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Melissa Mark-Viverito Coy on Prospects to be Council Speaker

By Colby Hamilton | November 11, 2013 5:01pm
 Manhattan Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito is considered the early frontrunner in the race to be the next speaker of the city council.
Manhattan Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito is considered the early frontrunner in the race to be the next speaker of the city council.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

MIDTOWN — If Manhattan Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito is feeling giddy over being anointed the frontrunner in the race to become the next speaker, she’s not showing it.

Although she acknowledged she is actively pursuing the speaker’s seat, Mark-Viverito played it cool on reports that she is mayor elect Bill de Blasio's favorite to replace Christine Quinn.

“My interest is getting the support of my colleagues, not on who’s weighing in [or] not weighing,” said Mark-Viverito, who co-hosted a panel on collaborative and participatory budgeting alongside her co-chair in the council’s Progressive Caucus, Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander, during the “Toward a 21st Century City for All” event at the CUNY Graduate Center Monday.

Mark-Viverito and de Blasio were close when they served together in the city council, and Mark-Viverito was one of de Blasio’s earliest and most enthusiastic legislative backers in the mayoral race.

“I do not know what they’re going to be doing,” she said when asked about de Blasio's involvement in her bid.

Mark-Viverito's bid for speaker has already generated some negative press, with a report attempting to link Mark-Viverito to Bolivia’s controversial president, Eva Morales.

“As with any situation that has candidates running for high profile positions, there’s always going to be some level of scrutiny. Some of it may be warranted, some of it not. It’s part of the reality we live,” Mark-Viverito said of the coverage.

Mark-Viverito said that even with a more liberal administration and city council, it would remain a challenge for progressive forces to deliver on the “overwhelming mandate” de Blasio had coming out of the election earlier this month.

“We’re talking about 20 years of Republican economic policy in this city,” she said, adding that the election proved that “the City of New York feels comfortable” breaking in a new direction.

The councilwoman struck a pragmatic tone about the possible relationship between de Blasio and the council.

“The city council’s the legislative body for the City of New York. It has to pass the city budget. It has to work in partnership with the Mayor. But it also has to have a level of independence in defining what legislative agenda it wants to pursue,” she said. “If we want to move the city forward, there has to be a level of engagement and partnership with the next administration.”