December he announced he would vote for Mark-Viverito.
As he did, he gave a brief but impassioned speech about the need for reform in the Council, an issue he campaigned on during his run for speaker.
“We need to work as a body,” Weprin told the Council. “I’ve said that all along. We need to be a united unit working together. We can get things done. One of the things I talked about is we shouldn’t be afraid of dissent. We shouldn’t be afraid of debate, of discussion. There’s really nothing wrong with that, that’s democracy.”
Weprin also noted that the Council must work for oversight of the mayor’s agencies and to be an independent body. Lastly, he congratulated Mark-Viverito and said he looks forward to working with her.
Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) had also been running for the speaker position, but formally conceded during the Council vote.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said that while he and Mark-Viverito may not agree on every issue, he knows he can count on her to work with him on important issues in his district, which encompasses Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill, and Woodhaven.
“Many of my constituents are unemployed, still recovering from Hurricane Sandy or finding it harder than ever to simply make ends meet,” Ulrich said. “I will make sure that these issues and the plight of the middle class are a top priority for the new Speaker and Council. Like every decision I make, I do so based upon what I think is right for the people I represent, and this is no exception.”
By Bianca Fortis