East Harlem Councilwoman Wins Top Marks on Human Rights Report Card

By Jeff Mays on December 19, 2012 7:39pm 

 City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke about how rape and sexual assault are the greatest fears of every woman, a day after a robbery and rape occurred mid-day in Central Park.
City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke about how rape and sexual assault are the greatest fears of every woman, a day after a robbery and rape occurred mid-day in Central Park.
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DNAinfo/ Emily Frost

HARLEM — East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito has won top marks on the New York City Council's Human Rights Report Card from the Urban Justice Center for the third year in a row.

The report card praised Mark-Viverito, a leading candidate to replace Council Speaker Christine Quinn, for sponsoring prevailing wage legislation and a bill that would limit collaboration between the Corrections Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Melissa has consistently been the council member to get the most points based on her willingness to introduce strong legislation and to support strong legislation," said Erin Markman, policy and research coordinator for the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center.

Looking ahead, Markman hopes that the next speaker of the City Council will bring more controversial human rights bills to a vote, especially if they have wide, veto-proof support among the council.

"We see bills that could really significantly move New York toward being a standard bearer in human rights," Markman said.

Examples of recent bills with wide support that weren't placed up for a vote include the paid sick leave legislation, a package of four bills dealing with the NYPD and their controversial stop-and-frisk policy and legislation that would require the city to conduct an annual census of vacant property.

Mark-Viverito said that if she became speaker, she would examine the process by which bills are chosen for a vote.

"When leadership changes there has to be some reflection," Mark-Viverito said. "There's always room for adjustment."

Mark-Viverito said her high score on the report card shows her commitment to "social justice and social equality."

City Council members have tools at their disposal to bring legislation that is being delayed up for a hearing and vote. The sponsor of a bill could petition the chairperson of the bill's committee and request a meeting to be held within 60 days and for a vote to be taken within 30 days. Legislation with a favorable report from a committee can be moved by the sponsor for a vote within 45 days.

Quinn, a leading Democratic candidate for mayor, did not receive a score on the report card this year.

The report found that 32 percent of bills passed by the City Council from August 2011 to August 2012 promoted human rights. The council also overrode mayoral vetoes of five human rights bills.

Thirteen council members received grades of A- or higher this year, more than on last year's report. Five other council members including Letitia James, Jumanee Williams, Charles Barron and  Stephen Levin from Brooklyn and Helen Foster from The Bronx, received an A+.

Three from Manhattan — Robert Jackson, Ydanis Rodriguez and Gale Brewer — all received scores of A on the report card.

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