THE BRONX — Dismissing reports that suggested her push to be the next Speaker of the City Council could be in jeopardy, Melissa Mark-Viverito took the oath of office for a third time before a packed crowd at Millbrook Houses.
"We have more than enough votes to win this," said Mark-Viverito, citing the 31 votes, including her own, that she has lined up to back her bid for to the position. Mark-Viverito needs only 26 votes, a majority of the council to win the position.
The ceremony came as the New York Post reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was working behind the scenes to drum up support for Mark-Viverito's main competitor, Dan Garodnick of the Upper East Side, in a bid to torpedo her ascent. The governor's team denied the report.
"The governor's spokesman has put out a statement and I take that statement as truth," said Mark-Viverito, who earned the vocal support of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who called some of the city councilmembers to express his support for her.
Political consultant Basil Smikle said he believes that Cuomo is likely paying attention to who becomes speaker because of policy issues — but added that he doubts Cuomo would risk getting directly involved in the speaker's race.
"It is going to be difficult because they have the mayor to answer to and there will be tension if Melissa wins," said Smikle.
Only two of Mark-Viverito's council colleagues, Jimmy Van Bramer of Sunnyside and Ydanis Rodriguez of Washington Heights and Inwood spoke at the swearing-in. Mark-Viverito said the ceremony was hastily thrown together by her staff, but that it was more crowded than her previous ones for "obvious reasons."
Van Bramer said Mark-Viverito was a lock for the top job.
"She's a great councilwoman and she's going to make an even better speaker of the city council," Van Bramer said, adding later that his vote was "firm" and that the other supporters were "locked in."
Rodriguez told the crowd, "On January 8 she will be the speaker."
"The opposition, they are desperate. They don't know what to do," Rodriguez added after the event.
Political observers said Mark-Viverito sent a strong message by holding the event in The Bronx, as opposed to East Harlem where her political roots are stronger.
Only one member of the Bronx city council delegation has come out in support of her bid for speaker.
"Going into The Bronx is a symbolic gesture to try to bring support from that borough's elected leadership but I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make," said Smikle.
Mark Viverito said that she was simply "representing my district, 50 percent of which is in The Bronx."
Instead of focusing on the hoopla surrounding the speaker's race, Mark-Viverito said she is looking forward to getting to work.
"I look forward to uniting the body," said Mark Viverito. "We have a lot of work to do so there is a need to put our noses to the grindstone."